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Do Japanese Beetle Traps Really Work?

By: Julie Day

Packages of Japanese Beetle traps

Japanese beetle traps can attract more beetles than they catch.

When your garden is being skeletonized by Japanese beetles, those pheromone traps sure do look tempting! And if you hang one in your yard, you’ll certainly be rewarded with a full bag of squirming beetles on a regular basis. But do they actually reduce the number of beetles in your yard, or attract more to it?

Japanese beetles arrived in the U.S. in the early 1900s, and have spread across much of the eastern part of the country. They attack the leaves of a wide range of plants including trees, flowers, fruits, and vegetables.

How Japanese Beetle Traps Work

Japanese beetle traps release both a sex pheromone and a floral scent, are very effective in attracting adult beetles. They fly to the trap in droves, where they crawl or fall into the bag and can’t get out. You simply dispose of the bag, and put on a fresh one, and the process starts all over again.

The problem is, the traps attract about four times as many beetles as would normally be in your yard, and only 50% to 75% of them will actually end up in the bag. The rest bounce off and make their merry way into your garden, where they vigorously set about munching your plants and laying plenty of eggs for next year’s beetles.

So, yes, technically speaking, the traps work like a charm in attracting beetles. But in terms of actually reducing the beetle population around your plants, they may be helping your neighbors more than you.

Japanese Beetle trap hanging from house

The lure on the trap attracts Japanese beetles into the bag.

Like other pheromone insect traps, Japanese beetle traps work best as a survey tool. By putting one out in early summer, you can get an idea of how bad the infestation is, which can help you make better decisions about how aggressive you need to be in your control program.

They also work great if you have a very small, isolated population of beetles that can easily be lured and controlled by the trap. In most cases, though, if the beetles are in your yard, you can bet that they’re all over the region.

Tips for Using Japanese Beetle Traps

If you’d like to try using Japanese beetle traps, follow these tips:

  • Keep a Distance: Place the traps as far away as possible from the plants you’re trying to protect.
  • Pheromone and floral lure in Japanese Beetle trap

    Lure in Japanese beetle trap.

  • Install Downwind: Make sure to hang the traps downwind from your garden, so that as the beetles follow the wafting scent from the trap, they won’t be flying right over your garden and be tempted to stop for a munch.
  • Get Neighbors Involved: Since beetles can travel for up to a couple of miles, a community-wide control program, with traps placed strategically throughout the area, works better than a few isolated traps in yards.
  • Keep Traps Fresh: Not only can the lures go stale, but the bag full of dead bugs can cause the trap to stop working. Replace the lure according to package instructions, and replace the trap bag every few days.
  • Time It Right: Adult beetles are most active during June, July, and August. Traps are only effective when the adults are out, particularly during the early season before they’ve done too much mating and egg-laying.

Further Information



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4 Comments on “Do Japanese Beetle Traps Really Work?”

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  • LaT Says:
    August 16th, 2017 at 8:04 am

    I’ve been dealing with this in my new home for the last 2 years. I was going out every night and letting them dipsy dive into a bucket of soapy water and letting them drown until I found this trap. I would catch up to 15 a day. My husband put this trap up yesterday, we collected around 70 in just the one day. I told my husband, that my neighbor who is always out picking them off her plants that she’s gonna wonder what happened to all her japanese beetles. LOL. They’re all in my yard. Is there anything I can spray on my raspberry bush and roses that are natural and will keep the beetles off of them while this bag gets the rest.? Thanks for the article.

  • Jim Kuhlenberg Says:
    July 13th, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    Myself and everyone I have talked to about using these traps say the same thing. Our plants are no longer being decimated by this intrusive species. I see a few here and there on their favorite munchies, but nothing like I had seen in years past. Can’t spray for them on flowering plants because it will kill bees and other legitamate pollinators. My trick is to empty the bags into a grocery bag every day while they are still alive and kicking. This way you can re-use the funneled bag it comes with. If you let them die and rot in the bags, you will be smelling the equivelant of the corpse flower. I use( 2 ) traps spaced about 40 yds. apart from each other. If I attract more from afar, so be it. The only good jap beetle is a dead jap beetle! Maybe make a dent in the population next year? Hope so!

  • kohistaniabdullatif Says:
    April 16th, 2014 at 1:25 am

    Dear partner!

    I am head of horticulture in Ba bur’s garden in Kabul Afghanistan and I read your useful article carefully, so I have a question: Our garden total area is around 11.6 hectare which 6 hectare of it is turf grass that affected by June beetles final stage larva’s , now I am decided to put light traps as soon as we seen the first singe of beetles flying so how far a part and how many traps I should displace?

  • John Says:
    October 31st, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    We always gave free trap bags to our neighbors. Thus drawing the bugs to THEIR yards instead of ours. ;^)

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Do Japanese Beetle Traps Really Work?