I've got a crop of mixed lettuce, raddish, carrots, kale growing in my 'salad bowl crop'a 6'X 6' area. I just noticed the tiny shot holes of (flea beetles) all throughout the different varieties. Never have had flea beetles in this garden so I was a bit surprised. (Could have come in via the bales of not so decomposed compost that I used to improve this pumice soil)

Could be something else as I couldn't find a live beetle in the soil, roots or the leaves (during the day). I'll be out there tonight.

What else could it be other than flea beetles, any ideas? What I pulled up on the internet was kinda lame but I didn't search that hard. The information said they fed during the hot temps of daylight? And yet all I could find were tiny possibly beetles dessicated in the soil.

Does anyone have any ideas so I don't have to use NEEM? Gee, would that even work? How about Bacillus thuringiensis made with beetles in mind? I know they were working on one decades ago but haven't heard anything. There was one for caterpillars the one we know best, one for flies and mosquitos and one for beetles. Three types of BT. Have not yet seen the beetle and fly varieties yet. Wouldn't it be a good thing to be able to have the BT for flies and mosquitos NOW? Let me know if you've heard anything about BT.

These beetles must come out at night...the leaves are completely peppered with some damage to the crowns of these lettuces. Anyhoo, I am in the middle of majoring canning and dehydrating and getting frazzled. I thought I'd ask for help.

I'll send a picture by tomorrow of course...but tiny tiny little holes...shot hole only 1/4 the size and smaller. Seem to love the arugula and a red leaf lettuce best. Thanks...stormy

  • Have you had any hail? Jul 13, 2016 at 0:48
  • If the problem is flea beetles, planting your greens in the fall instead of the spring might help. Jul 13, 2016 at 0:53
  • Oh sweetie, that would be a good idea for zones...5/6 and above. This is pumice soil and 20-30 below is normal. I have been mulching and covering and babying my perennials to keep them alive, and they were definitely rated for this zone...(1b) but they say 3-4. My asparagus has made it through the winter, the boysenberries, strawberries, blue berries, raspberries but without some cover and mulch I doubt I'd have had much success. Sigh. What were we thinking????
    – stormy
    Jul 14, 2016 at 1:38

3 Answers 3


Regarding the Bt for beetles, they made it into a product, but it's not selling (well). I tried it and it didn't really work against japanese beetles. I don't think it's going to be around (on the market) much longer. But I don't know if it would work on flea beetles; I do know it was expensive.

Also, I'd say neem generally doesn't work well on beetles either; but I haven't tried it on flea beetles, specifically.

If you think the pest is coming out at night, then one very common pest slides to mind, slugs. Slugs often leave tiny little holes, and they eat all of the above. Use (lager) beer traps to control slugs.

  • I just haven't looked up Bt yet, but bummer if it isn't working. This is definitely flea beetles and I've never thought they were ever a problem...until I looked them up! Trap Crops? Unbelievable. My salad bowl must have been the trap crop as nothing else is being bothered. But only the brassicas in the salad bowl (6X6 bed where I put different salad mixtures, carrots, radishes, kale and just spread them on this 36 sq. ft. bed...radishs are first and those get pulled makes room for the lettuces and now I am thinning this even more) have been pepper shot. Otherwise, no other remedies...
    – stormy
    Jul 7, 2016 at 6:39
  • @stormy Pyrethrin is the standard. And there's always ivory soap (I prefer dish detergent), but basically, if you can spray the bugs with a 1% soap solution (+ 3% oil helps) it will kill them- but you have to DIRECTLY spray the bug; you can't just spray the plant. Again, about the Bt, I went looking for it and nobody is selling it anymore. Upon further searching, spinosad is said to work (but it's not labeled for use with flea beetles). Jul 7, 2016 at 12:16
  • Yes, slugs will definitely leave big holes in many crops, leaves and fruit (including red jalapenos; that sounds painful for a slug, but they do it). I'm pretty sure they love lettuce. I know they like milk thistle leaves, which taste like lettuce. Jul 13, 2016 at 0:49
  • Trust me, I know slugs and this area will never have slugs! Again this is zone 1b or 3/4 at the most. I've had to make soil out of this pumice with gobs of organic matter, decomposed of course. Slugs are creatures in a different universe. I feel for them. I go out with scissors at night and kill, kill kill but not likey much.
    – stormy
    Jul 14, 2016 at 1:41
  • @stormy did you mean to address your comment to Shule? Also, what are you killing with scissors at night? Jul 14, 2016 at 12:17

Flea beetles have always been in all of my vegetable gardens. But this year I was taken aback as the damage was very noticeable.

