Adult flea beetles are small leaf-feeding beetles with a segment of the hind legs enlarged for jumping. When disturbed these beetles actively jump. There are many species of flea beetles, some are general feeders, others attack only one plant or closely related kinds of plants. Flea beetles are common pests on many vegetable crops; in home gardens, they are common on crucifers, including radishes, broccoli, cabbage, and turnips, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, spinach, and melons. They also feed on strawberries and chrysanthemums. Some species attack shrubs and trees.
Adult flea beetles are active leaf-feeders that can, in large numbers, rapidly defoliate and kill plants. Symptoms of flea beetle feeding are small, rounded, irregular holes; heavy feeding makes leaves look as if they had been peppered with fine shot. Larval stages feed on roots and tubers. Larvae of some species feed on or in foliage or tunnel into plant stems.
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Identification and Control Information
- Home & Garden Insect Series: Flea Beetles (PDF)—Colorado State University Extension
- Flea Beetles Management—University of Vermont Extension
- Flea Beetles in Home Gardens (PDF)—University of Minnesota Extension
- Growing Small Farms: Flea Beetles—North Carolina Cooperative Extension
- Flea Beetle Pest Management for Organic Potatoes (PDF) (good comparison of many species of flea beetles, with pictures)—Oregon State University Extension Service
[Photos, left to right: Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Archive, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Bugwood.org; Russ Ottens, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org]