Colorado Potato Beetle

Colorado potato beetles are a very common insect to the home garden and can get out of control very rapidly. The potato beetle can be a problem not only to potatoes but to eggplant, peppers and tomatoes as well.

The beetles body in its adult stage is yellow with black stripes, an orange colored head, plus black spots. The larva of this beetle is orange red colored with black spots. Both the adult and the larva will feed on potato leaves and other crops.

colorado potato beetles

The potato beetle will find shelter in the soil for the winter months, and become active in the spring when the temperatures start to rise. They start eating on weeds and will start eating early potato foliage as it emerges or even before.

A potato beetle will burrow into the ground and start eating foliage before it even emerges. The eggs of the potato beetle is orange-yellow and the female will lay eggs in batches of about two dozen at a time.

She will lay about five hundred or more eggs in a four to five week time period. The eggs will hatch in four to nine days and the larva will start eating leaves.

A full grown potato beetles larva will burrow into the ground to pupate. This process takes about five to ten days.

Once the adult beetle emerges it will start laying eggs in a few days. The time it takes a potato beetle to develop from egg to adult can be as little as twenty one days. There can be as many as three generations of beetle in one year of time.

Crop rotation is very useful in the control of these beetles, along with beneficial insects like the predatory stink bug and parasite flies.

Use the companion planting method to create an environment to attract birds and other predators, which will then help defend your plants from the Colorado potato beetle.

Hornworm Caterpillars

Any veggie gardener would like to grow perfect tomatoes in his vegetable garden. However, there are large pests, attempting to devour your plants, and spoil the crops.

Could it be the tomato hornworm (Manduca quinquemaculata)? Let’s find out how to find and control this pest.

The tomato hornworm life cycle

Hornworms feed on host plants from the Nightshade (Solanaceae) family, such as tomatoes, tobacco, eggplants, peppers and potatoes. You can find the pests on leaves, stems and fruits. Just a few of them can destroy the plant.

A hornworm life cycle starts when adult moths mate and lay their eggs on leaves of a host plant. After a few days, the larvae in the form of a caterpillar will hatch.

These caterpillars feed on your veggies and grow quickly. When fully grown, they pupate and overwinter in the soil. In warmer climates, 2-4 generations of the horned worms can mature during one season.

Determining their presence

How to find out whether your tomatoes are attacked by hornworms or another type of pest? First off, you will see that the affected plants have holes or damages like they have been chewed on.

Huge piles of black droppings attached to the leaves of a host plant are also a telltale sign of a hornworm infestation. They can be rather difficult to spot since their colors tend to blend very well with the green shades of tomato leaves.

How do these pests look like?

hornworm caterpillars

They are quite large (4-5 inches in length) and these green caterpillars sport black horns on their rear ends, making them true to their name i.e. hornworms. Eight V-shaped lateral white or grayish markings can be seen on this pest (see the picture above).

You can usually find hornworms on the downside of the stems or leaves of the host plant. They look a little on the scary side, but thankfully are completely harmless to us humans. Who knows, your kids may even enjoy seeing this interesting pest. My kids do!

Gardeners often confuse tomato hornworm with tobacco hornworm (Manduca sexta), since both species can feed on the same plants. Mistaking tomato and tobacco hornworms doesn’t matter really, as methods of keeping them under control are identical.

How to control tomato hornworms?

There are a few ways to get rid of tomato hornworms:

1) Collect the catterpillars by hand and drown them in the bucket.

2) Use organic bacterial insecticide containing Bacillus thuringiensis var. Kurstaki. It’s completely safe to your vegetable plants as well as humans. Make sure to prepare the required dose of BT just before you apply it because storing it for too long might diminish the effectiveness of the substance.

3) Use a strong chemical insecticide. This is rarely necessary but can help, particularly if the caterpillars attack in large groups.

4) Rototill the soil in the fall or early spring to destroy the burrowing pupae.

5) Make use of their natural enemies which are the parasitic wasps. Their larvae actually feed on the caterpillars. If you happen to notice white colored cocoons on the caterpillars, you may want to leave them be. This indicates that the next generation of wasps protecting your garden will pupate soon. Beneficial insects such as ladybugs eat hornoworm eggs as well.

While hornworm caterpillars can be hazardous to your plants, they are pretty easy to keep under control. Apply these pest control tips so you can enjoy the rewards that come from growing healthy, bountiful plants.