Flea Beetles

How to Identify and Get Rid of Flea Beetles

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Flea beetles can be very destructive to a wide variety of plants, so be sure to take preventative measures.

Greg Bryant, North Carolina State University

Here are tips on how to identify, control, and get rid of flea beetles.

What are Flea Beetles?

What is that flea-like insect that looks like a small beetle? The bothersome flea beetle!

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. Eggs are laid at the base of plant stems in early summer after a feeding period, and larvae feed at the roots. Adult beetles, about 1/16 inch long, feed on foliage, producing “shotholes” in the leaves.

Identification

How to Identify Flea Beetles

Flea beetles vary from black to tan or other colors, solid, or spotted depending on the species. They are tiny garden bugs at only 1/16 inch in length. You can see them if you approach quietly, but they will spring away quickly if disturbed.

 Adult flea beetles overwinter in brush and wooded areas. They pose a threat early in the planting season as they are emerging, typically when weather reaches 50ºF.

Flea Beetle Damage

Look for shotholes in leaves, especially on young seedlings, where damage is most rapid and will cause the most harm. The holes they make will be round and can quickly damage leafy greens. New leaves are usually damaged first, and they will have a lacy appearance.

Flea beetles usually don’t cause fatal damage to established plants because the leaves are too large. The real danger is that they can spread bacterial diseases, such as wilt and blight, from plant to plant. Therefore, they must be controlled at once.

flea-beetle-identify-damage.jpg

Photo Credit: University of California White Mountain Research Center. Flea beetles can cause leaves to appear lacy after they’ve caused a lot of damage.

Control and Prevention

How to Get Rid of Flea Beetles

  • Try this homemade spray to control flea beetles: 2 parts rubbing alcohol, 5 parts water, and 1 tablespoon liquid soap. Spray the mixture on the foliage of garden plants that are susceptible to these pests.
  • Dusting your plants with plain talcum powder repels flea beetles on tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and other plants.
  • Use white sticky traps to capture flea beetles as they jump.
  • Insecticides may be used early in the season, but are generally unnecessary in the control of flea beetles on adult plants. Be extra diligent if your soil has history of bacterial diseases. Please contact your local nursery or cooperative extension for further advice.

get-rid-of-flea-beetles.jpg

Photo Credit: Jeff Hahn, University of Minnesota Extension. If you didn’t take preventative measures, it might be impossible to stop the flea beetle damage.

Prevent Flea Beetles

  • In the spring, emerging flea beetles will be waiting to feast on your garden. Cut off their food supply by delaying transplanting or planting by a couple weeks if possible.
  • In the fall, till the garden to unearth any hiding flea beetles. This will also make soil easier to work the next spring.
  • Row covers may be successful at keeping these pests out, as long as they are completely sealed. They should be used immediately after transplanting, so the pests do not have time to find the plant.
  • Flea beetles are repelled by catnip and basil. They are attracted by nasturtium and radishes. You can plant these as traps for the flea beetles so that they do not attack other more valuable plants.
  • Check out these tips to attract beneficial insects, which will prey on flea beetles.

Comments

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tomato insect

I'm not sure that I have flea beetles because they don't try to jump away (or flee.. yuk) when pulled off my tomato plants. They tend to cling to the leaf. They are dark black, a tad shiny and shaped like a football with a somewhat rounded tail and a bit more pointed head. They are very small, 1/16" or smaller. They do have wings, small antenna and appear to have eight legs. Aside from that, they eat small elongated holes in the leaf and may have been responsible for yellowing of the plant especially on the bottom 1/4 of the plant. However, plant food seems to have helped with the yellowing. I applied Sevin spray this morning and hope that helps. Are these flea beetle and what else can I try if the spray doesn't help?

flea beetles

How large are the "parts" of alcohol and water? You specify 1 Tablespoon liquid soap, but not the amount of alcohol and water to which it is added.

flea beetle spray

You’re right, Linda. It seems we’ve mixed apples and oranges here. We suggest mixing 5 cups water with 2 cups alcohol plus 1 tablespoon of liquid soap.

blue flea beetles

We have stacks of blue flea beetles on our land and see them as a blessing. They got on top of the dreaded buzzies and congregate in large clusters on dying vegetation. Our little granddaughter treats them as pets. They are most welcome apart from being beautiful.

Blue beetles

We have these little suckers everywhere on our property. Vegetable garden, strawberry patch and the house garden and natives. Any clues how to treat. Not sure about the rubbing alcohol on food we will be eating. And how to treat such a large area.

