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Check your vegetable garden now for flea beetles

Jeffrey Hahn, Extension Entomologist

Flea beetle damage on turnip.  Note the three black flea beetles
on the leaves.  Photo credit: Jeff Hahn, U of M Extension
Are you growing broccoli, cabbage, radishes, turnips, eggplants, peppers, potatoes, or spinach in your
garden this summer? If you are, these plants are susceptible to small beetles known as flea beetles.

What do flea beetles look like?

Flea beetles are only 1/16th – 1/8th inch long. They are usually dark colored although some can have red or yellow on them. An easy way to identify flea beetles is that they can jump.

Flea beetles chew shallow pits and small holes into leaves. Severe flea beetle feeding can result in wilted or stunted plants. Flea beetle feeding can be particularly damaging to seedlings, cole crops (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale etc.), and plants with edible greens, like spinach.

How to control them and limit damage

The most important first step for managing flea beetle is early detection. The sooner you can find an infestation, the sooner you can act and limit the damage.

Walk through your garden and examine plants with small holes in their leaves. If you look closely, you should be able to see the flea beetles themselves on the top of the leaves.

If you find flea beetles and there is a risk of damage, your best bet is to apply an insecticide. Spinosad and pyrethrins are low risk products. There are also residual insecticides, such as permethrin, can also be used.

Limit future infestations

If flea beetles are an annual problem, remember that weed control and sanitation can help limit the number of flea beetles in an area.

For more information, see Flea beetles in home gardens.

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