Bugs with big appetite

Asked August 5, 2015, 9:51 PM EDT

I found these bugs eating my potato & eggplant leaves down to the stem.Do you know what they are and how to get rid of them.I have been gardening for over 25 years and never came across them. This year to try to eliminate weeding,we put down barrier cloth and used straw for mulch. I'm guessing they may have hatched from the straw,because they have no wings.

Lackawanna County Pennsylvania

3 Responses

It may be a larval stage of the Colorado potato beetle, a pest originating in Colorado but now found through out the United States. They are a pest of potato, tomato, peppers, and egg plant plus weeds in the nightshade family.
If you take a sample to your local Penn State Extension, they will send it to Penn State entomology for positive identification. When they identify the insect, they will suggest a remedy. I urge you to have them identified because I can only give you a general answer based on a likely candidate given the signs and symptoms.
When the insects reach the adult stage, they start mating and laying eggs, Many insect predators eat the eggs, but of course some will survive. They hatch and drop into the soil where they overwinter.
Right now, you can hand pick them and drop them into a container of rubbing alcohol to kill them just as you would Japanese beetles. You can scout for eggs on weeds in the nightshade family and on leaf debris in your garden. If you find them, drop them into the alcohol as well. Here is a link to a publication from the University of Nebraska called Colorado Potato Beetle.
As for how they got to your garden, they could have come in as eggs if you purchased plants rather than grow your vegetables from seed. The adults could have flown in last year and deposited eggs on your plants or nearby weeds. They locate their food by smell, and someone nearby may have started the infestation by bringing in plants with eggs under the leaves. Unfortunately, once a pest arrives in an area, they home in on their food source and try to live as close to it as possible.

Thank you Eileen! I have been handpicking them and placing them in a sealed plastic bag to suffocate them. I did find an adult Colorado potato beetle on my eggplant, the other day and have found orange colored egg like things dangling on the underside of leaves,squished them too.

Great I hope you take them to your Penn State extension so rhey know that insect in in your area.