My Garden Battle with Japanese Beetles: Fight to Save my Grapes


There I was, minding my own business doing my daily plant check-up when I saw a few Japanese beetles feasting and romancing each other on my grape leaves. This was not my first brush with these bugs since I have a rose garden where they feasted like kings last year. But this was the first time I decided to actively fight back besides just spraying them off my plants with a hose like I did last year. I’ve lost a zucchini and a cantaloupe to powdery mildew and kale to caterpillars, but I am not going to lose my precious Frontenac grapes to Japanese beetles, at least not without a fight.

Here are my enemies in action. Picture is my own.

So, I did what everyone does when faced with a dilemma, I went to Google to find answers. I found that some people manually pick them off their plants and drown them in a bucket, however, I’m not that brave. There were also a lot of pesticide recommendations, but I like to try to keep my garden as organic as possible, which is why I have never really looked into pesticides in the past. I have always tried natural solutions like spraying my powdery mildew ridden plants with a diluted milk spray, but as I said before, I lost those battles and the diluted milk spray didn’t work. I needed an organic pesticide to ride alongside me on this battle to save my grapes. After some more Googling, I found that neem oil seemed to best fit my requirements. As a bonus, it also supposed to be good for powdery mildew and black spot, among other diseases & boy do I need help with black spot on my roses, but that’s a story for another day.

The one who promised to help me. Picture is my own.

Off I went to Amazon to find neem oil and read neem oil reviews. Does anyone else both look forward to and dread the Amazon review section? Many a time I have found what I thought was the perfect item, to only scroll down to the reviews to see that said item was THE WORST PRODUCT IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD. I’m telling you, just read the reviews for hairbrushes on Amazon and you’ll feel like all the bristles of any hairbrush will fall out just by giving them a stern look, but I digress. Anyway, I found this organic neem oil spray on Amazon from Bonide for a good price and bought it with dreams of beetle-less grape leaves dancing in my head.

My tiny grapes, who I am trying to save. Picture is my own.

A few days later, to my horror, I saw that those Japanese beetles had ravaged my upper grape leaves and left skeletons of them, as they do, apparently. With only one day left to go before Amazon shipped me my battle buddy, there wasn’t much I could do. I could not muster up the courage to manually remove beetles that were sitting on leaves 2 feet above my head, nor could I talk myself into spraying them with the hose. I mean, what if it angered them and they decided to work together to swarm me? Have they ever done that to anyone before? Probably not. Did they do that to me last year when I sprayed them during their fancy rose festival? No. But still. So I waited and hoped that my grapes would live another day.

The destruction a few days later. Picture is my own.

Spoiler alert: the grapes lived! The neem oil spray arrived and I was ready. Ready to fight for my right to hopefully eat those grapes in a few months. So I put on my armor: disposable gloves, a jacket and old freebie  (I love a freebie) pair of sunglasses and got to it. The directions state to spray all the leaves of the plant, including the undersides of the leaves until the solution starts to drip off. Repeat every 7 days if you have already seen signs of pests or disease. I did just that all the while hoping that the wind wouldn’t decide to change directions and spray me with neem oil. Thankfully that didn’t happen.

How my grape leaves looked before the attack & hopefully how they’ll look soon. Picture is my own.

My results have been so far so good. I did see a couple of Japanese beetles romancing each other on a grape leaf the next day but I chalked that up to user error as that particular leaf was a bit out of reach for me to spray correctly. Since then I haven’t seen any Japanese beetles anywhere in my garden or any new signs of them. I plan to continue this process every 7 days as directed and hopefully the war for my grapes has already been won. As of right now, I definitely recommend neem oil if you are also battling Japanese beetles.

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