View Full Version : Flea Beetles, Blister Beetles, Squash Bugs - HELP!

January 2nd, 2008, 11:26 AM
Last year (and just about every year lately!) we were overrun with flea beetles in the eggplant; squash bugs and vine borers on the squash and melons, and blister beetles in everything. Oh yeah, and did I mention grubs? I don't know what the problem is unless this is a sign of how drastically climate change is affecting insect populations. (Maybe fewer birds and other beneficials to eat them? Or maybe just better conditions for pest's reproduction and survival?) At any rate, we are being swamped to the point of considering building a giant hoop house and growing everything inside where it can't be gotten to.

We've tried everything that does not involve putting chemical pesticides on our garden (which we won't even consider) and floating row covers (because they are so expensive, and just break down after a couple of years anyway). It's getting where there hardly seems to be much point putting in a garden only to see it growing lush and beautiful one day, then turn our backs and find it eaten to the ground the next.

What sort of organic tricks and tips are the rest of you using on these pests? We are considering beneficial nematodes - do they really work as advertised? (And what pests do they kill?) We may even try those expensive row covers if we have to, but are there cheaper alternative fabrics or coverings that might work as well? (I've thought about old sheets held up with wire hoops, but I'm not sure about light penetration or whether when they get really soaked when it rains they will just cause mildew problems.) Also - if row covers are used, what do you do about pollination? Must it be done by hand or can we risk opening the covers at certain times?

Any help will be greatly appreciated!

By the way, we have found that a combination of soap/weak coffee spray works well to kill squash & blister beetles when you can really soak them, but they tend to drop into compost or hide under leaves, and then you can only get them by hand picking - which tends to take all day and can really get out of control fast! Is there a better way?

January 7th, 2008, 11:44 PM
Can't you raise the Pyrethrin Chrysanthemum (available from Richters, for example) and use the dried flowers to make an all-natural insecticide?

The plant world definitely wages chemical warfare on insects. It's only natural that you might do so, too.

The flea beetles destroyed my wrinkled crinkled crumpled cress and my Tango lettuce last year. They started in on my radishes and cabbages, and that's when I broke out the Pyrethrin spray.

Happily for my radishes, flea beetles don't like Pyrethrin very much. Two applications 10 to 15 days apart were sufficient to provide relief.


Isn't Pyrethrin considered organic? I mean...it comes from a dried flower, after all...

January 12th, 2008, 08:38 PM
Im big on row covers myself. I bought a 83 in wide 500 ft long for 79 dollars. That will last me a while I think.
I reuse it year to year. If you are careful with it it should last at least 3 years I know one farm who has 5 year old row covers and still looks good. They wash and take good care of it and bought a heavier grade than I do.
Most of what I grow under row covers doesnt need pollination like your squash. I grow mostly carrots, salad greens and stuff like that.

Are you rotating your crops so pest dont build up each year in the same places?
plant garlic and fennel and marigolds around thru your patches. these plants help reduce certain pest and attract good insects.
I know some people swear by DE Diatomaceous Earth. Its ok under Organic Standards. Ive not used it much and dont rely on it so Im not much of a spokesman for it. Garlic Spray is good for repelling some and is safe organically.
spread some honey on a yellow index card and walk around the garden and hold it under leaves and shake the plants. the bugs will fall off and stick to the honey. Ive done that when I get an infestation of bad guys and it works to some exstent.
Theres more stuff you can use Im sure more people will respond with other ideas.
I wish you luck.

January 13th, 2008, 10:04 AM
Row covers are worth the money! I made a small (one plant)tent ,it was the first time I have EVER grown egg plant with any success. It works good as it is intended floating on the tops of shorter plants.
I will offer two hints to prolong it's usefullness. Do not use the pins they sell to hold the stuff down use rocks ,bricks or boards to hold down the edges. Makes it easier to peek under or remove.Secondly it would be wise to put a fence around it to keep out dogs.Seems like a lot of trouble But it puts the fun back into gardening.

strong eagle
January 13th, 2008, 01:06 PM
For Flea beetles I use a trap crop of Amaranth, and they seem to leave my eggplants alone, mostly, and head for the nearrest Amaranth available. This may sound strange, but over the past 12 yrs of gardening in this place, I now have an Amaranth that volinteers[ red leaf "Aztec" type] that kills the flea beetles that eat it. starts out with beetlebites all over the plant and at one foot tall no bites and dead beetles at the base of the plant. This goes on until the plant starts to flower then the beetles attack it again. Blister Beetles are another crittur! I hand kill them but wear rubber gloves. They contain a strong poison that dosn't decay after they're dead. The reason that horses get sick or die if blister beetles have been in the Alfalfa fields when it was baled. Squash bugs are kept at bay by NOT leaving any mulch or compost piles in or near the garden over the winter. I even go thru my garden shed in the winter and "search and destroy", killing any squash bugs that get in there for the winter. Strong