Flea Beetles myth vs reality (Gardening - General)

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Gardening references which I have seen so far describe flea beetles as a minor pest - critters that eat a few holes into vegetables such as radish and that they can jump a few feed. Basically, nothing to worry about. My experience this fall has been different.

The only response that a ever got to my inquiries was from a professor at Colorado State University. He pointed out that there is indeed reason to be concerned. My letters to the Provincial Government, the Federal Government and to BASAF - the big pesticide manufacturer - have fallen on deaf ears. So, I thought I share my experience with you; in particular anyone who sees big-scale canola farming come close to his/her market gardening operation.

In 2001, I relocated my market gardening operation from the West Kootenays to just South of Calgary, Alberta, Canada; i.e. to an open prairie environment. Everyhting went fine until the last days of August 2001 when my entire fall crop of lettuces, Oriental Greens, Spinach, Kale and Swiss Chard was destroyed by flea beatles. The infestation went from zero to each and every leaf literally coated with millions of flea beetles within 48 hours. Black was the predominat colour - not green. The flea beetles gobbled up everything leaving just a few stalks standing. I tried to control the infestation with Sevin but I had not the slightest chance against the incredible numbers of flea beetles.

From the e-mail reply from a professor of the Colorado State University I learned that earial samples taken by air plane showed considerable concentrations of flea beetles. This demonstrates the immense mobility of these critters.

The flea beetles become dislodged during the canola harvest and virtually 'rain down' by the million on anything left after the canola has been cut down.

I also learned that canola is not quite as widely grown in the USA as it is here in Western Canada. This makes the results from those aerial samples the more worrisome.

In addition, I learned that canola is virtually drenched in pesticides by the time it is harvested: the seed is treated plus the emerging crop is sprayed heavily every so often. Still, the flea beetles thrive in unconceiable numbers in those canola fields.

-- Alex Eckardt (eckardtk@cadvision.com), December 17, 2001


Response to Flea Beetles myth vs reality

I had DE problems my last year in Colorado. DE should have worked, but I noticed little difference. I resorted to squishing them by hand - gotta be quick! :) Policing twice a day for three or four days reduced their numbers to about one tenth.

It seems that DE should be effective. Especially if you have such large numbers. I wonder if you could wear a clean suit and make a cloud of DE in your garden.

-- Paul Wheaton (paul@javaranch.com), December 18, 2001.

I've had good luck with spraying soap, but I've never had an infestation close to what you've experienced.

-- Steve - TX (steve.beckman@compaq.com), December 18, 2001.

Gotta love that GMO canola, huh?

-- Laura Jensen (lauraj@seedlaw.com), December 18, 2001.

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