Flea Beetles

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.

potato flea beetle and damage
Typical flea beetle damage and beetles on potato leaf.

corn flea beetle
Most adult flea beetles are very small ranging in size from 1/16 –1/8 inch long.

flea beetle on broccoli
They vary in color from black, bronze, bluish, or brown to metallic gray, while some species have stripes. All flea beetles have large back legs which they use for jumping, especially when disturbed.

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Identification and Control Information

[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]