The Good: Relatively inexpensive, They work, Effectively lure and kill Japanese Beetles.
The Bad: You'll likely lose some plants if you use properly.
The Basics: An amazing garden product, the Safer Japanese Beetle traps are an affordable, effective and gross way to kill Japanese Beetles, presuming one puts them close enough to the plants.
In the annals of absolutely gross products, sometimes there are some that work so well, one must absolutely invest in them. The “Safer” (company) Japanese Beetle Traps are one such product.
My mother has extensive gardens (and a little plant stand out at the top of the driveway to lure passersby into buying the plants she no longer has a use for) and in the back of the house, she has an impressive array of pine trees, blueberry plants and wild roses. The blueberries and wild roses are always plants she gets excited about growing until right about this time (mid-July) in the summer. The reason for that is simple: mid-July is when the Japanese beetles descend upon her garden and begin devouring the leaves on the blueberry plants and rosebushes. They kill the plants before the berries are ripe enough to be eaten (earning them almost as much swearing as the birds that would otherwise rob her of the ripe berries with their early morning visits) and they kill the roses and infest the roses at right around the time one would otherwise want to bring them into the house to display the beautiful buds (trust me, you don't want Japanese Beetles inside your home!).
Our solution for the last several years have been the Safer Japanese Beetle Trap bags. The box comes with the trap, the lure and a single beetle bag. The trap is a 4” tall piece of plastic which unfolds to basically form a plus-sign (if looked down upon from the top). These plastic fins are designed to do two things: allow the bag to be hung and to hold the top of the bag open. These fins are made of a surprisingly solid yellow plastic. The yellow plastic is important for two reasons: it is a color that apparently attracts Japanese beetles and it looks incredibly visible in your yard. I mention this latter aspect because while the former aspect makes them work amazingly well, the latter also calls attention to them. People might then ask “what are these bags for” or come onto your property for a closer look and leave in utter revulsion.
The top of the four yellow fins which hold the bag open has a hole that allows one to easily attach the Safer Japanese Beetle Trap to a hanger, hook or even rope if need be. The Safer kit does not come with anything to actually attach the trap to, so one is likely to need to buy a hook-style plant hanger (which ought to be adequate for supporting the beetle bags). The plastic hole is thick and durable enough that I have never had one crack, collapse or give out (which becomes more impressive when one hears what these do!).
At the bottom of the yellow fin contraption that makes up the “trap” one hooks the bag. The Safer Japanese Beetle Trap bag is a thick, smooth polypropylene plastic bag that comes with four holes near the top. These four holes are designed to be looped over the four projections on the bottom of the fins. These projections allow the bag to be held open for the beetles and the holes in the bag are far enough down that the bad is unlikely to rip or tear while it is hanging there. Because the bag is so slippery, Japanese beetles land on the fins or the inside mouth of the bag, fail to get traction and then they slide into the bag where they wait to die. Seriously, this is where the “gross” aspect of the beetle bag comes into play. The Safer Japanese Beetle Trap bag is simply a repository for up to about fifteen hundred Japanese beetles which may have fallen into them. The bags hang there writhing and clicking until the last of the beetles die. How long does that take? It depends on how sunny the area is. Yes, the ideal way for the Safer Japanese Beetle Trap to actually net you casualties (as opposed to contained beetles) is for the bag to be near somewhere sunny where the beetles inside get literally boiled to death! That smells terrible in the summer.
So, why do the dumb Japanese beetles fall into the bag? That's where the bait comes in. The bait is a plastic disc which one punctures and adheres (it comes with its own adhesive, simply peel the back of the bait and stick it on the fins!) it to the trap. The bait emits beetle pheromones which then lure the beetles in. These are remarkably effective.
However, in order to get the maximum effectiveness out of the pheromone baits, I've discovered one has to place the Safer Japanese Beetle trap remarkably close to the plants that have been infested or are likely to be infested. While the box says that two of these, about twenty feet away from the plant, ought to be enough, my experience has shown that far too much of the colonies (thousands of Japanese beetles!) will remain on the plants instead of going for the bags at that distance. Hovering within five feet of the plants, we've had results like 90% of the Japanese beetles flying in and getting killed. However, that still leaves 10% of the colony intact. Using them at that range, worked far better than the estimated 25% of the colonies we would attract at the recommended distance away.
Because the bait is contained and is so specific to Japanese beetles, the Safer Japanese Beetle traps are safe to use in gardens that one wants other wildlife or family pets to feel free to roam in. And once the bags are full, I've discovered one need not invest in more of the expensive bags. Regular plastic bags work just as well.
Ultimately, if one is willing to sacrifice a small portion of the plants they love and have been overrun with Japanese beetles, the Safer Japanese Beetle traps make for an affordable, effective and remarkably animal and plant safe (except for the beetles) option for ridding the garden of Japanese beetles.
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© 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.