Flea Beetles: How to Identify, Eliminate, and Prevent This Garden Pest

Flea Beetles: How to Identify, Eliminate, and Prevent This Garden Pest


Steph is a certified Square Food Gardening Instructor who has been gardening for more than 10 years in Canada where the winters are long and cold, and the summers are unpredictable. She is a volunteer for her community’s Incredible Edible project. In the past she created an educational gardening space for seniors and taught classes at a local community center where she created her own curriculum and activities. She participated in several local municipal garden days where she set up a booth to educate citizens about the joy of gardening.

Each year it seems like a whole new type of bug decides to move into my garden. I’ve become well-acquainted with the many varieties of nasty insects that can wreak havoc on plants – including flea beetles.

Being able to identify bugs is the first and most crucial step in getting rid of them. Thankfully, some are easier to spot than others. Flea beetles are a lot less sneaky than other ugly garden critters.

Want to find out more about this annoying garden pest? Read on to find out what they are and how to stop them in their tracks should you discover an infestation.

What are Flea Beetles?

Flea beetles are small, beetle-like bugs. There are quite a few species, but we’ll be focusing the ones that munch on edible garden plants.

They can be a variety of colors, though black is most common. Coloring depends on the species. You’ll know you’ve spotted a flea beetle if you approach, and they quickly jump away like a flea.

These annoying bugs can be seen by the naked eye, unlike actual fleas, but they share the same name because of their ability to jump far and quick. They have a shiny carapace and, in their adult form, measure about 1/16th of an inch long.

Different types of flea beetles may be attracted to different kinds of garden plants, but typically they attack those in the nightshade and brassica family.

Here’s a quick breakdown of beetle types that can attack your garden crops:

  • Crucifer flea beetle: an all-black beetle that targets brassica crops.
  • Western black flea beetle: this pest has a shiny dark green appearance.
  • Striped flea beetle: a beetle with striped wings with a shiny black or greenish carapace.
  • Potato flea beetle: this bug is a mostly black beetle that targets potato plants.
  • Eggplant flea beetle: this is a mostly black bug that targets eggplants.

The Flea Beetle Lifecycle

Flea beetles lay their eggs at the bottom of plant stems. Egg-laying occurs at the start of the summer once the adult beetles have had enough time to feed on plant material. Once hatched, larvae munch on plant roots.

They tend to do the most damage at the start of a season once they’ve emerged from their winter hiding spots in the early spring.

Signs of Flea Beetle Activity

Adults eat the foliage of plants and leave behind holes in the foliage. You will see damage on plants of all sizes, but the damage on seedlings is the most concerning since it can quickly kill vulnerable young plants.

Of less concern is the damage to established plants. Flea beetles eat the foliage, but it’s rarely enough to kill a plant altogether, though a large infestation can do some pretty serious damage.

The biggest concern is that these beetles are potential carriers of disease and pathogens that can absolutely decimate your crops. Leaving them to feast on the material in your garden is a great way to invite diseases.

The eggs of flea beetles are tiny and white and they reproduce multiple times during a season, depending on the weather in the area. In warmer climates, flea beetles can go through at least four generations per year.

Damage can also be seen underground since the larvae target plant undergrowth. This is especially problematic for plants with roots or tubers, like potatoes. Once dug up, potatoes with flea beetle larvae damage will have unsightly holes.

How to Deal with a Flea Beetle Infestation

There are a few strategies for dealing with a flea beetle infestation. Here are some of the way you can control these pesky beetles:

Chemical Control

Organic spray: Whether it’s one you create yourself or purchase from a garden supply store, sprays are reasonably effective against these annoying bugs.

Spray the plant, and as the beetles eat the contaminated foliage, they’ll slowly be poisoned. It can take a few days before you notice the beetles dying off. To ensure the pest is eradicated, spray a few times during the gardening season.

Neem oil spray: Neem oil applied to the foliage of many garden plants keeps away a host of pests, including flea beetles. It needs to be re-applied after rain and usually needs to be applied multiple times before it does the job.

Physical Controls

Diatomaceous earth: DE kills many types of garden beetles. It must be re-applied around plants after a rain shower or irrigation to be effective.

Sticky traps: These traps catch beetles on a super sticky surface, and they’re unable to escape once lodged in the goo. You’ll need to replace them from time to time as they fill up with pests, debris, and dirt.

