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!

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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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