These tiny beetles earn their name by jumping like fleas when disturbed. There are many pest species with varying markings and colorations. The blue-black flea beetle shown here is most common.
All flea beetles prefer hot, dry conditions. They cause damage by chewing tiny holes in the leaves of vegetables such as eggplant and cole crops. Seedlings are most succeptible to damage. The beetles can spread diseases such as early blight to potatoes or bacterial wilt to corn. Flea beetle larvae feed on roots of many plants. In the southwest, flea beetles are a major pest of dichondra lawns. Adults overwinter in the soil and on garden debris, emerging in early spring.
Eliminate overwintering sites by removing plant debris and similar hiding places in the fall. In dry climates, keep garden beds moist, making them less attractive to egg-laying adults. Cultivate soil frequently. Add parasitic nematodes to the soil to attack the larvae. Spray infested plants with insecticidal soap to reduce damage by the beetles.
Photography by USDA Agricultural Research Service Archive, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Bugwood.org
Article published on June 23, 2008.