OREM — Japanese beetles can't buy any love in Orem this summer, and that's just how the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food wants to keep it.

For the second year in a row, a Japanese beetle eradication effort has reduced the city's beetle population by 95 percent. A recent count by the state officials turned up just four male beetles — one caught each week for the past four weeks — in the targeted area. Officials collected 100 of the beetles in 2008, which was also a 95 percent reduction from the previous year.

"The success has been due to the cooperation of residents in the area recognizing the threat and allowing us to come on their property and spray properly and cover 100 percent of the ground and be effective — and we were," said Larry Lewis, spokesman for the Department of Agriculture and Food.

This year, state officials set up a grid system of more than 1,900 Japanese beetle traps in Orem alone, Lewis said. Several thousand more of the pheromone-baited traps are located around Utah County and the rest of the state. Using artificial pheromones, the traps attract beetles that otherwise would be nibbling on residents' plants.

Using a private lawn-care company, the Department of Agriculture and Food treated yards in the target area with a nontoxic insecticide in June. Then, after finding four beetles in the past four weeks, plans were made to reapply insecticide on the yards later this month.

After realizing the four beetles were all males and no females were found, the department decided not to spray anymore this year.

Lewis said the insecticide is similar to something a lawn-care specialist would use on a residential lawn.

Orem officials are still asking residents in the affected area to continue bagging lawn clippings through the end of September.

Japanese beetles were first identified in Orem in 2006, prompting the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food to declare an insect emergency in the city. State officials sprayed nearly 600 acres of property for beetles that year and started setting up the yellow and green traps.

In 2007, the traps caught nearly 2,000 beetles in the affected area. This year, the target area is down to around 150 acres.

"We may or may not spray next year," Lewis said. "If we do, it would be a much, much smaller area than this year."

While plans for 2010 are yet to be determined, there is still time for the traps — which are checked weekly — to catch a female beetle. If a female is found, state officials may need to spray more property, Lewis said.

"Until they're eradicated, we have to still consider this an emergency," he said. "We can't stop until we get down to zero."

e-mail: jdavis@desnews.com