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How to Kill and Prevent Flea Beetles in Your Garden

By Tiffany Selvey

Newly planted seedlings offer so much promise. You transition them from the safety of indoor grow lights or a greenhouse to the great, unprotected outdoors. Then you check them morning, noon and night to make sure they're safe and healthy. Everything looks great, until one day you notice a number of tiny holes on plant leaves. A closer inspection reveals small, shiny flea beetles causing this damage. These flea beetle tips can help you protect your garden against these pests:

Named for their jumping ability, flea beetles emerge from the soil in large numbers when the temperatures near 50 degrees Fahrenheit1 — around the same time that forsythia bushes bloom and crabgrass seeds germinate.

These ravenous pests range in length from 1/16 inch to 1/4 inch and are black, bronze, blue or brown, depending on the species.2 Some types of flea beetles also have stripes. All flea beetles have powerful back legs that allow them to jump like fleas when disrupted.

Even when flea beetles don't kill your seedlings, they can help spread diseases such as bacterial wilt and fungal blight from plant to plant — and destroy common garden crops, including eggplant, tomatoes, cabbage and other vegetables.3 So when these pests arrive, don't waste time.

At the first sign of flea beetles in your garden, turn to a trusted pesticide such as Sevin brand for help. Sevin Insect Killer Ready to Use2 kills flea beetles on listed vegetables on contact to help prevent damage to tender seedlings and maturing plants at the first sign of trouble. If you prefer dusts, Sevin Insect Killer Dust Ready to Use starts killing flea beetles immediately upon contact to protect edibles from insect damage.

When you're working with larger garden areas, economical Sevin Insect Killer Concentrate and Sevin Insect Killer Ready to Spray can help. These liquid concentrates kill flea beetles and more than 500 insect pests by contact, then they keep protecting against listed pests for up to three months.+

Whatever type of pesticide product you choose, always match your garden edibles to the product label and follow guidelines for wait time between treatment and harvest. For example, treat lettuce with Sevin Insect Killer Ready to Use2 right up to one day before you harvest, but allow five days between treatment and harvest for tomatoes. Those intervals vary by product, so always check your label before you treat or pick your crop.

As soon as flea beetles arrive in the garden, damage starts. So prevention is key with these pests. These preventative measures can help avert a flea beetle attack and lessen your risk:

  • Manage the garden environment with good sanitation. Clear leaves and crop debris at the end of the gardening season, so that adult flea beetles have no protection from the cold.
  • Till garden soil just after the first frost to uncover any beetles that have gone underground for the winter and leave them exposed.
  • Plant an early season "trap crop," such as radish or mustard seeds, to attract flea beetles when the seedlings first emerge from the soil. Then treat the trap crop with your chosen Sevin brand insecticide and follow label guidelines for how often to treat.
  • Wait until seedlings have more than three leaves before transplanting into the garden.2 Larger plants can survive more flea beetle damage than smaller seedlings.
  • The sudden arrival of flea beetles can stress plants and gardeners. But taking control of these pests with a hand from the GardenTech family of brands helps guarantee a good start to the growing season. At GardenTech, we're here to help you learn and enjoy all the satisfaction gardening brings.

+Except fire ants and ticks

Always read product labels thoroughly and follow instructions, including guidelines for listed plants and pests, application frequency and pre-harvest intervals (PHI) for edible crops.

Sevin is a registered trademark of Tessenderlo Kerley, Inc.

GardenTech is a registered trademark of Gulfstream Home and Garden, Inc.

Sources:

1. G.R. Nielsen, "Flea Beetles," University of Vermont Extension, January 1997.

2. V. Grubinger, "Flea Beetles Management," The University of Vermont, November 2003.

3. S. Burkness and J. Hahn, "Flea Beetles in Home Gardens," University of Minnesota Extension, 2007.

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