Close Relative of a Crop Destroyer

The False Potato Beetle is a resident here in Tennessee and very closely resembles the Colorado Potato Beetle. The biggest difference is that the Colorado Potato Beetle is very aggressive pest, voraciously feeding on potatoes that can actually destroy 100% of a crop depending on the infestation. There is also a slight variation in appearance, with the False Potato Beetle having a different color stripe on its wings and more spots on the head. They range in size from ¼” to ½” in length is a shade of orange with alternating stripes of black and white with yellow stripes in between.

False Potato Beetles do still feed on potatoes; however here in Tennessee their diet is has more variety. They have been known to also feed on ground cherries, horse nettle, husk tomatoes and bittersweet (a creeping vine that has clusters of yellow flowers and small bittersweet berries).  Although they do breed prolifically, they are not considered a Tennessee Pest Control Issue like they are out West.

After the overwinter process, the adult emerges from the ground and begin to feed on surrounding leaves. During this process they are also seeking out potential mates. Once they mate the female can lay abundance of eggs; up to 500 eggs in four weeks. These eggs are placed on the underneath of leaves where they undergo the growth process of four stages to reach adulthood. All of this happens in a short timeframe of 2 to 3 weeks. So, you see the reason that populations can grow do rapidly, as each egg can grow to be an egg producing adult within twenty to thirty days. They cause damage from hatching all the way to adult, by feeding on the surrounding leaves.

They don’t really have a natural defense, other than play dead. If you happen upon one and disturb it, the beetle will fall over on its side and lay completely still as to look dead. This is not a very effective defense, so they are easy prey, although not many predators. Ground beetles, spiders and wasps are the primary predators that feed on the Potato Beetle and its eggs. One species of Ground Beetle can eat 20 – 30 eggs per day, making it a good control predator of the Potato Beetle.

As we do not have large Potato crops in Tennessee, our False Potato Beetle is not a huge pest control concern, other than some tomato plant damage. In some of the Western United States, with the Colorado Potato Beetle, it is a major concern and most of the issue is handled through crop rotation. This serves as damage control by moving the crops in a way that will move the food source of a potato beetle infestation and thus cause the beetles to relocate to a new area to find the potatoes. They don’t relocate well, because the adults have to walk to the new food source which kills approximately ninety percent of the population of an infestation. So, by rotating the crops and relocating the new potato field up to 1/2 mile will get rid of most these slow walking crop destroyers. Also, the overwintering adults that typically emerge to start the breeding season will not have the initial food source that they need to survive, thus reducing the first generation of the year to a very low amount.

Other than the occasional damage to tomatoes or flowering plants such as bittersweet and night shade, the False Potato Beetle does not typically fall into a pest control issue here in Tennessee. However if you are having issues with our typical Tennessee summer pests such as ants, spiders, wasps, mosquitoes, fleas or even bed bugs – make sure to give Certified Pest Control Nashville a call for a free estimate. We are all family here, and offer the personal, detailed service you deserve.

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