Flea beetles attack vegetables.
Protect eggplants, beans, radishes, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, spinach, and sweet corn from flea beetles.
There are many species of flea beetles. Those most common on vegetables are black, 1/16- to 1/8-inch long adult beetles that may have light-colored stripes. They jump and fly when disturbed. The spinach flea beetle is almost 1/4 inch long, with a reddish neck. Although the larvae of most flea beetles live on roots, the spinach flea beetle larva lives on the leaves, is gray, and grows to be 1/4 inch long.
Damage Caused by Flea Beetles
The adults eat tiny, pin-sized holes in leaves of eggplant, radish, bean, potato, tomato, and pepper.
- Pits may be eaten into the leaves; these pits later turn brown.
- Spinach flea beetle adults and larvae eat larger holes in spinach.
- Root-feeding larvae are rarely a problem.
- On sweet corn, corn flea beetle transmits Stewart's wilt.
Life Cycle of the Flea Beetle
Adult flea beetles overwinter and become active in mid-spring; they attack plants closer to their overwintering site first. The adults feed on leaves, and heavily damaged leaves may completely dry out. The adults also transmit the bacteria that cause Stewart’s wilt in corn.
Depending on the species, females lay eggs around the base of or on the leaves of plants. Larvae feed on roots but do not cause serious damage on eggplant and pepper plants. After feeding, the larvae pupate in the soil. There are two to three generations of flea beetles in Illinois.
Management of Flea Beetles
- Manage weeds and remove crop debris from gardens and fields.
- Use row covers to protect plants.
- Covers may need to be removed when plants begin to flower so pollination can occur.
- Insecticides can be applied to plants to help manage beetles.
- On cole crops, seedlings and transplants are the most critical stages for flea beetle control.
- For greens, treatment may be needed to avoid noticeable damage.
- Plant sweet corn varieties that are resistant to Stewart’s wilt.
- Spray heavily infested areas in the field edges with insecticides.
Contact your county Extension office for current pesticide controls.