Battle of the Flea Beetles
I am losing the ongoing battle with the flea beetles. They conquered my broccoli patch overnight. Their march through both the big garden and the side garden is disturbing. I can see why commercial farms use non-organic solutions. But I still prefer organic grown produce.
I had switched to a garlic based solution instead of the oil base mixture I wrote about here. The garlic solution is a good deterrent but not a natural pesticide. Yet, it worked on the first army of flea beetles encountered last month. Or at least I thought it did.
This second invasion has been particularly large. I think many tiny eggs must have been laid by the first group. I did not see them and I looked. However, the larvae can live underground. The small off-white colored worm-like babies can eat seeds and roots before maturing into the beetle stage. The life cycle is less than a month.
Prime conditions for the flea beetles exist. The days are quite warm and no rain of any significance. My big garden is quite vulnerable because it is watered by a drip system. Yet hosing off the plants in the side garden and then spraying with the garlic mixture apparently needed to occur twice a day.
Surrendering to the Flea Beetle
At this point I plan to surrender to the flea beetle. I have pulled the broccoli, disturbed the ground to remove or expose the larvae, and planted a different crop. My plan is too start new brassicas at the end of this month. Then I will plant them in August for a fall crop. The small hoop covering that allowed the Swiss Chard to winter over should allow a fall or early winter harvest.
Crop rotation did not work this spring. The side garden was not a previous home to any brassicas. So I think my strategy going forward will be two-fold. First, I will optimize companion planting. I had a lot of luck last year with the garlic and cabbage combination. Research will be needed to find out what plants have a natural protection from flea beetles.
Second, I will start using the brassicas as a fall crop instead of a spring crop. The flea beetles disappear around the 4th of July. Life cycles are key to this plan. If you can nip things in the bud, infestations are lessened.
Further Information on The Flea Beetle
For sources on the flea beetle, I found this article on the internet helpful: https://www.planetnatural.com/pest-problem-solver/garden-pests/flea-beetle-control/
I also consulted several books in my garden library. These include the Ortho publication Controlling Lawn and Garden Insects, Rodale’s All-New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening. Also, Andy Tomolonis wrote Organic Hobby Farming which I highly recommend.
If you have additional ideas to help me in futures battles with the flea beetles, please leave a comment. Growing seedlings only to lose them to an invading army of insects is disheartening. The pictures below show the damage from as well as the size of the flea beetles.