How to Get Rid of Potato Bugs: 11 Steps to End the Infestation

How to Get Rid of Potato Bugs: 11 Steps to End the Infestation

Bethany is a suburban homesteader who grows over 30 types of vegetables in her garden every year to provide the vegetables needed to feed her family of six for the entire year. She practices organic gardening without the use of any pesticide and chemical.

Last season, potato bugs – sometimes called potato beetles or Colorado potato beetles – showed up in my garden for the first time. I freaked out; I wanted to figure out how to get rid of potato bugs without using any harmful pesticides that could seep into the vegetables and herbs in my garden.

Many gardeners know that the potato beetle is well-known for its ability to develop resistance to insecticides and pesticides. That means its one of the more challenging garden pests to get rid of out of your garden beds, so I had my work cut out for me.

Fortunately, I discovered the trick to eradicating this pest in a way that doesn’t destroy my beloved plants. Even better, now I know how to keep them from attacking my garden in the first place. Read on to learn everything you need to know.

What is a Potato Bug?

Potato bugs (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) are a common pest in garden beds. Colorado potato beetles, in both adult and larval forms, chew the leaves on garden plants and can defoliate entire crops if you don’t get rid of them quickly.

Potato bugs can also reduce the yield that you have in your garden beds. In some cases, they can kill your entire plants and destroy any potential harvest you might have in your garden.

The Colorado potato beetle can be found in most parts of the United States except for California, Alaska, Nevada, and Hawaii. This pest also can be found in parts of Europe and Asia.

Common Host Plants

Since they’re called potato bugs, you might believe that they’re just common in potato plants. They like other host plants in the nightshade family as well, such as:

As you might guess, potato beetles love potato plants. They decimated my entire crop and left us with just a few small puny potatoes. It wasn’t even enough to make one pot of mashed potatoes.

Talk about disappointing.

How Do I Identify a Potato Bug?

Before you get rid of them, you have to be able to identify a potato bug. The adult bugs are 1/3 inch long, round, yellowish-orange beetles with black stripes on their wings and black spots behind the head.

The larvae are 1/8 to 1/2 inch long and red with a black head and legs. They become yellowish-red or orange with two rows of black spots on each side of the body as they get older.

The Life Cycle of a Potato Bug

It’s essential to understand the life cycle of a potato bug to get rid of them in your garden. Overwintering beetles hibernate in the soil or garden debris until they emergy in the spring. At this point, the beetles cannot fly because they don’t have enough energy and must walk in the beds to find suitable host plants.

Female potato bugs lay orange-yellow eggs in clusters on the underside of the leaves on the host plants. Those eggs hatch in 4-15 days, depending on the external temperature. Then, those little larvae start to feed on the foliage for the next month.

As the larvae mature, they start to drop from the plant, dig into the soil, and then emerge as adult 5-10 days. Each year, 1-3 generations produce.

How to Get Rid of Potato Bugs

Let’s take a look at how to get rid of potato bugs. There are two vital steps that gardeners need to take. First, you have to take preventative measures to keep them away. If you’re lucky, then you won’t have a problem with them at all.

Then, we’ll take a look at methods of how to get rid of potato bugs. Most importantly, we will focus on organic methods because we don’t want to spray potentially harmful chemicals on our vegetable plants. Those chemicals seep into the veggies that grow on the plants, and you don’t want to eat that.

Let’s get started!

Preventative Measures to Keep Potato Bugs Away

I prefer to take preventative measures rather than removal methods because they seem to work better. If you know people local to you have problems with potato bugs, you need to be especially active in your preventative steps.

1. Take a Look Each Day

First, make sure to take a few minutes each day to walk your rows of plants to scan for adult potato beetles. Take a look at the leaves on the plant, watching for holes. It’s much easier to get ahold of the population if you can catch them when they first appear.

2. Plant Resistant Cultivars

If potato bugs are common in your area or you’ve had trouble before, it’s smart to plant resistant cultivars. These cultivars are less suspectable to infestations, and that reduces the risk that these pests will devour the plants.

3. Protect Your Plants

Another smart tactic is to protect your plants with row covers throughout the spring. All you need is a thin netting or row cover to keep the pests off.

4. Use Crop Rotation

Potato beetles can be managed through crop rotation. Try planting a non-nightshade crop that next year after you plant a potato crop.

