There is nothing more disappointing than walking through your vegetable garden and noticing that there has been damage to your tomato, eggplant, or cabbage plants. If you notice tiny round holes in the leaves of these plants, it is most likely flea beetles. Learn how to get control of flea beetle damage, and kill them with this safe and organic solution using Neem oil.
What Are Flea Beetles
Flea beetles are similar in size to other leaf beetles but have enlarged hind legs that allow them to jump from plant to plant when disturbed. They can also walk normally and fly like other insects.
If you find small round holes in your garden plants and see insects that jump like fleas, that's a good indication the plants are infested with flea beetles.
What Are Flea Beetles Attracted To
Flea beetles are most active on hot sunny days and will feed on a wide variety of vegetation.
However, they seem most drawn to the young plants of eggplants and other members of the nightshade family (tomatoes and peppers) as well as the brassica family (cabbage, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, and radishes) in the early spring.
This is especially harmful in young plants because they often can’t survive the damage, but a more mature plant might be ok if treated in time.
Their life cycle lasts just 6-7 weeks, but 3-4 generations can produce within a year. Therefore, it's critical to identify flea beetles early on.
How to Get Rid of Flea Beetles
I don’t use any conventional chemicals in our garden and researched extensively to find what kills a flea beetle with natural or organic methods.
I found a few options including sticky traps, amending the soil before planting, organicide, and Neem oil. My method of choice was Neem oil.
Neem oil is not safe for human consumption but will kill some insects. I purchased a sprayer on Amazon to make the mixture to treat our garden, and it couldn't be more simple.
Using Neem Oil to Get Rid of Flea Beetles
- Fill the sprayer with water to the one-gallon line.
- Add 1 ounce of Neem oil.
- Prime the pump by pumping the handle up and down to build up pressure.
- Walk throughout your garden and spray flea beetles generously, and on any plant that shows flea beetle damage. You can also spray preventatively on susceptible plants.
Make sure to treat with Neem oil early in the morning or late in the evening. You don’t want to spray anything such as oil in the heat of the day as you will risk the sun scalding the plants.
How to Prevent Flea Beetles
There isn't one sure way to naturally prevent flea beetles, but there is a combination of methods that can make a big difference in controlling flea beetles in the seasons to come.
- Remove all dead garden foliage and trash at the end of the growing season.
- Diatomaceous earth is an option to add to the soil. It cuts the outer layer of an insect’s shell as it crawls through the dirt, however, once it gets wet it doesn't work as well so you may need to reapply multiple times.
- Use row covers to provide protection for your plants so that adult flea beetles cannot jump onto them.
- Heavily mulching around your plants will make it harder for the larvae to emerge, and can help cut down on their population.
- Till the soil to disturb and hopefully destroy the fleas wintering in the garden. This is not my preferred method as tilling can cause other issues in the garden, but it's worth mentioning here as one option.
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