Death by Milky Spore

This week, I walked through the property with a giant bag of St. Gabriel Organics Milky Spore.

I’m determined–no, I’m desperate to stop the Japanese beetles from completely decimating my trees, vines and shrubs next year. This year was hard enough.

What is this ‘milky spore’? 

Milky spore is a soil-dwelling bacterium responsible for infecting any white grub with ‘milky disease’.

The grubs ingest the tiny pellets and the bacterium slowly kills the beetle grub from the inside out. The silent torture lasts for 7-21 days before the grub succombs to the poison.

As the dead grub decomposes, more of this wonderful elixir is released into the soil bringing death to even more grubs.

Is it safe?

For the grubs? Absolutely not.

For our beneficial insect friends? Of course!

We wouldn’t be spreading it if it had any chance of harming our pollinators. It is not harmful to birds, pets or people…just don’t eat it by the handful or fill the dog’s food dish with it.

It’s a natural occurring bacterium in many soils, but the Japanese beetle is not native to this country and the problem has become so bad that our soil may need a little boost to have a chance.

Does it work?

Here is where my confidence in the bacterium takes a hit. The results are so mixed, so different and so debated that it is nearly impossible to know if this treatment will truly work.

Some say not to bother spreading it because if your neighbor doesn’t, the beetles will just fly in from their yard to your plants. It has absolutely NO effect on adult beetles so must be ingested at the grub stage.

Other people are just plain impatient*. It can take 2-5 years to see results and who is to say the results are due to the milky spore application? It could be any number of environmental factors that reduced the beetle population.

(*I fear I will fall into this category. My track record with positive results in gardening and pest control is not great.)

Should I do it anyway?

Yes, yes…a thousand times yes! I’m willing to try anything to combat these beetles. Even if I don’t see results until 5 years later, my wrath will be calmed just knowing that somewhere, deep under the ground, Japanese beetle grubs are meeting their end.


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