Suppose you are like most people and have never heard of a potato bug (or potato beetle or Colorado potato beetle). In that case, you may get a bit of a shock when you go into your garden and see them munching away on leaves or some of your potato crop. Unfortunately, getting rid of these little buggers can be a tricky task because they are known for building up resistance to pesticides and insecticides. This means getting rid of them will require you to think outside of the box.
This brief article examines what potato bugs are and then offers you some inventive ways of getting rid of them without using harmful agents that will affect other plants or organisms in your garden.
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Well, what is a Potato Bug then?
I couldn’t tell you how to get rid of them most efficiently if you had no clue what they were now, could I? The potato bug is a common pest among many different garden beds. Adult and larval forms (larval means baby) will chew on leaves and plants and can potentially destroy entire crops if not dealt with sufficiently! They can damage the yield you may have and prevent plants from growing again.
It is most common in the United States but can also be found in Europe and Asia to lesser extents. They love tomato plants, as well as peppers and, of course, potato plants. Typically, the potato bug is 1/3 of an inch or ½ an inch long in adult form.
They are round and are a yellow-orange colour. Many will have black stripes on their bodies, and some will have black spots on their heads. The larvae are 1/8 to 1/2 inch long and red with a black head and legs. They become yellowish-red or orange with two rows of black spots on each side of the body as they get older.
How can I get rid of them?
- Prevention is always better than cure. So the first tip I would give you is to keep an eye on your garden/plants/crops every day or every other day. Potato beetles will work best and multiply if left to their own devices and the quicker you can spot them, the easier they will be to get rid of.
- Use row covers to protect your plants or crops wherever possible. This will make it far more difficult for the bugs to get in and feed. Any kind of thin netting or cover will be very effective in this instance.
- Crop rotation is a useful way of keeping your garden unpredictable. Planting a nightshade crop the year after planting a potato crop in that same spot would be clever.
- Mulch, Mulch, Mulch: If you can spread 2-3 inches of mulch around the soil, it will prevent any overpopulation and break up the reproductive cycle of the bugs. Straw and hay are good barriers to prevent the bugs from rising up from the ground.
- Do it by hand: hear me out here. This one is a little time consuming and can be frustrating depending on the number of beetles around your plants. However, going out to your crops/ plants/garden with gloves and warm soapy water and picking them off, adding them into the water as you go, is a very effective way of managing or removing an infestation! Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! The same method works for getting rid of the eggs, just look for the clusters underneath the leaves.
- Buy insects that will kill them: You can buy the likes of ladybirds and lacewings in a pet store and these are great for getting rid of potato bugs because they feed on the eggs. They are also not nearly as harmful to your foliage as the potato bugs are. This is a very practical way of dealing with an infestation.
- Finally, you can use oils such as neem oil. I tend to find that this works a lot better than citronella. You can buy it from a health store, and with its insecticidal properties, it is good for rubbing on a plant and getting rid of potato beetles.
Where does a potato bug lay its eggs?
A potato bug will typically lay its eggs on a host plant. Eggs can be laid in hundreds of different batches and are usually found on the underside of leaves. Eggs, or “larvae” as it is more commonly known, are red.
What’s the difference between potato bugs and Jerusalem Crickets?
Potato Bugs are more of a pest than a typical Jerusalem Cricket because they prefer to feed on potatoes, a common food source for humans.
Are potato bugs poisonous?
They are not toxic; however, they have strong jaws and are known to bite if they feel under threat. A bite from one of these buggers is not pleasant!
How can I naturally get rid of potato bugs?
Introduce ladybugs, natural predators of the potato bug, into the garden. Purchase ladybugs at local garden centres or online. Release the ladybugs at night to allow the insects to get used to their environment when the temperatures are cooler. Sprinkle a small amount of water on and around the ladybugs for moisture and hydration.
What do I do if I get Potato Bugs in my garden?
Colorado potato beetles chew the leaves on garden plants in both adult and larval forms and can defoliate entire crops if you don’t get rid of them quickly. Potato bugs can also reduce the yield that you have in your garden beds. In some cases, they can kill your entire plants and destroy any potential harvest you might have in your garden.