Worms and Flowers

Successfully Managing the Colorado Potato Beetle

Posted in How To, Pests by Lzyjo on April 30, 2009

I love growing potatoes. What I don’t love are the pests that come with them. My archenemy in this department is the leaf-eating Colorado Potato Beetle (CPB). Not only are the beetles gut-wrenchingly disgusting, they spread diseases as they move from plant to plant. With diligence these pesky bugs can be controlled without toxic chemicals.

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The key to controlling the CPB is understanding its life cycle. There are three stages in the maturation of the beetle, eggs, larvae, and adults, they can killed during any one of these phases. Adults are easy to identify due to their distinctive striped exoskeleton. (Sorry, I dusted them up trying to get them in the shot.)

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Adults can be found feeding on the leaves and also near the base of the potato plant, where they emerge from their underground pupation chambers.

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Black beetle poop on the leaves are a tell-tale sign of beetle activity.

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Adults lay masses of bright orange colored eggs on the underside of the leaves. These should be wiped off and smooshed (I like to use gloves for this,) before they hatch anywhere from 4-10 days. If the eggs hatch, reddish brown larvae with black spots will emerge. These larvae will eat their fill of  leaves before retreating to underground chambers where they will complete the pupation process, emerging a few weeks later as full grown adults.

The best time to perform search and destroy missions is the early morning when the beetles are still sluggish from the cooler nighttime temperatures. I like to use the bottom of a stick to squish them. Okay, I don’t like it. It’s a matter of necessity. Be careful these guys will try to play dead, so make sure to squish ’em good!

For more information on the life cycle of the Colorado Potato Beetle see this article provided by a cooperative between the Universities of Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado State, and Montana State.

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12 Responses

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  1. ourfriendben said, on April 30, 2009 at 9:44 AM

    Ugh, lzyjo, Colorado potato beetles! We’ve been so lucky here, no potato pests of any kind so far. I’ll admit that Colorado potato beetles, squash vine borers, and bean beetles are my greatest fears. But since nobody else around us has a veggie garden, i keep hoping we’ll be spared!

  2. Lzyjo said, on April 30, 2009 at 11:08 AM

    Maybe the good vibes of Hawk’s Haven keeps em away. SVB is every gardeners worst nightmare! Need to make brick dust to sprinkle around the garden, or better yet, voodoo dolls shaped like the different pests.

  3. Daphne Gould said, on April 30, 2009 at 4:04 PM

    I’m growing potatoes for the first time in my garden this year. I’m hoping I don’t find any of them.

  4. ourfriendben said, on April 30, 2009 at 5:51 PM

    Bad bug voodoo dolls! Yes!!! Another entrepreneurial brainwave! What gardener could resist?

  5. tina said, on May 1, 2009 at 6:39 AM

    I had these last summer on my eggplant (at least I think they were this, some on the blog thought something else so I am not entirely sure). The larve is what was eating the eggplant. I’ve not seen them but will be looking today. Problem with potatoes is once you plant them-you’ve got them forever!

  6. Lzyjo said, on May 1, 2009 at 7:29 AM

    Last year I didn’t know what to look for until it was too late. They ate so many leaves, it really did a number on the potatoes. I think it was enough damage to reduce the yield. I hope you don’t find any either! Thanks for stopping by.

  7. Lzyjo said, on May 1, 2009 at 7:34 AM

    Really?! You think it’s a good idea? Production shall commence. I want a big ugly bug covered with pins.

  8. Lzyjo said, on May 1, 2009 at 7:37 AM

    I would love to have naturalized potatoes! I don’t doubt that the CPB would eat eggplants. The one that really got my eggplants last year was the flea beetle, they ate so many holes in the leaves, esp the seedlings. Arrrrggg! Pestilence!

  9. gail said, on May 1, 2009 at 8:46 AM

    Lyzjo, Good info, while I don’t grow potatoes…I have friends who do! Sign me up for the voodoo bug dolls. I have a nasty phlox bug that needs to be dealt with and no one, even Mobot has successfully eradicated it with good garden sanitation practices…. I don’t want to employ the Death Star of heavy duty poisons or removal of all phlox! Maybe you need to send a few dozen voodoo dolls! Oh it were only possible. gail

  10. Lzyjo said, on May 1, 2009 at 9:46 AM

    In my CPB research it was clear that they easily become resistant to pesticides. They suggested using multiple pesticides through the season! If Mobot can’t do it, who can? I am a huge fan of biological pest control, nature often has it’s own cures. Have you tried the evil eye?! 😉

  11. Dawn said, on May 1, 2009 at 9:25 PM

    Ewww, I’m growing taters for the fist time. Do they make it to Maine?

  12. Lzyjo said, on May 2, 2009 at 7:22 AM

    Unfortunately, Dawn, their current range is almost the entire North American continent and even worse, they also enjoy tomatoes, eggplants, and other solanacae. According to wikipedia, the U.S. introduced the pest to Europe, during WWI and again in WWII. Here is a map from Wikipedia showing their current range and origin. Thanks for your question. I think it was also help other readers.


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