Insects

Colorado Potato Beetle

Colorado Potato Beetle
Tap to view larger image
 
Though native to the Rocky Mountains, this pest long ago spread to all other parts of the United States except California and Nevada. The 3/8-inch long adult beetle is easy to spot: the showy polka-dot vest and striped pants are dead giveaways. The small, red-humped nymphs have articulated legs and rows of dark spots along both sides. Both adult beetles and nymphs denude plants, leaving black excrement as testament to their gluttony.

Target: Tomato-family vegetables and flowers.

Damage: Leaves and stems are chewed; whole plants may be devoured if the beetle population is large.
Life cycle: In spring, female beetles lay hundreds of elongated orange eggs in clusters on leaf undersides. About a week after egg laying, the larvae emerge and feed for a time, then burrow into the ground to pupate. The pupae can overwinter. There are one to three generations each year.

Notes: A thick mulch of straw or hay slows down the beetles.