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Collecting Leafy Spurge Flea Beetles for Biocontrol (06/14/18)

The southeast corner of North Dakota has accumulated enough degree days to start scouting for leaf spurge flea beetles for biocontrol of the noxious weed leafy spurge.

Collecting Leafy Spurge Flea Beetles for Biocontrol

The southeast corner of North Dakota has accumulated enough degree days to start scouting for leaf spurge flea beetles for biocontrol of the noxious weed leafy spurge.

There are several companies that commercially rear leaf spurge flea beetles for purchase (see information below), if you don’t have time to collect leafy spurge flea beetles. Here’s an updated article from last year’s Crop & Pest Report to refresh your memory on biocontrol using Aphthona flea beetles.

Leafy spurge is flowering in ditches and pastures. Farmers and land owners can use leafy spurge flea beetles (Aphthona species) for effective biocontrol of leafy spurge. Adult Aphthona flea beetle feed leafy spurge foliage causing severe defoliation and on the roots as larvae. However, the larval root feeding injury causes the major damage to water and nutrient uptake, and storage. These flea beetles are host-specific to the leafy spurge plant, which makes them an ideal biological control choice.

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To determine when to begin scouting for adult flea beetles, use the accumulated growing degree days (AGDD) for sunflower (base of 44 F) on NDAWN - sunflower degree days/growth stage application. Select the “Map” tab, enter “2018-03-01” for planting date and select “growing degree day” for map type.

Begin scouting for adult flea beetles when the sunflower AGDD approaches 1,000. Flea beetles should be collected between 1,200 and 1,600 AGDD using the sunflower GDD model. Currently, North Dakota ranges from »890 AGDD in the northwest to 1074 in southeast (see map below).

Adult flea beetles can be collected easily with sweep nets. After late July (or 1,600 AGDD), flea beetles begin to lay eggs and should not be moved or collected. Leafy spurge flea beetles typically take three to five years to establish and reduce leafy spurge infestations.

To find collecting sites for leafy spurge flea beetle, contact your local county weed office (number listed in local phone book). Leafy spurge flea beetles also are available commercially for purchase at Biological Control of Weeds or WeedBusters BioControl in Montana. (

An excellent resource on leafy spurge flea beetles is available on NDSU Extension Service publication website entitled Leafy Spurge Control Using Flea Beetles W1183 by Rodney Lym.

Note:  Please note that mention of any company is not an endorsement by NDSU or the author.

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Janet J. Knodel

Extension Entomologist

This site is supported in part by the Crop Protection and Pest Management Program [grant no. 2017-70006-27144/accession 1013592] from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed are those of the website author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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