7 Companion Plants To Battle Those Dreaded Potato Bugs

These bugs (Colorado Potato Beetle) are a well known pest that target potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants and even your 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 plants.

Natural Ways To Repel

There Are Natural Ways You Can Try To Repel These Little Guys

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

There are other insects also commonly referred to as potato bugs, I added those at the bottom with reference links for more information on them.

How To Spot An Infestation: If you find leaves have holes or are damaged, check underneath and look for larvae or eggs, they can be a yellow cluster of eggs or larvae with orange and black. If you spot them simply remove the infested part and destroy.

A good resource for pictures of the eggs, larvae and adult beetle along with more detailed information about this pest can be found here: University of Tennessee (pdf).

Natural Deterrents: These are recommended as being suitable for repelling them, 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 growing, you’ll be herding cats (use in more remote areas rather than city or towns).
  4. Cilantro
  5. Coriander
  6. Tansy: Also repels squash bugs.
  7. Marigolds

Getting Rid of Them:

  • Manual control: Spot check leaves and shake off any that you see (or hand pick them off but make sure to wear gloves), dispose of immediately by crushing them.
  • 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 leaves 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 likely need to continue removal methods until all the adults and larvae 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 spray 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!

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 Bugs (because they roll up into a ball when aggravated). These guys are more attracted to dead plant matter (though they will munch away on young ones too). You can try attracting them away from the garden by setting out corn cobs and then dispose of them once they gather on the cob. You can find more information about them here.
  • Jerusalem Crickets: These are ugly! They feed on dead plant matter, you can learn more about them here.

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What Readers Are Saying: 6 Comments
  1. shirley says:

    Horseradish is invasive.

    • Judy says:

      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.

  2. Becky says:

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

  3. debbie T says:

    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.

  4. diane says:

    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.

  5. Tom says:

    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.

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