IMG_1874On a small farm in Miller’s Cove, Tennessee, a bean crop grows. With plentiful sunshine and an abundance of water from a natural underground spigot, bean stalks happily reach up tall towards the light, spreading their green leaves. Little do they know their leafy stalks are not safe from a tiny, spotted predator.

The Epilachna varivestis, or, as it’s better known, the Mexican Bean Beetle is a small but dastardly nemesis to the bean crop. Hailing from the species of lady beetles, the Mexican Bean Beetle attacks bean plants in a manner entirely unbefitting a lady. Measuring in at 6-7 millimeters in length, this bean beetle can range in color from light yellow to a burning red and loves moist environments. While adult bean beetles eat bean plants, the tiny larvae cause the most damage to the plants. The boisterous, ravenous larvae nibble on the flowers, pods and leaves, with the most damage afflicted on the leaves. You can tell a larvae of feisty bean beetles has been through bean town when leaves take on a lace-like appearance with brown spots amongst the green.

Natural Ways to Reduce Mexican Bean Beetle Population

On some farms, these bean beetles can be taken care of with unhealthy and unnatural pesticides. At Open Spigot Farm, we’ve made a commitment to grow our beans organically and with no pesticides whatsoever. We have to choose natural ways to rid our beautiful bean crops of these determined little bugs.

IMG_1875When it comes to ridding plants of these beetles, there are several actions to take to help bean plants. Since bean beetles thrive in July and August, it can be best to plant crops that do well early in the year so they won’t be a ready target by the time beetles hatch. If the bright yellow larvae pods start to appear on leaves or even fully grown adult beetles, picking them off by hand and placing them in soapy water will take care of them. Additionally, introducing natural predators like ladybugs, minute pirate bugs, green lacewings, toads and birds can help rid bean plants of beetles.

As the Mexican Bean Beetle works hard to feast on the entire heirloom bean crop, our knowledgeable and hardworking farmers work to prevent their takeover. When harvest time comes, we look forward to having a tasty crop of heirloom beans to call our own.