Early season vegetable pests can be managed

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By David Harrison

 It is important to get vegetable seedlings and transplants off to a good start. There are a few early season insects that need to be managed to ensure plant establishment and healthy stands.  

Tobacco and potato flea beetles will attack both tomato and pepper plants. Usually, the plants will quickly outgrow moderate damage. Occasionally, serious damage can occur to plants less than six inches. Use four or more beetles per plant and plants less than six inches as the guideline for treatment.

Colorado potato beetles can also do serious damage to tomato plants less than eight inches. Use 10 beetles per 20 plants as the guideline for treatment when the plants are less than eight inches. 

Flea beetles and Colorado potato beetles also are serious early season pests of potato and eggplant. Use the same threshold for tomatoes above. Resistance to insecticides continues to be a serious problem for Colorado potato beetle. Because of this, growers should not use insecticides with the same mode of action for consecutive generations of this insect. 

Striped and spotted cucumber beetles can attack cucurbit crops anytime after seedling or transplanting. Cucumber beetles also transmit the bacterium that causes bacterial wilt. For this reason, cucurbit crops must be treated for cucumber beetles as soon as they are planted. With bacterial wilt susceptible crops, cucumber beetles need to be effectively controlled through the start of flowering.

Keep in mind that cucurbits are insect-pollinated, so measures need to be taken to control the beetles and avoid hurting pollinators. One method to avoid injuring pollinators during bloom is to spray in the early evening after pollinators have quit. The squash and pumpkin flowers that are open will be closed the next day and new blooms free of insecticide on the inner surface will be open the following day.