The Potato Beetle
The Colorado Potato Beetle is one of the most common pests that affect potato crops as well as nightshades.
Today, we’ll be talking about how to identify these bugs and how you can prevent and manage them if they turn up in your vegetable garden.
Let’s get started!
Identifying the Potato Beetle
The Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata), also known as the Colorado beetle, the ten-striped spearman, the ten-lined potato beetle, or the potato bug, is a beetle species known for their 10 characteristic black stripes on their orange-yellow bodies.
They grow 6–11 mm (0.24–0.43 in) in length and 3 mm (0.12 in) in width.
In the Colorado Potato Beetle larvae stage, potato beetles appear to have a 9-segmented abdomen, a black head, and prominent spiracles. It may measure up to 15 mm (0.59 in) in length.
Host Plants for the Potato Beetle
Potato beetles traditionally fed on buffalo-bur plants. However, they have acquired a taste for potatoes.
They also enjoy feeding on black nightshades, such as:
- eggplant or aubergines
- bittersweet nightshade
- silverleaf nightshade
Both adult and potato beetle larvae can cause significant damage to their host plants. They are general defoliators which means they mainly feed on the plant’s leaves.
However, once the leaves are spent, they can move on to plant stems and exposed tubers. When left unchecked, potato beetles can reduce the yield of infected crops.
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Managing Potato Beetles in the Garden
A key thing to remember about potato beetles is they have the ability to develop a resistance to many insecticides. This makes it quite difficult to get rid of. However, there are certain techniques you can try.
As with any kind of pest in the garden, your best move is to protect your plants from these bugs before they can start causing any damage.
Here’s how you can prevent potato beetles from feeding on your crops:
- Practice crop rotation. Don’t grow potatoes in the same plot of land every year. Adult potato beetles tend to overwinter in the soil so if you plant in the same spot, you’re just giving them convenient access to your crops.
- Use floating row covers. this lets in sun and rain but keeps out any pests that are on the outside of the cover.
- Try companion planting to deter potato beetles try plants such as catnip, tansy, and sage.
- Use straw mulch. This kind of mulch can attract ground beetles, ladybugs, and green lacewings, all of which are natural predators of the Colorado potato beetle.
- Be mindful of the varieties you plant. Consider planting Russet Burbank potatoes which are resistant to potato beetles. You can also try growing Yukon Gold or Caribe potatoes which are varieties that you can harvest before these bugs can do any real damage.
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If your plants are already infested with potato beetles, don’t worry because you still have a chance of saving your potato crop.
As soon as you see evidence of potato beetles, you can start manually removing them from your plants and throwing them in a container filled with soapy water. You can also use a vacuum to remove adults, larvae, and eggs from your crops.
You can also try applying 100% Cold Pressed Neem oil to your plants. Just mix 2 tablespoons Neem Oil to a gallon of water with a squirt of dish soap and mix well. Then spray the affected plants once every 3 days to a week until the problem is resolved.
Always test any solution of homemade bug spray for vegetable plants, herbs, and flowers as well as store purchased before using them on your plants. You don’t want to have an adverse effect and hurt the plant.
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