What do Potato Bugs Eat might be a silly question to ask, but it is equally important when it comes to getting rid of them!
If you ever grew potatoes, then you must have seen the infestation of small, extraterrestrial insects, crawling on the surface of leaves and near the roots. They can be quite a mess for your potato plants. They are known as potato bugs, and if you have questions hovering in your mind like What do Potato Bugs Eat and how to get rid of them, then you are at the right place!
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What are Potato Bugs?
Potato bugs are classified into two different categories:
- The Jerusalem Cricket
- The Colorado Potato Beetle
The Jerusalem Crickets or potato bugs (Stenopelmatus fuscus) are discovered in the western and southern regions of the United States. They are a group of wingless insects having large, human-like jaws, heads, and an alien-like appearance. Potato bugs are large and can be 2-3 inches in length. They also have amber yellow heads, legs, and thoraxes with black-brown rinds on the abdomen.
Colorado Potato Beetles (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) belong to the nightshade or Solanaceae family and are endemic to the United States except for Alaska, California, Hawaii, and Nevada. They barely reach an inch and have black vertical stripes with hard yellow-orange outer wings.
What Do Potato Bugs Eat?
Jerusalem crickets and Colorado potato beetles are called potato bugs due to their eating habits. The diet of Jerusalem cricket includes other insects, roots of vegetable crops, and of course their favorite potato tubers in the potato field.
On the other hand, Colorado potato beetles don’t just harm potato crops but other vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants from the Nightshade family. Female potato beetles lay eggs underneath the foliage, and the larvae survive by eating the leaves.
Also Read: What Earthworms Love to Eat
How to Get Rid of Potato Bugs?
Jerusalem crickets can ruin the crop if they come in large numbers. They can be prevented by the use of chemical insecticides, trapping, baiting, disposal, and physical removal of the eggs or beetles from the plant. It is a good idea to keep an eye on outdoor objects such as; lumber, woodpiles, and rocks that can become a hiding place for insects.
Colorado potato beetles can be controlled by crop rotation. They can resist many commercial pesticides, but you can use Neem oil. You can rely on the natural enemy of potato bugs, including birds from the shrike family and insects like spiny soldier bug that eats the eggs and larvae of the beetles. Handpicking is also an effective measure in a small garden.
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Are Potato Bugs Poisonous?
Potato bugs are not poisonous. However, these pests have toxin-rich saliva that can damage plants. For humans, without any toxin glands, potato bugs can not be considered harmful. Sometimes though a bite from a potato bug (Jerusalem Cricket) can be painful.
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Do Potato Bugs Bite?
Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket or Child of the Earth Bug bites are not poisonous, but they could inflict bad bites if it feels cornered or threatened.
If you spot a scary-looking bug with black and orange stripes in your home or garden, then you should remove it ASAP. Ensure safety to avoid getting bitten by the nasty bug’s strong jaws.
Tip: You should wear gloves while gardening to prevent getting bitten by these vast, ant-like creatures. Though the pain from the Jerusalem cricket is a non-toxic painful bite, it usually only lasts for a few minutes.
Do Potato Bugs Scream and Cry
The potato bug does not have wings and moves around by hoping and not chirp like field crickets. But the sound that they make has been compared to hissing or scratching sound.
If handled rudely, this insect can emit a foul smell. Despite the Spanish name – Nina de la Tierra, it does not cry like a child.
What Does Potato Bug Larvae Look Like
- They hatch out of yellow to orange eggs about 1 millimeter long on the bottom of leaves.
- They have two rows of dark spots on each side of their bodies.
- They can be easily spotted by the two rows of dark spots on each side of their shells.
- It is easy to confuse them with the false potato beetles that have alternating white and black stripes on their shells.
- When young, larvae cluster near the egg mass but begin to move throughout the plant and eat all the leaves.
Tip: You can carefully remove or crush the yellow-orange eggs from the bottom of the leaves. Also, drop the larvae in a bucket filled with soap water.