Natural Methods

Fungal spores: Fungal spores are an organic option for killing flea beetle larvae. You can purchase a fungal pathogen called beauvaria bassiana and it’s safe for use in home gardens. It should be added to the garden in the evening as the sun quickly kills active spores.

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Parasitic insects: Encourage parasitic insects like braconid wasps to take up residence in your garden. You can purchase commercially available predators or make your garden appealing to them (or, even better, both).

Predator insects are not only effective against flea beetles, but they also help control other irritating pests as well.

Manual removal: Because these pests have the ability to hop away from you once they realize you’re close, physically removing them from leaves is difficult without some sort of help. Use a shop vacuum to suck up offending insects while being careful not to damage your plants.

How to Prevent Flea Beetles

As with nearly every garden problem, prevention is a lot easier than control. If you want to avoid flea beetle damage altogether, here’s how to do it.

First, as a general rule, check on your garden plants often. The more often you head out to the garden to inspect your plants, the quicker you’ll spot problems. Ignoring damage for too long means that the pests are more likely to have already transmitted a disease.

Don’t forget to take notes about what’s going on in your garden. Did you spot an infestation this year? Knowing when you transplanted and covered crops can help you determine better strategies for next year.


Wait a bit of extra time before transplanting your indoor seedlings outside. You’ll prevent any present flea beetles emerging from their winter hibernation from accessing food.

Try only to transplant large, hardy seedlings so they can stand up to nibbling pests. Wait until your seedlings are healthy and sizeable so that a small amount of damage won’t kill them outright.

Prepare the Soil

Till the soil at the end of the season to kill off any pests hiding in the ground. There’s some debate about this strategy. There are plenty of proponents of no-till gardening who rightly suggest that not tilling can help build soil health over time.

As a one-time solution, it can be a good way to build a healthy soil foundation in your garden.

Don’t leave garden debris to overwinter. Clean up the garden in the fall so that flea beetles have no place to overwinter.

Row Covers

Install floating row covers to protect your vulnerable plants from a host of pests that attack during the growing season.

Trap Crops

Take advantage of interplanting techniques. Avoid a flea beetle infestation by planting trap crops between main crops and/or by planting certain herbs that the pests don’t like (e.g., basil).

Trap crops are plants that are planted only to act as a sacrifice for others in the garden. They are a decoy and meant to attract offending pests who leave your main crop alone.

Beneficial Nematodes

Add nematodes to your garden. Beneficial nematodes can help get rid of flea beetle larvae.

The Bottom Line

No one likes dealing with pests in the garden, but flea beetles don’t have to be a death sentence for your plants. With a few techniques and strategies, you can kill and prevent them from making a home in your garden.


Ground Beetles

What are ground beetles?

Ground beetles make up one of the largest groups of beetles living in North America. Most ground beetles are shiny-black in color, but some are metallic. They have hard shell-like wing covers that have longitudinal grooves on them. Ground beetles’ heads are narrower than the rest of their body, and they have prominent, strong mandibles.

Ground Beetles have three pairs of long, thin legs allow them to move quickly. Adults are active at night, while hiding during the day. They come out at night to feed on caterpillars, snails, and other soft-bodied insects, helping to keep nuisance insect populations controlled.

Are ground beetles dangerous?

Ground beetles are not dangerous pests. They are not known to spread any diseases, and while they can bite, they rarely do. Some species spray a defensive liquid that can be irritating to a person’s skin, but this is not a significant concern. Ground beetles are nuisance pests that, when they find their way inside commercial properties, can become quite an annoyance to deal with.

Why do I have a ground beetle problem?

Ground beetles are attracted to properties that provide plenty of hiding spots, and other insects that they can feed on. Ground beetles are drawn to light, and often find their way inside commercial properties underneath doors or through gaps around windows and doors.

Where will I find ground beetles?

Ground beetles live outdoors, usually under wood piles, piles of leaves, fallen trees, landscaping ties, and stones. If ground beetles make their way inside your business, they will hide in quiet, dark spots. Ground beetles often invade basements, storage rooms, crawl spaces, and inside boxes and storage containers.

How do I get rid of ground beetles?

