Japanese Beetles emerging in central Nebraska

A tiny insect that likes to feed on crops and gardens is on the move, now extension educators are telling you to be on the lookout. (Elizabeth Killinger?)

A tiny insect that likes to feed on crops and gardens is on the move, now extension educators are telling you to be on the lookout.

"Japanese Beetles, they're pretty voracious feeders," said Ron Seymour, Nebraska Extension Entomologist.

Japanese Beetles have emerged in central Nebraska. These bugs have a pretty big appetite, sometimes leaving very little behind.

"We see them on a wide range of plants," said Nebraska Extension educator, Elizabeth Killinger. "If they feed very heavily, they can cause a lot of holes in the leaves."

Killinger says if you see one of these beetles, chances are there are more nearby.

"They produce a pheromone or a sent that attracts other Japanese Beetles to that same location, so that means they feed in masses. It's not just the one, that causes the damage, it's the masses of the Japanese Beetle all feeding at the same time in the same location," said Killinger.

The bugs cause concern for gardeners and farmers.

"It's really important that farmers are out looking for these beetles in both corn and soybeans," said Seymour, adding the beetles can be especially damaging to soybean plants if they're not caught early. "If you don't have as much leaf surface, you just don't have as much energy into grain production, and so you get a smaller yield."

First identified in counties along the state's eastern border several years ago, the beetles were found as far west as Lincoln County in 2016.

"The main way they travel is they hitch a ride on nursery stock that gets trucked around the state," said Seymour. "The main thing is for farmers to get out and look."

Seymour says routinely inspecting crops is the best defense we have against the bugs, but farmers seeing high levels of defoliation are encouraged to use an insecticide.

"If we're seeing them in the home landscape, what we can do is if we're seeing them and there's not very many of them, we can knock them off into soapy dishwater," said Killinger, adding homeowners can also use an insecticide or a mesh covering to keep the bugs away from plants.

The University of Nebraska says these bugs will be active for the next four to six weeks, after that adult Japanese Beetles will end their lifespan.

For more on Japanese beetles, click here.

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