Thursday, February 7, 2013

Flea beetles

Flea beetles....part flea, part beetle?  Well, not exactly.  Flea beetles are a type of beetle that have enlarged hind legs and jump when they are disturbed.  The hind legs and jumping motion are similar to that of fleas, hence the name. 

Flea beetles.
Flea beetles come in a wide variety of sizes (but all are still pretty small) and colors.  They have chewing mouthparts and often damage plants by eating foliage.  Damage can be somewhat characteristic- they chew small "shotholes" in the foliage.  Damage is most problematic in seedlings or in crops where you also want to consume the foliage.

Flea beetles overwinter in the adult stage in protected locations, emerging in spring when temperatures begin to warm up.  Since the weather has been rather springlike lately, I've been hearing about people finding these insects in the vegetables.  After mating, eggs are laid around the base of plants or in cracks in the soil.  Larvae feed on root hairs and small roots, but they are not considered to be the damaging stage.
Flea beetle damage.

To avoid flea beetle problems, try planting transplants to avoid the insects attacking seedlings.  You could also try planting a high rate of seedlings and then thin as needed once they are established.  It may also help by adjusting planting times to avoid beetle emergence.  Row cover can be placed over plants to physically block the insects from attacking the plant.  If beetles are already on the plant, they would need to be managed before row cover was utilized.  Vacuuming flea beetles off the plant is another option (and one that can be fun, especially for kids!).

As far as pesticide options, look for active ingredients such as spinosad (a naturally-derived product that works well on foliage feeding insects), azadirachtin (neem), horticultural oils, diatomaceous earth, permethrin or carbaryl.

1 comment:

Lancashire rose said...

Thanks for the advice. I noticed some flea beetles this week. I need to deal with them before they make a meal out of everything.