How to Kill Tortoise Beetles

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Tortoise beetles often feed on the foliage of the sweet potato plant.
Tortoise beetles often feed on the foliage of the sweet potato plant. (Image: Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images)

The tortoise beetle is a small, oval or round beetle of the order Coleoptera. It is about 1/4 inch long and is rarely seen as a pest. However, the golden tortoise beetle is known to feed on the leaves of the sweet potato. The golden tortoise beetle is a solid gold color. When disturbed, it can change to orange and black. Tortoise beetles do not often cause enough damage to concern growers, but large infestations can seriously damage crops. There are several simple steps you can take to control a severe infestation of tortoise beetles.

Things You'll Need

  • Gardening gloves
  • Insecticide

Put on your gardening gloves. Destroying a tortoise beetle infestation can be labor-intensive and it is important to protect your hands.

Remove any morning glory vines in your garden or nearby areas. The tortoise beetle will also feed on the leaves of the morning glory plant. Removing them removes one of the tortoise beetles' potential food sources. The morning glory plant is identified by its brightly colored, trumpet-shaped flowers.

Remove any tortoise beetles or larvae by hand. Check the underside of host plant leaves. Tortoise beetles feed and lay eggs on the underside of leaves. Eggs are 1/16 inch long, whitish in color and appear in clusters of 15 to 30 eggs. Larvae are 3/8 inch long and have spines on their sides. Larvae also have two large spines on their backs.

Apply insecticide directly to the affected plant's leaves to ensure that the infestation does not continue. Use an insecticide containing the chemical carbaryl. Apply no more than 10 pounds per acre per crop.

Tips & Warnings

  • Healthy plants usually will survive most tortoise beetle infestations with little trouble. Make sure to adequately fertilize and irrigate to ensure that plants can survive leaf damage caused by an infestation.
  • Read the label carefully before applying any fertilizer or insecticide. Many contain harsh chemicals that require caution when used.

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