Photo credit Lyle J. Buss, UF/IFAS
The unwanted guest- Flea beetle
Having trouble with flea beetles? Tired of them showing up unannounced? Do not be alarmed here are a few tips to get rid of the unwanted guest in your garden.
Description: Flea beetles vary in appearance, where colors range from black to tan, with other, brighter colors mixed. They may also have a solid, striped, or spotted pattern depending on the species. Beetles are tiny with large hind legs which allow them to jump like fleas when disturbed.
Lifecycle: These unwanted guests will overwinter as adults in the soil or beneath plant debris and become active in early spring when temperatures reach 50°F, and begin feeding on weeds or early-planted crops. Eggs are laid by adult flea beetles normally around May in the soil or at the base of host plants. After 7-14 days eggs will hatch and larvae will feed and develop on various plant parts. They pupate in the soil for 11-13 days before emerging as adults.
Host plants: Some species attack a wide range of plants, while others target only certain plant families. (Table 1). In the garden, several vegetable crops are eaten by these pests, particularly those in the Brassica family.
Table 1: Common flea beetles and host plants.
Scouting: Adult flea beetles are particularly active on warm, sunny days. To identify damages, scout every 1-2 days in newly planted fields, since it is easier to identify the damages than to see the beetles themselves. Flea beetle populations can be monitored with yellow sticky traps.
Damage: Adult beetles feed on foliage, producing shot holes in the leaves, especially new leaves which will have a lacy appearance. Additionally, in leafy crops like lettuce or spinach, the holes can reduce the quality of the leaves.
Photo Credits: Jeffery Hahn University of Minnesota
Photo Credit : Jeffery Hahn University of Minnesota.
Management / Control strategies:
- In the spring delay transplanting or planting by a couple weeks if possible.
- In the fall, till the garden to uncover any hiding flea beetles.
- Plant “push” or repellant crops such as catnip, sage, mint, hyssop, nasturtium, and basil.
- Use a “trap crop” such as radishes, taking the pest’ focus off more valuable plants.
- Dusting leaves with plain talcum powder repels flea beetles on tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and other plants.
- Insecticides may be used early in the season.
- Water deters adult flea beetles. Any watering should be done in mid-day.
- Planting after adults have emerged or crop rotation can help minimize flea beetle damage.
- Apply commercially available nematodes that feed on flea beetle eggs, larvae, and pupae.
Supporting information for this article can be found in the UF/IFAS EDIS publications EENY-721/IN1238: Flea Beetles of the Genus Altica: Altica spp. (Insecta: Coleoptera: Chrysomelid) (ufl.edu); https://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/ORN/BEETLES/flea_beetle.html and https://extension.uga.edu/content/dam/extension/programs-and-services/integrated-pest-management/documents/insect-pdfs/fleabeetles.pdf
As spring approaches, are we thinking about pollinators? How often do we stop to think of the importance of pollinators to food security?
Pollination is often described as the transfer of pollen grains from the anther to the stigma of a flowering plant. These transfers are made possible due to pollinator visits in exchange of pollen and nectar from the plants.
Who are our pollinators?
Main Global Pollinators
Honeybees Alfalfa leafcutter bee
Bumble bees Mason bees
Stingless bees Other leafcutter bees
How can we care for pollinators?
Photo by Donna Arnold
We can care for our pollinators by growing plants that have abundant and accessible pollen and nectar.
Choose plants with flat flowers or short to medium-length flowers tubes (corollas), and limit plants with long flower tubes such as honey suckle.
Avoid plant varieties that do not provide floral rewards (pollen), which is the essential food source for bees. (e.g., some sunflower, and lilies).
Many native wild bees have relatively short proboscises, or tongues, and may not be able to access nectar from flowers with long tubes; however, flowers with long floral tubes can attract other pollinators with long tongues or beaks such as butterflies, moths, and hummingbirds.
Are we creating an ecosystem aesthetically pleasing while attracting pollinators?
UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones
The planting of native wildflower in Florida can benefit agricultural producers likewise, native pollinators and other beneficials such as parasitoids and predators. Some of the main benefits of growing native wildflower are:
- Increasing wild bee presence in the surroundings.
- Providing nesting and foraging sites for pollinators, butterflies, bees etc.
- Increasing natural enemies of pest insects.
It is important to select mix varieties of native wildflower when restoring habitats for our pollinators. Mix varieties will flower all year round and make available continuous supply of nectar and pollen. If possible, use wildflower seeds that are produced in the state that you want to carry out pollinators’ restoration. It is highly likely that one will experience better growth from locally produced seeds because they will adapt better to regional growing conditions and the climate. For optimum flowering and high production of floral rewards such as pollen and nectar. Place wildflowers in areas free of pesticide and soil disturbance.
Most bee species are solitary, and 70% of these solitary bees’ nest in the ground. A wildflower area of refuge can fulfill the shelter resource needs of these bees since that area will not undergo regular tilling, thus minimizing nest disturbance.
Supporting information for this article can be found in the UF/IFAS EDIS publications (Common Native Wildflowers of North Florida) visit : https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdf/EP/EP061/EP061-15448828.pdf and Attracting Native Bees to Your Florida Landscape IN125500.pdf (ufl.edu.