Do Those Bag-A-Bug Japanese Beetle Traps Really Work?

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You’ve probably seen them hanging out in people’s yards.

destin loves keeping an eye on the japanese beetles

I never understood the whole Bag-a-Bug concept… that is, until WE needed to use them!

Listen to Bud Light’s Real Men of Genius ”Mr. Backyard Bug Zapper Inventor”:


Japanese Beetles In Tennessee

Last year was the first time that we noticed a problem with Japanese Beetles here in Franklin, Tennessee — even though we’ve lived in this same house for over 3 years.

I had read somewhere that you “just need to trot around the yard with a cup filled with soapy water” — then whenever you spot one of these buggers, you’re supposed to just flick it into the soapy water where it’s trapped and dies.

After you build up a collection of drowning beetles, you’re supposed to dispose of them.

Sounds easy enough… unless every tree you own is taller than you and the beetles are collecting on every single branch by the hundreds!


Lawn Doctor To The Rescue

In a panic last year, I called a lawn-maintenance company (The Lawn Doctor, love ’em!) to come right out and spray to save our trees. They did. It worked. No more Japanese Beetles on our trees, but we also had no more leaves on our trees at that point. We’d waited too long…

Alas, the leaves did grow back, but we were left with some pretty ugly trees through the rest of the summer.

Professional tree sprayings vs Bag-a-Bug Japanese Beetle traps


Our First Trial With Bag-a-Bug Japanese Beetles Traps

Spectracide's Bag-a-bug products, including bags and lures. This year, we thought we’d try Spectracide’s Bag-a-Bug Japanese Beetle Traps.

They’re REALLY cheap. They’re REALLY easy. And, from what we’ve heard they’re REALLY effective. We got ours at Home Depot.

WARNING: It does seem like the Bag-a-Bug tends to attract Japanese Beetles from miles away, but it’s probably an exaggeration. Though I don’t know… they say the lure which hangs above the bag (“floral”, but it smells like citronella) is a powerful sexual attractant to both the male and the female beetles. By the looks of all the Japanese Beetles A) swarming around the one trap we have in the backyard and B) flying in droves from the nearby yards and over our fence to get to this trap, it’s like they’re saying, “Hey, I heard the sex is really good over here in this yard… follow me!”

From the first moment the packaging to that lure is opened… the mating call is on! So hurry up and get that bag attached and set up on a stake. Otherwise, you’re bound to have Japanese Beetles flying at your hands and into your hair trying to get to the lure. That’s kinda creepy.

japanese beetles swarming around the bug bag


The Proof Is In The Bag

Japanese Beetles filled to the brim inside a bug bag. The very first day we set a trap (which is simply the act of hooking an empty plastic bag that happens to say “bag-a-bug” all over it onto a hard plastic yellow card, then sliding the “lure” into the pre-drilled slots in the plastic card, then hanging it from a tall silver peg in your yard) we barely had it up 5 hours before the first bag was full… to the brim!

And that is the draw which keeps us using this particular system… the fact that it’s so incredibly satisfying to see a whole bag full of nasty leaf-munching beetles… in a bag and not on our leaves!


Disposing Of The Japanese Beetles

To dispose of the bag of Japanese Beetles (who are now having a mating fest piled up on top of one another inside that tall bug bag), you simply unhook the bag from the plastic card and dispose of it.

Which sounds easy enough… until you’re in the act of unhooking the bag from the plastic card when you discover that you’ve now become a powerful sexual magnet to hundreds of other Japanese Beetles who are flying at you from all directions! (I know, I need a picture of that.)

Then, even after you have the bag unhooked from the plastic card which holds the lure, you have to figure out a way to enclose that bag — keeping all the Japanese Beetles inside, as opposed to flying around or (more likely) falling like drunken sailors to the ground from all the ecstasy they’ve sustained from their beetle orgy.

We’ve found that the simplest method is to place the bag full of beetles upright into a plastic grocery bag or WalMart bag, then quickly tie into a knot the plastic bag. (Though most of the beetles are dazed and confused, so there’s really no flurry of beetles scampering to get out!)

