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Red headed flea beetles active!

Red headed flea beetles active in nurseries

Posted on June 4, 2013 by blog visit us for more nursery and landscape IPM information. Follow us on Twitter @OrnaPests. 

Redheaded flea beetles, Systena frontalis, have become a serious pest of nursery stock

Redheaded flea beetle on Itea. Photo: Greg Bryant, NCSU

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

in Delaware.

One thought on “Red headed flea beetles active!

  1. It’s true, these pests are quite dreaded by gardeners. You’ve presented the problem with a note of helplessness, and you’re not far from the truth. However, as a professional in the pest control industry and somewhat of an expert in insects, I have to say the best defense against pests is pest prevention!
    How to do it in this case? For starters, in the spring when the flea beetles are just coming out and waiting to have a feast at your expense, you can outsmart them by planting your crops 2 weeks later than usual. This will slow them down significantly and starve a big portion of the pests.
    Another thing is – when fall comes, you can do some tilling in your garden to unearth the larvae (which as you mentioned are the bigger portion of the issue and hide in the soil).

    You could, of course, use insecticides but even as a person in the pest control industry I wouldn’t recommend it in the garden.
    There’s the option of making a homemade insecticide (I’m speaking to any potential readers and gardeners here) which can be sprayed on susceptible plants, the list of which you can find here

    Sal Dawson,
    Certified Pest Control Consultant at