The Colorado potato beetle can wipe out much of a potato plant in short order. If you’re struggling with potato bugs, then you’re not alone, and you don’t have to use harsh pesticides to get some relief! Try these natural pest control methods to help get rid of potato beetles.
What are Potato Beetles or Potato Bugs?
The Colorado potato beetle is one of the most common pests of potato plants. The adult beetle is about ¼ inch long and has a bright yellow body with black stripes. These potato pests lay eggs on the undersides of potato leaves, and the hatched larvae feed on the leaves. Heavy infestations can heavily damage or kill potato plants.
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Potato beetles arrive in gardens in late spring or early summer, depending on where you live, and they can be active until the first hard frost hits. To add insult to injury, the adult potato beetles then overwinter in the ground to emerge the next spring and mate. So, getting rid of the potato beetles you do see will help reduce their numbers the following year.
Need help growing potatoes? Be sure to check out my articles:
Other Plants Susceptible to Potato Beetles
Though they are called potato beetles, potato plants aren’t the only ones at risk from this pest. These other plants can also fall victim to the Colorado Potato Beetle:
- Tomatoes (another nightshade like potatoes)
- Ground Cherries
If you’d like a handy guide for all things natural pest control, then be sure to check out my Natural Pest Control for the Home Garden E-book. It’s a great resource to have on hand for those trying to keep pesticides out of the garden.
How to Get Rid of Potato Beetles Without Pesticides
If you are trying to get rid of potato beetles in your garden or on your plants, then there are some easy techniques that you can employ. These include:
- Companion Planting: This does more to repel potato beetles. Planting marigolds, catmint, or nasturtiums near potato plants can help deter those pests from coming. (See my full Companion Planting Guide.)
- Physical Barrier: Another idea is to create a barrier around the plant by covering it with lightweight fabric. This will stop potato beetles from getting to the plants in the first place. This will be most effective if used in conjunction with crop rotation. If you plant potatoes in the same place each year, then those overwintering beetles will pop right back up where your plants are and be under the fabric with your plant. Use this in combination with crop rotation.
- Handpicking: Potato beetles can be handpicked and removed from the plants. This is a time-consuming method, but it is effective. Carry a jar of soapy water around the garden with you (and wear gloves if you’re a bit squeamish like me). Grab the bugs off of the plants and drop them in the soapy water. Each bug you pick is one less bug for next year! In picking, also be sure to pick off any leaves that have eggs beneath; this will help greatly with the population.
- Biological Control: There are predators that feed on potato beetle larvae, such as ladybugs and lacewings. You can attract these predators to your garden by planting certain flowers that will serve as a food source for them. Some of these flowers include: yarrow, cosmos, coreopsis, and sunflowers.
- Plant Early/Resistant: If potato beetles are a major issue each year, then try choosing a variety of potato that matures early. Chances are, you can beat out a large infestation of potato beetles by choosing a potato variety that matures early. Here are some early producing potato varieties:
You may also want to try the King Harry variety of potatoes which are resistant to potato beetles due to their “hairy” leaves.
Using Sprays or Oils Against Potato Beetles
I’ve only had limited success with my favorite go-to natural pest control sprays such as neem oil, insecticidal soap, or BT (bacillus thurengiensis). The methods I’ve outlined above are the most effective, especially if you’re trying to avoid traditional pesticides like Sevin dust in your garden area.
If there’s another method that you’ve tried and like to share, drop a comment below and let me know. As gardeners, we’re always learning from one another! It’s one of the things I love about being in the larger community of gardeners.