Potato flea beetles (Epitrix species)

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Potato flea beetles (Epitrix spp.) are native to North America and can cause serious damage to potato crops.

Plant damage

Flea beetle damage to a potato leaf
The adults feed on foliage producing characteristic “shot-hole” appearance to leaves, while larvae feed on roots and tubers.

It is this larval damage to the tubers that has a major impact on the appearance and quality of potatoes, which may render them unmarketable.

Furrowed potato tubers damaged by flea beetle larvae
Typical “shot-hole” feeding damage to potato leaves by adults (right) and furrowed tubers by larvae of the potato flea beetle (below right) ©Catherine Chatot, Germicopa SAS, France.

Recently, two Epitrix species have been recorded in Portugal and Spain, from which ware potatoes may be imported into Northern Ireland. While potato yields in Portugal have been largely unaffected, the economic value of the potatoes has been reduced. In addition, the damage caused by larval feeding may also affect tuber storage capability.

Epitrix cucumeris
Epitrix papa

 

 

 

 

 

Potato flea beetle development

Potato flea beetles complete their development on plants belonging to the family Solanaceae, but the adults may feed on a wide range of unrelated plants.

Adult Epitrix species are similar in appearance, being dark brown/black (1.5 -2.0mm) with a characteristic enlarged femur on each of its hind legs (see figures right ©Jean-Francois Germain, LPNV Montpellier).  This enables them to jump, particularly when disturbed.

Contact

It is essential to avoid introduction of this pest and potato growers and processors must be vigilant to ensure early detection.  If you notice any of the symptoms above or find a suspect beetle, please report the finding to DAERA Plant Health Inspection Branch at planthealth@dardni.gov.uk or by phoning 0300 200 7847 or AFBI at info@afbini.gov.uk.

For a copy of this information, download this leaflet here:

Potato flea beetles Epitrix species