A reader asked what to do about Japanese beetles on basil. I gave her tips in my first Facebook live, Ask the Gardener. Here’s the video and my advice to Marissa, who is losing the battle of the beetles on her basil!
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Organic Japanese Beetle Control
During the Facebook Live “Ask the Gardener” event on July 1, 2021, reader Marisa asked. me about Japanese beetles on basil. She said her poor basil is covered with them.
Your best option for organic Japanese beetle control and to handle Japanese beetles on basil is to pick them off by hand. I know, it’s gross. But you really can’t use pesticides on basil plants you intend to eat.
Kill Japanese Beetles
Unfortunately, there’s no easy pest control for Japanese beetles on your basil. Whatever chemical they sell for Japanese beetle control or just insect control at the garden center is just not going to be good on your basil because you want to eat the basil, right? I mean, I love basil on tomatoes and everything in the summertime, I grow tons of it. So hand picking is probably your only solution.
Dishwashing Liquid and Water to Kill Bugs
Here’s a simple and organic method to kill Japanese beetle. Squirt about a quarter cup of liquid dish soap in the bottom of an old coffee can or another can with a lid. Then add about a cup of water.
When you’re in the garden, stop by the basil plants and just flick the beetles into the can of soapy water. If it grosses you out, use a spoon or chopsticks to push them into the can.
What happens is that the soap coats their wings, and t they can’t fly out. You just put the lid on the can let them die a happy death and then throw the whole can out. That’s what I do mostly with my potato beetles and the squash beetles who are my nemesis here.
The Gardener’s Journal
When I was a child, I used to go to my uncle’s farm in Glens Falls, New York. He’s the one who showed me how to kill Japanese beetles just by pushing them into a coffee can. Only in his case, he used kerosene in the bottom of the can. I found out many years later that soap and water do the trick just as well, and are certainly less toxic to the environment!
Killing Japanese beetles on basil is the same as getting them off the corn at my uncle’s farm. And, although it takes a bit of work, cheer up – the beetles will be gone in a few weeks, and then you’re free to enjoy that tasty basil!
Jeanne Grunert is a certified Virginia Master Gardener and the author of several gardening books. Her garden articles, photographs, and interviews have been featured in The Herb Companion, Virginia Gardener, and Cultivate, the magazine of the National Farm Bureau. She is the founder of The Christian Herbalists group and a popular local lecturer on culinary herbs and herbs for health, raised bed gardening, and horticulture therapy.