5. Mulch Deeply

To help reduce the adult population and stop the movement of overwintering adults, you need to spread 2-3 inches of mulch over the soil. Use clean straw or hay as soon as plants emerge to stop the adult potato bugs from arising out of the ground.

Organic Methods for Removal

So, you ended up with some potato bugs on your plants. Join the unfortunate club; we’re here for you.

If you want to get rid of these stubborn pests, you have to be active. Trust me, you can’t just spray something once, and everything is better. You will need to take several steps and keep at it to get rid of these little bugs. They’re more stubborn than a toddler who wants the pink fork rather than the blue one.

One thing to note is that potato beetles quickly grow resistant to chemical insecticides. That’s why it’s important not to use them. Most of the time, they won’t work well, anyway.

1. Remove Adults By Hand

The first step that you want to do is remove the adult beetles by hand. This is the most frustrating and time-consuming one that you need to take. I can tell you that it’s not a fun step, but it’s vital to get a hold on the infestation.

Head out to the garden in the early morning, which is always my favorite time to go into my garden anyway. Take a bucket with warm soapy water, and make sure you wear garden clothes. Pick the adult beetles off of the plants and drop them into the soapy water in the bucket.

2. Remove Eggs by Hand

Next, check the underside of the leaves for eggs. Look for clusters of eggs against the green of the leaves. They’re easy to catch. Just make sure you check all of the leaves, even the small ones. Toss the eggs into the same soapy water that you are putting the adult bugs.

As long as you to continue to find adult bugs on your plants, you need to continue to look for eggs. Check for eggs every few days. Once you stop finding adult bugs, you can stop looking for the eggs.

3. Introduce Beneficial Insects

Releasing beneficial insects into your garden beds is a practical, natural way to get ahold of the bad pest population. Insects such as ladybugs, spined soldier bugs, lacewings, and nematodes feed on the eggs and the early larval stages. Nematodes attack the immature stages that develop in the soil.

4. Try Diatomaceous Earth

It’s hard not to love diatomaceous earth (DE). It’s versatile and can be used in so many different situations. Every gardener should have some on hand. Another step to defeating potato bugs is using diatomaceous earth to dust lightly over the plants as evenly as possible. Do this wherever you find pests.

Some people think that DE doesn’t work too well, but I’ve found great success with it, especially for the smaller larva. I love that it’s easy to use. You don’t have to mix with water or spray anything. Plus, it’s safe to use at any time of the day. Just don’t use too much because it could kill some of the good bugs that you want in your garden.

5. Give Neem Oil a Try

Neem oil is a key ingredient found in many insecticides. It’s created from the neem trees of Africa and Asia. You can purchase concentrated neem oil, and it’s approved for organic use. You can use neem oil on your affected plants.

However, a word to the wise is only to use neem oil as a last resort because it may also kill off the beneficial insects along with the potato beetles.

6. Spray with a Microbial Solution

Another way that you can get rid of potato bugs is to spray your plants with a microbial solution. Bacillus thuringiensis is the most popular choice. It’s a natural bacterial disease that you can use to control potato beetles if applied to the insects while they’re still in the larval stage. Be sure to apply BT every few days when the egg clusters start to hatch.

Removing Potato Bugs for Good

Potato bugs are one of the most frustrating pests that you can encounter in your garden. Most chemical methods won’t work, and each adult continues to create more of these little evil bugs. Learning how to get rid of potato bugs is essential for any gardener. Remember that preventative measures are the most important to help avoid an infestation or to start one before it gets too bad. Potato bugs are no fun, but you can get control over them.

How To Get Rid of Milkweed Bugs Quickly?

Milkweed bugs are mostly seen feasting on milkweed plants. To get rid off these pests, first, you have to distinguish them from the other harmful butterflies. As many insects are present on milkweed plants, you need to be sure you are dealing with the right one. The most commonly seen ones are:

These black, red, and orange-colored winged insects are beneficial to the plants. This is because they help control the growth of invasive milkweed plants. It also acts as the food source and breeding ground for monarch butterflies; however, if these insects get out of control, its time to take action.

Large milkweed bugs

When the number of bugs increases, it may completely wipe out the milkweed plant population. Even the monarch butterfly species gets affected, causing an imbalance in the ecosystem. So once you notice these pests in your garden, you need to educate yourself to find the right species. This helps you to eliminate them before they eat up your plants. In this tutorial, we will discuss how to get rid of milkweed bugs and prevent them from infecting your garden.

