Flea beetles: who are they?
of the order of beetles and some leaf beetle family, flea beetles are divided into many species, most of which particularly like crucifers, such as cabbages, turnips, arugula, etc. However, some species have a marked preference for beets, vines, etc., so while others feed mainly on solanaceae, such as eggplants, tomatoes, etc. In fact, few plants escape their voracity. Physically, flea beetles are recognizable by:
- their small size only a few millimeters;
- their dark shell which can have bluish or golden reflections depending on the species;
- their long antennae ;
- their elytra which give them the possibility of moving over several hundred meters;
- their highly developed hind legss that allow them to jump. Some people call these insects “garden fleas”.
Only here, even if they are small, they can still cause significant damage, because they feed by nibbling the leaves of certain plants. You can then notice a multitude of small round holes. Your crops can then be compromised, because your young plants can be destroyed and the growth of adult plants can be damaged. You should know that this beetle hates humidity and develops optimally in a dry and warm environment. As soon as you notice their presence, it is necessary to act quickly, because they will lay hundreds of eggs in the ground, on the leaves or in the crowns, and reproduce at a hellish rate.
Their life cycle
The life cycle of flea beetles takes place over one year:
- After spending the winter underground or under a pile of leaves, adult flea beetles emerge from hibernation as soon as mild temperatures arrive and begin to eat the leaves they like, depending on their species, they will thus feed for several weeks.
- The females then lay hundreds of eggs at the foot of the seedlings., but also on plants. One to two weeks later, these eggs give birth to larvae which will feed on roots before transforming into pupa about fifteen days later, then into adults, when they will migrate to the leaves. Flea beetles can also tunnel into plant stems.
- As soon as colder and wetter weather arrives, they take shelter underground or under a pile of leaves while waiting for the start of a new cycle in the spring.
Damage caused by flea beetles
Not only can flea beetles move quickly over several kilometers thanks to their elytra, but they also reproduce quickly, since a female can lay several hundred eggs. Thus, flea beetles will cause significant damage which can be fatal to young plants and which will slow down the growth of adult plants. We have seen that flea beetles not only go riddle the leaves with holesbut also dig galleries in the stems. Under the attack of flea beetles, harvests will be significantly reduced.
On which plants?
Depending on the species of flea beetles, it is not the same crops that will be attacked. Some prefer crucifers, others solanaceae, but also vines.
Prevention is better than cure. It is thus possible to opt for different preventive methods to avoid their ravages in your vegetable garden.
A layer of mulch
By setting up a mulch at the foot of your plantations, you will create a cool, humid environment, anything that displeases this insect pest. It can therefore be a good solution to prevent it from feeding on your plants.
At a small distance from your crops, you can choose install trap plants. It can be green manures, such as mustard, which will then attract the flea beetles, because they are very fond of it. Busy on other plantations, they will neglect your other vegetables. Otherwise, you can also plant plants that repel them, such as radishes or garlic.
Also called insect veil, it is an effective solution to protect your plantations. To combat flea beetles whose size is 2 mm, it is recommended to choose a net with a very fine mesh. Install it from the month of May, making sure to bury it on the sides for better efficiency.
5 natural treatments to fight against flea beetles
If flea beetles are already present, it is necessary to act quickly to limit their development.
Once you have spotted the flea beetles, it will be necessary to scare them away. To do this, there is nothing like creating an environment that is not favorable to them, that is, humid. You can thus water the plants, but also the soil and the mulch. Prefer the morning for this operation, because the heat of the day will promote the evaporation of this water and allow you toavoid diseases due to excess humidity.
Liquid manure spraying
Do not hesitate to add nettle or tansy manure to your irrigation water. Indeed, in addition to strengthening your plant, it will allow you to fight against the presence of flea beetles.
To combat flea beetles, you can also prepare a decoction of garlic or hot pepper. Then you just have to spray your decoction on the whole plant.
If natural solutions remain ineffective, you can turn to a biological insecticide to get rid of flea beetles. Choose a pyrethrum-based insecticide. But beware ! If it is respectful of the soil, this insecticide destroys not only the pests, but also the auxiliaries. It should therefore be used only when nothing else works.
Sticky traps are another way to capture adult flea beetles, but also other insects. To be effective, the flea beetle must pass over it.