How to Get Rid of Flea Beetles

Updated on January 29, 2020
OldRoses profile image

Caren White is a Master Gardener and instructor at Home Gardeners School. She has been associated with Rutgers Gardens for over a decade.


Fleas in your garden? No, those are flea beetles, a variety of leaf beetle that jumps like fleas. The adults kill by spreading disease, while the larvae kill by eating the roots of your plants.

What are Flea Beetles?

Flea beetles (Phyllotreta spp) are tiny and shiny. They are about 1/10 inch long and black or tan metallic with either stripes or spots. They commonly feed on cruciferous plants such as cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli.

The adults overwinter in the soil, emerging when the temperatures reach 50°F. They are most harmful in the spring when they feed on your seedlings, killing them. Later in the season, when your plants are larger, the small holes they make in the leaves won't kill them. It's the diseases (wilt and blight) that they spread as they feed that can kill your plants.

As the adults feed, they mate and lay their eggs on the roots of your crops. When they hatch, the larvae feed on those roots for 2 to 3 weeks, destroying the plants. Plants cannot grow without roots. The larvae then pupate in the soil for an additional 2 to 3 weeks, emerging as adults to start the cycle over again.

Flea beetle larva feed on plant roots
Flea beetle larva feed on plant roots | Source

Delay Planting Your Garden

Fortunately, flea beetles are not terribly intelligent. You can fool them into thinking that there is nothing to eat by planting out your seedlings 2 to 3 weeks later than normal. The adults will emerge from their winter hibernation only to find a bare garden with nothing to eat. They will then move on in search of crops to which to feast and lay their eggs.

Alternatively, you can use floating row covers on your seedlings. They are "floating" because you just lay them loosely over your plants. The thin polyester material allows light and rain to get in but keeps the insects out. Make sure that the sides of the row covers are firmly anchored to the ground so that the insects can't crawl underneath. You can use pins, stones or even bury the edges in soil.

Create a Bare Perimeter Around Your Garden

A variant of the strategy of delayed planting is to aggressively weed the area around your cruciferous plants. A 3 foot strip of bare soil will discourage the flea beetles who will think there is nothing to eat and fly off in search of food elsewhere.

Use Companion Plants and Trap Crops

Plant herbs such as thyme or mint that have strong scents among your crops to confuse flea beetles who will think that they have accidentally stumbled upon your herb garden. since there is nothing for them to eat in an herb garden, they will fly away to find a vegetable garden to feast in.

Or you can plant a trap crop such radishes that will lure them away. Root crops such as radishes can withstand the depredations of flea beetles because their roots for which you are growing them are not affected by adult beetles.

Trap crops are plants that attract the same pests as your vegetables. Plant the trap crops a few feet away to lure the pests away from your vegetables.

Invite in Some Flea Beetle Enemies

Plant flowers which bloom in umbels such as fennel, dill or yarrow to attract beneficial insects such as tachnid flies and braconid wasps. These insects enjoy feeding on the pollen of the flowers. After they mate, they lay their eggs on plants that attract flea beetles because their larvae love to feast on flea beetles.

Make Your Own Spray

Combine 5 parts water with 2 parts alcohol plus a tablespoon of dish detergent and spray the foliage of your susceptible crops. The soap will help the spray to adhere to the beetles while the alcohol will dehydrate them.You will need to re-apply your spray after each rain event. This will only deter adult flea beetles. The larvae are underground feeding on the roots. Discouraging the adults from eating your crops means fewer adults in your garden and fewer larvae feeding on the roots of your plants.

Till your Garden in the Fall to Destroy Overwintering Flea Beetles

A deep tilling of your garden in the fall will prevent adult flea beetles from overwintering in your soil so that you will have fewer of them to contend with in the spring.

© 2014 Caren White


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • OldRoses profile imageAUTHOR

      Caren White 

      5 years ago

      Flourish, I'm so happy that you are learning so much! That is incredibly gratifying for me as a garden writer (and speaker). I genuinely enjoy writing about my passion for gardening. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      5 years ago from USA

      I'm learning so much about gardening and the pests that live in our gardens by reading your hubs. I guess this little guy is the dum-dum of garden insects because he's so easily fooled.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)