Getting Rid of Milkweed Bugs From Your House

Have you seen milkweed bugs inside your house? Then they must have got inside either by riding on your pets or you or your family members. Naturally, they don’t thrive indoors unless you have milkweed plants in your house. Hence its easier to eliminate them without any issues. You can follow any of the below methods to get the job done.

Getting Rid Of Milkweed Bugs From Your Garden

As for the ones that have infected your plants in your garden, you can destroy them using various harmless methods. Well, the process might not be easy as they reproduce in large numbers and at a faster rate.

You have to gather some patience to handle this infestation. Remain persistent and try various pest control measures until you find the one that works well for you. Then you can intensify the use of that technique to control the pests. Here are some of the conventional methods that are usually used.

Things Required to Get Rid Of Bugs

To eliminate these pests from your house and garden, you need the following essentials. These are:

Effective Methods to Get Rid Of Milkweed Bugs Naturally

There are various ways to handle the bugs from taking control of your plantation. Some tend to work quickly, whereas some need lots of patience and time. However, there are no shortcuts! You need to keep trying to find the best method that helps you. Here are some of the natural techniques to ward off the large and small species.

Yellow Aphids on Milkweed

A. Remove Them Manually

This method is suitable only if the population of these pests is in limited quantities. You can spray them off using a powerful water source. The bugs can then be carefully collected with the help of garden gloves. Or else you can run your hands through the plant and scoop them out to discard them. If they are only found here and there, it is much easier to pick them up and dispose of them.

1. Soap Liquid Sprays

This is one of the easiest methods to get rid of these insects. This is because you can easily make these DIY soap liquid at home, and they are not harmful. Mix water and dishwashing liquid at a proportion of 1:1 ratio. Transfer this liquid into a spray bottle. Directly spray it onto the bugs that are visible on the plants

However, test it at a small portion of the plant initially. Wait and watch to see how the plant reacts. If you see color changes or burning effects, dilute the solution by adding more water to the mix. As each plant differs based on the environment and region, you may have to use varying proportions that are suitable. Once you figure out the proportion, spray directly on the greens to destroy the bugs.

2. Pruning

Always keep your garden plants fresh and healthy by pruning them occasionally. This will naturally prevent the bugs from thriving in large numbers and forming colonies. It will also steer the bugs away from catching on and residing at a specific spot. Hence keep your greens well pruned. Also, get rid of all those excess foliage that is getting accumulated at your backyard.

3. Limit Food Sources

The population of these pests can be naturally controlled by eliminating their food sources. This mainly includes smaller insects like caterpillars, beetles, and monarch larvae. With lesser food sources, the large population won’t be able to thrive well.

4. Essential Oils

These are well known to repel insects naturally, which also include the milkweed bugs. Essential oils are strong-smelling, effective oils that drive insects away from the plantations. Mix a few drops of peppermint, lavender, and tea tree oil with water and spray it directly at the insects. The infesters tend to repel away due to the pungent smell. Reapply as many times as needed

Note: Remember that essential oil are strong enough to burn plants. Hence test it at a small portion first before you use it to cover larger areas.

B. Natural Predators

As these insects release a harmful toxin, most predators tend to avoid them. Their bright colors also act as a warning sign to the predators. However, there are some predators in your garden like the praying mantis who would love to feast on them. Larger animals like lizards, reptiles, geckos, and birds are known to be the other natural predators of this species.


Persistence and patience are key to get rid of these insects from your garden completely. You can also use various pesticides that are available in the market to handle this infestation, especially when it gets out of control. Products like Ortho Flower, Fruit and Vegetable Insect Killer with Comfort Wand are effective in eliminating insects within 24 hours. Also, Woodstream Safer Brand 5118 Insect Killing Soap targets and destroys these insects without affecting the environment. Both are capable of controlling the bugs without harming the plants.

Hope the methods mentioned above have turned out to be useful for you. In case of any queries, feel free to get in touch with us.

How to Get Rid of Ladybugs

Anyone who has had a ladybug infestation knows that these buggers can become a real nuisance. Here’s how to get rid of ladybugs that are bugging you.

Ladybugs are arguably the cutest insect. With their cheery red shells and perky black polka dots, they often show up as Halloween costumes and themed party decor, so it’s hard to believe they’re considered a pest by many. However, anyone who has had a ladybug infestation knows that these buggers can become a real nuisance.They even made our list of 14 “harmless” bugs you didn’t know could bite you. Here’s how to get rid of ladybugs that are bugging you.

