Photo by: James Lindsey at Ecology of Commanster
Unfortunately, not all of my garden insects are as relatively undestructive as the velvet mites and swallowtail caterpillars. Fortunately, it appears that (in my garden) the most destructive pest’s preferred plants of choice are extremely limited, and my tomatoes are blithely unfazed that something is hole-ing their older leaves.
Honestly, I’m beginning to think that nothing short of the apocalypse could stop my cherry tomato plants.
Enter the Flea Beetle, the one in particular that’s sort of plaguing me is known as Phyllotreta vittula. They are teeny tiny and jump like fleas. I would wish to be as unconcerned about their existence as my tomatoes, however:
- Like spinach leafminers, ignoring the problem means letting their population get out of control. There can be up to four generations of flea beetles in a year; after the adults feed up on your leaves, they lay eggs in the soil for the larvae to feed on your roots. Then in the fall, they overwinter in your soil to start the process all over again. Triple whammy.
- Subsequent generations can and will consume a huge number of your vegetable plants that may be less hardy than my tomato plants and whose leaves you may want to eat. Crops vulnerable to the Flea Beetle are beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, collards, corn, eggplant, kale, lettuce, melons, mustard, peppers, potatoes, radishes, red Russian kale, rutabaga, spinach, squash, sunflowers, tomatoes, and turnips.
- They’re (supposedly) capable of transmitting viral and bacterial disease.
Yup, you’re on my list then.
Like the leafminers, they’re a difficult pest to stop. You can spray them with a mixture of soap and water, which will kill them on contact, but it does nothing to prevent them. Row covers are dubious. Chemical treatments are relatively uneffective. But, like leafminers, they are prone to being eradicated with a little biological weapon in the form of nematodes.