Harmful insects Vegetables

A Simple Way of Thwarting Potato Beetles

Here’s a simple, but effective way of keeping one pest out of your plants!

To avoid the Colorado potato beetle, Leptinotarsa decemlineata, an insect with a worldwide distribution that decimates the leaves of potato plants (Solanum tuberosum) and can severely hinder their production, just plant your potatoes not in the vegetable garden, all grouped together, but in the flower bed, scattered here and there among the other plants.

Many varieties of potato bloom readily and produce pretty flowers, so fit well into a flower bed. Photo: Keith Weller, Wikimedia Commons

Adult Colorado potato beetles are attracted to potato plants by the distinctive odor of their foliage and find their host more readily when the potatoes are planted in dense rows, as in a vegetable garden, concentrating the smell. But when the potato plants are scattered among other plants, especially plants with distinct odors of their own (and many ornamental flowers appear highly scented to insects), the problem largely disappears. They just can’t find their host plant!

Sometimes one or two of the second generation of potato beetles manage to find the potato plants in midsummer, but they won’t have time to do much damage: the production of tubers will be well under way by then and they won’t really hinder potato production. Just pull them off and squish them if their presence bothers you.

The following year, repeat the same treatment … applying crop rotation by planting that year’s potatoes in different spots than the previous year.

Thanks to your cunning planting, you’ll soon become the potato beetles’ worst enemy!

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, laidbackgardener.blog will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

1 comment on “A Simple Way of Thwarting Potato Beetles

  1. That actually works with a few insects. Maintaining a bit of space between rhododendrons inhibits thrip. It does not fix the problem, but makes it a bit more tolerable, and might confine it to fewer or the more susceptible varieties.

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