How To Get Rid Of The Potato Bug

The potato bug is a formidable foe, especially for those attempting to grow their own crops. Mostly attracted to potatoes but also known to chow down on other types of vegetation in the nightshade family, the potato bug can wreak havoc on gardens and is not only a destructive pest, but a stubborn one.

Many insecticides and pesticides don’t work on the common potato bug, which means those who are dealing with these crop-destroying pests must get creative and use preventative tactics along with other means of removal in order to protect their plants.

That said, there are some tricks and tips you can use as well as a few products that do work to help eliminate potato bug problems in gardens. So, if you’re wondering how to get rid of the potato bug, you’ve come to the right place.

Join us as we learn more about the potato bug, what attracts it, how it evades certain pest control methods, and how to get rid of the potato bug once and for all.

What Is A Potato Bug?

Pic 1 a colorado potato bug on a stem Pic 2 a jerusalem cricket

             Colorado Potato Beetle                       Jerusalem Cricket

When people refer to potato bugs being pests, they are often referring to the colorado potato beetle, pictured left..  The good potato bug, aka the Jerusalem cricket on the right, is a highly beneficial decomposer. 

Before we jump in to learning about how to get rid of the potato bug, we should first go over what the potato bug actually is.

The most important thing to know is that when people discuss potato bugs, they could be referring to either the Colorado potato beetle, or the Jerusalem cricket. And while these two creatures often go by the same name, they are entirely different.

Let’s take a moment to learn a bit about these two very diverse potato bug species.

The Jerusalem Cricket

Often called a potato bug due to the fact he feeds on potatoes, tubers, roots, and other below ground plants, the Jerusalem cricket is neither a cricket nor is he from Jerusalem. In fact, Jerusalem cricket isn’t even a true bug!

Though nocturnal and preferring to spend most of its time below ground, if you do come across a Jerusalem cricket you’ll know. These bizarre looking creatures are about one inch long with a thick abdomen and round head. They have six legs and stripes almost like a bee’s down their back.

In spite of their terrifying appearance, Jerusalem bugs are not poisonous and are actually harmless to people. However, they can bite if they are threatened.

Though scary looking, Jerusalem crickets play a very important role in the ecosystem. They are natural decomposers who can help gardens flourish. WIth that in mind, many gardeners and farmers enjoy having the Jerusalem crickets around as they do much more good than harm to crops.

The same cannot be said for the Colorado potato beetle. Keep reading to find out why.

The Colorado Potato Beetle 

When people refer to the problematic potato bug, they are typically talking about the Colorado potato beetle. This destructive garden pest is the one most responsible for destroying crops in the nightshade family like potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, nightshade, ground cherry, and pepper plants.

The Colorado potato beetle is also impervious to many different types of pesticides and insecticides, making it incredibly difficult to get rid of. Worse, it overwinters in the soil where it knows crops will be growing again in the next season, often leading to lost crops year after year for unknowing gardeners and farmers.

Adult potato beetles are about ⅜ of an inch long, oval in shape, and have orange wings with black vertical stripes. Female potato bugs lay large clusters of up to 800 eggs at a time on the underside of leaves, and this is often one of the most common signs of the beginnings of a potato bug infestation.

Eggs take around four to nine days to hatch, producing hungry larvae that feed on leaves and surrounding foliage.

Potato beetle larvae are generally bright red with small black heads and parallel rows of black spots going down the sides of their bodies. As they age, larvae become a salmon pink or orange color.

Potato bugs overwinter about 5 to 10 inches beneath the soil, typically choosing potato fields or gardens in locations they have fed on before. In the spring, when crops are beginning to emerge from the earth, potato bugs will also emerge to feed so ravenously on leaves that they will often completely defoliate entire plants.

What Has Attracted Potato Bugs To Your Garden?

Pic 3 one colorado potato beetle in green leaves
Potato bugs or potato beetles are often attracted to potatoes, roots, and tubers in gardens. 

Like most garden destroying pests, the Colorado potato beetle is attracted to food sources, shelter, and a good breeding ground. They can come in masses to gardens with the types of plants they feed on, including many in the nightshade family.

Plants that most attract potato beetle include:

  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Pepper
  • Nightshade
  • And Ground Cherry Plants

Once the potato beetle is attracted to your garden, it can reproduce rapidly and feed on plants so ravenously that it often strips them down to skeletal stems.

Because these are such common pests, if you’re growing potatoes or any other type of plant potato beetles may be attracted to, the best way to get rid of them is to use preventative measures in order to keep them from occurring in the first place.

