Got them on a lot of my seedlings. I used bok choi as a catch crop but of course they are still attacking eggplant, beets, greens, and others. I've seen recomendations for neem, pyrethrin and the like. It's too late for row covers now so aside from spraying, what are the choices I have? I could let it go and hope for the best but I have a LOT of beetles.
Having a lot of one insect can be an indication your plants are under stress from unbalanced soil, wrong moisture levels, trying to grow plants out of season (too hot or too cold). So I would look at those factors first before spraying anything, because spraying to get rid of "pests" also gets rid of beneficial insects, so the garden predator-prey situation remains unbalanced.
Admittedly the soil is still in it's early state of rebuilding. I'm sure it's the soil but right now my situation doesn't allow for dramatic changes to it. I'm adding biomass in any form I can as mulch to build the soil naturally. Any suggestions on specific ammendments would help. I planted a lot of extra seeds knowing that I would have losses but nearly all the seedlings are looking pretty holey. So is there anything that will eat the flea beetles? Anything I can plant near these ares that repel the beetles? DE?
This is just my personal philosophy and what I do in my own garden: Don't do anything about the flea beetles, just tolerate them as you gradually improve the soil. It might take a year or more of "sharing" your plants with the critters for things to achieve balance. If you go after the bugs with any kind of pesticide it will affect the overall ecosystem health of your garden. So, big definite NO to diatomaceous earth, which also affects beneficial insects and pollinators. If you want to know more specifically what the soil needs you could get a soil test, but personally I would just keep adding a variety of organic matter and maybe some rock dust (I haven't used rock dust but probably should, just not sure where to get it). I found a reference to Wormwood being a good plant to repel flea beetles: http://www.gardentoad.com/companionplants.html
I'm just going to wait and see then. Last year I had some issues with cucumber beetles, which eventually balanced out. Lost a few small plants but hey... survival of the fittest. As conditions improve there will be fewer issues with pests i guess. Though I must admit, seeing them eating away at things is hard to sit back and watch.
Letting the plants get eaten is one of the hardest parts of developing an ecological garden. It seems wrong, we have a strong impulse to "do something!" even though not doing anything may be the best thing we can do.
I'm presently letting some absolutely huge Sphinx Moth babies eat on my tomato plants, because I'm worried they don't have anything else to eat out in the landscape and the moths are so amazing. I may have to move one caterpillar from a small tomato plant to a larger one, because he may be having a negative impact on this plant I want tomatoes from, but I won't kill him.