What I've found is that early in the season, a TRAP CROP near the CASH CROPS is pretty much all one can do. I sorta ended up HAVING a trap crop and it worked well!

My beds are raised (without any wood, blocks) with trenches at the bottom to direct excess water. I HATE planting in lines, rows. I think it is a waste of garden soil. So I've learned (Michael Dirr) how to make a Salad bowl bed that is quite fun to do. I dump all kinds of seeds (NON GMO)into a cheese shaker bottle, like pizza cheese shaker, to include radish, carrots, kale, mustard and a huge variety of lettuces and make a solid planting, this one 6X6'. The radish of course mature and I pull them and that makes more room for the rest. Baby lettuce, arugula, kale...yumm, I pull them up roots and all to make more room for the rest. I've got bunnies who adore me!! All of my beds are like that...I've one bed where I used TAPED chard seeds and made ugh, rows, and not doing well. And chard is a tough plant, usually very hardy.

All of the mustard and kale were hit hard with the flea beetles. The tender lettuce hardly at all. The potatoes and all my other crops were never bothered and there is only 3-4' between beds. The radish is perfect, not bothered at all.

The flea beetles are done now, I've got to learn whether they fly away or what. I use row cloth at night but I need to keep my Brassica crops covered for another month or two for the cabbage flies/moths. Next year, I'll make a trap crop specifically to waste on flea beetles (and my bunnies). I'll keep part of it under row cloth to see if the larvae can travel much beneath the soil.

Bt for beetles (and the other Bt for flies and mosquitoes as well) is a conundrum. I'll try to find a source but as Ben said, it is expensive. No, Neem won't work. Pretty amazing seeing that NEEM is used for so many different applications. Not in my vegetable garden though!

The only thing I've found that works is a TRAP CROP. I was lucky that I actually had one accidentally.


Try Spinosad. It worked for me in zone 8. I had a terrible infestation of flea beetles.

  • Wow! Thank you! I'd forgotten about my question! What I found is that no spraying at all is necessary. The best practice I found and actually had one in place without knowing was having a 'trap crop' designated near 'cash crops'. Mine was a 6'X6' raised bed I planted as my 'salad bowl'. I throw all kinds of salad greens, kale, carrots and radish seeds into a pizza hut pepper flake shaker. Then lightly sprinkle this mixture on the top of the bed, flip a thin layer of soil from the sides 1/8 inch no more and firm with a rake. There were lots of mustards mixed in and that is what the...
    – stormy
    Sep 12, 2016 at 18:35
  • ...flea beetles ate. I had all their other favorites in my garden but this was the only stuff they sorta ruined. But it only lasted a few weeks and they were gone. That salad bowl has so much growing in it that after a few thinnings (first the radishes), then all the stuff bolting like the mustards and spinach (tough weather here) and then the lettuces (we ate baby lettuce salads constantly as well as throwing plenty to my bunnies). Now there is plenty of room for maturing lettuces and carrots. Spinosad is not for food crops nor should it be used on any flowering plants, esp. the powder.
    – stormy
    Sep 12, 2016 at 18:43
  • It is a pretty awful neurotoxin and although I've heard it is approved for 'organics' it is not a safe pesticide. Fine for dogs and cats, fleas and hair lice. I am a Commercial Pesticide Applicator that has never used anything other than a little glyphosate and Neem. Commercially as well as my own garden use...On food crops I won't use any chemical I won't drink, grins! This 'trap crop' worked well. Those flea beetles love the brassicas yet not a one of my cauliflowers/broccoli were touched. Thank you for the answer! I hope this 'trap crop' works for you as well!
    – stormy
    Sep 12, 2016 at 18:51
  • @stormy actually Spinosad looks pretty safe if you wash your food before use -- see here npic.orst.edu/factsheets/spinosadgen.html
    – kevinskio
    Sep 12, 2016 at 20:06

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