Ask Our Experts

Answers to your questions about gardening, energy, homesteading and other sustainable living topics.

Add to My MSN

How Can I Control Blister Beetles?

7/30/2008 12:00:00 AM

Tags: beetles, pest control

We have a terrible problem with blister beetles — the gray ones with white stripes. They destroy our garden. We would like to find a chemical-free control. Can you help?

Blister beetles (Epicauta vittata and other closely related species) appear in swarms in summer, just as tomatoes, beans and other crops start looking good. This native species does one service — the larvae eat grasshopper eggs — but then the adults strip leaves from a dozen different plants. Hand-picking them can be dangerous, because a toxin in the beetles’ bodies can irritate the skin. Blister beetles often drop to the ground and play dead when disturbed, so the best way to collect them is to quietly sneak up and shake them into a pan of soapy water placed beneath the plants. Wear gloves to pick up any stragglers.

Some gardeners grow calendulas as a trap crop, or you can skip over a few pigweeds (Amaranthus species) when weeding and let them serve as blister beetle magnets. Old-time gardeners used pine branches to sweep the beetles into water-filled pits. If all else fails, spray infested plants with Monterey Garden Insect Spray, which contains spinosad, a biological pesticide made by fermenting a naturally occurring soil-borne bacterium. (A similar product, Entrust, is acceptable under organic certification guidelines, but it is not as widely available.) When using either form, the beetles should stop feeding soon after they eat some treated leaves, but nonleaf-eating beneficial insects will not be affected. If you cannot find it locally, you can buy Monterey Garden Insect Spray from www.extremelygreen.com.

 Barbara Pleasant, contributing editor



Related Content

What To Do With Orange Asian Lady Beetles

Find out what your options are for getting orange Asian lady beetles out of your house.

This Month in Your Garden: Fertilizing and Weed Control

April's tips for controlling weeds and fertilizing your garden.

Something Is Eating Holes in My New Broccoli Plants. What Should I Do?

Learn to deal with cabbage worms through organic methods.

Don't Let the Bed Bugs Bite: Tips for Prevention and Eradication

“Bed bugs” are small nocturnal insects that feed on blood. Here are some tips for keeping them out o...

Content Tools




Post a comment below.

 







Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 66% Off the Cover Price

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
Country:
Email:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.