But what if you already have a potato beetle problem? And, considering there are so many different types of garden destroying pests to contend with, how do you identify a Colorado potato beetle problem for sure?

Let’s find out.

How To Identify A Potato Bug Problem

Pic 4 potato bugs in garden
Potato beetle infestations can cause serious damage to gardens.

As we mentioned briefly above, one of the common signs of a potato beetle infestation in your garden is coming across clusters of orange or yellowish eggs on the underside of plant leaves.

Other signs include destroyed leaves of the plants most preferred by these beetles, as well as the sighting of both adult and larvae potato beetles.

The above photo shows a large cluster of potato beetle larvae and the destruction they can cause to the leaves of plants. If you do see adult potato beetle or larvae, experts recommend removing them quickly by hand.

You can also do a thorough search of your garden to see if you notice any potato beetle eggs. Look beneath leaves for clusters of bright orange eggs and remove them as you find them.

Along with removing Colorado potato beetles as you see them, there are other methods you can use to get rid of this pest. Let’s find out what those methods are below.

How To Get Rid Of Potato Bugs – Most Popular Methods

Pic 5 a potato beetle on a daisy
There are a few popular methods you can use to control potato beetle in your garden.. 

Because potato beetles are so resistant to so many different types of insecticides and pesticides, it can be difficult to get rid of them.

But don’t worry. There are a few methods experts recommend that you can use to help protect your garden from these hungry little creatures.

Some of the most popular methods for how to get rid of Colorado potato beetles include:

  • Natural Repellents

Because potato beetle target vegetation like potatoes, tomatoes, and other edible garden plants, many gardeners prefer to use natural repellents in order to control them. Luckily, natural repellents have been found to work just as effectively in controlling potato beetle as many insecticides, and oftentimes natural repellents work better.

Some natural repellents for potato bug control include garden netting, neem oil, and other forms of control that are safe for people, pets and the environment.

  • Insecticides

While it’s true that potato beetles are resistant to many different types of insecticides, there are some that work to help control them. Some of the best insecticides for how to get rid of potato beetle include insecticides that are specifically made to repel and kill these insects. We will list a few of the most highly recommended insecticides further down.

However, we should note that some insecticides require the use of harsh chemicals that can often be harmful to people, pets, and the environment. Since potato beetles most often target edible plants, the use of chemical insecticides to control them should be used with caution.

  • Home Remedies

Although resistant to many pesticides and chemicals, the potato beetle is, interestingly enough, sensitive to some ingredients like vinegar and dish soap. With that in mind, some of the easiest and most effective methods of treatment for the potato beetle involves making your own repellents at home.

If you’re wondering how to make your own home made remedies to get rid of potato beetles, scroll down. We have listed several ingredients and some recipes you can make at home to control this destructive garden pest.

  • Professionals 

Unfortunately, potato beetles are tough to get rid of. If you have tried different methods for potato bug control and haven’t had much luck, you may need to turn to professionals.

But before you give up and contact a pro, let’s talk a bit about some of the best products, home remedies, and preventive measures you can take to control and remove these pests on your own.

How To Get Rid Of Potato Bugs Using Natural Repellents

Pic 6 a single potato bug far away on a large branch
Because potato beetle are often attracted to vegetable gardens, natural repellents are often preferred. 

Natural repellents like garden netting and other sprays and preventatives can help you protect your garden from potato beetle and other pests. What we like best about using natural repellents, especially on edible garden plants, is that they are often safe for people, pets and the environment.

That said, keep in mind that potato beetles are resistant to many different methods of pest control so any type of repellent, insecticide, or other form of treatment should be specifically designed to get rid of these types of pests.

Let’s take a look at some of the best natural repellents you can use to control and remove potato bugs, according to experts.

Diatomaceous Earth

Food grade Diatomaceous Earth is a very popular and effective form of pest control that can work to help kill and control potato bug infestations in your garden. Most people like this product because it works using ingredients that are harmless to people, pets, and the environment while still being deadly to garden pests.

Diatomaceous Earth is made of fossilized algae that penetrates the exoskeleton of pests like the Potato beetle and kills them by dehydrating them on contact. However, diatomaceous earth works best when dry and may need to be reapplied often, especially if it gets wet.

Anphisn Garden Screen

Another way to naturally control potato bugs is to use a garden net that is specifically designed to keep out insects. The above garden screen works to protect your plants from a number of pests like birds, insects, and more.

However, keep in mind that potato beetles spend quite a bit of time below the soil so proactive measures should still be taken to keep them from getting to your plants from below the earth as well.

