Last Updated on December 9, 2023 by Kimberly Crawford
The potato is a common vegetable that is popular in many different cuisines. Home-garden owners love planting potatoes in their garden for their versatility.
However, they face immense damage due to potato bugs. These bugs not only attack potatoes but also feed on eggplant, tomatoes, and other plants.
It is a no-brainer that you need to get rid of potato bugs as soon as you notice them to prevent massive damage.
However, before opting for chemical pesticides, you should try some home remedies as they are safer and more environment-friendly.
In this article, we have shared 13 natural ways to kill potato bugs. Read on!
About Potato Bugs
Colorado potato beetles or crickets, commonly known as potato bugs, are nocturnal insects that can be found in America and Mexico. This insect has about 40 species throughout North and South America. They are large in size, up to two inches. These cricket-like insects have orange and black stripes.
They feed on the decaying roots of plants. In the absence of rotten roots, they prey on fresh plants such as potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, etc. Once a potato bug infestation occurs, it is quite challenging to get rid of them. Adult potato bugs chew on fresh fruits and vegetables, but the larvae are much more harmful.
Despite being vicious to garden plants, they are not harmful to humans, although they may bite you while gardening. These crickets have strong jaws, and their bite can be quite painful.
However, a potato bug bite does not cause any harm apart from discomfort and irritation. Nonetheless, they are fairly large insects and disgusting to look at, especially their larvae.
The Life Cycle of Colorado Potato Beetles
The life cycle of potato bugs starts with an overwintering stage and ends in a short span of 30 days. The bugs emerge in spring and feed on plants. They also mate and reproduce on the plants.
Female Colorado bugs lay eggs on the undersurface of leaves, approximately 300 eggs within four to five weeks. The hatching time varies between four to ten days, depending on the temperature and humidity of that location.
The larvae go through four instars before turning adults. The larvae start feeding right after the hatching of the eggs and keep growing through each of the four instars. It takes about two to three weeks.
Afterward, the larvae drop into the soil. They form a spherical cell and pupate. This stage lasts from five to ten days. After that, the cycle restarts. This cycle can occur two to three times a year, depending on the area.
13 Effective and Natural Ways to Get Rid of Potato Bugs
As you can imagine, potato bugs take minimal time to turn into a massive infestation. It becomes incredibly stressful when a home-garden owner finds potato bugs in the garden.
However, not everyone wants to use chemicals and pesticides. After all, if this problem can be cured organically, why use chemicals for it?
So, here are some natural ways or home remedies to prevent or get rid of potato bugs.
1. Eliminate Their Habitat
Destroying the potato bugs’ habitat is the logical and long-term solution. This is the most effective method of getting rid of Colorado beetles or potato bugs. Potato bugs live in underground tunnels where they stay hidden. They prefer cool, damp, and dark places.
In order to stop potato bugs from spreading, you should keep your garden clean. Do not leave any rocks, branches, leaves, dead grass, or other dirt where the potato bugs can find shelter.
Ensure that there is no trash left around the garden. Keeping your garden clean and not allowing water to clog can drastically decrease the chances of potato bug infestation.
2. Relocate Crops
If you find out that one part of your garden has been infected with potato bugs, you can consider relocating the crops for the next season. Due to the overwintering habit of potato bugs, you can execute this method easily.
Additionally, relocate other fruit and vegetable plants as they can be affected by the potato bugs too. Transferring all the crops to a new location can terminate the spread of the bugs.
You can then use pesticides to get rid of potato bugs. Once you are sure that the initial area is not contaminated anymore, you can plant potatoes or other vegetables again.
3. Use Covers for the Plants
You can find covers for plants that are commonly known as row covers. These covers are made of heavy screens that allow water and air to get through. However, other elements from the outside cannot enter the protective shield.
These row covers can be used to protect potato plants from potato bugs. However, remember that the covers are not suitable to use when the plants turn into adults and flowers start forming.
4. Use Companion Planting Technique
Companion planting is a technique where two or more plants benefit each other. This method can be adapted to get rid of potato bugs.
There are a few plants that when placed around potato plants help prevent Colorado beetles. They include cilantro, sage, tansy, catnip, marigold, etc.
5. Demolish the Eggs of Potato Bugs
The eggs of potato bugs are usually attached to the undersurface of the leaf, making them difficult to notice. However, if you find these eggs, you should take the necessary measures right away. They will mature in about four to five days, so immediate action is critical once you notice them in your garden.
Potato bugs’ eggs are orange and vibrant. They are small in size and clustered together. The most efficient way to check for them is by flipping the leaf and checking underneath. If you notice them in one leaf, you should check the rest as well. There is a high possibility that there will be more eggs.