The Beetle Blues

Hi, Betty: Sorry to hear! It sounds like these might be blue milkweed beetles, which always pose a tricky problem because hosts for them like milkweed and oleander, which you would want to eliminate if nearby, are also beneficial to monarch butterflies and others. The best thing to do is bite the bullet and try to physically remove as many as possible by plucking or even using a handheld battery-operated vac. Another option is an organic insecticide applied very specifically to aggregations of beetles where found. It’s important to try to do this before they lay their eggs, so alacrity is of the essence. Good luck!

Heres another trick to try as well

Take old coffee grounds and about 5 or so drops of hot sauce care not to use much hot sauce as it can burn roots but put that at base of all plants .. For leaves i use flour once a week on all my plants.. The only down side i seen with flour was little dough balls in my yard but they go away in a short period of time after it rains i reapply everything again

Do shining flea beetles bit

Do shining flea beetles bit and we found one in our house but we don't have any plants inside or outside our home

Is there any risk in eating

Is there any risk in eating the plants that were infected with flea beetles? My entire crop of Arugula was infested and now my Brussels sprouts are getting eaten as well. I am also noticing small brown balls where they sprouts are growing. Any advice is appreciated.

WHAT ARE THE CATIPILLARS THAT

WHAT ARE THE CATIPILLARS THAT PUNCH THROUGH THE HUSKS AND INTO THE CORN EAR AND HOW DO YOU PREVENT THIS.
THANKS

The corn earworm is the

The corn earworm is the larvae of a tan night-flying moth. Wait 'til the ears start to fill out and put 1 or 2 drops of mineral or vegetable oil on the silks. You can also treat the corn with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis).

Mineral oil. A few drops into

Mineral oil. A few drops into the silks at top of ear. Works like a charm

I noticed flea beetles

I noticed flea beetles several weeks ago. Treated with the alcohol spray mentioned above and then about a week later, the plants I sprayed showed leaf damage (looked like I'd burnt the leaves). I stopped using it immediately. After researching a bit more, I think if I could do it over, I'd spray only after 5PM to be sure to protect sprayed leaves from sun. Anyway, plants seemed to recover well, but this week I've noticed sections of my otherwise healthy looking potato plants start to wilt (not the whole thing, just one wilty stem coming directly from ground on each plant). Only pest I'm really seeing a lot of at this point is flea beetles and I have lots of tiny little holes on leaves. But plants still have been full, and nice and green for the most part. I was just hoping the flea beetle issue wouldn't prove too harmful. Now I'm wondering if my wilting problem might be due to their larva. Is this possible? If so, what's the best way to get rid of the larva fast? I've read about diatomaceous earth but can't find it locally. Is there any home remedy?

A good organic solution is to

A good organic solution is to apply nematodes to your garden soil. The nematodes will kill any flea beetle larvae present in the soil. Neem oil spray is recommended to spry on leaves of plants. Sticky tape placed between the rows of potatoes will catch adult flea beetles.

You can find diatomaceous

You can find diatomaceous earth at pool and spa stores. It is used in some filtering systems. It is much cheaper at these stores than at organic supply, of gardening supply stores.

Please be sure any

Please be sure any diatomaceous earth you use on your garden is food safe. The DE sold at pool stores is NOT food safe and not safe to eat. Also remember to read the label of any DE insecticide because most contain additional ingredients that are poisonous to humans and animals. Only food grade DE is safe to eat. Also be sure to use a mask when dusting because it can cause respiration problems if inhaled.

Do these things bite humans?

Do these things bite humans? I have some sort of bug in my garden 1-2 mm in size which looks similar to this, I find them in groups on my jeans when I've been gardening and although I can catch them (they're not too fast) they do jump as well. They're driving me insane and making me itch.

We have not heard of flea

We have not heard of flea beetles biting humans. They are not the same as fleas, which can bite humans. If you have a dog outdoors, or some other mammal frequenting your yard (wild or domestic), it is possible that these are fleas. The size is about right. Flea bites can make you itch, and leave a red bump on your skin. Fleas can jump very high. It is possible, though, that the pests in your garden are another insect. If you can catch one, you might show it to a vet (if you think it is a flea) or a pest control specialist.

I have a site about fleas

I have a site about fleas that arose from my experience in trying to buy flea medication for my dogs. One thing led to another and voila...I have a website.

So, I was doing a google search to get some story ideas for future articles and came across this site about flea beetles...which I had never heard of. Interestingly enough, I am learning that a lot of critters that aren't fleas have flea in their name. Kind of funny.

