The potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) is a pest found all across the United States. Potato beetles are gardening nightmares, frequently eating up plants in the nightshade family (Solanaceae), including potatoes, eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes. Proper control is necessary, a pest control company like Pegasus Pest Control is the one to go to for a definitive and permanent solution.
Identifying Potato Beetles
Adult potato beetles are oval-shaped pests that typically grow up to 1/2 inch long. The body segment behind their heads is yellow-orange with black spots. Ten narrow black stripes run down their yellow wing covers. Adult females lay clusters of waxy, yellow-orange eggs on the undersides of leaves. Pea-sized, hump-backed larvae range in color from brick- to salmon-red, with two rows of black spots along each side. Larvae grow larger and more destructive as they age.
Why are they dangerous?
Potato beetle larvae and adults are voracious eaters that defoliate plants and stunt vegetable growth. Larvae often strike new foliage tips first. Whole leaves and whole plants come next. These pests feed heavily, skeletonizing leaves until just the veins remain. Potatoes and other crops can’t form their tubers or fruit, and plants may die completely.
The potato beetle can also be a serious pest on tomato, eggplant, and pepper (all also members of the nightshade family); and the damage is typically so severe, the beetle must be controlled.
Without intervention, potato beetles overwinter and increase annually, emerging from the soil each spring to feed and breed.
Protecting Plants From Potato Beetles
Preventing an infestation in the first place is easier than treating one that has already occurred. Protect your potato crop from beetles by trying a few of these methods together, especially if you’ve had a problem with potato beetles in the past.
Don’t grow potatoes in the same spot year after year. The adult potato beetles overwinter in the soil of the previous year’s potato patch. If you plant in the same spot as last year, you’re giving the beetles convenient access to your plants. They’ll pick a plant, find a mate, lay eggs, and the cycle will continue.
Floating Row Covers
Place floating row covers over the top of your potato plants and leaves them in place. This special fabric allows air and light through but will foil hungry potato beetles.
There are several plants that deter potato beetles. Try planting at least one or two of them alongside or even interplanted with your potatoes. A few good options include catnip, tansy, and sage. Be aware that catnip and tansy can spread easily. You can keep them in check by not letting them go to seed and pulling any unwanted young plants right away. Several varieties of sage are pretty good about staying in place.
Mulching heavily with straw not only helps keep the tubers out of the sunlight but also creates a habitat for predators of the Colorado potato beetle. If you can attract ground beetles, ladybugs, and green lacewings, they’ll do a lot of the hard work for you.
Resistant or Early Plant Varieties
Certain varieties of potatoes, such as Russet Burbank, have proven to be resistant to potato beetles. Another good practice is to plant early varieties since potato beetle damage only gets worse as the season goes on and all the eggs hatch. Consider planting Caribe, Norland, or Yukon Gold potatoes; these are all great early-season options.
Organic Treatments for Potato Beetles
There are a few methods that work well against potato beetle once plants are infested. They all require that you pay close attention to what is happening in the garden and act quickly. If you can start combating the beetles as soon as you see evidence of them you have a better chance of saving your potato crop. Effective organic controls include treating with insecticidal oil and removing the bugs manually.
- Apply neem oil as needed. This is the organic gardener’s go-to insecticide, and it works wonders––even better than most conventional options.
- Hand-pick beetles, larvae, and eggs and throw them in a bucket of soapy water to kill them.
- Use a vacuum to remove beetles, larvae, and eggs. There are special “bug vacs” for garden use, but a regular household handheld vacuum also works well.
Potato Beetle Control Near You
At Pegasus Pest Control, we are proud to offer a range of commercial pest control services, from supermarkets to crop fields. If your crops are being invaded buy nasty bugs, ruining your harvest, make sure to call us at 888-885-5017 for a free inspection.