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Flea Beetle

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Flea Beetle


Flea Beetles, (Chrysomelidae: Galerucinae: Alticini) are medium to small beetles recognizable in the field by their ability to jump. Their enlarged hind femur with internal 'spring' mechanism is characteristic of the group although similar structures occur elsewhere in the Leaf Beetles.


Flea Beetle

Flea Beetle

Adult flea beetles are small 1/4 inch or smaller, often 1/16-inch long leaf-feeding beetles with a segment (femora) of the hind legs enlarged for jumping. When disturbed these beetles actively jump. Body color varies by species. The potato flea beetle, Epitrix cucumeris (Harris), and the eggplant flea beetle, Epitrex fuscula Crotch, are black. However, some species are brownish or metallic. Other species have white stripes on their wing covers, such as the striped flea beetle, Phyllotreta striolata (Fabricius). There are many other species of leaf beetles.


Flea beetles are common pests of many vegetable Crops. They occasionally damage flowers, shrubs and even trees. Adult beetles, which produce most plant injuries, are typically small, often shiny, and have large rear legs that allow them to jump like a flea when disturbed.


Adult beetles chew small round or irregularly-shaped holes in plant leaves. Damage appears as if someone shot leaves with buckshot. Adult beetles feed on the leaves of a variety of wild, ornamental, and vegetable plants, particularly cucumbers, okra, peppers, tomatoes and eggplant. One bluish-black species, Altica litigata Fall, feeds on plants in the primrose family (Onagraceae) in high numbers. Larval stages feed on the roots and tubers of plants. Larvae of some species feed on or in foliage or tunnel into plant stems.


Flea Beetle larvae

Flea Beetle larvae

Life Cycle :The adult Mexican bean beetle overwinters under leaves or other debris in grassy, weedy areas and around fence rows or trees. The adults move into the bean fields and gardens soon after the bean plants emerge. The adults feed for a week or two before laying their yellow egg masses on the underside of the leaves.


The eggs hatch in five to 14 days. The bright yellow larvae are oval-shaped with six rows of branched spines. The larvae feed for two to five weeks. Larvae and adults feed on all types of beans and are an occasional pest of soybeans.


They generally feed on the underside of leaves, removing all of the leaf tissue except the clear layer on the upper side of the leaf, called the epidermis. This damage, called “window-paning,” gives the leaves a lace-like or skeletonized appearance. The remaining leaf tissue turns brown in a couple of days, giving the field a burnt cast. New pods and stems are often attacked, and severely damaged plants may die prematurely.


Flea Beetles

Flea Beetles

Damage :Flea beetle damage symptoms vary between the type of hosts attacked. In general, feeding on grasses (including corn) appears as very narrow areas where the green leaf tissue has been removed leaving a clear membrane (epidermis of leaf). The feeding scar will run parallel to the leaf veins and sometimes zigzags across the vein into the next vein, giving the feeding scar a jagged appearance. This feeding damage varies from that of the adult corn rootworm since they tend to eat out large areas along the margin of the leaf, leaving the epidermal layer.


If bacterial wilt is introduced by the pest’s feeding, an irregular lesion can be seen beginning at one end of the flea beetle’s feeding scar. When plants are severely infected with the disease during the seedling stage, they will wilt, die, and dry up. Late- season infections will show up as lesions on the leaf and possibly accelerate corn dry down. In broadleaf hosts, the injury appears as more or less circular holes in the leaf. This injury is said to have a “shot hole” appearance. These holes are the result of adults feeding on the tissue between the leaf veins, which are arranged in a network on broadleaf plants.


Management : Because flea beetles are most damaging in spring, it is important to begin monitoring your garden for their activity as soon as seedlings have emerged. You can monitor for them using yellow sticky traps, which you can purchase in garden centers. Sticky traps will tell you if flea beetles are present in your garden.


Because flea beetles are most damaging in spring, it is important to begin monitoring your garden for their activity as soon as seedlings have emerged. You can monitor for them using yellow sticky traps, which you can purchase in garden centers. Sticky traps will tell you if flea beetles are present in your garden.


Flea Beetle damage

Flea Beetle Damage

Also be prepared to protect your crops if you find 10%-30% defoliation on seedlings or transplants. Again, seedlings, cole crops and plants grown for edible greens are the least tolerant to flea beetle feeding.Once crops reach the 4- or 5-leaf stage, the plants are usually well established and can easily tolerate feeding damage. Also, the number of adult flea beetles often begins to decline throughout the summer.


It is generally not necessary to treat flea beetles during summer, especially at the end of the season. It is possible that cole crops and other plants grown for greens can be damaged later in the summer. Continue to monitor these plants throughout the season and treat if you reach damaging levels.


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