One example is the sand flea. I plan on adding sections about the sand flea and the flea beetle to my site. Thank you for providing such a wonderful and concise source of information about these guys.

Joe
Flea Bites 101

Neem oil will get rid of them

Neem oil will get rid of them and it's organic approved. I spray once a week in spring or they ruin my arugula and bok choy.

Nothing is working for me an

Nothing is working for me an I've lost my whole potato crop this year. Issues like this are scary for organic gardeners. The're spreading to my hundreds of tomatoes and I may loose everything this year!!!It'll be a poor winter! Isn't there anything I can do that will really work? My plants are covered!

Kerry, We feel for you. Here

Kerry, We feel for you. Here is a helpful guide for organic control of the flea beetle for potato crops. As you'll see, the key to organic control is to start very early with sanitation of overwintering sites: http://extension.oregonstate.edu/catalog/pdf/em/em8947-e.pdf

Your homemade recipe for the

Your homemade recipe for the bug killer spray is a bit off... I don't understand the 2 parts, 5 parts and then you have a tablespoon of soap... please give the PART RATIO of the soap... I'm sure if I had my part as one gallon that a tablespoon of soap would not be enough... or would it? Please put a recipe that is all "parts" or all exact measurements! Thank you!

We are sorry to disappoint

We are sorry to disappoint you, Karla, but we checked cooperative extensions and other reputable garden associations and found the exact same recipe. As the recipe is written, you would be filling a spray bottle so most likely not making several gallons at once.
We wish you luck in defeating the flea beetles!

So just to be clear, the

So just to be clear, the following 2 combinations are examples of what would be correct based on the ratios provided:

Combination #1
2 ounces rubbing alcohol
5 ounces of water
1 tablespoon liquid soap

Combination #2
2 gallons of rubbing alcohol
5 gallons of water
1 tablespoon liquid soap

If 1 tablespoon of liquid soap is equitable for both of these, how and why is it effective? If you say it is for filling a spray bottle, is that a 32 oz bottle? Details such as that can make a large difference.

a 'quart' is a unit of liquid

a 'quart' is a unit of liquid capacity equal to a quarter of a gallon or two pints, equivalent in the US to approximately 0.94 liter and in Britain to approximately 1.13 liters.

No one said a "quart" in

No one said a "quart" in anything posted and showing. They claimed a "PART" which is NOT a quart. They DID NOT mean a part of a gallon. Because a gallon was not stated. It was a never clarified what the correct measure was when using a unspecified "parts" formula with exacting measures thrown in. You can not have the same ratio of "parts" without all or none of the exact measure.

Fill a container about 1/4

Fill a container about 1/4 or 1/3 of the way full with rubbing alchohol;
Fill the rest of the way with water;
Squirt some dishsoap in the container.
I don't think exact measurements are really needed.
Good luck

Garyguy, I think you are so

Garyguy, I think you are so right! thanks!!

I made the flea bettle spray

I made the flea bettle spray following recipe and it burned the leaves of my bok choy plants..

Pretty sure these are the

Pretty sure these are the little guys making a feast of one of my California Wonder bell pepper plants. I found this information on more natural ways of getting rid of them. Has anyone had any experience with any of these methods/found one that works best?

http://voices.yahoo.com/natura...

This definitely looks like

This definitely looks like the little pests making meals out of my lovely hibiscus. But I live right behind a preserved wet-land, so I know the fight with these twerps is gonna be a long standing one. Do you have any suggestions on how often I should be treating my hibiscus with the recommended homemade spray and any other natural deterrents I can use to help prevent infestation and subsequently disease or bacterial? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

You can buy parasitic

You can buy parasitic nematodes that will attack flea beetles. Ask your supplier (local, mail-order, etc.) what species will attack flea beetles specifically. You might also try placing yellow sticky traps near plants (although this will catch both bad and good bugs). Put down a thick layer of mulch around plants to discourage beetles from laying eggs near them. Keep up with weeding; remove debris/weeds at the end of the growing season. When spraying an alcohol-based spray, test it on a leaf or two and wait a few days—alcohol can injure leaves. Do not apply the spray in hot sun or wet weather. If it looks like the plant will handle the spray, then spray it once. If it rains after several days (which may wash off the spray), you can reapply when the plant is dry again, if needed.

yea yea yea they introduced

yea yea yea they introduced these monsters to combat russian knapweed--last thing they will eat just like goats and sheep

That is the little monster,

That is the little monster, that is hanging out in my garden.
Thanks for the great info.

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