Friend or Foe: Colorado Potato Beetle

Colorado Potato Beetle (Source: Geo Davis)
Colorado Potato Beetle (Source: Geo Davis)

This morning I spied a Colorado Potato Beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) or three in the vegetable garden. Here’s a fuzzy snapshot of one Colorado Potato Beetle contentedly munching away on young eggplant leaves.

Colorado Potato Beetle on Eggplant Leaf (Source: Geo Davis)
Colorado Potato Beetle on Eggplant Leaf (Source: Geo Davis)

Do you see the yellow striped beetle? It’s approximately center frame.

Here’s a closeup of another Colorado Potato Beetle once I flicked him/her onto the ground.

Colorado Potato Beetle (Source: Geo Davis)
Colorado Potato Beetle (Source: Geo Davis)

Despite the fact that these pests are aren’t questionably distractive to the vegetable garden, I find it difficult to kill such a beautiful creature. Somehow it’s easier to squish a slug that it is to crush this handsomely striped beetle.

Despite my aesthetic misgivings, I dispatched each Colorado Potato Beetle and made a mental note to doodle or perhaps watercolor one. Or two. (See above.)

Colorado Potato Beetle

Here’s what you need to know about the Colorado Potato Beetle. (Many thanks to Sally Jean Cunningham whose book, Great Garden Companions: A Companion Planting System for a Beautiful, Chemical-Free Vegetable Garden, informed this and many of my gardening posts.)

  • Description: The mature beetles are around 1/3″ long and their hard, rounded shell (think modern VW bug) is yellow with black stripes (body) and orange with black spots (head). Although I haven’t seen any yet, the Colorado Potato Beetle larvae “are plump orange grubs with two rows of black dots on each side of the body.” (Source: Great Garden Companions: A Companion Planting System for a Beautiful, Chemical-Free Vegetable Garden, Sally Jean Cunningham)
  • Damage: They defoliate potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, etc.
  • Prevention: Straw mulch and row covers. Remove and crush larvae and adults.
  • Enemies: According to Cunningham, the Colorado Potato Beetle appeals to lots of predators including: “ground beetles, spined soldier bugs, and two-spotted stinkbugs, as well as birds and toads.” She offers plenty of additional options for gardeners interested in introducing/encouraging predators.
  • Companions: Bush beans ostensibly discourage Colorado Potato Beetle infestations, as do garlic, horseradish, “tansy, yarrow, and other Aster Family plants…”

I’ll start by hunting, doodling, and crushing. And then I’ll hustle up on installing our straw mulch (we’re WAY behind!) and adding some companion plants. Fingers crossed.

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About virtualDavis

A writer, storyteller and unabashed flâneur, George Davis (aka virtualDavis or G.G. Davis, Jr.) is the author of Rosslyn Redux: Reawakening a home, a dream and ourselves, a transmedia chronicle about rehabilitating an historic property in the Adirondacks with his bride. He blogs about storytelling, poetry, doodling, marginalia, flânerie, publishing, and other creativity-inspired esoterica at virtualDavis.com; posts sometimes exhilarating, often unnerving, occasionally euphoric, and always pollyanna "midlife mashups" at 40x41.com; chronicles his sailing adventures (and misadventures) at Sailing Errant; and delves into matters of parenting, babylandia, and childfreedom at Why No Kids? George formerly taught and coached at Santa Fe Preparatory School and The American School of Paris, and he co-founded and launched Maison Margaux: "Paris à la parisienne" in Faubourg Saint-Germain. He currently owns and operates Adobe Oasis in Santa Fe, New Mexico with his bride. George meanders on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, YouTube and Flickr.
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