The Q&A Archives: Black Beetle Infestation

Question: I had black beetles - about an inch or more long with a small head voraciously eating the foliage on my tomato plants. They almost destroyed one plant in a day or so. What are they and what is best used on them? I used a spray that is safe for vegetables and they seem to be gone, but wonder what they are and if there is any organic solution. I had seen a couple of them in the garden and they seemed to multiply into a full infestaton within a day or so. They attacked the tomatoes, also were starting on peppers - including chile peppers, beans, cucumber and cantalope; however were mostly on the tomatoes.

Answer: It's only a guess, but based upon your description and the way they were feeding, I'd say you had a large population of blister beetles visiting your garden. Adults feed on foliage, fruit and flowers, sometimes flying in and invading a garden en mass. Handpick, but wear gloves; the beetles secrete a caustic fluid that can rais blisters on the skin. The organic insecticide sabadilla is effective against them, but they seem to come and go at will. If the beetles are gone, don't bother to spray. Next time you see a beetle or two, handpick and destroy them.

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