Potato Bugs: How To Wipe Out Leptinotarsa Decemlineata

Ed Wike
Written by
Last update:

Potato Bug Overview

If you have seen a potato bug, you may have noticed that it looked like a large beetle and wondered what it was. These enterprising pests may rear their heads at any time during the growing and storage season. The most active time for them is in the fall and early winter. They are native to the western and mid-western United States and were introduced to other parts of the country through transportation.

If you live in an area that doesn’t have potato bugs, take a look around. They are climbing, flying, and eating their way across the planet, and they make a really big mess when they do.

You’re likely to see them bothering potatoes in practically any kind of storage facility.

The adults are about an inch long, dark brown or black in color, and they have layers of greyish white scales that form their exoskeleton. The female potato bug lays anywhere from 20 to 45 eggs approximately one inch below the soil surface and they can be found in clusters of 3 to 10 eggs. Potato bug larvae (sometimes called potato bug grubs) are initially white and legless. They go through several stages of grub until they mature into adult potato bugs.

The adult potato bug can eat a potato’s leaves, stems, and fruit.

What Do Potato Bugs Look Like?

Potato bugs are an arthropodic pest to the world of agriculture. They are also a pest and nuisance to home gardeners. The adult potato bug is a small relatively harmless bug approximately 1/2 inch long. They are typically brown in color with a black stripe running the length of its back. The potato bug can fly and easily moves from plant to plant in search of potato or related crops to feed. They may also travel long distances looking for convenient places to overwinter.

The juvenile potato bugs are similar in color, but only about 1/5 of an inch long. They are wingless and cannot fly and therefore stay on the plants they hatch on. They are called “juveniles” because they do not reach maturity until they have mated and produced their own offspring. The young will eat the same as the adult, however, they prefer to live on the underside of potato and related plants.

Life Cycle Of Potato Bugs

Leptinotarsa decemlineata, commonly known as potato bugs or Colorado potato beetle, is the main culprit of potato bug infestation.They thrive in soil rich with decaying matter and a humid atmosphere. Though these bugs are blind, they can be recognized by flat bronze-brown wing covers, spiny legs, and red and black wing veins.

The potato beetles are most destructive in the larval stage when the female lays 25-65 eggs during the spring and summer months. Eggs hatch in 7-14 days. The larvae eat through potato plants, keeping on up to 5 leaves. The larvae eventually pupates into an adult ectoparasite. Though they can transmit disease and cause damage to a garden one way or another, their significance is that they are a good indicator of a healthy ecosystem.

Common Habitats For Potato Bugs

Potato Bugs live for the most part in the Eastern and Southern states, though northern areas get their share of infestation as well. Potato Bugs are the most common garden pest in North America and the only way to become aware of them is by being observant. Potato Bug infestations exist in the northern states but don’t pose a big enough threat to warrant the kind of outrage seen in the South. To see how to get rid of Potato Bugs that is best for your area, see the regional descriptions below.

Potato Bugs are not hard to find if you know where to look. They often live in areas that hold standing water year-round. The most common area is areas that hold floodwater during the rainy season but dry out during the summer into a muddy morass, and in areas with footings that look like concrete pads or flower beds. Their muddy bug bodies and brown shell-like casings blend with the surrounding areas making them very difficult to see at first glance. Though many gardeners report getting rid of Potato Bugs in 6 weeks or less, infestations can take upwards of 12 months to end.

What Do Potato Bugs Eat?

Establish cause. Often, the problem is due to tubers or potatoes planted too deeply in the ground. Check your garden's plants and note whether or not they're suffering from damage on the upper portion of their leaves. If no damage is present, potatoes that are planted too deep may be the culprit. So consult your local extension office or a local gardener for help.

Remove the affected leaves. Use a handsaw to cut off any diseased leaves. Dispose of the blades and the plant in a trash receptacle. It's important to handle any diseased plant matter in this way, since this pest is most likely to be in your home garden and in leaf piles. Additionally, diseased plants or leaves may attract large populations that live throughout the summer.

Contain the territory. These bugs are most likely to be in the corners of your home garden. In order to prevent them from spreading, cut boards that are at least 6 inches wide. Dig a trench in the corner to be protected around the boards. Pack soil behind the boards to prevent them from moving inward. Then place boards at least 6 inches away from the perimeter of the region that's infested.

Clean up the yard. Remove leaves and leaf piles, to prevent survival from the summer until next year.

How To Get Rid Of Potato Bugs

One of the most common scourges of backyard gardeners is the Potato Bug, also called the Colorado Potato Beetle. This is because the Potato Bug will feed on potatoes and potatoes alone. In fact, it does not care for most anything else, and just leaves your other plants alone.

While it is true that the Potato Bug loves potatoes, it is also true that they will feed on just about anything that has leaves. Therefore, they are a common nuisance in lawns, when they feed on grass. They feed on grass, and also on many hostas.

The best way to avoid Potato Bugs is to plant potatoes after the threat of frost has come and gone.

