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Natural Flea Beetle Control, Kids and Cats in the Garden

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Duncan mudbucket

One facet of the warmer weather is that my son the Earth Rabbit (Chinese Zodiac sign) has taken to wallowing in the mud for long hours every day. Thankfully we are in the country and there are no close neighbors to complain about the pit he has dug in the yard. He is SO messy, and leaves a bit of a “Pigpen” trail behind him once in a while, but he loves it so much!

The cat seems pretty happy with the abundance of catnip volunteering all over the garden, too.


Warmer weather means the last of the transplants have come out of their shelter in the cold frame and the seeds planted earlier are finally starting to pop up out of the ground. What a slow start to the season! At least we didn't get flooded this year.

On the down seed, the bugs have also defrosted. Working at dusk last I got mauled by mosquitoes. Normally I rub down my exposed skin with a couple of handfuls of crushed catnip or other herbs, but I was stuffing in a few last transplants and my hands were muuuuuddyy! It got too dark to hunt down some plantain to crush and apply to the bites (this does work – my grandma used to call it medicine leaf), but Benadryl spray is a modern marvel. Sweet relief! (UPDATE:  I've learned how to infuse plantain into oil and make a salve out of it. It works even better than the Benedryl!)

The flea beetles are back in force, too, and chowing down on my pepper plants. Flea beetles are nasty little bugs that hop and are about the size of fleas. They start by chewing so many holes in the leaves that it looks like the plant has been hit by buckshot. As they continue feeding, they can completely defoliate a plant. A couple of plants are likely beyond hope. This is two days damage – nasty little buggers.

flea beetle damage

Others are hardly touched, and will hopefully stay that way. I'm trying a new approach – used coffee grounds and crushed eggshells. I read about using each of them on different gardening forums, so I thought I'd try to the two together.

coffee pepper

Update: The coffee grounds were effective on the flea beetles, the eggshells were not. ALL THE PEPPER PLANTS RECOVERED – even the ones that looked beyond hope! Eggshells do work great for keeping slugs at bay, and can be added to the planting holes of tomatoes to avoid blossom end rot. Another option to help prevent blossom rot is to put 2-3 calcium antacid tablets in the hole when planting. To improve fruit set on tomatoes and peppers, water new transplants with a mix of 1 tablespoon Epsom salts dissolved in one gallon of water.

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  1. Thanks so much for linking to Eco-Friendly Friday!
    Are flea beetles the buggers that eat up my eggplant leaves each year? If so, I am definitely going to try your coffee ground/fresh eggshells approach!

  2. Flea beetles are very naughty little bugs about the size of fleas. They hop and they can cause an amazing amount of damage in a very short time. First, the leaves look like they've been hit by buckshot, then wham! The plant has been chewed to a nubbins. Around here, they generally prefer my peppers, eggplants and beans, but they do minor damage to lots of crops. The coffee grounds are the best solution I've found so far.

  3. Have y’all ever gotten flea beetles in your house,i do what i can to not get bit,i spray the alcohol water mix,i got lemon grass and eucalyptus oil burning,i bought neme pesticide spray but you cant inhale it so I’ll do that right before i leave for work,i have lavender oil to,ive tried cortizone-10 it work 1 time,calamine spray nothing can someone help me stop the biting on my back legs,go up my nosecrawl on head and ears

    1. It sounds like you may be dealing with fleas, not flea beetles – completely different bug. Flea beetles chew up your plants. Fleas chew up you, and may be very difficult to clear out.

      Wash everything that it is possible to wash – surfaces, linens, carpets, clothing. If you can’t wash it, sprinkle on diatomaceous earth (DE) and vacuum. Repeat as needed until fleas are cleared out.

      Fleas can survive in furniture and carpet. Flea pupae can survive up to five months.

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