Potato bugs (Colorado Potato Beetle) are a well known garden pest that target potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants and even your prized petunias! They not only thrive on the leaves of a plant, but are also known to feast on the fruit. If left unchecked, they will affect your garden’s yield and can kill young, tender plants.
Discourage Colorado Beetles By Growing Plants That Naturally Repel Them
You can get a step ahead of them by growing certain plants between potatoes to help repel them away from your garden. I’ve listed a few recommended companion plants below along with a section of tips for getting rid of them (including recipes for “Potato Bug Spray” which can be used on plants to help keep these pesky fellows at bay).
Critters other than the Colorado Potato Beetle are also commonly referred to as potato bugs, I added those at the bottom with reference links for more information on them.
How To Spot An Infestation: If you have holes and damaged leaves on the plants, check underneath leaves and look for larvae or eggs, they can be a yellow cluster of eggs or larvae with orange and black. If you spot them simply remove the infested leaf part and destroy. A good resource for pictures of the eggs, larvae and adult beetle along with more detailed information about this pest can be found here: Vegetable Pests: Colorado Potato Beetle (pdf).
Suitable Companion Plants
These plants and herbs are recommended as being suitable for deterring a potato bug population, intercrop between potatoes or in the space between rows:
2. Bush Beans: These are mutually beneficial since potatoes return the favor by repelling insects that attack the beans.
3. Catnip: Plant these in pots because it can be invasive…downside is that once the neighborhood cats figure out you’ve got the good stuff growing, you’ll be herding cats (use this plant in more remote areas rather than city or towns).
6. Tansy: Also repels squash bugs.
Getting Rid of Them
• Manual pest control: Spot check plants and shake off any beetles that you see (or hand pick them off but make sure to wear gloves), dispose of immediately by crushing them.
• Did you know: Ladybugs consider the larvae of potato beetles a tasty treat, consider growing a few plants in the garden that will attract them so you have a thriving ladybug population (some ideas: Marigolds, Tansy, Fennel and Dill).
• Diatomaceous Earth: This is a non-toxic method of pest control, simply dust the leaves and surrounding soil with the powder and repeat after each rainfall.
Keep In Mind: The larvae will go underground to pupate and then emerge as adults after 10 days or so, you’ll likely need to continue removal methods until all the adults and larvae have been dealt with.
Homemade Repellent Teas or Infusions:
Here are two different recipes you can try, once they’ve cooled pour into spray bottles and use on plants (for best results spray fresh applications after each rain).
• Tansy or Marigold Infusion: Fill a pot with freshly picked tansy (or marigolds), cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook until liquid has been halved. Strain, cool and use as needed.
• Wild Mustard Tea: Steep 4 whole cloves, a handful of wild mustard leaves, a clove of garlic in 1 cup of boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool, then use as spray. Source: Jerry Baker’s Bug Off!: 2,193 Super Secrets for Battling Bad Bugs, Outfoxing Crafty Critters, Evicting Voracious Varmints and Much More!
• Some consider potato bugs to be Pill Bugs (pillbugs), Roly Polys or Rolly Polly Bugs (because they roll up into a ball when aggravated), but these critters are more attracted to dead plant matter than they are live plants (though they will munch away on young plants too). You can try attracting them away from the garden by setting out corn cobs and then dispose of them once they gather on the cob. You can find more information about them here.
• Jerusalem Crickets: These are ugly! Known as potato bugs by some but they feed on dead plant matter and aren’t really attracted to potatoes. You can learn more about them here.