6 Companion Plants To Battle Those Dreaded Potato Bugs

These pests (Colorado Potato Beetle) are a well known predator that target potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants and even our prized petunias! They not only thrive on the leaves, but are also known to feast on the fruit. If left unchecked, they will affect your garden’s yield and can kill young, tender seedlings.

You can get a step ahead of the beetles by growing certain plants that repel them (in ideal locations). I’ve listed a few recommendations below along with a section of tips that include recipes for a DIY spray which can be used to help keep these pesky fellows at bay.

There are other insects commonly confused with or misnamed as them, I added those at the bottom with reference links for more information.

How To Spot An Infestation: If you notice leaves with holes or other damage, check underneath. There will be a yellow cluster of eggs or larvae with orange and black. Simply remove the infested part and destroy.

A good resource for pictures of the life cycle along with additional details about this pest can be found here: University of Tennessee (pdf).

Natural Deterrents

These are recommended as being suitable for repelling the beetles, intercrop between potatoes or in the space between rows.

  1. Horseradish
  2. Bush Beans
  3. Catnip: Grow these in pots because it can be invasive…downside is that once the neighborhood cats figure out you’ve got the good stuff, you’ll be herding cats (danger diminished in more remote areas rather than city or towns).
  4. Cilantro (Coriander)
  5. Tansy
  6. Marigolds

How To Get Rid Of Them

Manual control: Spot check leaves and shake off any that you see (or hand pick each one off but make sure to wear gloves), dispose of immediately by crushing their bodies.

Did you know: Ladybugs consider the larvae a tasty treat, consider growing items in the garden that will attract them so you have a thriving ladybug population (some ideas: Marigolds, Tansy, Fennel and Dill).

Diatomaceous Earth: This is a non-toxic method of pest control, simply dust the plant and surrounding soil with the powder and repeat after each rainfall.

Keep In Mind: The larvae will go underground to pupate and then emerge as adults after 10 days or so, you’ll need to be diligent and continue removal methods until all of these have been dealt with.

Homemade Repellent Teas or Infusions

Here are two different recipes you can try, once they’ve cooled pour into spray bottles and apply as needed (for best results spritz fresh applications after each rain).

  • Tansy or Marigold Infusion: Fill a pot with freshly picked tansy (or marigolds), cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook until liquid has been halved. Strain, cool and use as needed.
  • Wild Mustard Tea: Steep 4 whole cloves, a handful of wild mustard leaves, a clove of garlic in 1 cup of boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool, then use as spray. Source: Jerry Baker’s Bug Off!: 2,193 Super Secrets for Battling Bad Bugs, Outfoxing Crafty Critters, Evicting Voracious Varmints and Much More!

Additional Information

Here are a couple other insects that are commonly mistaken as potato bugs (with resources to check out):

  • Pill Bugs (pillbugs), Roly Polys or Rolly Polly (because they roll up into a ball when aggravated). These guys are attracted to dead vegetation (though they will munch away on healthy, young stuff too). You can try enticing the critters away from the garden by setting out corn cobs and then dispose of them once they gather on the cob. You can find further info on this page (Wikipedia).
  • Jerusalem Crickets: Yuck, so ugly! They feed on dead plant matter, you can learn more at (Wikipedia).

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    • shirley

    Horseradish is invasive.

      • Judy

      Shirley is right. Only plant horseradish in a controlled area. I can take over a whole garden and is very difficult to get rid of once established. Perhaps a horseradish leaf infusion would be a better idea.

      • David Glanville

      Colorado potato beetle larvae do not go underground. They hatch from eggs on the under side of the leaves and start eating the plants right away. If the author doesn’t know this basic information, it makes me wonder…

        • Tipnut

        Hi David, the eggs indeed are found (and hatch) under leaves but check out the pdf I linked to in the article (from the University of Tennessee, Agriculture). They outline the life cycle. Larvae will burrow down in the soil to pupate.

    • Becky

    Hi – thanks for the info. I just wanted to caution people about using Diatomaceous Earth it can harm honey bees (our amazing pollinators). Thanks!

      • Sue

      So much good information, Thanks.

    • debbie T

    Diatomaceous Earth will also hurt earth worms. But if you must use it, find food grade, otherwise, you might be putting toxins into your soil/plants.

      • Lori Gulley

      I’m pretty sure diatomaceous earth only harms insects that have an exoskeleton so that would not include earthworms or honey bees. It does however include ladybugs.

    • diane

    Planting bush green beans next to our potatoes definately helped our Colorado Potato beetle problem. Tried it about four years ago, even planted our potatoes in the same general area year after year and have had no problem since then…and we definately had tons of nasty potato bugs. Green beans are easy to grow, cheap to buy and who doesn’t love gardening without using chemicals! Give it a try.

      • Yvonne Julia Wikstrom

      I had my green beans planted next to the potatoes and had lots of Colorado beetles. Using SEVEN powder pretty much got rid of them but now have beetles on my green eating leaves and beans .They are different bugs and try to fly when trying to pick them They’re dark brown and smaller than the other beetles. Pulled all my beans up, so hope those on the ground don’t go to the potatoes.

    • Tom

    I make a tea from my old cigarette butts, combine it with some dish soap and some neem oil and a little murphy’s oil soap and it seems to handle most of the problems. Also use coffee grounds for slugs-caffeine is a neurotoxin to slugs. Use dry corn masa or corn meal for fungus control. Aphids? Make a good heave soapy concoction of Palmolvive dish soap (original) I only use DTE directly around the base of the plant. I don’t want to kill worms.

    • anthony

    I would not enjoy eating potatoes infused with nicotine.

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