Spraying Too Much: Understanding the biology of the red headed flea beetle to inform IPM in nursery crops

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2021: $16,480.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2024
Grant Recipient: Virginia Tech
Region: Southern
State: Virginia
Graduate Student:
Major Professor:

Information Products


Not commodity specific


  • Crop Production: nurseries
  • Pest Management: integrated pest management

    Proposal abstract:

    The red headed flea beetle, Systena frontalis (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) is an emerging pest in nursery crops in the Southeastern US, costing millions of dollars for controlling this defoliator. Growers in Virginia spray up to three times a week, during the peak of the season, to control this pest. Excessive use of insecticides contradicts all the notions on sustainable agriculture, negatively impacting the environment, non-target organisms and the wellbeing of growers and consumers. This research is proposed to better understand the biology, phenology, and damage potential of this devastating beetle in ornamentals. Both a combination of in-field and greenhouse work will let us elucidate the biology of this beetle. This proposal will also lay the foundation of knowledge and fill up information gaps on this pest, to propose the implementation of an IPM program to control this beetle. Seasonal as well as daily activity monitoring will be performed to determine times of the day and times of the year where less spraying of pesticides may be needed. Phenylethyl alcohol lures will be placed in the field in an effort to establish them as a viable method of cultural control to attract the red headed flea beetles away from target crops. Foliar damage quantification based on adult density will also help in ascertaining what damage quantity and type is being caused. The ultimate goal is to establish an IPM program for this pest, improving the sustainability of nursery systems, and reducing the overall use of insecticides to protect the systems involved.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The major goal of Ms. Lane’s research is to increase knowledge of the biology, ecology and management of the red headed flea beetle under nursery conditions. Better informed decisions on pest control by growers will ultimately result in reduced operational costs, decreased insecticide use, and preservation of beneficial insects. The specific objectives for this proposal are as follow:

    1) Document the phenology of adults under commercial nursery settings.

    2) Compare the performance of yellow sticky cards vs. transparent sticky cards, with and without a lure of phenylethyl alcohol, to capture adults in commercial nurseries.

    3) Document the foliar damage potential from different densities of adults and their tissue preference (young vs. old) within the canopy of Hydrangea plants under greenhouse and non-choice assays.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.