How to Control the Staghorn Beetle

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Potential travesty looms whenever a community of insects decides to move in and feed on precious outdoor vegetation. Staghorn beetles, also known as stag beetles (Lucanidae), typically feed harmlessly on dying wood, but they may also feed on the roots of living plants. It's best to control staghorn beetles before the problem mounts and plants are annihilated. Use nontoxic methods to kill and repel beetles, as chemical insecticides pose a potential threat to sensitive plants and the environment.

Things You'll Need

  • Dish soap
  • Water
  • Spray bottles
  • Plastic jug
  • Diatomaceous earth
  • Milk jugs
  • Sugar
  • Bananas
  • Yeast
  • Loose tobacco
  • Alcohol mouth rinse or rubbing alcohol

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Remove any decaying wood from the property. Staghorn beetles feed on wood, and decaying wood is a significant attractor. Also remove all firewood from outdoor areas.

Spray the foliage, stems and trunks of infected plants regularly with soapy water. Combine 1 tsp. of soap per 16 oz. of water in a spray bottle. The soap repels and works to deteriorate the protective, waxy shell of the staghorn beetle. Once their outer coatings are compromised, insects lose the ability to retain water and eventually succumb to dehydration.

Visit the areas where beetles have been seen regularly. Comb through foliage and soil by hand and remove and kill as many insects and insect eggs as possible. Staghorn beetles are commonly found in damp areas and on trees near sap. Drop insects into a jug of soapy water for extermination. Removal is best done in the morning, when staghorn beetles are highly active.

Sprinkle diatomaceous earth on the ground or in nooks of trees where staghorn beetles are found. Diatomaceous earth, which is ground-up fossilized algae, punctures the outer coatings of beetles, furthering the likelihood of dehydration.

Place several homemade traps in the areas where staghorn beetles are found. Clean empty milk jugs and add bait made with 1 cup water, 1/4 cup sugar, a mashed banana and 8 oz. yeast. Staghorn beetles are attracted to sweetness, such as the fermenting, sugary bait. A few traps can be placed near outdoor lights, as staghorn beetles are also attracted to light. Once they are trapped in the jug, add boiling, soapy water to exterminate the beetles.

Spray the plants every two weeks with tobacco insect repellent to continue to keep the beetles at bay. Boil 2 cups of loose tobacco in a gallon of water to make tobacco juice for the repellent. Add 1 cup of dish soap and a cup of alcohol mouth rinse or rubbing alcohol to the solution.

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