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Japanese beetles as chicken feed

Japanese BeetleJapanese beetles are invasive insects that defoliate roses, grapes, cherries, and many other garden plants.  Although they're terrible in the garden, the beetles are one of our chickens' favorite foods.

I go into the garden on cool summer mornings when the Japanese beetles are slow-moving, place a cup of water below the bottom edge of a leaf, and give the plant a sharp tap.  When startled, cold Japanese Beetles let go of the plant they are eating and drop to the ground ... or into my cup if I've placed it correctly.  After my cup is full, I toss the contents, water and all, into a
chicken tractor and watch my hens go crazy.

Of course, this method of catching Japanese Beetles isn't going to cut it for large scale feeding operations.  If you're willing to buy some Japanese Beetle pheremones, you can create a trap like the one shown below which will capture these protein-rich insects for you.  The pheremones are sold in many garden stores to bait Japanese beetle traps in a misguided attempt to lure Japanese beetles out of folks' gardens.  (In practice, the traps more often lure the beetles right into your favorite rose bush.)
Homemade Japanese beetle trap that feeds chickens.
I'd love to find a method of capturing Japanese beetles that didn't depend on storebought scents --- if you've got any thoughts, please leave a comment!  Last summer, we had great (if accidental) luck capturing June bugs by hanging some of our automatic chicken waterers up in the garden, partly full of water and with the lids off.  The June bugs tried to land on the slippery sides, but soon descended into the liquid at the bottom of the containers, where they drowned.  If anything, our chickens considered the June bugs even tastier than the Japanese beetles, so we may have to work on developing a real June bug trap this summer.

This post is part of our Homemade Chicken Feed series.  Read all of the entries:

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Back when I was a kid soooooo long ago, I worked on a farm in Oklahoma for a summer. The June Bugs were in plentiful supply and in fact got into everything.

In order to get rid of many of them the farmer put out a BIG wash tub with a light over it. The bugs would circle the light and very many would end up in the tub.

Now he didn’t use them as feed for his many chickens but instead burned them as the liquid in the tub was gasoline. It’s a thought that using water instead of the gas would be a way of collecting many June Bugs as well as other insects for your chicks.

The light was quite low above the tub, maybe 2 to 3 feet, and the tub was always full every morning.

So, maybe you have a water holding container available to try and supplement your chicken feed. The surface area is more important than the volume and if possible the light should be the only one lit outside for maximum effect.

Hope this is a little food for thought.

Comment by vester early Friday morning, July 2nd, 2010
This is a great idea! Our chickens adore June bugs --- we accidentally caught a few in pitchers of water last year, and they were even better received than Japanese beetles. We'll have to try your method --- I could see a kiddie pool of water under a light catching a lot!
Comment by anna Saturday evening, July 3rd, 2010
Last year I took a Japanese Beetle trap and took the bag off of it and hung it over our koi pond. The scent knocked the beetle out long enough to fall in the pond. The fish figured out that if they stuck around that area the beetles would drop in the water and they could eat them before they flew off. Why couldn't you do the same thing in the chicken run. The chickens would figure out pretty fast where they can get some good protein.
Comment by Deneen Thursday night, July 7th, 2011

I nearly decided to give Japanese beetle lures a try this year, but did some more in depth research and decided it would be bad for the garden. Unfortunately, those lures attract so many beetles from the surrounding area that your nearby garden plants tend to get eaten more rather than less with a Japanese beetle trap around. I just wasn't willing to risk the garden, even for that free protein.

On the other hand, it's been a bad beetle year anyway, and I've been picking about half a cup a day to feed to the chickens in order to save our grapes and raspberries. They're highly appreciative!

Comment by anna Saturday evening, July 9th, 2011

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