UPDATE: Randi K. contacted me on Facebook with another great idea: “We just got one for us and one for mom & dads rose garden. So far so good. Here is a thought on what to do with the beetles. Recycle! Yes, I know. Any farm around that has chickens? Beetles are a great source of protein for them and taste like donuts.” (Thanks, Randi!)


Beetle Mania

Truth be told, those bags work wonders! They claim that each bag holds about 4,000 Japanese Beetles. So, based on the number of bags we’ve changed during the two weeks that we’ve used the Bag-a-Bug products, we’ve successfully trapped about 32,000 Japanese Beetles!

The first couple of days, we were changing the bag every few hours — filled to the brim. Then it became every other day. Now, 2 weeks into it, we’re changing the bag every 3rd or 4th day.

Bag-a-Bug traps for capturing Japanese Beetles. But the amazing thing is… we’re still on the same lure. It’s all dried up, and has a few dead shriveling beetles trapped within it’s protective case (those beetles really had a good time in their last few moments of life!), but it’s still attracting Japanese Beetles in swarms.

And in the end, all of our trees still have all of their leaves — despite the fact that the Japanese Beetles started munching on them over 2 weeks ago — until we bought the Bag-a-Bug!

NOTE: You do need to dispose of the bags promptly when they get full, or they begin to stink. Same is true for the bags of dead beetles which are collecting in your outdoor garbage pail until garbage-pickup day… If you’re like us and keep your garbage pail in the garage… you might want to move it outside if it’s going to be a few days till the garbage truck comes around. Trust me on this one.


These Beetle Traps Are Not Harmful To Pets

Not only is this Spectracide product not harmful to pets (unless they eat it, maybe!), the whole Bag-a-Bug thing is actually quite entertaining to our Lab/Golden mix.

Our dog sniffing the actual Japanese Beetles which line the rim of the Bag-a-Bug trap. Our dog checking the contents of the bug bag by sniffing it up close.

Destin watching bugs hone in and land inside the<br /> Bag-a-Bug Japanese Beetle trap.He could sit for hours watching the beetles fly in for a little “afternoon delight,” only to never experience such graceful flight again.

It’s as if our dog is thinking, “Now, how are they so stupid?… Why are they suckered into this tiny little baggie-thing?… All they’ve got to do is fly up and out.”

Trust me, hours of entertainment for a backyard bark-a-lounger!


Spectracide Bag-a-Bug Facts
Spectracide's Bag-a-Bug Japanese Beetle traps.

  • The Bag-a-Bug Japanese Beetle Traps literally catch 3 out of 4 beetles they attract.
  • Each bag is hourglass-shaped. Its unique design and slick coating on the inside eliminates escapes.
  • Each bag holds up to 4,000 beetles.
  • As soon as the bag is full or contains mostly dead beetles, whichever comes first, you should dispose of that bag since the smell of dead beetles will keep other Japanese Beetles away from the trap.
  • If it rains and your bag is not full of Japanese Beetles yet, use a toothpick to poke drainage holes in the bottom of the bag, this will allow the water to drain out while keeping the beetles contained inside.
  • The Bag-a-Bug traps are effective over a 5,000 square foot area, but I’d double-up if you have an especially large yard. Seems to me (and most others I’ve spotted using this product) that one in the front yard and one in the backyard works well — even if the square footage is less than 5,000 total!
  • One to two lures will last through the entire Japanese Beetle season (6 to 7 weeks).
  • According to the folks at Spectracide, it’s the most effective Japanese beetle lure system available.

Here’s what others think of the Spectracide Bag-a-Bug Japanese Beetle Traps.


Facts About Japanese Beetles

A Japanese Beetle close up.First and foremost, Japanese Beetles are attracted to the mere sight of other Japanese Beetles. Thus, where there are a few beetles, there will soon be many beetles, and you could be fighting a losing battle if you do not choose SOME method of control. (The lure of the Bag-a-Bug simply magnifies their attraction and creates a central location for all to procreate — rather than, say… on the leaves of your trees.)

Japanese Beetles are most active during the hottest part of the day.

You can plan on about 6 to 7 weeks for Japanese Beetles to be in your garden and eating the leaves off your trees. They usually arrive mid to late June and stay through mid to late August. Ugh!

