Common Name: Flea beetle
Scientific Name: Varies
Description: Adult flea beetles are small (1/4 inch or smaller, often 1/16-inch long) leaf-feeding beetles with a segment (femora) of the hind legs enlarged for jumping. When disturbed these beetles actively jump. Body color varies by species. The potato flea beetle, Epitrix cucumeris (Harris), and the eggplant flea beetle, Epitrex fuscula Crotch, are black. However, some species are brownish or metallic. Other species have white stripes on their wing covers, such as the striped flea beetle, Phyllotreta striolata (Fabricius). There are many other species of leaf beetles.
Life Cycle: Development varies with species, but in general adult beetles spend the winter in leaf litter and become active in spring, feeding on leaves of weeds and other plants. They migrate to gardens and lay eggs singly or in clusters in the soil, in plant stems or on leaves, depending on species. Eggs hatch in about 10 days. Larvae are whitish, 1/8 to 1/4 inch long, and have tiny legs behind a dark colored head capsules. After feeding for 3 to 4 weeks, they pupate and emerge in 7 to 10 days. Several generations can occur per year.
Habitat and Food Source(s): Adult beetles chew small round or irregularly-shaped holes in plant leaves. Damage appears as if someone shot leaves with buckshot. Adult beetles feed on the leaves of a variety of wild, ornamental, and vegetable plants, particularly cucumbers, okra, peppers, tomatoes and eggplant. One bluish-black species, Altica litigata Fall, feeds on plants in the primrose family (Onagraceae) in high numbers. Larval stages feed on the roots and tubers of plants. Larvae of some species feed on or in foliage or tunnel into plant stems.
Pest Status, Damage: Injure leaves of plants as adults and plant roots, stems or leaves as larvae; adults can transmit some plant diseases through their feeding activities; medically harmless.
For additional information, contact your local Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agent or search for other state Extension offices.
Literature: Metcalf et al. 1962.