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Horticulture and Home Pest News
Horticulture & Home Pest News is filled with articles on current horticulture, plant care, pest management, and common household pests written by Iowa State University Extension specialists in the Departments of Entomology, Horticulture and Plant Pathology.

Japanese Beetle Food Preferences

This article was published originally on 7/14/2010

As Japanese beetles are spreading throughout Iowa and populations are increasing, more and more gardeners are dealing with these very hungry garden pests. Japanese beetle adults feed on a wide variety of plants. Their feeding damage is usually easy to distinguish from other leaf feeding insects because they do not eat the veins, leaving lacy-looking leaves.
 
Japanese beetle adults are difficult to control and one way to limit the impact of adult beetle defoliation may be to select plants that the Japanese beetles tend to avoid. The following list of the Japanese beetle's most‑ and least‑favored woody plants may be useful to you if you are designing new landscapes.  Least favored does not mean that Japanese beetles will not feed on them, just that they don't tend to feed as much. Interestingly ash are resistant, but we do not recommend planting them due to the emerald ash borer.
 

Least Favored By Japanese Beetles Most Favored by Japanese beetles
Arbovitae
Boxelder
Boxwood
Clematis
Dogwood*
Euonymus sp. (burning bush, etc.)
Forsythia
Hemlock
Hickory
Holly
Juniper
Lilac
Magnolia
Mulberry
Northern red oak
Pine**
Red and silver maples
Redbud
Spruce***
Sweet gum
Tulip poplar (tuliptree)
Yew
American and English elm
Birch
Black walnut
Elm
Grape
Hawthorn
Hollyhock
Horse-chestnut
Japanese* and Norway maple
Larch
Linden
London planetree
Malus spp. (crabapple, apple etc.)
Mountain ash*
Pin oak*
Prunus spp. (flowering cherry, etc.)
Pussy willow
Rose
Raspberry
Virginia creeper
Willow

 * May not be hardy or perform well throughout Iowa.
** Scots and Austrian Pine are not recommended because of disease problems.
*** We do not recommend blue spruce because of disease problems
 
Adult Japanese beetle.  Photo by Michelle Olson.
Adult Japanese beetle. Photo by Michele Olson.