Battle Royale: Potato Beetles vs. Lady Bugs

Something’s eating our potato plants:


At first Kirk assumed it was cutworms because the stems looked sheared off, but we also have a whole bunch of these guys:


That’s a pair of Colorado potato beetles, working pretty frantically to make lots more little potato beetles. 

These bugs are notoriously destructive, and we’re losing potato plants by the day:


I’m not sure if they’ll sprout again or not, but even if they do, I doubt we’ll have much of a yield by fall, especially given our short growing season. These are our red and white potatoes, but our blue ones are in a different bed — one that so far seems to be in the clear. This weekend we’ll add some row covers to the blue potato bed to try to keep it that way.

We suspect that these potato beetles rode in on a load of compost from the city yard. This is ordinarily an excellent resource, but we’ve never had a problem before, and we were fine right up until adding city compost to hill up these plants. 

Potato beetles are also notoriously resistant to pesticides, so we’re trying instead to fight fire with fire:  


We picked up a bucket of ladybugs at the local nursery. You keep them in the fridge until you need them so they stay in a semi-hibernative state: 


When you’re ready, you water the plants and then sprinkle the ladybugs around at sunset, so they don’t fly away.

I used some on both potato beds and on my roses, which this spring are covered with aphids:


I haven’t seen any ladybugs in the potatoes since (though I haven’t looked very hard). I suppose I’ll also head out to pick beetles and eggs off the plants in the mornings to try to protect what’s left — and to keep them from settling in and figuring out where the tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers are.

The ladybugs do seems to be happy with all those aphids on the roses, though:


With any luck, the ladybugs will take care of the aphids and reproduce — these are always good bugs to have around!

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