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Students say they've found an 'eco-friendly' way to trap and kill Japanese beetles

Alex Chhith, Star Tribune on

Published in Lifestyles

MINNEAPOLIS -- Aditya Prabhu loved eating the peaches off the tree in the backyard of his mom's house.

The only problem was the plant produced only a few fruits a year because Japanese beetles in the hundreds would eat at the leaves, depleting the plant's energy to make peaches.

"The tree would be completely covered by the Japanese beetles because of their preference of fruit trees and orchards," the University of Minnesota computer engineering student said. "The whole point of growing them in the backyard was so we could do it organically, but we'd only have one to two peaches because the trees were so exhausted."

Prabhu's mother didn't want to spray the tree with pesticides. So Prabhu, accompanied by his brother and armed with sticks, went the traditional route of knocking the invasive species off plants and into buckets filled with water and dish soap, killing the metallic-colored insects.

Prabhu wondered if there was an easier way to get rid of the beetles, while he was taking an entrepreneurship class this year. As he researched, he learned about pheromone traps that attracted Japanese beetles. But he also discovered that many of those traps can fill fast, leaving the remaining insects free to wreak havoc.

He, along with fellow student James Duquette, a finance major, designed a circular-shaped, double-netted trap with pheromones to attract Japanese beetles. When the insects step onto the net, covered with a type of insecticide, they become immobilized and fall into another net that catches them.

 

"If the beetles aren't paralyzed right away and fly from the trap, they will die from the bit of solution that they touched. Plus, [the ingredients are] safe for humans and pets to be around and it's 'eco-friendly,'" Prabhu said.

And it solves the problem of having to change overflowing traps. When the trap fills with beetles, a gardener just has to dump them out and pick up the ones around it that didn't fall into the netting, he said.

"The problem with traditional pheromone traps is the sheer quantity of Japanese beetles; those traps can fill up within days with hundreds of thousands of beetles. Our trap is really promising because you don't have to [dump out] the traps as they get full," he said. "This attracts and kills, instead of attracts and baits."

Seems the university students aren't the only ones who find that this idea has potential.

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