They invade by the thousands… literally.

Here are other fun facts about Japanese Beetles.

It’s an old gardener’s joke: The easiest way to rid your yard of Japanese Beetles is to give a beetle trap as a gift to a neighbor 100 yards away!


DIY Japanese Beetle Traps

Here’s a similar do-it-yourself method for Japanese Beetle control: make your own Japanese Beetle traps!

Japanese beetle traps

Here are some alternative methods to controlling Japanese Beetles.


UPDATE #1: For the record, it’s early August, and we find that we no longer need the bug bags here in Tennessee. In total we went through 11 bags and 2 lures. Thankfully, the stand itself is reusable year after year.

UPDATE #2: The Japanese Beetles are back again this summer, and we’re using Bag-a-Bug beetle traps again for the second year. So far so good… (We’re even using last year’s leftover lure!)

UPDATE #3: We needed even fewer bags to control the Beetles this year. One refill pack (of 6 or 8?) got us through the whole summer this time, our third year.

18 thoughts on “Do Those Bag-A-Bug Japanese Beetle Traps Really Work?”

  1. Lots of truth here. Unfortunately the largest part resides in the bag’s beetle attracting mechanism. If you have a small property these bags will likely do more harm than good.
    “Giving them to your neighbor” is a humorous thought though there is truth within the principle. If you’re going to use these bags (which I wouldn’t recommend) you’re going to want to place them at quite a distance from social gathering areas and other beetle-beloved vegetation.

    Keep in mind that a large japanesse beetle population anywhere around your property could be a strong precursor to a greater problem involving grubs that can devastate turf. So why attract them in the first place?

    Pesticide applications to vulnerable vegetation is an effective method for controlling beetle damage though most plants and shrubs will recover (even if they appear “skeletonized”) later in the year. If you’re squeamish about using pesticides then you should probably do a gut-check about what you care more about. Beetles ARE allowed to live but so does your purple plum tree. Beetle traps may kill (eye roll) THOUSANDS of beetles throughout a season but how many fewer might there be if we didn’t give them an excuse to come over?

    • ASax – I have been spraying a 6 week pesticide every 2 weeks, and sprinkling with Seven every time it rains. The only thing that works is the Beetle Bag. Have been absolutely aggressive with the pesticides, but the bag is the only salvation! You just have to be very careful to read the directions as to where to place them.

    • You know, I avoided using the traps for years because I had read similar advice to what you’ve written. Even without traps, I’ve had progressively more beetles every year. Finally, last year they completely defoliated two 12 foot tall lindens and a hazel in my yard,and nearly defoliated 2 plum trees. When I noticed the trees were covered again this year, I broke down and put out a trap, figuring it couldn’t get any worse.
      It is working. The trap is filling up and is surrounded by beetles, and now when I go to the trees that had tons of beetles on them two weeks ago, I find just a few, and do not see additional damage. Who knows, I may be attracting more beetles to my yard, but the ones which are coming are not stopping for a meal before they end up in the bag, and that is all I care about. Maybe they aren’t the best solution if you don’t have much of a beetle problem, but if your yard is already swarming with them, what’s the harm?
      As for pesticides, I’m fine using them as a last resort – by why use them if there is a less harmful method that works? My lindens are still in bloom when the beetles start appearing, and the bees love them. Should I take out the bees too? The pesticides don’t discriminate. The beetle bag, on the other hand, does.

  2. They are going to die and suffocate or get squished from the trash truck before they get to the land fills. I highly doubt they will do much harm.

  3. I am from Alaska, 40 years, my problem there was aphids, We moved to S.C in 2013 and I have never hated a bug so much, I love growing Roses, Hibiscus, etc but the Japanese Beetles Have been driving me crazy, twice a day I was going out in my yard once in the morning and once before sunset and hand picking these pests off my flowers and not just my roses, I filled a small coffee can with soapy water in a short period of time, I went through 5 cans in the first 5 weeks, Then a neighbor that gave some of the things I grow in my front yard told me about the Bag a bug, Well their working for me, I have 2 one on each side of my yard, I have more bugs in my bags then I do on my flowers, the ones I do find on my flowers are maybe 2 or 3 here and there, I am at war, I don’t like chemicals like Sevin dust or anything like that because it kills the good bugs too, The traps have been a god send for me. The whole time I was picking or scooting them into the soapy water I kept thinking I was finally controlling them, WRONG, I love these traps. I don’t care what anyone say’s I am not having as much if a problem with them as before.

