Good Bugs, Bad Bugs

Have you ever seen some small problem on a plant in your garden and ignored it, figuring that it would probably go away if left alone?

That has definitely been my attitude toward insects in the Demo Garden so far this spring. (The only exception is when I found whiteflies on the mint in my office. I promptly put it outside right before one of the freezes this spring to kill off the whiteflies. They are VERY hard to get rid of, so I have a no tolerance policy. Yes, the mint got frozen, but it has since regrown from the roots. Silly mint.) But back to my laissez-faire methods of insect control.

The tomatoes have been looking good overall, but I had seen a few tiny holes in the leaves. I didn’t see any insects though, so I thought I’d just leave it alone. Today I inspected the plants, and the damage seems to be much worse. (Although the plants are still generally healthy, and the damage hasn’t reached the newer leaves yet.)

Holey Tomato LeavesThis is the type of damage I’m seeing, primarily on the older leaves. The damage is characterized by tiny holes, slightly larger than pinheads randomly over a leaf.

Here’ s our culprit:

Flea BeetlesCan you see them? They are pretty small. These little black guys are called Flea Beetles. You can get the whole story about flea beetles here. Our pest control guide says to apply insecticide at the first sign of damage, which may be a bit hasty. The 3 products that I would consider using for control are: neem oil, rotenone/pyrethrin, or permethrin. The first two are organic, and permethrin is a very safe synthetic. Given a low population, I would use neem oil first. If I didn’t get good control or the problem reoccured with a larger population, I would try the other two products.

Lady BugFor some positive news, I am seeing quite a few lady beetles around the garden too! They are particularly good at cleaning up the aphids, nasty buggers!

About Rebecca

I'm a Horticulture Educator with Sedgwick County Extension, a branch of K-State Research and Extension, located in Wichita, KS. I teach about fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

Posted on May 14, 2009, in Insects Abound! and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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