There are so many fantastic benefits to gardening, from producing your own food to getting in touch with nature, that it’s hard to believe not everyone is getting their hands dirty. Unfortunately, growing your own veggies has its challenges, and insects are top on the list. We explain different ways to eliminate potato bugs in your garden and prevent a potato bug infestation using control methods.
A lot of time, work, and patience goes into preparing a garden and growing healthy plants. There is the ground to till, the seeds to plant, and the young plants to nurture.
The last thing you want is to take a morning trip into the garden and discover that insects spent the evening feasting on your tomato, pepper, and potato plants.
We like to think that we work in unison with nature, but this isn’t always the case.
While some insects are beneficial to the environment, such as bumblebees, others like the potato bug are a nuisance, and it’s necessary to use pest control to keep them in check.
- Ways to Eliminate and Prevent Potato Bugs
- What are Potato Bugs?
- How do Potato Bugs Harm Gardens?
- How to Control Potato Bugs with Diatomaceous Earth
- Prevent Potato Bugs with Neem Oil
- Stopping a Potato Bug Infestation with Crop Care
- Companion Planting to Deter Potato Bugs
- Killing Potato Bugs with Soapy Water
Ways to Eliminate and Prevent Potato Bugs
Whether you are growing large potato varieties or small ones, sometimes issues may develop that can damage your crop. When looking at problems with your potatoes, you need to first determine if you are looking at potato disease identification or if it is an insect problem.
If encountering a bug infestation, your first instinct is to call in an exterminator, but this isn’t always necessary. We explain what these insects are, how they are harmful to your garden, and ways to kill and prevent them from destroying your plants.
What are Potato Bugs?
There are so many different types of insects, and not all of them are bad for your plants. Therefore, the first step in controlling and killing potato bugs is to identify them.
Here is how to control potato bugs in your garden by understanding what they look like and their life cycle.
When gardeners talk about potato bugs, they are actually referring to two different types of insects, Jerusalem crickets and Colorado potato beetles, both of which are a crustacean.
Jerusalem crickets aren’t actually crickets and are found in the southwestern and western United States. They are two and a half inches in size with a large head, red and yellow legs, and a brown and black striped midsection.
The Colorado potato beetle is less than an inch in size and is found throughout the United States. They are orange with white and black stripes and two sets of antennae, and these types fly in large numbers, making them more of an infestation problem.
How do Potato Bugs Harm Gardens?
We all know that pollinators are beneficial insects that help plants flourish, but why are potato bugs bad for the garden? Learn why these insects are pests to help you better prevent potato bugs from destroying your plants.
Potato bugs feast on a variety of crops, but their favorite is the potato. They eat the tubers, roots, and leaves of plants, and an infestation quickly kills an entire garden.
They overwinter in the soil and emerge during the spring, right around the time potato plants begin growing. After the plant’s foliage appears, the insects lay clusters of small orange eggs on the underside of the leaves.
The eggs hatch and larvae with black heads and black spots on the sides of their bodies appear after about ten days. The larva eats the plant’s flower buds, and then they consume the leaves.
Often, it doesn’t matter how deep to plant potatoes in the ground with regard to bugs. They will find your tubers no matter what.
How to Control Potato Bugs with Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous earth is a powdery substance that kills bugs by damaging the insect’s exoskeleton, causing dehydration and death, and the best thing about it is it’s natural. Here is how to control potato bugs by using DE.
After watering your garden, put on a pair of garden gloves or use an applicator to spread a thin layer of diatomaceous earth across the ground and in the crawl spaces around your plants.
To get rid of potato beetles, spread the powder over the plant’s foliage to cover potato bugs as they travel over the leaves. DE is highly effective for all kinds of bugs. Eliminate spider mites on plants, aphids, and many others. This powder is non-toxic and safe to use around pets and children.
Prevent Potato Bugs with Neem Oil
Neem and azadirachtin oils come from the seeds of the Neem tree, and both contain naturally occurring pesticide compounds. Here is how to make a bug spray with Neem oil to kill everything from aphids and flea beetles to sow bugs, stink bugs, and potato bugs. You’ll find that this remedy also works on tomato bugs, too.
Combine Neem oil and water in a garden sprayer and mix the solution thoroughly. Spray all the surfaces of the plants, including the bottom of the leaves, until they are soaked.
Reapply the bug spray again in seven days to get rid of potato bugs and use the solution once every two weeks as a preventative.
Stopping a Potato Bug Infestation with Crop Care
The best way to prevent an infestation without using a potato bug repellent is to perform regular crop care, whether you grow potatoes from scraps or slips. Mulching, trapping, and crop rotation go a long way in keeping these pests at bay.
It’s important to perform crop rotation to prevent a potato bug infestation. Do not plant potatoes in the same gardening spot year after year since these beetles overwinter in the soil.
Mulching is another preventative measure. Spread a layer of straw mulch after your potatoes grow foliage to repel beetles. Straw also creates a habitat for predators such as ladybugs and ground lacewings.
Consider setting a trap for potato beetles by digging a wide trench at a slanted angle between the crop rows. Cover the trenches with plastic and watch as the beetles fall into the trench and get trapped.
Companion Planting to Deter Potato Bugs
Another great method of potato beetle control is to grow companion plants around your veggie garden. These insects hate certain types of plants, and growing them in the vicinity deters the bugs.
Three plants that potato bugs detest are catnip, tansy, and sage. Grow them around the perimeter of the garden bed to keep these beetles from discovering the plants they love to devour.
Keep in mind that catnip and tansy spread easily through seeds and require management, but sage is relatively simple to keep in check.
Killing Potato Bugs with Soapy Water
Soapy water is the simplest and safest solution to eliminate potato bugs from your plants. While this method requires a good eye and some patience, it’s quite effective at killing insects.
Fill a bucket with water and add several squirts of dish soap. Put on a pair of garden gloves and begin inspecting your plants for potato beetles. Pluck them off by hand and drop them into the soapy water to kill them.
This method is effective, and it requires you to check the garden daily, but it is safer for your garden than applying insecticides. If you’d rather use a pesticide, choose one that contains spinosad or Bacillus thuringiensis.
Gardeners call them roly poly or pill bugs, but we think of them as the enemy of potatoes. These small insects have a voracious appetite for tubers, and their destruction does not go unnoticed.
Fortunately, there are ways to control their activity and keep them out of the garden using a few simple techniques.
A potato bug infestation quickly destroys your veggie garden, and it’s vital to know how to kill and control them to keep your plants healthy, so why not share our potato bug elimination guide with the gardeners in your life on Pinterest and Facebook?