Organic Methods for Controlling Colorado Potato Beetle

The Colorado potato beetle, Leptinotarsa decemlineata, is by far the biggest pest for both back yard and commercial potato growers. They are prodigious breeders, with the female Colorado potato beetle laying up to 25 eggs at a time. These eggs hatch, and the larvae do the majority of the damage while satisfying their voracious appetites. They can be difficult to get rid of, since they have adapted a resistance to the vast majority of controls (both conventional and organic) that have been used against them.

Your best weapons for dealing with potato beetle? Vigilance and speed.


Organic Methods for Getting Rid of Colorado Potato Beetle:

There are a few methods that work well against potato beetle. They all require the gardener to pay close attention to what is happening in the garden, and to act quickly, as soon as evidence of beetles is discovered.

Try any or all of the following:

  • Apply neem oil as needed.
  • Hand pick beetles, larvae, and eggs and throw them in a bucket of soapy water to kill them.
  • Use a vacuum to remove beetles, larvae, and eggs. There are special “bug vacs” for garden use, but honestly, a handheld “Duster Buster” type vacuum also works well.

Protecting Plants from Colorado Potato Beetle:

There are several things you can do to protect your crop from Colorado potato beetles. It’s best to use a few of them together, especially if you’ve had a problem with potato beetles in the past.


    • Crop Rotation: While growing the potatoes, make sure that you are not placing them at the same spot every year. The young adults will become mature during the winters and growing the potatoes at same spot means you are providing them with their favorite food at their home. They will easily get a potato for laying eggs once they find a mate. If you they want to devour your crop, let them put some effort at least.
    • Floating Row Covers: Get some floating row covers and place them over your potato plants. Just leave them right over your plants. These special covers will let the light and air pass through, but the hungry potato beetles will not be able to touch the plants.
    • Companion Planting: There are various plants that are not liked by the potato beetles and they like to stay away of them. So, it is a brilliant idea to place one of them near the potatoes to keep them away. Some of these plants include sage, tansy, catnip, etc.
    • Mulch with Straw: Mulching heavily with straw not only helps keep the tubers out of the sunlight, but also creates a habitat for predators of Colorado potato beetle: namely, ground beetles, lady bugs, and green lacewings.
    • Plant Resistant Early Varieties: Certain varieties of potatoes, such as Russet Burbank, have proven to be resistant to potato beetles. Another good practice is to plant early varieties, since potato beetle damage only gets worse as the season goes on (and all of those eggs hatch!) Consider planting ‘Caribe,’ ‘Norland,’ or ‘Yukon Gold.’

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