Redheaded flea beetles, Systena frontalis, have become a serious pest of nursery stock
Redheaded flea beetle on Itea. Photo: Greg Bryant, NCSU
over the past several years. They are an especially damaging pest because they feed on roots and leaves. They overwinter as eggs in the soil. Larvae hatch in spring and begin feeding on roots. The larvae are elongate and creamy-white. Heavy infestations may reduce root mass or girdle plants. Adult redheaded flea beetles are small, shiny black, beetles with reddish to dark colored head and long antennae. They are about 1/16 of an inch long and, as the name suggests, jump when they are approached. There are at least two generations in Delaware and may be more in North Carolina.
We found adults and adult feeding damage this week. The favored hosts are Itea, hydrangea, forsythia, and knockout roses. Adult management has been frustrating for growers who find that even frequent insecticide applications do not reduce adult abundance and damage to acceptable levels. Part of this has to do with not controlling larvae since even if you kill all the adults present in a crop (which you won’t) more adults are emerging from the soil every day. Research thus far in Delaware and grower reports indicate that Talstar, Sarfari, and Flagship provide good efficacy as foliar applications but do not have long residual activity. Read more in this fact sheet from Dr. Brian Kunkel