The Potato Beetle
The Colorado Potato Beetle is one of the most common pests that affect potato fields and potato crops as well as the nightshade family or solanaceous plants.
Today, we’ll be talking about how to identify these Colorado potato bugs and how you can prevent and manage them if they turn up in your vegetable and home gardens.
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 striped beetle species known for their 10 characteristic narrow black stripes on their bright orange yellow bodies, they also have have yellowish-white wing covers .
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 larval stage, potato beetles appear to have a 9-segmented abdomen, a hard shell, black head, rows of black spots and prominent spiracles. It may measure up to 15 mm (0.59 in) in length.
When young larvae hatch, they are brick red with black heads. Older larvae are pink to salmon colored with black heads. All larvae have rows of dark spots on each side of the body.
Host Plants for the Potato Beetle
A potato beetle’s tradition food source is buffalo bur plants. However, they have acquired a taste for potato plants.
They also enjoy feeding on black nightshades or solanaceous crops, such as:
- eggplant or aubergines
- bittersweet nightshade
- silverleaf nightshade
Both adult beetles and potato beetle larvae or cpb larvae for short can cause significant damage to their host plants. They lay clusters of eggs on the undersides of the leaves. They are general defoliators which means they mainly adult feed on the plant’s leaves and wipe them out.
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 strong insecticide resistance .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 or cultural practices. Don’t grow potatoes in the same plot of land every year. Adult Colorado 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 insect 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 beneficial insects such as ground beetles, ladybugs, and green lacewings, all of which are natural enemies and 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 potato plants are already infested with the beetles, don’t worry because you still have a chance of saving them.
As soon as you see evidence of potato beetles, you can start manually hand picking or removing them from your entire plants and throwing them in a container filled with soapy water. You can also use a vacuum to remove adults, larvae, and the orange-yellow 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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