Fuchsia flea beetle

Metallic blue fuchsia flea beetle adults and their black larvae can feed on the leaves of fuchsias and Zauschneria.

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Fuchsia flea beetle

Quick facts

Common name Fuchsia flea beetle
Scientific name Altica species usually A. lythri
Plants affected Fuchsia and Zauschneria
Main symptoms Holes in leaves
Most active April-September

What is fuchsia flea beetle?

There are more than 100 species of flea beetle in Britain and they belong to the larger group of beetles known as the leaf beetles (Chrysomelidae), most do not feed on garden plants or have a noticeable effect on them. They are called flea beetles because they have enlarged hind legs which enable them to jump long distances.

At 5mm (¼in) long fuchsia flea beetles are larger than most other flea beetles found in Britain.  They are metallic dark blue and in gardens feeds on Fuchsia and occasionally Zauschneria, evening primrose (Oenothera) and Potentilla. In the wild it feeds on a range of plants in the Onagraceae especially willowherbs (Epilobium and Chamaenerion). It overwinters as adults which emerge in the spring, sometimes in large numbers.

​The adult beetle is sometimes confused with blue mint beetle and alder leaf beetle. The former is slightly larger than fuchsia flea beetle and found on mint. The latter is found on trees, usually alder. 

The black caterpillar-like larvae of fuchsia flea beetle also feed on the leaves of host plants. Larvae can be found on the leaves from April to August. 

The adults and larvae feed on the shoot tips and leaves, resulting in holes in the foliage and in some cases brown patches where only one surface of the leaf has been eaten.

Control

Light infestations of fuchsia flea beetle can be tolerated as small amounts of leaf loss will not affect the vigour or overall appearance of the plant.

Check susceptible plants frequently from spring onwards so action can be taken before a damaging population has developed. When choosing control options you can minimise harm to non-target animals by starting with the methods in the non-pesticide control section. If this is not sufficient to reduce the damage to acceptable levels then you may choose to use pesticides. Within this group the shorter persistence pesticides (that are usually certified for organic growing) are likely to be less damaging to non-target wildlife than those with longer persistence and/or systemic action.

Non-pesticide control

  • Where possible accept these beetles as part of the biodiversity a healthy garden can support or tolerate their presence
  • Remove adult beetles and larvae by hand where practical
  • Encourage wildlife in the garden, such as birds, frogs and predatory ground beetles who will eat the larvae and sometimes the adult beetles.

Pesticide control

The RHS believes that avoiding pests, diseases and weeds by good practice in cultivation methods, cultivar selection, garden hygiene and encouraging or introducing natural enemies, should be the first line of control. If chemical controls are used, they should be used only in a minimal and highly targeted manner.
  • Organic contact insecticides containing natural pyrethrins (e.g. Bug Clear Gun for Fruit & Veg, Neudorff Bug Free Bug and Larvae Killer). These pesticides although broad spectrum have a very short persistence and so may require reapplication to keep beetle numbers in check.
  • More persistent contact-action insecticides include the synthetic pyrethroids lambda-cyhalothrin (e.g. Westland Resolva Bug Killer), deltamethrin (e.g. Provanto Ultimate Fruit & Vegetable Bug Killer, Provanto Sprayday Greenfly Killer) and cypermethrin (e.g. Py Bug Killer)
  • A broad spectrum systemic insecticide containing the active ingredient Flupyradifurone (Provanto Smart Bug Killer) is available for use on ornamentals and selected edibles
  • The systemic neonicotinoid insecticide acetamiprid (e.g. Bug Clear Ultra) is also available

Follow label instructions when using pesticides. 
Plants in flower should not be sprayed due to the danger to bees and other pollinating insects
Inclusion of a pesticide product does not indicate a recommendation or endorsement by RHS Gardening Advice. It is a list of products currently available to the home gardener
 

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Pesticides for gardeners (Adobe Acrobat pdf document outlining pesticides available to gardeners)

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