The Colorado Potato Beetle

Gardening - Colorado Potato Beetle

The Colorado Potato Beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) is an insect pest that causes damage to potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers. It has also been referred to as the “ten-striped spearman.”

Adult butterflies are yellow-orange with ten narrow black stripes down their wing covers. Eggs lay on the undersides of leaves.


The Colorado potato beetle is a common pest of commercial and home potato fields throughout the United States, damaging both commercial and home potato fields. Additionally, this pest can infest many vegetables and solanaceous plants such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, as well as weeds like all nightshades, buffalo bur, and horse-nettle (Capinera 2001).

Adults measure 10 mm long with a bright yellow body and five distinct brown stripes along each of its elytra. Furthermore, they possess three pairs of thoracic legs and an extra proleg at the tip of their abdomens (Capinera 2001).

Larvae are approximately 1/2 inch long with two rows of black spots down each side. They appear plump and cyphosomatic, with a strong convex abdomen.

These pests feed on the common noxious weed horse-nettle (Solanum carolinense L) and other solanaceous plants like ground cherry or husk tomatoes (Physalis spp.).

Colorado potato beetle control can be achieved through natural enemies such as fungi, predatory insects, and parasitoids. Unfortunately, these pests are highly resilient to these measures; if left unchecked it could become a major issue for your crop.

Management options include monitoring populations, cultural practices, pesticide application, and biological control. These methods can reduce pest pressure and boost yields by preventing beetle resistance to insecticides or restricting population size.

Biological Control involves monitoring for and managing predators, parasitoids and beneficial insects that attack Colorado potato beetle eggs or larvae. Common natural enemies include green lacewings, predatory stink bugs, and spined soldier bugs.

Chemical Control can include both chemical and non-chemical strategies like planting into standing stubble, rotating crops, or installing barriers such as spunbonded row covers or trench traps. This reduces pest pressure and increases yields by keeping beetle populations below economic threshold levels.

The Colorado potato beetle may become resistant to organophosphate and pyrethroid insecticides due to point mutations in its genes encoding for these enzymes, either due to de novo emergence or preadaptation to insecticide use or both.


The Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) is an international pest of potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant that has a wide range. Additionally, its resistance to pesticides has been well documented.

Potato rootworm is an increasingly destructive pest to commercial potato fields and home gardens. In some regions of the United States, it has even been known to destroy entire potato crops.

Adult beetles spend the winter underground in soil 5-10 inches deep, such as potato fields, field margins, windbreaks, and gardens, before emerging in spring. After feeding for a short period during this time, they mate and lay clusters of 10-30 eggs on leaf undersides – usually hatching within two weeks, depending on temperature conditions.

Beetles can be controlled using both cultural and biological means. Insect-resistant plants, fungi in the soil, beneficial insects, predatory birds, and toads are all effective tools in combatting this pest.

Growers can protect their crops by clearing away crop debris. Mulching will also reduce the Colorado potato beetle’s ability to locate potato fields.

Additionally, using a lightweight floating row cover over the crop can help. These covers effectively decrease beetle populations in potato fields but must be placed well before they emerge.

The Colorado potato beetle can be managed through a combination of chemical, biological, and cultural control strategies. For a comprehensive overview of its life cycle, crop damage, and management options available for this pest, please refer to our main Colorado potato beetle article.

The Colorado potato beetle (CPB) has demonstrated extensive pesticide resistance and is a major factor in yield losses in commercial potato fields and home gardens alike. This pest can affect plants across all members of the Solanaceous family, such as potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant; thus, it’s an important pest for these and other Solanaceous plants throughout New England that requires a combination of cultural, biological, and chemical control strategies for effective management.

Plants Affected

The Colorado potato beetle is a common pest that can severely reduce your yields and sometimes even kill plants. Unfortunately, it’s resistant to many insecticides, so it’s important to utilize cultural control methods before turning to chemical treatments.

These pests, both larval and adult, can completely defoliate your potatoes. As they munch away at leaves and fruit during defoliation, it causes severe damage to your crops.

It is essential to monitor your crop for the presence of this beetle at all times. Look for clusters of small orange eggs on the underside of leaves which will begin forming soon after plants emerge from seed pieces – this indicates that feeding has begun.

This beetle feeds on the leaves and fruit of a variety of vegetables and fruit trees, preferring eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes; it can also cause damage to potatoes.

In the wild, natural predators such as stink bugs and lady beetles can help control Colorado potato beetle adult numbers. When these insects come into contact with Colorado potato beetle adults, these insects may cause a significant reduction in their number.

Beauveria bassiana, a fungus, is an effective natural enemy of this beetle. You can use it either as a soil drench or foliar spray on your potato plants for maximum effectiveness.

Other natural control methods involve clearing away weeds like nightshades and cultivating trap crops like chard or beets that will attract the beetles away from your potato crops. Once trapped and killed in these trap crops, they won’t return.

Organic insecticides like pyrethrins, Azamax, and neem oil have also been developed to provide some control of this pest.

Another natural control method is to mulch your garden with locally-sourced material. Mulch acts as protection from the sun, reduces soil moisture levels, and controls other insects like beetles.

Consult with your local county extension agent is recommended if you decide to use an insecticide. They can assist in selecting a pesticide that will be effective in your region.


The Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) is an insect pest that causes major damage to potatoes. It’s a serious issue in many regions of North America and is difficult to eradicate due to its resistance to insecticides.

The initial step in combatting CPB is identifying them. Look for oval, orange-yellow bugs measuring 1/4 to 1/2 inch long with 10 alternating yellow and black stripes on their bodies.

Once you’ve identified them, eliminate any weeds near your garden and the edges of your fields so they cannot enter. Mulch at least three inches deep with clean straw or hay to stop them from getting into your potatoes.

Another effective biological control method is applying diatomaceous earth, a natural insecticide effective on both plant and insect pests. This product creates an impenetrable barrier film around plants, preventing pest insects from feeding on them.

Other beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, spined soldier bugs, and lacewing, can be effective natural enemies of Colorado potato beetles. These predators feed on the larvae of these pests and should be included in your integrated pest management (IPM) strategy.

Despite the Colorado potato beetle’s resistance to pesticides, it is still necessary to control them through an effective combination of chemical and biological pest management techniques. This is particularly relevant when it comes to home gardens or small-scale agriculture operations.

In the Northeast, carbaryl, azadirachtin, and spinosad are all effective products to use against Colorado potato beetles. You must follow the directions on the label of any insecticide you use; if one product doesn’t eliminate them completely, try switching to another insecticide or apply another type of control, such as biological control instead.

The Colorado potato beetle can be a challenging pest to manage, developing resistance to multiple insecticides in certain regions of the US. Therefore, having an integrated pest management (IPM) plan for controlling this insect in your farm and garden is highly recommended.

Common Names For Colorado Potato Beetle

  • Colorado Potato Beetle
  • Mexican Bean Beetle
  • Bean Leaf Beetle

Scientific Name

  • Leptinotarsa decemlineata (Say)

Garden Plants Affected By Colorado Potato Beetle

  • Beans
  • Peppers
  • Eggplants

How to Control Colorado Potato Beetles

  • Spray or dust with garden-safe pesticide when beetles appear and weekly, as necessary
  • Use yellow sticky traps.  Adult Potato beetles are attracted to the color yellow and can be captured with traps.
  • For eggplant, start plants indoors and transplant them as large seedlings.
  • Companion planting with Tomatillos


  • Young eggplants are vulnerable to potato beetle attacks.  Look for damage when the first leaves unfold

A Couple Organic Methods To Deal With Potato Bugs / Beetles

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