If you don’t, or if you are forced to plant them before you expect the frost to have inspected your garden, then you can’t do too much to prevent a Potato Bug infestation.

You can cover your potato plants heavily with stacked up hay bales. When the Colorado Potato Beetle arrives in numbers, it will look to the nearest potato plant to feed upon. If it’s hidden by the hay bales, you’ll have a reprieve from Potato Bug attack.

Once the bug is in your garden, it’s an entirely different matter.

You can save your potatoes by putting your hands on some yellow dish soap.

Organic Potato Bug Control

Are you a gardener with potato plants plagued by potato bugs? Or an organic farm owner worried about an outbreak among your potato plants?

If you’re interested in ways to deal with these pests, read on. We’ll be going over a few organic control methods and natural means of dealing with them.

You might be surprised at how easy it is to deal with these bugs and completely get rid of them. But before you do, know that potato bugs are not actually bugs. They are beetles, and the culprits behind the damage are larvae you cannot see because they are hidden beneath the potato plant leaves.

What to Do

As a non-chemical farmer or gardener, you’ll want to utilize the natural biological control methods we’ll be outlining below.

Environmental Potato Bug Control

Eliminate the Pest at the Source

How to control potato bugs? It depends on the time of year. If it's late summer or early fall, you can apply a non-selective contact spray meant to kill the insects on contact. These are usually materials called pyrethroids or sulfates. Some of them have very low mammalian toxicity, but check label instructions to rule out any hazards to young children or pets.

You can also spray with beta-cyfluthrin or lambda cyhalothrin if you prefer the biological route.

If it is early spring, the only way to control potato bugs is to first remove their food supply, our vegetable plant material. Potato bugs, like other beetles, cannot feed on woody stems, just the tender growth, so swath and golf up the greens, and move the debris off to the compost pile. That is also a great way to get rid of potato bug eggs, as they overwinter in annual crops. When you mulch your compost pile, moisten the clippings well while they are fresh and the soil is still warm. If you do not have the time to build and mulch a pile, some stores sell compostable top soil for your lettuce and vegetable beds. That is the safest way to dispense of potato bugs eggs.

Preventing Potato Bugs

As a non-gardener, I was not prepared for the appearance of a few potato bugs on my tomatoes. The sight of these pests made me hesitate on tasting the first tomato of the season. I thought I'd found the answer to how to get rid of potato bugs.

A quick Google search revealed that the internet is filled with dozens of effective ways to wipe out potato bugs, ranging from organic to deadly. Although bug sprays, traps, and repellents reign supreme, another promising method is onion slices. Supposedly, the sulphuric reaction between onion slices and potato beetle pheromones leads to the insect's death.

I sliced two onions – one large, one small – into two inch thick rounds and placed them next to the tomato plants. The method worked: The potatoes bugs cleared out within a few days, never to return.

The trick is to replace the onion slice as soon as it becomes wet. Loosely woven tomato cages are a good deterrent or harassment technique. If you must use a spray, it's most effective to spray when the sun is setting, when your bugs are most likely to be congregating.

Frequently Asked Questions

Philly-based exterminators. not getting good returns. These green caterpillars can munch through a corn crop of there's enough. Although Moths and butterflies are so pretty,and common. They can do their damage to anything that you would like to get rid of. But experts have deemed this insect as a pest. When you start to notice some of these moths their home in the soil. That's when you will need to call up your

This is a metallic green beetle that can be distinguished by a characteristic red posterior. They are chunky beetles with three pairs of legs.

In summer, they fly at an amazing speed of 20 feet per second. These insects don't bite or sting and they have no hairs as well.

They lay their eggs on the surface of the food they like. They are most likely to lay them on the outside wall of the structure. It's not long before they hatch and the larvae will start nibbling through your healthy plants

Q: Do Trichogramma wasps eat potato bugs or their larvae?

A: No, no. Not that I know of. Now there might be something in the past literature that says that it has been done, but I have not seen a report on it.

Q: Are potato bugs also called pill bugs?

A: While many people refer to Leptinotarsa decemlineata as a pill bug, this type of beetle, also called a potato beetle or engraver beetle, is really more closely related to fireflies. They are typically the same size as a brown firefly, which has two thick antennae at the front and two long antennae at the back, with an abdomen underneath.

Q: What type of damage do potato bugs do?

A: Potato bugs don’t just eat potatoes; they like to munch on all members of the nightshade family, and also garden peppers. They emerge at night to move from plant to plant.

Unlike garden slugs and snails, the adult potato bug does not eat or destroy plant leaves.

Its main food is the tubers or corms of potatoes and other plants in the nightshade family (Solanaceae).

Adult potato bugs move along stems and leaves, slash at leaves, and create a rough surface to rest on.

Leptinotarsa decemlineata can be a serious pest, but it can also eat other food plants, such as tomatoes, so it can damage a lot of plants in one go.

Q: How do you get rid of potato bugs?