The best way to eliminate ground beetles from your Kansas business is to partner with a pest control professional. At Pinnacle Solutions, we specialize in providing customer-focused, commercial pest control services to protect a wide variety of facilities and industries from ground beetles. To learn more about the ground beetles control services we offer, contact us!

Our team of experienced professionals utilizes advanced treatments and eco-friendly products to accurately identify the ground beetle species you’re dealing with, and provide consistent treatment to solve your property’s beetle problem for good. Learn more about our commercial pest control services and how they can help protect your Wichita-area commercial property from ground beetle invasions and the problems they cause. Reach out to us at Pinnacle Solutions for more information!

How can I prevent ground beetles in the future?

Preventing problems with ground beetles can be a difficult task. There are several things you can do in and around your commercial facility to keep them from damaging your business and its reputation:

Caulk cracks and crevices in your building’s foundation and exterior walls.

Place weather stripping around exterior windows and doors.

Keep delivery or garage doors closed when not in use.

Remove piles of debris like fallen trees, leaf piles, and grass piles from your property.

Replace white exterior light bulbs with yellow or sodium vapor light bulbs, which are less attractive to ground beetles and other insects.

Keep storage areas clutter free and well-maintained.


Ground beetle in the garden: description of the insect, what to do when a beetle is found

Experienced gardeners, most likely, already know who such a ground beetle (Carabidae) is and what useful functions it performs in the garden.

For novice gardeners and gardeners, it will not be superfluous to learn more about this giant beetle, common in almost all of our regions. The beetle is also called — ground beetle forest, garden, ordinary.

Important! For the backyard plot or garden, all types of these beetles will be useful, with the exception of one — the ground beetle (ground beetle black), which must be destroyed if you have cereals.

Ground beetles: description

Speaking about how the ground beetle looks like, you need to know that the species of this beetle are diverse and we have up to 2700 of its subspecies. Differences will be in size — the size of the body, legs, antennae, color, some features of the development of insects.

Did you know? In total, more than 32,000 (!) Representatives of the ground beetles family are known in the world.

Features of the life cycle of ground beetle

Females lay from 50 to 80 eggs at a time, choosing for this fertile, fairly moist area in the upper layer of the earth. Then the eggs appear from the larvae. With the time (from 3-4 weeks and in some species up to two years) the larva of the ground beetle turns into a pupa, which then becomes an adult insect. Adult individuals are nocturnal — they hunt at night, but during the day they remain in shelter. What does the ground beetle eat and where does the ground beetle live? It feeds mainly on caterpillars, towaiting worms, slugs, snails, as well as small insects, flies, mollusks, seeds and plant roots. The dwelling where the ground beetle lives is either shallow soil layers, or on the surface at the base of grasses, bushes, and under stones. Ground beetles live in small groups, which may include beetles of different species.

Did you know? Ground beetle is a long-lived beetle. Lives — 3-5 years and good winters, hiding under barns, storage facilities, the foundation of houses.

What is the use of ground beetles in the garden, how to attract ground beetles

Ground beetles eat harmful garden insects, caterpillars, snails and slugs, which destroy home gardens and garden crops. The ground beetle is the easiest, natural and environmentally friendly way to combat these pests. That is, if the ground beetles are many, then you can do without chemicals and drugs to combat garden pests. And thus get a clean crop and avoid unnecessary spending on chemical protection.

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Ground beetle saves the crop by destroying mature pests and, in fact, does not allow them to multiply. Meanwhile, not all chemical preparations act equally well at different stages of pest development, and precisely because of this, it is necessary to make several sprays per season.

Important! AT an average of one ground beetle in the summer months kills from 150 to 300 larvae, pupae and adult caterpillars.

Therefore, these orderlies do not need to be destroyed, but on the contrary, it is desirable to increase their population in the area. If the question is how to quickly attract more ground beetles to your garden or garden, then, first, you need to create a habitat for them. To do this, leave at the site pieces of wood bark, piles of leaves, sawdust, small stones — all that will serve as a refuge for the bugs. And secondly, if possible, do not use chemicals for pest control. Ground beetles are sensitive to chemicals that also act detrimental to them.

Who feeds on the ground beetle are birds, but they do it infrequently because of one particular feature of the beetles. At danger (as well as for immobilization of prey), beetles emit an unpleasant substance, so the birds try to avoid ground beetles.