  4. I laid down milky spore in the front and back yard per the instructions last year. I put up the Spectracide trap this year and I have noticed no damage to the roses. Bushes are not infested like last year. There are less beetles flying around. I will have to determine at the end of beetle season how effective the milky spore really was. But by the looks of it, the beetle population was cut down to the point that I am searching for them. The trap works beautifully very impressed with the Spectracide trap. I am going to put down more milky spore this year. Milky spore and the trap works wonders!!

  5. I am located in Columbia, MO.

    I first learned about these traps today by a Lincoln University Extension instructor. Another instructor there builds his own trap using the lure from one of the bag devices, and a five gallon bucket filled with water to drown the beetles. It is what they do with the dead beetles that is so interesting: they pour the water with the dead beetles into their compost bin.

    They did a chemical analysis of dead Japanese beetles and found that they contained 10% nitrogen. She showed me earthworm casts she had and mixed in were composted beetle parts, still slightly iridescent.

    This is what I plan to do next year in my new garden in my new property: a nine acre plot that is mixed fields and woods, and just chick full of Japanese beetles.

    • Have you considered that the females may be loaded with eggs? I noticed that there were thousands of larva in some ziploc bags I had put trapped bugs in….

      A person might want to mix in some milky spore with their compost.

      • Next year we plan a multi-faceted approac, including milky spore applied to the lawn. The compost idea is a really good one as we intend to do a lot of composting to support the garden.

  6. The Bag a Bugs are good. But they are top side of the soil. Their larvae…which are grubs are in the soil. What to do for a total wipe out of these buggers? Milky Spore. Non toxic, not harmful to worms, pets, kids, etc. The spore feed on the grubs and actually make more spore because of it. The only time the spore will die is if there are no more grubs to feed on. Bag a Bugs ARE good but like I said they don’t get to the core problem…the grubs in the ground, which from what I understand, can remain there for a long time. Milky Spore is relatively cheap. I’ve forgotten when they recommend application. But it is something I recommend you use along with Bag A Bug. I learned about after 13 of my heirloom roses were attacked mercilessly. I managed to save them with buckets of soapy water, bag a bug traps and eventually the Milky Spore. I spent most of my summer battling them.

  7. Just to save a buck or two. Keep bread sacks(and the twist ties)instead of buying the “Bag-a-Bug” bags. I also, just for an experiment in being cheap, folded the plastic holder back up, put it and the bait in a ziplock baggie and froze it until the next spring. Still worked!

  8. We dump the beetles out of the Spectracide Bag-a-Bug into a composing area away from the house, rinse the bag out with a garden hose and re-use the bag. We’ve reused bags for 20-30 times and the smelling lure stays good for months.

  9. It sounds like you don’t have a huge problem with beetles. Not as bad as those who have commented up above. Make sure you are squashing those beetles and just put them in some open plastic container. Place the container where you find the most beetles and that scent alone is supposed to be enough to repel more beetles.

  10. It sounds to me like these Bag-a-Bug traps need to be set in an area of a community away from the yards so that you won’t be attracting the bugs into your yard but away from your yards. Just a thought since so many of you are saying that keeping the bag from bursting is frequent removals.

  11. We are taking a shot at using the traps this year. We are in Northwestern Illinois and have a few traps in open lots. If at all possible we empty the bags before they get full and do not trap is no-one is available to empty them. We do not want to draw bugs and not trap them. The bags can fill 3 or 4 times a day.
    I am not sure if the season is tapering or not. We are still getting 6-8 gallons a day. We were getting as many as 12 to 15 gal a day a few weeks ago.
    Who knows if it helps or not. At least a few hundred gallons females(based on the thought that half of the bugs trapped are female) will not be laying eggs this year.
    We send them out in the trash because the females may still be loaded with eggs and I have seen larva in the zip lock bags we have dumped them into.


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