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Jun 7, 2009 05:57 AM

Flea Beetles!

We have flea beetles everywhere (we're in southwest VA). They've all but decimated the eggplants and are moving on to other things. So far I've tried insecticidal soap and garlic spray. It slowed them down but didn't stop them. Any suggestions for anything else organic before I break down and buy the Sevin?

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  1. Pyrethrin is semi-organic, in that it's derived from plants and on a list of approved chemicals/substances; it can also take out some of the good guys, so should be used with care. Safer is one brand, Entire is another. Or is Safer the insecticidal soap you used?

    If you have the room, plant some nasturtiums as a trap crop; flea beetles will feast on the nasturtiums, and you can either spray the crap out of the nasturtium plants while flea beetles are on them, killing them, or consider it a sacrificial offering. Nasturtiums are pretty tough, though, they can take a lot of beating. And eating.

    1. Diatomaceous earth is supposed to work, dusted on the leaves. I'd try that, in combination with some sticky traps.

      1 Reply
      1. re: mudster

        I have just tried diatomaceous earth on this year's crops. I put it on some cabbage seedlings. It slowed the devouring of the cabbage for sure. Later in the season when the bok choy were just starting to look lovely... another flea beetle attack! A vengeful attack. I used sevin dust. Yes, I know it is a poison. First I used other methods (like liquid dish soap and water). The sevin dust worked like nobody's biz. I read somewhere that bees and earthworms would be obliterated. I have not seen any evidence of reduced bee populations in my yard or around that area of my veggie garden. When I harvested the bok I dug through the earth around where the bok were planted and it seemed to be still a thriving earthworm community. Now that I have mucked with the earth, maybe that will kill them... I don't know. I did not eat the bok choy closely after applying it. I applied it very sparingly thru kitchen muslin. I also watered the leaves down like crazy after the evidence of the beetles disappeared. Next I will be trying insecticidal soap as my fellow chowhounder Morwen has so graciously suggested. I am sure I have not seen the last of those devils. Aphids seem particularly nasty this year too. Gag.

        I live in the maritime pacific Northwest. Very dry summers - mid to low 70's.

        Also - I have piles of nastursiums planted around my garden - but no marigolds this year. I forgot. So far nastursiums haven't one nip in them! I may have to go get some marigolds. What was I thinking??

      2. What a timely post! I'm in central NJ and I don't think I've ever encountered these pests before, but I believe that they are the very things I've been seeing on some of my plants recently!
        They are tiny, round beetles that look like black specks and kind of jump like fleas if disturbed?

        2 Replies
        1. re: choco_lab38

          Yep, that's them.

          We have nasturtiums planted as well as pot marigolds. Not a mark on those and they're in the same bed as the eggplants. I tried to find pyrethrum (it's made from chrysanthemums) at Lowes, Home Depot, Southern States, and several small local nurseries to no avail. I did see diatomaceous earth at one of them and I guess I'll try that next. The garlic spray and insecticidal soap seem to be protecting everything else at the moment. I think the eggplants sacrificed themselves for the greater good.

          Last year we grew japanese eggplants with great success. They were bothered by japanese beetles only (go figure) and those pests were easy to manage. Don't know if japanese eggplants are more resistant or what but I've got some seeds started to plant out as replacements. Will report back on that.

          1. re: morwen

            apparently the flea beetles have a free pass at the border, because this is a bad year up in my neck of the woods too (Western Canada)

            my organic gardening book recommends crop covers for while the germination is happening. If that doesn't work a last resort is to use a dust. we have a product called rotonone. while not organic, it is one of the least toxic products you can use. it can be used up to the day b4 harvest.

            I did not know about the nastursiums. I might go buy some.