The bitter beetle battle

flea beetle damage -

Flea beetle damage:  tiny holes (“shot holes”) in tomato leaves

They came like thieves in the night and bushwhacked my tomatoes.

{cue dramatic music}


And so begins another chapter of the bitter beetle battle.

Last summer, I successfully fought off an onslaught of Japanese beetles, only to be dealt a devastating defeat by the cucumber beetle.  Now, flea beetles have laid siege to my garden.

I discovered the tell-tale sign of the invasion when I noticed little holes in all the lower leaves of my tomatoes – the calling card of the flea beetle army.

Now… I prepare for battle.

Because I don’t like to use pesticides in the garden, I needed a natural remedy…

{drumroll}  100% Neem oil, castile soap and diatomaceous earth to the rescue.

Neem oil is a product of the seed of the neem tree.  It has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties and is a natural pesticide.  Neem oil needs a soap or fatty acid to keep it from sliding off the plants – enter the castile soap.  Castile soap also dissolves the outer shell of the bad guys, eventually killing them.  Now, you can buy a neem oil spray in most garden stores, but if you read the label, most sprays on the market contain 90% or more of “other ingredients.” What those “other ingredients” are, I don’t know, so I stay away from those types of sprays.


  • 1 tablespoon pure neem Oil (OrganicDews 100% Pure and Natural Neem Oil)
  • 1 tablespoon castile soap ( Dr. Bronner’s Fair Trade and Organic Castile Liquid Soap – Unscented)
  • 1 quart water

Mix well in a spray bottle.  Treat plants during the early morning or late evening to avoid burning the leaves.  Be sure to spray both sides of the leaves.  Before you spray the entire plant, you should test a small area of the plant and wait 24 hours and then check for any damage.


Next in the arsenal is diatomaceous earth (Diatomaceous Earth Food Grade), which is the fossilized remains of ancient aquatic creatures that lived in fresh water lakes millions and millions of years ago.  These diatoms have razor sharp edges which are fatal to the bugs and insects that come in contact with it, yet non-toxic to humans (you can actually drink it – it’s good for you).  You can dust the plants with DE when the morning dew is still on the leaves to help it stick or you can spray it on the leaves with a mix ratio of 2 cups DE per gallon of water. Make sure to keep the mix from separating by agitating the sprayer often.  Spray or dust the tops and undersides of all the leaves.  Rain will wash away DE, so you’ll have to reapply.  One warning with DE – DO NOT INHALE IT;  it’s best to wear a dust mask while working with diatomaceous earth.  Remember to purchase FOOD GRADE diatomaceous earth.

Let the battle begin.





One thought on “The bitter beetle battle

  1. Pingback: Colorado potato beetle | The Farmers in the Dell BLOG

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s