Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Flea Beetles are Jerks

Now that warm weather has blessed the Pacific Northwest, I decided to head out to my new community garden plot to plant some more beans, check on my spinach and arugala, and to transplant my tomatoes. When I got there, I discovered pock marks and tiny holes in my mustard, arugala, and kale. I instantly recognized the damage to be that of the flea beetle- the little jerk seen here:


Flea beetles are only a couple of millimeters in size, and have relatively large hind legs. When you disturb them they jump like a flea. They show up in late spring when weather is lovely, and munch on many different plants depending on the kind of flea beetle they are. This one seems particularly fond of anything in the Brassicaceae family. There are other flea beetles that will eat potatoes, beans, lettuce--you name it.

Natural predators of flea beetles include the larvae of green lacewings (which also like aphids as you can see)

picture by University of Vermont
and big eyed bugs (which are generalist predators).

picture by Gardening-for-Wildlife.com
Since I don't want to use any sprays in my garden, I need to start working on attracting these guys. The other thing I can do is use row cover (like Reemay) to keep them off seedlings when they migrate to the garden from weeds (where they overwinter as adults).

The good news is that there has to be significant damage before my yields will be affected. Right now I just have to accept the look of my veggies- slightly perforated!

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