ACK! Bugs are decimating my eggplant leaves!

new_beeJune 4, 2009

Little, tiny black beetle-looking bug are eating my eggplant leaves to death. When they first appeared, I simply flicked or washed them off. We have a very rainy week and I didn't make it out there... the next time I went to check on my garden, the leaves were almost transparent! This is my first attempt at a veggie garden so I have no idea what they are. Any suggestions?

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Google flea beetle. See if that is it. Typically they don't make the leaves transparent, but leave holes resembling a shotgun being blasted at the leaves.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2009 at 12:37AM
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denno(z7 NC)

Most of us had the same problem with egg plant, or squash, melons, etc. Invest in the lightweight row cover which will keep the flying insects off the plants. Once the plants have grown to where the flowers are open for pollination, remove the covers.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2009 at 5:43AM
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Floating Row Covers ned to be in place before there is a problem but once you see the damage done by Flea Beetles you can try to control them with Insecticidal Soap and the rising up the toxicity ladder there is Neem Oil products followed by pyrethins.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2009 at 6:52AM
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I learned the hard way over the years that eggplants must be row covered for the first month or so in the ground to give them a change to get big enough to withstand the early bugs. Flea beetles are bad. Colorado potato beetles will also decimate eggplants, as will those evil margined blister beetles. So, the minute I put the things in the ground, I mulch heavily around them and cover with row cover.

I've actually found DE to be very effective on flea beetles. You need to dust just about daily with it, but if you do for a week or so you typically can get the FBs under control.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2009 at 10:03AM
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Dan Staley

Our state Pestserv had a little blurb about expecting flea beetles soon, and as such I went out today and put up little hoops & row covers for the crops susceptible to flea beetles.

I second mary's DE suggestion, and you may expect a little slowing of growth as the leaves have some sunlight blocked, but it is better than an infestation.


    Bookmark   June 5, 2009 at 1:48PM
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Thank you all for the responses. Yes, these appear to be flea beetles. They've done such a number on the leaves, they look like lace.

A few questions about your suggestions.What are row covers? Is it something made out of a specific material? MaryMD7, what is DE?

    Bookmark   June 5, 2009 at 8:41PM
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denno(z7 NC)

You can check online with any of the seed companies, such as Burpees,, etc. Put 'row covers' in the search box, and they show pictures of it being used in the field. Select the lightweight type for insect control. The heavier ones are for keeping the plants from cold temperatures. I spread it over my row loosely, cutting off, or leaving a roll of what I don't need. Then I put weighty rocks around the edges to hold down in the wind. They can be re-used for a few years.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 6:45AM
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The commercially available Floating Row Covers are made of a poyester spun finer loosely woven into a fabric. The weave is tight enough to keep insects from any plants that are covered but loose enough to allow sun, air, and water through. They can also aid in holding temperatures about 2 to 5 degrees higher than ambient and can extend you growing season some, providing protection from light frosts.
DE is Diamotaceous Earth, a type of hard shelled algae, that is food grade can provide some protection from certain insects. Sprinkled on the soil so the insect must crawl over the DE it cuts their exoskeleton so they dehydrate. If you use DE you need to be sure you get food grade and not pool grade.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2009 at 7:03AM
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DE = diatomaceous earth. You should be able to get it at any nursery or garden center. Dust the plants and the ground around them with it (an old gym sock filled with DE makes a great duster by the way). It is ineffective once wet, so if it rains or if you even have a heavy dew, you need to reapply. As I said above, a daily dusting for a week-10 days will usually get FBs under control.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2009 at 10:25AM
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I am trying to stay organic. How does DE affect the plant or soil, if at all?

    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 7:05AM
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DE is safe to use - it's a naturally occurring substance, the fossilized skeletons of algae. It works on bugs by scratching their outer shell - it scratches them to death. You don't want to breath it - it irritates your lungs/bronchi - but it's used in kitchens to kill crawling insects.


Here is a link that might be useful: What is DE?

    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 4:29PM
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Im having the same problem. What about the neem oil. I have it but never used it yet. Will it work? Will it BURN the plants leaves because it's an oil? thanks Frank

    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 6:09PM
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So as usual my eggplants are being destroyed by flea beetles this year. I took the advice and covered them with row covers for 2 weeks until I discovered that they were infected with early blight. I think the combination of wet humid weather and row covers is causing that, so I had to take the cover off.

I have one eggplant planted in the tomato bed with no mulch. The other eggplants are all mulched with shredded oak leaves. What I have observed is that the one with no mulch is not bothered at all by the flea beetles even though they are all basically next to each other. The others have so many holes. I think next year I am going to try no mulch on all my eggplants.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 10:38PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Use the DE with some good common sense. It doesn't lose all of its effectiveness when wet and will regain it once dry again. In other words, it doesn't dissolve. So, even if it washes off a plant, it ends up somewhere where it might cause some problems for beneficials. It is, after all, a broad spectrum pesticide.

It can be applied as a spray in some water and a few drops of liquid soap as a spreader/sticker. Make a slurry with 2 cups of the DE to 1 gallon of water. Same ratio if you want to make less, which I suggest if you have a small garden.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2011 at 12:24AM
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I have had flea beetles each year on my eggplants. I do them in pots, but I've found squishing does help a bit. Also there is a VERY happy spider that has taken up residence on my eggplant. Interestingly enough, last year I put them next to my tomatos and the eggplant kept my tomatos protected. Apparently, they like eggplant better. I still got some eggplant, but it was a nice deterrent for the tomatos!

    Bookmark   June 21, 2011 at 10:28AM
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why not try it all. so far in my concoction i have garlic, Cayenne pepper, Chipotle pepper, Listerine, Eucalyptus oil and mint oil. hope it works.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2011 at 10:35AM
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I have been dealing with slugs and black fleas on my egg plant starters lately and have seen on alot of Organic sites and forums like this one, people mentioning SEVIN dust. After reading the can and researching it, I have tossed it out to the Hazard collections facility. Especially after reading this article I have attached. If you use this stuff, You might think twice about that in or around an organic garden and around your pets. Its more toxic than you think.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sevin Dust pet poision

    Bookmark   July 4, 2012 at 11:10AM
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I have tried the soap and water spray on my egg plants for flea beetles, that didn't work. They are really making a mess of the leaves and before the completely KILL my plants,
I will now try the garlic and hot peppers to 1 gallon of water spray and see how that works. I have learned through reading that SEVIN DUST is very toxic especially to Pets, so that got thrown out to the Hazard collections center. I will go with the most organic solution I possibly can. If you have a solution that has worked please email it to me.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2012 at 11:31AM
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