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Blister beetles are a common pest.

COUNTRYSIDE: In response to S. Reinshagen seeking help with blister beetles (Nov./Dec., 2006 page 27): We had the same problem with blister beetles destroying our tomato plants. I discovered the solution by accident. Plant marigolds in between your tomatoes, just make sure to plant the kind that have a strong odor. I think they are the French variety. We haven't seen a blister beetle in the garden in five years. I hope this works in your area.--Barbara Holland

COUNTRYSIDE: In response to the letter for help with blister beetles: Blister beetles are easy to control. There are a few simple tricks you need to know. 1. When you start spraying them with an insecticide, they tend to run off. Start spraying a two-to-three foot diameter circle around the patch that they are in. Rotenone/pyrethrin sprays work.

You may have to spray several times during the later summer, as more beetles move in from surrounding areas.

Blister beetles are poisonous to animals that eat them. They can kill a full-grown horse, even if the beetle is dead in the dry hay that the horse ate. The name blister beetle comes from the fact that they do cause blisters on humans.--Norman Kilmer, Barnett, Missouri

COUNTRYSIDE: I have been plagued with blister beetles for the past several years. I do not know how to get rid of them, but I seem to be able to keep them under control, and it is not easy. The first year I had them, I tried any spray that was approved by organic methods, and they did not slow the buggers down at all. Since that first year when they devoured my tomato plants, I now hand pick them. You need to be very diligent--I do "bug patrol" every morning when they are feeding and catch between 30 to 50 bugs every day for almost two months. Morning is the best time to be able to catch them, later in the day they are too nimble and drop to the ground and disappear.

I carry a one pound coffee can about 1/3 full of diesel fuel. Just pick the blister beetle off the plant and drop in the can. I use diesel fuel because it has few fumes and does not evaporate like gasoline. My blister beetles are black with grey stripes, and I have noticed a new blister beetle the past two years which is brown and grey, wider and longer than the black beetles, and if you can believe this, it is faster than the black ones. My tomato plants survived the beetle attack very well this year.--Beth Zaring, Wellston, Ohio

COUNTRYSIDE: If I see blister beetles on a plant, I shake them off (use a stick) and then spray top and bottom of leaves with an enzyme spray intended to get rid of pet odors (the brand I use is called "Out!"). I can't tell you now whatever possessed me to try that spray, but it works--the beetles rarely come back again to that plant.--Lif Strand, New Mexico

Ed. note: Do be careful of spraying non-food-type products on your plants. Here's a better idea:

COUNTRYSIDE: I use a one quart spray bottle filled with water and about 1/4 teaspoon of liquid dish soap (we use Dawn[R]). Shake well and spray thoroughly, hitting as many of the beetles as possible. This will not hurt the plants but seems to kill the beetles almost instantly. You may have to do it a couple of times to get all of them. After the plants are finished and out of the ground, I would use the same mixture, with a couple of tablespoons of mineral oil added, to spray the ground where the plants were to smother any bugs or eggs that might try to winter over.--S. Frigon, Wyoming
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Title Annotation:Country conversation & feedback
Author:Holland, Barbara; Kilmer, Norman; Zaring, Beth; Strand, Lif; Frigon, S.
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Jan 1, 2007
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