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Protect seedlings from flea beetles

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Sally Smith Sally Smith | 09:36 UK time, Thursday, 26 August 2010

Organic gardener Sally Smith answers your questions about how to get rid of flea beetles. If you have a similar problem with your Dig In seedlings, share your experiences in the comment section below.

Lucinda from Redhill asks: Most of my salad leaves, especially the mizuna and rocket are being munched by some very small black beetles. The mizuna and rocket leaves have lots of tiny little holes on the leaves. What are they and how can I get rid of them?

Answer: The beetle pest you describe is called Flea beetle, there are several species that particularly attack crops in the cabbage family (brassicas) causing tiny holes and pits in the leaves. New seedlings are vulnerable, mizuna and rocket are particular favourites and attacks can start even before the leaves have emerged. Numbers of adult beetles are often high at this time of year when field brassica crops are harvested and especially during dry weather, they can fly over a kilometre to find fresh food plants. Females lay eggs in soil near the plants and roots may be attacked too as larvae start to feed. Cultivating the soil by carefully hoeing along the rows and clearing up plant debris will help to reduce numbers and hopefully as the crops grow away, damage will be less severe.

With a pest like flea beetle, prevention is more effective than cure, sow new rows in fresh ground under fleece leaving it in place throughout cropping to prevent beetles reaching the crop. Ensure that seedlings grow away quickly, water regularly in dry weather.

If you want to use a chemical treatment on the existing plants, a pyrethrum spray would be effective, follow the manufacturers instructions.

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