Harvest Guard Floating Garden Screen

Harvest Guard is another graden net specifically designed to protect gardens from leaf-eating pests like potato beetles. The netting has small pores that are tight enough to keep out pests but large enough to let water and sunlight through, which allows your plants to continue to flourish.

Using a netting is most effective against potato beetles in the spring, when they actively come out of the soil to feed. However, keep in mind that potato beetles may already be in the soil of your crops so you should use netting alongside other pest control methods to help alleviate the damage to crops.

Beneficial Nematodes

Because the potato beetle spends so much of it’s time beneath the soil, introducing live beneficial nematodes can help control them before they become active in the spring. Nematodes are small, beneficial round worms that attack and eat soil pests including potato beetles and potato beetle larvae.

Best of all, they are comepeley safe to use in your garden and are harmless to people and pets. The order above can help control over 200 different types of garden pests and can treat up to 9,000 square feet.

Bonide Neem Oil

Last on our list of natural repellents to control the potato beetles is concentrated Neem Oil by Bonide. While this is a trusted and natural product that kills and controls many garden pests, we should note that it can be unreliable for potato beetles.

That said, we have included it because it has been found to work in some situations and may work well when used properly and especially if used alongside other pest control management tools and sprays.

We recommend using Neem oil along with one of the above pest control sprays or remedies like Diatomaceous Earth or bug netting to help protect your garden from potato bugs and other pests.

How To Get Rid Of Potato Bugs With Insecticides

Pic 7 three potato beetles on an eaten leaf
Large potato beetle infestation may require insecticides.

Many insecticides use harsh chemicals and toxins to kill and control pests, but the Colorado potato beetle is, interestingly enough, resistant to many traditional insecticides. That said, there is a natural ingredient found in some insecticides that is effective against the potato beetles known as Spinosad.

Many of the insecticides below contain Spinosad, which is a natural chemical derived from bacteria. This is great news for anyone looking to help control pests using natural ingredients on their garden plants.

Are you wondering which other types of insecticides work to control potato beetles? We have listed some of our favorites below.

Southern AG Naturalyte Insect Control

First on our list is a product called Naturalyte. This product, made by Southern AG, is classified as an insecticide, however it uses that natural ingredient Spinosad that we mentioned above.

This insecticide has a very low toxicity rate and is typically harmless to people, pets and the environment. That said, if it makes contact with the skin or eyes it can cause irritation, so it should be kept out of reach of children and used only as directed.

This insecticide is specifically designed to kill and control the Colorado potato beetle, but it also works to eliminate thrip, worms, caterpillars, fire ants, spiders and more.

Bonide Potato Beetle Killer

Next on our list of insecticides to control the potato beetles is Bonide Potato Beetle Killer.  This product is perfect for those looking to garden using natural products that are safe for people, pets and the environment.

It is specifically designed to target the potato beetle and their larvae, but it also works to control other pests if needed. This product does contain Spinosad and is proven to work against these hard to control garden pests.

Sevin Garden Dust Pest Control

What we like about the insecticide known as Sevin is that it uses insecticide dust that is specifically designed to kill and control stubborn pests like the japanese lady beetle, the potato bug, fire ants, caterpillars, and many other garden destroying pests.

It is specifically designed to be used on edible plants like fruits and vegetables, but can be used on all types of garden plants to help protect them. This is a dust insecticide that uses the active ingredient carbaryl to kill pests on contact and should be kept out of reach of children.

Safer Tomato & Vegetable

The above vegetable garden spray by Safer uses natural ingredients like Potassium Salts of Fatty acids and pyrethrins (a chemical made by chrysanthemums) to help control and kill bugs like potato beetles.

You can spray it directly on your garden every seven days depending on the infestation to help kill insects and keep them from returning naturally. While this is a natural insecticide, pyrethrins in particular can be harmful to pets so this product should be used with caution.

Monterey Garden Insect Spray

The above concentrated spray is another insecticide that uses Spinosad to help control and kill pests like potato beetles. It can also help prevent other pests like moths, caterpillars, fire ants, and leafminers.

It is a natural insecticide that can be sprayed directly on garden plants and vegetables, and can even be used on your entire yard. While this is a natural insecticide that uses natural ingredients to control potato beetles and other pests, it can cause irritation to people and pets and should be used with caution.

Best Home Remedies To Get Rid Of Potato Bugs

Pic 8 a potato bug on a mans finger
Along with removing potato beetles individually, you can also try using neem oil.  

Potato bugs are so difficult to control because they are resistant to so many different chemicals, toxins and ingredients. That said, they are sensitive to some natural ingredients like neem oil, vinegar and even dish soap.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some home remedies you can use to make your own natural potato beetle repellent below.