First, They’re Not All Bad

To be fair, some ladybugs are wonderful insects that help control plant-eating pests like aphids. The “good” ladybugs are smaller, have bright red shells and all-black heads with white cheeks.

There are 450 ladybug species in North America alone, and some of those eat the plants (instead of the aphids), such as the Mexican bean beetle (yellow-orange with black spots) and the squash beetle (yellow-orange with larger black spots). And, there’s the dreaded Asian lady beetle, which is known for aggravating asthma symptoms and excreting a foul smelling liquid that stains.

Lady Bug Pest Control

There are ways to protect your home from an infestation and things you can do if you’re too late and they’re already inside.

How To Organically Get Rid Of Garden Pests, Forever

August 3, 2012 By Guest 12 Comments
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This is a guest post from Phil Nauta.

I get the impression that more and more people are coming to understand a fundamental truth – That human disease doesn’t come because of a deficiency of drugs, it comes from a lack of health – mostly improper nutrition, inadequate exercise and too much stress.

And yet many of us who have figured that out haven’t yet made the connection with the garden.

Why do insects and diseases eat your plants?

The answer is probably not what you’d expect. We tend to think these “pests” are making our plants sick, but it’s actually the opposite – they’re there because our plants are already sick.

Just as most diseases manifest in humans when we aren’t optimally healthy, insects and diseases go after sick plants. That means plants with a nutritional imbalance, not plants with a pesticide deficiency.

In fact, pests don’t even have the proper enzymes for digesting healthy plants.

Bigger animals do, and they prefer healthy plants, but insects and diseases go for sick plants that emit specific frequencies. Insects pick these frequencies up with their antennae.

Healthy plants don’t emit these strong signals, so insects don’t even see them as a food source.

I’ve been gardening for a long time, but I didn’t stumble upon this concept until I started studying organic gardening and especially organic pest control in 2005.

I read a lot of interesting research about the topic, but was still skeptical at first. It took a few years of observation before I believed it.

Now, I see evidence of it all the time. The other day, I was looking at a group of 40 or so burning bushes in our nursery. Seven of them were covered in aphids. The rest had absolutely none.

The aphids had weeks to move over to the other plants, but obviously they were only interested in some of them, the sick ones.

I’ve also “cured” many plants of insect and disease infestations simply by improving the health of the plants. (Laurie’s note – our organic farmer said that herd health also dramatically improves after farmers switch to organic production, in some cases with formerly diseases animals now testing clean.)

That doesn’t mean pruning the predators out of the plants, which actually does nothing to help plant health. It means using inputs and techniques to help tip the plants into a state of health so that the predators no longer consider them a food source.

Organically Get Rid Of Garden Pests – Where to Start

If you want to improve the health of your plants to the point where insect and disease predators go away, I have three starting points for you. If you’re growing food, this can also drastically increase your yield and storage time, and improve the taste and nutrient-density of your harvests.

1. Compost. I know you already know about this one, but sometimes the old methods stick around for a reason. Compost supplies nutrients, organic matter and just as important, beneficial microorganisms to improve the health of your soil and plants.

2. Microbial Inoculants. When there’s not enough compost to go around, liquid inoculants such as compost tea and effective microorganisms can be used very sustainably for much less cost and time than compost, and can be applied to plant leaves where we really need these beneficial microorganisms, too.

3. Organic Fertilizers. I’m not really into most of the organic fertilizers on the market, but there are a few such as sea minerals that can be very useful while we’re transitioning to a healthier ecosystem. In the long run, it’s best to not use too many outside inputs, but in the first couple of years in a new garden, they’re a great help to speed up the process.

Methods such as these – and other simple steps like proper watering and appropriate plant placement – will help ensure your plants are fit for human consumption, not insect and disease consumption.

While pesticides, including organic ones, only get rid of plant predators in the short term, creating health in your garden keeps them at bay forever. (Laurie’s note – I am working on these methods in my garden, but if you need a short term fix while you work on improving soil/plant health, you can check check out my Ultimate Guide to Natural Pest Control in the Garden.)

Feel free to ask any questions below!

This is a guest post from Phil Nauta, author of the book Building Soils Naturally, published by Acres U.S.A. He also runs an online organic gardening course called The Smiling Gardener Academy. He has taught for Gaia College, was an organic landscaper and ran an organic fertilizer business before starting to teach practical organic gardening tips to home gardeners.

You can read a review of Phil’s book here.

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