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Flea Beetles

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Flea Beetles

Post  Bud Alexis on 5/30/2013, 12:10 pm

Does anyone have an organic remedy for flea beetles. I tried a few from online, not working. They are desimating my eggplant leaves.

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Re: Flea Beetles

Post  Nonna.PapaVino on 5/30/2013, 12:26 pm

Here's a video from an organic farmer on controlling flea beetles: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2HaT9EV70g
Here in the Northwest, we rely on shallow cultivation around plants on dry days to kill flea beetle larvae, and use trap crops like the radishes mentioned in the youtube video. Living at the edge of a forest, I think there must be some natural predator here, too, because flea beetles don't pose such a deadly concern like you mention; bothersome on beans, but not fatal to the plants. Nonna

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Re: Flea Beetles

Post  camprn on 5/30/2013, 12:32 pm

@Bud Alexis wrote:Does anyone have an organic remedy for flea beetles. I tried a few from online, not working. They are desimating my eggplant leaves.
Row cover as a barrier until their season has passed.

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Re: Flea Beetles

Post  southern gardener on 5/30/2013, 5:11 pm

I used Sluggo plus last year on flea beetles, and it work GREAT! Only had to apply it one time and they were gone. I just scratched a little in around the base of the plant and that was it. Be sure to use the Sluggo PLUS

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Re: Flea Beetles

Post  dvelten on 5/30/2013, 9:22 pm

Flea beetles are nasty and hard to control. They winter over in the soil, usually in wooded areas near the field. They emerge in spring as soon as temps get to 40F and go looking for breakfast. There are 3-4 generations a year and adults can live up to 2 months, so that's a lot of munching. Larvae live in the soil and feed on the roots of the plant before emerging as adults.

There are many kinds of flea beetles and they usually feed on one type of plant. Near my garden the two biggest pests are probably (I'm not an entomologist) the crucifer flea beetle (Phyllotreta crucifera) that feeds on brassicas, and the eggplant flea beetle (Epitrix fuscula) that feeds on solanaceous plants (tomatoes, peppers, but mostly eggplant).

Row cover works if you put it on early enough and seal the edges very well. That's assuming the beetles didn't overwinter in the soil under the covers. I tried covering my eggplants last year (in brand new MM so no eggs) but they still got in. And they killed all my eggplants, even the ones with 4-5 leaves, so much for that theory.

You can try physically removing the beetles. Last year, each visit to the garden started with an examination of the eggplants and brassicas to pick and squish beetles. A trick I haven't tried yet is to use a hand-held vac (dustbuster) to vacuum up the beetles. The theory is every beetle you destroy is one less beetle laying eggs and multiplying.

Trap crops properly done probably work for farmers who, say, surround their field of broccoli with a 4-foot band of mustard. The beetles flying out from the woods land on the mustard, and the farmer then heavily sprays the trap crop with insecticide. I don't believe planting some radishes next to your broccoli is going to lure the beetles away. In fact I know it won't, because the radishes I have near the broccoli are ones I actually want to eat, and both the radishes and the broccoli are being chewed up. And I guarantee you planting radishes near your eggplant is not going to lure eggplant beetles away. The beetles you see on the radishes are crucifer beetles, not eggplant beetles, and are now ready to move on to the main course, your brassicas.

You can try dusting the leaves with DE (diatomaceous earth), which either irritates them or slashes their little bodies. I haven't found this very effective. I have also used a garlic chili spray, which seems to repel (but not kill) them for about a day. I make the spray by putting 2-3 cloves of garlic and a chili in a food processor with a cup of water. Puree then let steep for a day. Strain into a quart spray bottle, add a few drops of dish soap, and dilute with water to a quart.

If you are willing to spray, pyrethrin sprays are moderately effective but short lived. They degrade quickly with exposure to sunlight. Look for a spray that has an OMRI label and is not mixed with piperonyl butoxide, which makes it unsuitable for organic gardens. Also avoid spraying it when pollinators are in the area.

A new substance is spinosad, an organic pesticide produced by fermentation with a common soil bacteria. It is the extra ingredient in Sluggo Plus, which adds earwig and pill bug control to vanilla Sluggo (but I have no clue how Sluggo Plus can be used to treat flea beetles). Spinosad is a stomach/nerve poison and has to be ingested, so it is safe for beneficial insects, earthworms, and pollinators as long as it dries before contact. It can be used up to day of harvest. Flea beetles were recently added to the insects it will control and it is more effective than pyrethrin. In addition, it will also control cabbage loopers and caterpillars, so you get a two-fer when you spray your brassicas. Also controls leaf miners and will penetrate and kill the maggots inside the leaf. I sprayed my brassicas on Tuesday and observation today shows only a few flea beetles present. I bought some pure pyrethrin spray and plan to try alternating spinosad and pyrethrin through the season so resistance does not build up.

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Re: Flea Beetles

Post  camprn on 5/30/2013, 9:33 pm

What a great tutorial! Thanks Dave! you rock

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Re: Flea Beetles

Post  dvelten on 5/30/2013, 11:53 pm

camprn,you and I agree, flea beetles are evil! Evil or Very Mad Twisted Evil affraid

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Re: Flea Beetles

Post  yolos on 5/31/2013, 1:34 pm

Be careful with the spinosad. My son-in-law put a bee hive next to my garden and almost had a heart attack when I told him I was going to use a product that was spinosad. Apparently it is deadly to bees so if you have to use it, spray when the bees are not actively in your garden.

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Re: Flea Beetles

Post  RoOsTeR on 5/31/2013, 2:24 pm

@camprn wrote:What a great tutorial! Thanks Dave! you rock

I agree! Thank you

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Re: Flea Beetles

Post  Hudd on 6/17/2013, 9:41 pm

I also had flea beetle problems on my squash and even nasturtiums in the bed, plus they pretty much destroyed the white icicle radishes planted in the hills.  My wife had some garlic cloves and mineral oil, so we minced up about 10 cloves, put in a few ounces of mineral oil, and let it soak for approx. 24 hours.  She then got some cheesecloth and strained it into a spray bottle.  I added another 20 oz of water, and sprayed the plants down pretty good. That was a couple of days ago and no more apparent damage and everything even looks healthier (could be I am biased, but it appears to be working). I still have half the bottle left over, so will spray again if needed, but it is nice to see some results anyway.

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Re: Flea Beetles

Post  Pollinator on 6/18/2013, 2:37 pm

I find two levels of flea beetles. The crucifer flea beetle, pretty much makes a spring crop of turnips impossible there, as they will destroy them in just a couple days. So I grow my turnips in the fall.

On the other hand, I don't get much bent out of shape, when I see some flea beetle damage on my eggplants. In the end, they've always outgrown the damage and out run the flea beetles.

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Re: Flea Beetles

Post  donnainzone5 on 7/5/2015, 10:30 pm

Is it okay to eat/freeze greens damaged by these critters?  After rinsing thoroughly, of course.

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Re: Flea Beetles

Post  camprn on 7/5/2015, 10:58 pm

donnainzone10 wrote:Is it okay to eat/freeze greens damaged by these critters?  After rinsing thoroughly, of course.
Yes, if there is anything left. Few teeny holes are nothing to worry about. I usually just pinch those off and the plant grows new leaves. Soon the flea beetles will be gone.

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There are certain pursuits which, if not wholly poetic and true, do at least suggest a nobler and finer relation to nature than we know. The keeping of bees, for instance. ~ Henry David Thoreau

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Re: Flea Beetles

Post  donnainzone5 on 7/6/2015, 11:59 am

The leaves are pretty evenly perforated!  I haven't seen any other signs of infestation, though.

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