Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Flea Beetles! ... and leaf miners.

When I went out to the garden this morning, I found little holes in several tomato plant leaves.  "Argh", I thought.  "Flea Beetles!"  I hadn't heard about flea beetles until last year when our friend, Justin, lost all his tomato plants to the darned little things.  His plants were seedlings at the time, and apparently that is when they are most vulnerable.  He told me that you could trap the beetles with sticky yellow traps - and that was the extent of what I knew. 

Flea beetles are about the size of a flea, and have long back legs and jump (just like a flea).  I hate fleas.  And I suspect that I'm going to learn to hate flea beetles, too. 

So I went online quickly this morning before going to work.  Yes, flea beetles are fairly common and attack tomatoes, potatoes, and some of the cruciferous plants.  I'll let you know if they get into my leafy veggies - apparently they like them, too.  Sticky traps might help, so might Rotenone powder - which I am going to try as well. 

I also decided to try a water trap with insecticidal soap.  Since Daniel had a small yellow plastic cup from Easter, I buried it in the ground and filled it with the soapy liquid hoping the yellow would attract the beetles.  So far it seems to be working and has attracted a few bugs.  Sorry to the flies and the ants.

The "shotholes" that flea beetles leave.

The cup - there is a flea beetle in the upper left of the oval.

Yellow sticky trap

I also have found that there are leaf miners in my spinach and my Swiss chard.  Yes, it is one thing after another with a garden, and you do have to keep an eye on it.  The leaf miners really aren't that big a concern - I just cut them out when I use the leafy greens, but they would be a huge problem commercially.  We get them in the peas, too, but they only go into the leaves and the pods, not the peas themselves, so they REALLY aren't a problem there.

Leaf miners in spinach

Leaf miner eggs - that little white speck in the middle is a set of 4 leaf miner eggs.

I can't emphasize enough that the Internet is a fantastic resource for learning about gardening.  It is where I have learned the most.


  1. Does a Yellow sticky trap reduce contamination to other unaffected leafs and the spread of leaf miner?

  2. Nah - the yellow sticky traps were for the flea beetles, and didn't work that well. The leaf miners I don't do anything about - but they ruined my char and spinach this year, so I'm going to have to think of something!

  3. Best solution by far is neem oil soap. Some folks have succes with a baking soda solution spray too

  4. Oftentimes flea beetles look like a problem, but most plants have evolved to survive them - they're not usually as devastating as they sometimes look. A passive defense, and good for warding off other pests as well is to interplant you garlic, onions, leeks, and scallions with your other veggies - pest don't like the smell.

  5. Last year - when this problem was happening - I had not done anything to improve the soil. This is probably the first line of defense - keeping your soil healthy. This year we added manure, compost and peat moss and the flea beetle problem has been much less severe. Of course flea beetles can be in the garden and not cause trouble - but a friend of mine lost all of his baby tomato plants to them a couple of years ago, so you still have to watch and see if it will be a huge problem.

  6. We would like to use the image of leaf miner damage on spinach (the first one under the leaf miner section) in a publication called To Eat or Not to Eat: Less-Than-Perfect Garden Produce, an 11-page fact sheet designed to help food pantry volunteers identify whether or not donated produce is safe to eat. Please write back to grant permission and to tell me how you’d like the image credited.

    Erica Schock, M.A.
    Senior Editor
    University of WI Cooperative Extension Publishing
    608.890.4602 |

    1. I replied to her in a private e-mail, but ... cool!


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