You need to get rid of the leaves that are contaminated by plucking or cutting them. Afterward, burn or drench them in insecticides.
6. Try Mulching to Prevent Potato Bugs
Mulching is a method of covering the soil around trees or plants with different materials as a protective layer. Sawdust, compost, or paper can be used for mulching.
This technique is helpful in preventing potato bugs. Among all mulching materials, straw gives the best outcome in preventing potato bugs. Mulching makes it difficult for the bugs to locate potato plants. Moreover, the mulch draws beetle predators.
7. Use Essential Oil Sprays
Some home remedies like essential oil sprays can be very useful in eliminating potato bugs. Neem, peppermint, and rosemary essential oils are incredibly helpful in getting rid of Colorado beetles. These work as organic pesticides and kill the eggs and larvae.
Using essential oil sprays is a quick and easy solution to finish off beetles in your home garden. All you need is a spray bottle and essential oils. In one gallon of water, put two tablespoons of neem oil, one teaspoon of peppermint oil, and one teaspoon of rosemary essential oil. Give it a good mix and spray it on your potato plants once you notice the bugs.
8. Use Vinegar and Dish Soap Bug Spray
Another home remedy to remove potato bugs is using a spray made of vinegar and dish soap. It is extremely easy to make using things that everyone has in their household but works exceptionally well to eliminate potato bugs.
The acidity of the vinegar not only kills potato bugs but also other unwanted pests. For this, you will need a spray bottle. Mix one cup of vinegar and one teaspoon of dish soap in three cups of water. Then spray the mixture on your plants. This mixture effectively kills both eggs and adult potato bugs.
9. Use Cayenne Pepper and Garlic Spray
Cayenne pepper and garlic are natural insecticides that work wonders in killing potato bugs as well. It is very inexpensive to make and takes almost no time and effort.
In order to make this spray, you will need one whole cayenne pepper or one teaspoon cayenne powder, one whole garlic, and one tablespoon dish soap. Mix them well in a quart of water. Then use this spray on your garden plants to get rid of potato bugs and eggs.
10. Use Diatomaceous Earth to Kill Potato Bugs
Diatomaceous earth is a safe and effective ingredient to use for killing potato bugs. DE is mainly a silica powder that comes from shells of algae. It is not harmful to humans or pets. This organic pesticide is not degradable. However, it might need reapplication after a rain.
You can use DE both in powder form or as a spray. You can sprinkle the powder on the soil. It will penetrate through the surface and kill the Colorado bugs’ larvae.
Alternatively, you can mix one part of DE with four parts of water to make the DE spray. Use it on potato plants or soil where you think potato bugs exist.
11. Get Natural Predators for Potato Bugs
Many people have a misconception that any insect is bad for crops. That is not true, especially for your garden plants. Some insects or animals exist that are actually helpful.
A few insects or animals prey on potato bugs. These predators are really helpful, and they do not harm the potato plants at all.
Ladybugs are one of the most helpful kinds of bugs for potato plants. Other predators include stink bugs, parasitic wasps, green lacewings, damsel bugs, and birds. If you see these predators, let them be as they will be helpful for your potato plants.
12. Use Traps
Traps can be used to get rid of Colorado beetles too. There are different methods you can use. One way is to spread petroleum jelly on a surface and place it in the garden. The bugs will get stuck in the jelly, which you can throw away. Alternatively, you can use glue to make traps for bugs.
You can also find traps for insects in the store. They can be quite useful; however, using traps does not guarantee the elimination of potato bugs. If after a few days, you keep finding potato bugs even after using traps, then you should try stronger methods of killing these pests.
13. Handpick the Bugs
This is probably the least effective and nastiest method of killing potato bugs from your home garden. Nonetheless, it is the most natural way of getting rid of potato bugs if you do not want to use chemicals.
You need to search for bugs on each plant to ensure there are none left. If even one remains, it can breed and infest your plants. You need to look for adult bugs as well as eggs. Once you find those, you can either squish them or drown them in soapy water. Anyhow, you should not forget to put on gloves for this method.
All in All
Don’t let bugs dampen your spirit to grow potatoes and other vegetables in your garden.
Choose from among the thirteen effective ways to get rid of potato bugs. You do not need to go for the harsh chemical options as your first choice. For home gardens, using industrial pesticides is unnecessary and excessive.
Keep your garden clean and regularly check the leaf surfaces to look for signs of potato bug infestation. Take instant steps if you spot any eggs or bugs.