Wheat Bran 

Wheat bran can kill and control potato beetles and other pests in your yard and garden, and it’s very simple to use. Simply sprinkle wheat bran throughout your garden or wherever you have noticed potato beetles problems. These insects will eat the bran and it will expand in their stomachs, killing them.

Remove Each Potato Beetle Individually 

Another home remedy to control potato beetles is less glamorous and involves a bit of hard work. Many experts recommend gardeners be vigilant and remove potato bugs one by one using their hands.

You can help control and kill the bugs while removing them by dropping them in a bucket of soapy water as you go. Removing potato beetles by hand should be done whenever you see them, even if you are using a traditional repellent or insecticide. This will help reduce and manage the amount of damage done to your plants in the spring.

Introduce The Predators

Ladybugs are natural predators of garden pests like potato beetles and aphids. Better still, they brighten up your garden! Just make sure you invite the good ladybugs in and don’t mistake them for the Asian lady beetle, which can actually be damaging to your garden.

Use Neem Oil

Essential oils are a popular form of natural pest control at home, and it seems neem oil is a tried and tested tool even professional gardeners and farmers use to protect their crops from pesky potato beetle infestations. You can mix neem oil in a water bottle and spray it directly on your plants to repel potato bugs or you can spray it on potato beetles directly to kill them.

Neem oil also works to kill and repel other destructive garden pests while at the same time being completely safe for people, pets, and the environment.

The below video gives tips on a few other home remedies and organic methods you can use to protect your garden from the potato beetle.

How To Get Rid Of Potato Bugs – When To Call A Professional

Pic 9 Potato bugs
Potato beetles can be difficult to get rid of and may require professional help. 

As we now know, potato beetles can be difficult to get rid of. Worse, they reproduce quickly and overwinter sometimes ten inches beneath the soil, leading many gardeners to mistakenly believe they have quelled the problem when they haven’t.

If you notice that you are dealing with a serious potato beetle infestation year after year, it may be time to contact a professional who can stop the problem at the source.

Professional pest control experts may use a number of different methods for potato beetle removal including pesticides and natural sprays, depending on the company and your region.

How To Prevent Future Potato Bug Problems

Pic 10 potatos in a burlap sack
Rotating your crops or planting different potato varieties can help prevent future potato bugs. 

Because potato beetle are so resistant to many different types of treatments, it’s important to implement preventive methods to help control and manage them all year round.

Let’s take a look at some of the best preventative measures you can take to help control a potato bug problem in your garden below.

Rotate Your Crops 

If you grow crops that the potato bug is attracted to like potatoes, experts recommend changing where you grow them each year. This is because mature potato bugs tend to overwinter in the same soil as the previous crop they were munching on, which means if you continue to plant your crops in the same soil, you’ll be dealing with a continued cycle of potato beetle damage.

Use Straw Mulch

Straw mulch is a wonderful alternative to wood mulch as it helps protect crops like tubers from sunlight while at the same time providing a safe habitat for the potato beetle’s natural predators like ladybugs. Straw mulch will also help keep other pests away like carpenter ants, termites, and earwigs.

Keep The Predators Around

Along with ladybugs, other natural predators of the colorado potato bug include ground beetles and green lacewings. Keep them around to help control and reduce the population of those annoying and destructive potato beetles.

Protect Your Plants 

Use netting or floating row covers specifically designed to keep out pests like potato bugs. Even if you’ve gotten rid of the potato bug problem, continue using netting and preventatives like neem oil to keep these pests and others from returning to destroy your garden.

Plant Bug-Repellent Plants Next To Crops 

Planting plants that the potato beetle hates alongside your crops will help repel potato beetles and keep them from returning. Some of the best plants you can use to repel potato beetles are tansy, catnip and sage.

That said, do your research before planting these plants as some of them may be toxic to people and pets. Furthermore, plants like catnip and tansy are quick to spread so you’ll need to maintain them so they don’t overtake your garden.

Try Planting Potato Beetle Resistant Crops 

If your potato beetle problem continues to be an issue year round, try switching up your crops. Certain potato varieties like Russet Burbank potatoes are resistant to potato beetle and other pests as well as early variety plants, which don’t take as long to sprout and therefore avoid the latter part of a potato beelte damage.

Some early variety potatoes you can plant include Yukon Gold potatoes, Norland potatoes, and Caribe potatoes.

We hope this article has been a helpful guide in how to get rid of potato beetles while maintaining a healthy and thriving garden.

What do you think? Do you have any other methods you like to use to manage these annoying and destructive pests? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

Potato Bug