How to Get Rid of Potato Beetles

Updated on May 7, 2018
OldRoses profile image

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

Source

Potato beetles are voracious predators that first skeletonize your potatoes and then move on to your peppers, eggplants and tomatoes. Getting rid of them requires vigilance on your part.

Know your enemy!

The Colorado Potato Beetle originated in Colorado where it munched happily on native buffalo burs, a relative of the potato. Then European settlers arrived in 1859 with potatoes and the beetles switched to this more abundant crop. They munched their way back east, following the potato "trail" moving up to 85 miles per year until they arrived on the East Coast in 1874.

The adults overwinter in the soil. In the spring, they emerge and start eating your potatoes' foliage. Then they mate and lay eggs on the leaves. A female potato beetle lays 10 to 30 eggs at a time, up to 350 in her short lifetime. The eggs hatch within two weeks. The resulting larvae are more voracious than the adults.

Once the larvae have eaten their fill, they dive down into the soil to pupate into adults. Pupation lasts 10 to 15 days which means that more than one generation is possible each summer. In the South with its longer growing season, three generations are possible. In the North, one to two generations is typical. If it is late in the season when the larvae pupate, they will overwinter in your garden, emerging in the spring to begin the cycle again.

Potato Beetle Larvae
Potato Beetle Larvae | Source

Rotate and cultivate

You can break the cycle in the fall with a deep cultivation of your soil which will kill the larvae.

Crop rotation is another good way to disrupt the life cycle of the beetles and the larvae. By not planting potatoes in the same spot next year, the beetles and larvae will emerge in the spring and find nothing to eat.

A good rule of thumb is not plant potatoes in the same spot for two years. If you divide your garden into quadrants with each quadrant containing a different family of vegetables, you can rotate your quadrants. And example of this would be to have one quadrant for solanaceous plants, one quadrant for legumes, one quadrant for cucurbits and a fourth quadrant for vegetables from other families such as onions and lettuce. That way it will be three years before you plant potatoes in the same part of your garden again,

Trench warfare

Barrier methods are always a good way to prevent potato beetles from getting to your potatoes. Dig a trench around your potatoes and line it with plastic creating a bare area and fooling the beetles into thinking that there is nothing planted in the vicinity. Beetles are not too bright.

Typical leaf damage caused by feeding adult and larvae
Typical leaf damage caused by feeding adult and larvae | Source

Under cover

Another good barrier method is floating row covers. 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 insects out. Since potatoes do not require pollination, you don't have to worry about preventing pollinating insects from getting to your plants. In the spring, row covers also keep in heat, warming the air and soil and encouraging your plants to grow faster. You can leave the row covers over your potatoes until you are ready to harvest.

Pick your own

If you aren't squeamish, you can manually pick off the adults and larvae from your plants and kill them by either squishing them or dropping them into a container of soapy water.

Don't forget to check the undersides of the leaves for the yellow eggs. They can also be picked off and destroyed thereby preventing an entire generation of beetles.

Look for eggs on the undersides of the leaves
Look for eggs on the undersides of the leaves | Source

The enemy of my enemy is my friend

Use salt hay as a mulch in your garden and you will be accomplishing two things. First, mulch makes it more difficult for the beetles to find your plants. Secondly, you will be attracting beneficial insects such as predatory wasps and lady bugs which like to nest in the hay and eat potato beetles! Add a birdbath and insect eating birds will drop by for a quick dip and a snack of beetles.

Establish a small pond or wetlands near your garden and toads will take up residence. They will visit your garden and eat their fill of potato beetles and other insects. If you don't want to dig a pond in your yard, you can leave an overturned flower pot and a dish of water in your garden. Toads are nocturnal. They spend the day hiding in shady sheltered spots. Since toads absorb water through their skin, the water dish should be deep enough for them to completely submerge themselves.

Colorado potato beetles are a scourge that we brought on ourselves by introducing potatoes into their environment. You can keep their numbers down using a variety of methods.

Questions & Answers

    © 2014 Caren White

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • OldRoses profile imageAUTHOR

        Caren White 

        4 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

        Flourish, I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thanks so much for the pin!

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 

        4 years ago from USA

        I haven't heard about these pests but enjoyed reading about them. Voted up and pinning to my Garden & Outdoors board.

      • OldRoses profile imageAUTHOR

        Caren White 

        4 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

        Thanks Eddy! I got involved with the new vegetable garden where I volunteer and I'm learning all about insects and disease.

      • Eiddwen profile image

        Eiddwen 

        4 years ago from Wales

        Interesting and very useful.Voting up and sharing.

        Eddy.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, dengarden.com 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: https://dengarden.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      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 googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      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)
      Marketing
      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.
      Statistics
      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)