The Colorado potato beetle is a true bug, and it’s originally from the US where it’s found everywhere but Hawaii, Alaska, California, and Nevada. It was introduced to Europe through trade and is now found throughout Asia and the rest of the world.
The beetle gets its name from its most-loved plant, the potato, but it’s also known by other names due to its coloring.
Adults have black heads with orange marks, round vibrant orange and/or yellow exoskeletons, and ten black stripes. These stripes are what gives it the nicknames of 10 lined potato beetle and 10 striped spearman. It’s also known simply as potato bug.
The beetles are talked of by farmers as being the vilest pest for potato plants to be infested with. Larva can eat up to forty square centimeters of leaf material during this stage while adults eat up to ten square centimeters a day! Estimated loss of crops by commercial and large scale growers is in the millions!
The potato bugs are active in mating and breeding with three generations being raised in one growing season. The female can lay up to 500 eggs in batches of 30 at a time, and these eggs hatch within a time span of 4 to 15 days.
The larvae pass through four moltings, getting bigger with each one, and then, they pupate for 5 to 10 days underground. Once they turn into adults, the cycle starts again.
To prevent a full-scale infestation and the resultant decimation of your potato crops, it’s best to be prepared, taking initiatives. Once you spot one adult, the fight is on!
There are a plethora of chemical insecticides being advertised that are not only dangerous to you and yours, but they’re also quite expensive. Besides, research has revealed that the potato beetle is resistant to most, if not all, of the various chemical insecticides sold on the market today.
Before trying any of those, try some of these more organic ways to get rid of potato bugs aka Colorado potato beetle. They have proven to be a great deal more effective on beetles.
1. Crop Rotation
Rotation of seasonal crops is a simple method to put into practice. Due to the overwintering habits of the beetle, you should move your potatoes and other affected crops somewhere else in the garden every season.
2. Row Covers
These cover sheetings are used to protect against vicious attacks, prevent them from getting on your plants after reaching adulthood, and are ready to devour your potato plants.
Made mainly of heavy screens, air and water will get to the seedlings, but they should be removed when flowers start forming or they won’t get pollinated.
3. Companion Planting
Using plants as a means of deterring pests is a manner of planning. Some plants can take over an area so it’s best to consider your options and know just how much time you’ll be spending to tend to the garden before you plant.
Companion plants include:
- Coriander aka Cilantro
Mulching will not only help with the plant’s growth, but it will also help attract the insects which feed on the Colorado beetle. Straw is by far the most economical but other mulch mixes will work just as well.
Disgusting but also pretty foolproof.
Simply put on a pair of gloves, pick off the bugs you spot, checking underneath leaves where they, and their young, like to hide, and either squish them underfoot or throw into a pail of soapy water.
6. Trap Crops
In addition to using companion plants to deter the beetles from getting a hold of your potatoes, there’s also the tactic of using plants to draw them as far as possible from your garden.
While the Colorado potato beetle prefers potatoes as its host crop, it will also eat several other plants such as tomatoes, buffalo-bur, peppers, and ground cherries.
7. Beneficial Insects
There are some insects that love eating beetles, and they can easily keep the pests from decimating your potatoes. Among the potato beetle predators are:
- Stink Beetle
- Parasitic wasp
A little research will enlighten you as to which good guys are native to or can be raised in your area, and the best approach to entice them to your garden.
8. Destroy Eggs
Colorado potato beetles lay their eggs underneath the leaves of their target plants. Check every leaf for a blaze of orange babbles (the eggs) and then destroy that leaf!
Eggs can mature in 4 to 5 days, so once you see an adult start looking for the eggs! Burn the leaf or drown it in an insecticide to kill the eggs.
9. Diatomaceous Earth
This white powder will kill all kinds of insects when placed at the base of target crops where they find their way into the soil to pupate.
Diatomaceous Earth will prevent this and the larvae will die sooner or later. You can also make a homemade organic potato bug spray out of it to coat your plants.
10. Neem Oil
This oil is an extract from the neem plant, and it’s very effective for killing insects. Using concentrated solutions or the oil combined with water and tossed in a spray bottle, apply liberally to the insects wherever you find them.
The oil coats the insects and the eggs and kills them. Note: There are two kinds of Neem Oil on the market: Azadirachtin and Clarified Hydrophobic Extract.
Only the Azadirachtin will put down the Colorado potato beetle, so confirm before buying a bottle.
An organic insecticide said to work wonders on the Colorado beetle larvae, even more so than DE, but time will tell.
Spinosad works to paralyze the nervous system of the larva as well as mature bugs, and it eventually cripples them so they die. You can put it on in spray form just like Neem Oil.
All of the methods mentioned above are safe to be used around your family, pets, and organic gardening as a whole.
This said, make certain you wear a protective face covering when applying the DE, even if it is food grade. The dust can still make you sneeze or cough. The rest are as eco-friendly as you can ask for.