Japanese Beetles: The Zinnia Destroyers

Hi Lovelies,

Illumination zinnias are one of my favorites, before the beetles attack.

It’s that time of year again, you know, the end of June.  That means one thing for me – June bugs. While the term “June bugs” can apply to large variety of creepy crawlies, around here, people mainly mean Japanese Beetles. Ugh! Over the years, I’ve managed to learn quite a few interesting tidbits about these annoying garden “friends”.  Admittedly, I was most interested in how to get rid of them.

I was surprised to see that there are some areas in the United States that have never even seen a Japanese beetle. Talk about garden envy! A quick Google search of the bugs’ range can tell you whether or not they’ll be a potential problem. Easy to identify, these insects like to hang out in large groups, devouring the leaves and flowers of your favorite plants. In my garden, the first target is always my beloved calla lilies, followed by the zinnia, glads, and sunflowers. Oh yeah, and if you have any roses blooming, go ahead and just forget about those – you won’t win. Fortunately, this years calla lily blooms beat the insect pressure because of the early heat. This was the first time I was able to truly enjoy my callas! Sadly, the first planting of zinnias did not fair so well. They’re currently under siege, and honestly, the “bad guys” are winning.

“Oh hey, we’re just hanging out. We’re not doing anything bad, seriously. Nice zinnias.”

These metallic green, hard-bodied buggies are actually pretty cool looking. They remind me of some neat, futuristic cyborg or something. When they move, they’re not the most graceful thing you’ve ever seen. In fact, the ones in my yard seem quite clunky and uncoordinated. If you live in the eastern United States, there’s a good chance that you’ve seen these grubs while working your soil. Having first turned my lawn into a garden, it was especially horrendous.

Just tell me how to get rid of them, quick!!

You’re in luck! While these beetles are a major hassle, there is a silver lining in the madness. As the Minnesota Extension site confirms (I had to double check), the ridiculous damage and pressure of these insects only lasts about 6 weeks before numbers start to finally subside and you are once again able to take ownership of your garden.

There are many options when it comes to dealing with Japanese beetles. Among these, obviously, are pesticides and other chemical compounds which can help deal with grubs in the ground – before the “invasion” even has a chance to begin.


I’ve personally never been one to “run wild” spraying things in the garden. Most likely, if I can’t pronounce the ingredients, I won’t use it. At one point, I attempted to use a “Japanese Beetle Trap”, but it seemed like it only made the problem even worse! These days, my plan of attack is very simple. All I need is a bucket, spray bottle, water, and some dish liquid. One squirt of dish liquid mixed with water will do the trick. Obviously, this method will only work if you spray it directly on the beetles, but it’s effective and you have control in regards to which insects you’re attacking. If your garden is too big to spray by hand every day, never fear because a bucket of soapy water will also do the job. No, I don’t mean throwing a bucket of water on your plants. I mean hand-picking! Now, before you say, “NOOOOO. GROSSS” let me finish. When done early in the morning or in the evening, this is easy. Like many insects, I like to think of the beetles like “little robots”. Once the sun has lowered and the temperatures have cooled sufficiently, Japanese beetles lose the motivation to fly away (I still freak out when they fly towards my ears), or even to move. Shaking one stem of zinnias over the bucket might drop in 20 beetles or more, depending on how wonderful your infestation is.

When the beetles are around, you’ve got to pick sunflowers earlier. Sadly, they’ll chomp the petals to pieces.

Below, I’ve compiled a list of wonderful websites that are full of information about these beetles. I hope that you find them helpful.

Managing Japanese Beetles – USDA

University of Minnesota Extension – Japanese Beetles

Japanese Beetle Control

4 thoughts on “Japanese Beetles: The Zinnia Destroyers

  1. I couldn’t hit ‘like’ because I can’t stand these guys. I noticed on Sunday that they had arrived here. I use a milk jug with a larger opening and try to drop them into just plain water because I then deliver them directly to the chicken coop and let the chickens feast on them. That is my only salvation – I recycle them. LOL

    1. Lol! I totally understand! I’m not sure which I dislike most, beetles or the stink bugs that devour my tomatoes. Either way, sharing your bugs with the chickens is an awesome idea! Maybe I should invest in some, haha.

  2. So glad I found this post! I have been scouring the internet to see what have been eating my zinnia patch… Glad to know there might be a light at the end of the tunnel!

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