Food Gardening Network

Growing Good Food at Home

Dealing with Beet Pests

Beetroot covered in pests

Beetroot covered in pests

A couple notes about prevention:

  • Don’t overwater.
  • Use floating row covers when plants are young.
  • Place sticky traps to catch pests early.

Spot the symptoms of beet plant pests

Check leaves, bulbs, and flowers for these symptoms that come from pests on the prowl.

On Beet Leaves

Symptoms Pest
Yellowing leaves; clusters of small “bumps” on leaves Aphids
Discolored trails on leaves Leafminers
Stunted or deformed, yellowing leaves Beet cyst nematodes
Plants turn yellow and stop growing Beet leafhoppers (spreaders of curly top virus)
Heavily chewed leaves; leaves bound together with webbing Beet moth webworm
Chewed leaves (mostly affecting summer and fall crops) Blister beetles
Leaves cut off at soil level Cutworms
Tiny holes in leaves Flea beetles
Maggots in seeds; seeds fail to germinate Seed corn maggots
Webs on leaves; damage to underside of leaves; white or yellow spots on leaves; leaf drop Spider mites

On Beet Roots

Symptoms Pest
Leaves and stems break at the soil line; bulbs are infested with larvae Onion maggot
Yellowish cysts on roots Beet cyst nematodes
Tunnels in roots; plant appears stunted Vegetable maggots

How to treat pests on beets

Here are some proven ways to get rid of pests on your beets. Choose the best treatment for the type of pests invading your plants.

  • Pick off the pests. Use your garden gloves to remove the pests by hand. After removal, destroy pests by drowning them in a bucket of soapy water or crushing them with your foot. Handpicking isn’t efficient or practical for very small pests but works well with larger pests.
  • Blast them. If you spot invaders like aphids, give them a good blast with the garden hose. Chances are good the neighborhood birds will notice and come eat your pests.
  • Apply insecticidal soap. Insecticidal soap is organic. The potassium salts in insecticidal soap help remove an insect’s protective waxes, causing destruction of insect membranes and killing them. Mix the soap with water to create your solution and apply directly to insects on any plants. While insecticidal soap is less apt to affect other organisms, certain plants might be sensitive to the soap and can suffer leaf burn.
  • Apply horticultural oils. Combine plant- or petroleum-based oils with water to produce horticultural sprays. Neem oil, for instance, is derived from seed extracts of the neem plant. Oil-based sprays block an insect’s air holes, interfere with an insect’s metabolism, disrupt insect feeding, and inhibit insect growth. Like insecticidal soaps, horticultural oils can cause plant injury if not properly diluted.
  • Make your own pest spray. You can make your own pest spray with benign materials. Mix 1 tablespoon of baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon of a mild dish detergent, and 2 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil in a gallon of water to make a solution that will repel all kinds of bugs, as well as a fungicide for blight and mildew on beet plant leaves. Shake it well in your bottle before spraying and repeat every week for it to be continuously effective.
  • Diatomaceous Earth (DE). Sprinkle DE at base of plants and between plants. Many pests cannot cross over this barrier without dying.

Do pests attack your beets every year? How do you handle removing them—and even preventing them in the first place? Please tell us how you treat your beets to avoid pests.

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