Can a ground beetle harm the garden

For gardens, more precisely fields and crops, grain (black) ground beetle or hunchbacked pune is dangerous. And the reason is what this ground beetle eats. Instead of garden pests, it eats leaves, shoots (larvae) and grain of cereals, and both cultivated, which is especially important, and wild. Besides the fact that beetles eat grains, they sap an ear, and whole grains fall to the ground. Approximate yield losses can be 30-35 grains in 10-12 days from one adult beetle.

Ground beetle on the description differs from the garden. It is richly black in color, smaller — 1.3-1.6 cm in length, with short brown or red antennae, perfectly adapted to the arid and hot climate. The peak of the invasion of bred beetles on crops — the end of May and the beginning of June.

Did you know? Black ground beetle can also affect maize. And sometimes with a shortage of food to survive, it can feed on weed seeds.

How to deal with ground beetle

The ground beetle pest is susceptible to the following insecticides — pyrethroids, neonicatinoids, organophosphates. These are chemicals used in the fields for spraying and seed dressing before sowing. There are agrotechnical techniques, how to deal with black ground beetle. This is a complete harvesting of the previous crop, respect for crop rotation, deep plowing and weeding of stubble, additional cultivation is also desirable.

Farmers will not be superfluous to know about natural, accessible to everyone and harmless methods of pest control in gardens and vegetable gardens.


How to Deal With Potato Beetles

Potato beetles, also known as potato bugs, feed on the leaves of the potato plant. They are also attracted to potato relatives such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. Think multiple strategies when you’re trying to get rid of potato beetles. The beetle has become resistant to insecticides, so organic methods are usually a better choice.

Where Do Potato Beetles Come From?

The potato beetle – more correctly, the Colorado potato beetle – is native to North America. Originally, it fed on a potato relative known as buffalo bur. First collected in 1811 in the Rocky Mountains, the beetle became a major pest as humans spread across the US and began to plant potatoes. The adult beetles were able to fly fairly long distances and eventually spread across the continent. Today they are found in all states.

What Are the Signs of Beetle Infestation?

Both adult potato beetles and larvae chew on the potato leaves. They may start at the outside edge and work their way inward or cut irregular holes in the leaf surface. You won’t have to make the diagnosis by looking at the damage, however. In most cases, you’ll find beetles or larvae on the plant in addition to seeing damaged leaves. You’ll also see orange egg clusters on the leaf underside.

What Do Potato Beetles Look Like?

Potato beetles are about one-quarter inch long and about half that wide. The body shape is rounded to oval. They are typical insects, with six legs; the forelegs are smaller than the four hind legs. The beetles are an orange-yellow in color and the wings are striped in ivory and dark brown or black. Feathery-looking antennae point forward from the beetle’s spotted head.

What’s a False Potato Beetle?

False potato beetles are related to the Colorado potato beetles and have a similar appearance. However, they eat weeds rather than potato leaves. Primarily found in the mid-Atlantic and southeastern states, they appear at the same time as potato beetles. If you see what looks like a Colorado potato beetle but it has a light brown instead of ivory stripe in the center of each wing, it’s a false potato beetle.

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How Do I Recognize the Larvae?

Larvae are usually an orange-pink to bright orange color. They look rather like a bloated slug with legs. All sizes of larvae have two rows of dark spots running the length of the body. The head is usually black. They are mobile and crawl around on the plant after hatching from the cluster of orange eggs the female lays on the underside of the potato leaves.

What’s the Beetle’s Life Cycle?

Adult beetles hibernate in your soil or in garden debris. They emerge in the spring and walk to the nearest plant as they don’t the energy to fly. After mating, females lay eggs that hatch in about four to 15 days depending on temperature. Larvae feed on foliage for about a month, then drop to the ground, enter the soil and pupate. They emerge as adults about five to 10 days later.

Can Potato Beetles Kill the Plant?

A serious infestation of potato beetles can decimate a potato crop by completely defoliating the plants. The most serious damage usually occurs from larvae in the late stage, just before they pupate. The beetles can produce three generations in one season, with 350 to 500 eggs per female. When potatoes are still in the vegetative growth stage, they can tolerate considerable defoliation, but once tubers begin to develop after flowering, they are much more sensitive.

Do Potato Beetles Eat the Tubers?

