Colorado Potato Beetle

The Colorado Potato Beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) has found its way to my garden.

 I had been out checking the garden last evening and noticed these nemesis on my potato plants…

I had minor issues with the Colorado Potato Beetle the last two years, so I rotated the crop this year.  Rotation and routine neem applications have helped significantly, but I was surprised to see them back this year. I picked about 30 beetles off and fed them to my chickens last week and have seen little since.

The Gardens Alive website describes the Colorado Potato Beetle as an Adult beetle that  has a yellow body with black stripes running downward. Red larva grows to ⅗” long with rows of black spots along its sides. Favorite foods are potato, eggplant, pepper and tomato. Adults and larvae feed on leaves and stems, often stripping entire plants. Small garden plantings seem to be particularly vulnerable to damage.

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The adult Colorado Potato Beetle.

The pests found in my garden were the larvae of the C.P.B., with a few adults. Apparently this beetle was first noted in Mexico and Colorado in the 1840’s where it destroyed many potato crops.  Pesticides controlled this population until the 1950 when it was noted to be resistant to DDT.  The female Potato Beetle can lay as many as 800 one mm yellow/orange eggs.

I thought the British invasion of the Beetles happened in the 60’s and 70’s with John, Paul, Ringo and George but it appears that there had been yet another beetle invasion into East Germany during WWII.  It is claimed by the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) that the US air dropped Potato Beetles into East Germany during WWII.  In fact, at the time, the Colorado Potato Beetle was known in the GDR as Amikäfer (Yankee beetles).

The C.P.B. became so famous (or infamous) in Europe that it actually had been featured on an Austrian stamp in 1967. Benin, Tanzania, the United Arab Emirates, and Mozambique also promoted the Potato Beetle on their countries stamps in the past as well.  Believe it or not, there is a dedicated webpage devoted to the Potato Beetle.  Now that I think about it, any insect accused of being air dropped into another country as an invader and having its face featured on several countries stamps, should have its own website

This is what the Potato Beetle can do to a crop if left unchecked.  My limited research has found that a majority of the recommendations suggest pesticide use.  If you have been reading this blog for any length of time, you undoubtedly know by now that “dat ain’t gonna happen in my garden.”  I will stick with hand picking and neem oil for now.

I have to admit, even though I found a handful of beetles this year, the numbers are dramatically lower than last year through crop rotations and neem oil. The literature shows that tomatoes, peppers and eggplants are favorites of the C. P. B, but mine only seem to like potatoes.

Other organic solutions include, beneficial nematodes, placing birdbaths in the garden to attract birds, row covers, crop rotation, installing ponds to attract frogs and toads, insecticidal soaps and oils.  Again, I think I’ll stick with crop rotation and neem as they seem to have works reasonably well this year. No matter what Integrated Pest Management (IPM) resource you identify, crop rotation and neem oil are key components to defeating this bug, at least in my experience.

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