Insects (Maine Cranberries) - Red-headed Flea Beetle
Order: Coleoptera || Family: Chrysomelidae
Scientific Name: Systena frontalis (F.)
Unfortunately, no economic or action thresholds have been developed for this pest. [But in the event of a major outbreak like the one that was observed in Maine in 2009, it isn't very hard to judge when 'action' needs to be taken.]
General Notes: [see also pdf Fact Sheet out of Wisconsin] Adult Red-headed Flea Beetles feed on the outer surface layers of leaves (moreso the undersides of the leaves), leaving only the veins underneath, while usually leaving the top leaf surface intact. But they also gouge the berries, and overall, their feeding can significantly impact bud development for the following year if their populations are high, as they were at one site in Maine in 2009.
Description: As visible from the photos above, they are small insects (3.5 to 5 mm long), and are shiny and mostly black; there is a slightly reddish tint to their head that is visible when you look closely or especially when the sun catches it (see the 3rd photo above). Notice, too, their thick hind legs, which look a little like small grasshopper legs. This is what makes them good jumpers, and hence is the source of the ‘flea’ that’s part of their name, but they can also fly as well.
Life Cycle: There is only a single generation per year. They overwinter in the egg stage and although the eggs hatch reportedly in May (probably not until June for much of Maine), the adults don’t begin to show up on cranberry beds until late in July (or sometimes later). The adults remain on the beds for a couple of months, feeding, mating, and, when the time is right (late August – early September), laying their eggs, which are deposited just beneath the soil surface. Populations of the adults are often very patchy.
Control: For specific and current control recommendations for Maine for this pest, please refer to the Maine Cranberry Pest Management Guide.
Cranberry questions? Contact Charles Armstrong, Cranberry Professional. University of Maine Cooperative Extension || Pest Management Office || 491 College Avenue || Orono, ME 04473-1295 || Tel: 207.581.2967 [email: firstname.lastname@example.org]