Potato beetles and their larvae only eat the leaves. If you have tuber damage, it’s usually something else causing the problem. Wireworms, flea beetles, potato tuberworm and white grubs are all likely candidates for tuber damage. Mice, voles and rats like to eat the tubers; you’ll usually see signs of digging or underground tunnels if these animals are the culprits.

Do Potato Bugs have Any Natural Enemies?

Unfortunately, natural enemies of the potato bug are few and unlikely to be very helpful in terms of control. Ladybird beetles, spined soldier bugs, lacewings and stink bugs will eat the eggs. A fungus called Beauveria bassiana kills both adult beetles and larvae. Barnyard poultry such as chickens, ducks and guinea hens will eat adults and larvae. However, both chickens and guinea hens will scratch in the garden, and all these birds eat plants like lettuce.

What About Planting Times?

Timing your plantings is one way to manage the potato beetle. Late summer is the worst possible time to plant, as the original adults may have produced two succeeding generations. You may have eggs, adults and larvae at that time. Planting an early crop in cool weather means less potato beetle activity, as they emerge from the soil and become more active when the weather warms.

Early, Mid-Season or Late Varieties?

Planting early season potatoes may mean you can have them out of the ground before potato beetles really become a problem. Early season potatoes are usually ready in about 75 to 90 days. These are possible choices:

Can I Use Beneficial Insects?

The only beneficial insect you might find helpful for potato bugs is the lady bug or ladybird beetle. These insects will eat the eggs found on the underside of the leaves. However, they will not attack the adults or larvae. The other potato beetle predators are not usually commercially available. If you choose to use lady bugs, make sure you release them at the right time – follow the insectary’s directions.

Does It Help to Rotate Crops?

Crop rotation doesn’t have much of an impact when you’re dealing with potato beetles. Since the adults can fly relatively long distances, especially in warm weather, moving the plants within your garden makes no difference. In addition, the potato beetle is widespread throughout most growing regions. However, crop rotation is important for other reasons, such as preventing soil-borne disease.

What About Barriers?

Row covers, applied as soon as the plants emerge from the ground, can help prevent adult beetles from landing on the plants. The barrier must cover the entire plant and be sealed along the edges, as adults can also crawl over the ground for to up to a mile. A heavy mulch of straw makes it more difficult for the beetles to find the plants. A commercial barrier that contains kaolin clay may be helpful.

What Organic Controls Can I Use?

Dusting diatomaceous earth over the plants and soil can kill adults and larvae on contact. Insecticidal soaps that contain neem oil are sometimes effective. Sprays of the virus Beauveria bassiana and Bacillus thuringiensis var. tenebrionisare, a bacterial disease, are commercially available. Pyrethrin may also be effective. Most of these will need to be reapplied at least weekly and after a rain.

Will Trap Crops Work?

The concept behind trap crops is to attract the beetles away from your potatoes. Plant potatoes or Italian eggplants that you don’t plan to harvest around your main crop about two weeks before you plant the main crop of potatoes. In theory, the emerging beetles will head for the trap crops, which are larger and have more leaf mass. You can then remove and destroy the trap crops, beetles, larva and egg masses.

Are There Any Other Strategies?

Handpicking is effective in smaller gardens. You can remove adults and larvae this way; drop into a pail of soapy water or feed to poultry. You can also remove or crush eggs by hand. Excellent garden sanitation helps decrease places for the potato beetle to overwinter. If you use mulch, clean it up at the end of the season and compost. Turn poultry into the garden in winter to scratch and eat pupae.

Are There Any Resistant Varieties?

Although breeders have been working overtime trying to create potatoes that are resistant to the potato beetle, as of this writing there are only two known. Cornell University developed Prince Hairy and King Hairy, named for their hairy leaves. The individual hairs are filled with sticky fluid that explodes when touched. The goo traps smaller insects and apparently doesn’t taste good to the potato beetle. Limited quantities of these varieties are available.

How Do I Grow Potatoes?

Potatoes are heavy feeders and need very fertile soil with an acidic pH. They can be grown in all USDA Zones. A sandy loam provides the best texture and will drain well, which is another key element in growing potatoes. Plant as early in spring as the ground can be worked – you can chit, or pre-sprout, the potatoes to gain an earlier start. Water your potatoes regularly until the tops start to die back, then stop watering.


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