Issue: August 24th, 1998

Japanese Beetle really in New Mexico


When I lived back East, we has a bug called the Japanese beetle that was a real problem and was difficult to control. Do I need to worry about it here? I haven't seen any in the two years since I moved to New Mexico.


Bad news! Until last year we didn't have a problem with Japanese beetles, but then last year one beetle was reported in Albuquerque. Because of the one sighting of this major pest, the New Mexico Department of Agriculture placed Japanese beetle traps in Albuquerque and have trapped 11 beetles this year. That is not good news for New Mexico. Until now we have been able to keep them from the state through regulatory action, import restrictions and inspection of nursery stock. Now, however, they may be establishing themselves in New Mexico to become a permanent pest. Although it is only known to be in Albuquerque at this time, if the beetle does successfully establish a reproducing population, it is very likely that it will spread through the irrigated valleys and jump to other irrigated areas as people move from place to place. In managing a problem through Integrated Pest Management, it is important that we survey the extent of the problem, so we are asking your help. We need to know how widely the Japanese beetle has spread in New Mexico.

Don't start treating for the Japanese beetle until you are certain the beetles that you see are actually the Japanese beetle. If you capture a small beetle with metallic green or copper on its upper surface and notice chaffing damage to the leaves of plants in the rose family, roses, apricots, apples, raspberries, or any of the many other rose relatives grown in New Mexico, you may have the Japanese beetle.

Dr. Carol Sutherland, NMSU Extension Entomologist and State Entomologist for the New Mexico Department of Agriculture asks that you take a specimen to your local Cooperative Extension Service office. Remember that this is a small beetle, only the size of your little fingernail. The Extension agent can have an inspector from the New Mexico Department of Agriculture confirm the identity of the beetle. If it is indeed a Japanese beetle, then you should probably begin to apply treatments to stop its spread in New Mexico and to protect your garden and landscape.

As you collect specimens, don't be confused by the large metallic green June beetle which is native to New Mexico. These are the large buzzing bugs which seem to dive bomb you. This beetle is at least three-fourths inch long and much larger than the Japanese beetle. It does little damage and should be no cause for concern. It is not necessary to take a sample of this one to the Extension office.

If it is confirmed that you have Japanese beetles in your garden or landscape, there are many products, some organic, some synthetic chemicals, which may be used to manage the infestation. Ask your local garden center or County Extension Agent for recommendations. Be certain the product you select is labeled for use in the location you intend to use it - garden, lawn, ornamental beds. Also, follow all directions in the use of the product to maximize effectiveness and minimize hazards to yourself and the environment.

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email:, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms and the NMSU Horticulture Publications page.

Send gardening questions to Southwest Yard and Garden - Attn: Dr. Marisa Thompson at, or at the Desert Blooms Facebook.

Please copy your County Extension Agent and indicate your county of residence when you submit your question!