Thursday, May 21, 2015

Pest Spotlight #1: Flea Beetle

Many species of flea beetles are found throughout the United States and there are many species of flea beetles which attack numerous plants, but vegetable crops are most susceptible to these pests. 

Flea beetles are so named because of their ability to jump like fleas when bothered. The beetles are small and shiny, with large rear legs. A voracious pest, they will damage plants by chewing numerous small holes in the leaves As flea beetles feed, they create shallow pits and small rounded, irregular, holes (usually less than 1/8th inch) in the leaves, resulting in a shot hole appearance. 

When populations are high, flea beetles can quickly defoliate and kill entire plants. They feed most on hot sunny days and attack a wide variety of plants including beans, cabbage, corn, eggplant, potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, lettuce and most seedlings.

Flea Beetle Control:

Remove garden debris to reduce overwintering sites.

Place floating row covers on seedlings and leave in place until plants are old enough to tolerate beetle damage.

Plant a sacrificial crop, such as mustard and radish near garden areas to draw pests away.

Place yellow sticky traps throughout garden rows every 15 to 30 feet to capture adults.

Beneficial nematodes applied to the soil will destroy the larval stage, reducing root feeding and helping to prevent the next generation of adults from emerging.

Diatomaceous earth can be dusted over plants to control the number of feeding adults.  Wear a mask when doing this, also do not apply on a windy day.

If pest populations become intolerable, spot treat with botanical insecticides as a last resort.  (Like Neem oil)

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