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Flea beetle

By: Garden Gate staff
Young leaves of vegetables and flowers riddled with

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Flea beetle Melittia cucurbitae

IDENTIFICATION — Young leaves of vegetables and flowers riddled with “shot” holes are a sign that flea beetles may be attacking your garden.

These small, black insects aren’t really fleas, but they jump like them. Although there are several species, damage and identification are the same.

DAMAGE — Adults chew round holes in the leaves, especially those of young plants, and on tender new growth. Foliage pierced with holes dries out quickly and dies. Flea beetle larvae sometimes feed on plant roots.

CONTROL — Adult flea beetles live over the winter in the soil and in debris. By cleaning up the garden in the fall, you’ll eliminate some of their hiding places.

Because they can produce a few generations each year, it’s important to get control of a population first thing in the spring. Protect young plants with spun-fabric row covers. Or, once you begin to notice damage, spray with neem oil or insecticidal soap every week or so.

Published: Sept. 29, 2009
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