Learn about Japanese Beetles

Japanese beetles feed on about 300 species of plants, devouring leaves, flowers, and overripe or wounded fruit. They usually feed in groups, starting at the top of a plant and working downward. The beetles are most active on warm, sunny days, and prefer plants that are in direct sunlight. A single beetle does not eat much; it is group feeding by many beetles that results in severe damage.

Description and Habits

Adult Japanese beetles are 7/16-inch long metallic green beetles with copper-brown wing covers. A row of white tufts (spots) of hair project from under the wing covers on each side of the body.

Adults emerge from the ground and begin feeding on plants in June. Activity is most intense over a 4 to 6 week period beginning in late June, after which the beetles gradually die off. Individual beetles live about 30 to 45 days.

Adults feed on the upper surface of foliage, chewing out tissue between the veins. This gives the leaf a lacelike or skeletonized appearance. Trees that have been severely injured appear to have been scorched by fire. Japanese beetles may completely consume rose petals and leaves with delicate veins. Odors emitted from beetle-damaged leaves seem to be an important factor in the aggregation of beetles on particular food plants.

Adult Japanese beetles are highly mobile and can infest new areas from several miles away. Usually, however, they make only short flights as they move about to feed or lay eggs.

Japanese Beetle Life Cycle

Egg laying begins soon after the adults emerge from the ground and mate. Females leave plants in the afternoon, burrow 2 to 3 inches into the soil in a suitable area, and lay their eggs–a total of 40 to 60 during their life. The developing beetles spend the next 10 months in the soil as white grubs. The grubs grow quickly and by late August are almost full-sized (about 1 inch long). Grubs feed on the roots of turfgrasses and vegetable seedlings, doing best in good quality turf in home lawns, golf courses, parks, and cemeteries. However, they can survive in almost any soil in which plants can live.

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