By Gene Krebs, Ohio – Need an idea for controlling Japanese beetles? Got backyard chickens? For the vast majority of us, our strengths are also our weaknesses. The key to success in life is to understand this, and keep our strengths without turning them into weaknesses. The same applies to the natural world, and even controlling Japanese beetles; certain insects can smell potential mates from miles away, and will fly diligently toward them. Humans recognize this and will place pheromone traps in their path, and capture these insects, which are betrayed by a good sense of smell and a healthy libido.
The Japanese beetle, Popillia japonica, is one of the most destructive introduced pests in North America. However, for several years there has been on the market a simple and effective pheromone trap designed for controlling Japanese beetles, which captures the beetle. Beetles are attracted to the smell of the bait, which apparently mimics the appropriate gender of the beetle, and while climbing on the slick plastic surface the bait is mounted upon, the beetle falls into a small plastic bag. But then what?
For those of us who keep chickens, this could be a tremendous food source and treat for our birds. But within just a couple of hours of falling into the plastic bag supplied by the manufacturer of the bait, the dead beetles put up a horrible stink in the sun. Beyond ghastly. While these traps are effective, they’re not exactly natural pest control for gardens and chickens.
As a way of controlling Japanese beetles and giving my chickens a treat, I have tried putting the beetle trap in the chicken pen, knowing that Japanese beetles are clumsy fliers and being not exactly dainty on their six feet, hoping they would blunder into the beaks of my chickens. However, one evening my wife and I watched with some hilarity as a Japanese beetle came flying doggedly toward the pheromone trap, but when seeing the chicken waiting under the lure, the beetle made a ponderous U-turn, and flew out of the chicken pen. Unrequited love.
After much trial and error, I finally figured out an easy contraption. Mount the beetle lure over a five-gallon bucket. Pour about three inches of water into the bucket. If one beetle falls in, it might try to climb out; but if two fall in they cling to each other and cannot climb out. Eventually, huge floating rafts of beetles appear on the surface of the water, trapping each other in fear. (There is a metaphor here about our political system, but I am afraid to unleash it.)
I would then take an aquarium net on a short wand, dip into the bucket and remove the beetles. The beetles did not fly off the net, being wet and probably slightly cold. After that, it is short matter of taking the aquarium net into the chicken pen, and whistling for the hens. On the second visit they all knew what the net meant, and would go wild for the Japanese beetles. During peak season I would capture about a hundred a day, with three gatherings each day. Change the water every couple of days to keep mosquitoes from breeding.
Feed consumption plummeted as you might imagine.
Another trick on the beetles is to put some ice into a large mouth plastic jar, hold the open jar under a leaf where the Japanese beetle is feeding, and using the lid shake the leaf. Japanese beetles use a defense mechanism of dropping like a stone when their leaf is disturbed. This method also uses their strength against them. After collecting the beetles they were also disposed of in the chicken pen, to the delight of the hens.
After a few weeks, I realize that this is a great natural pest-controlling method that provides a tasty treat for my birds!Some of you might want to try using one of those electric bug zappers set up over your pen; if you do, please write in and let everyone know how that worked! Do you have any other ideas for controlling Japanese beetles and using them to feed your chickens? Leave a comment here and share your ideas with us!
Originally published in 2015 and regularly vetted for accuracy.