If you’ve spent any time in the garden, you might have come across pollen beetles, especially the types known as Meligethes aeneus and M. viridescens. These little insects, despite being just a few millimetres in size, can really make their presence felt. They’re particularly drawn to a variety of flowering plants, which unfortunately means they’re not just a common sight in our gardens but also in our floral arrangements. And let’s be honest, they’re pretty annoying. They sneak into blossoms, often ruining the hard work we put into our gardens and flower displays. In this article, we’re going to tackle exactly how you can show these tiny trespassers the door and keep your garden looking lovely.
What are Pollen Beetles?
Meligethes aeneus and M. viridescens, the two most common species of pollen beetles, are small, typically measuring around 2 to 3 mm in length. They are characterized by their shiny, metallic bodies, which can range in colour from black to greenish-bronze. These beetles are not just known for their distinct appearance but also for their resilient biology. They are hardy insects that can thrive in a variety of environmental conditions. The adults usually overwinter in the soil and emerge during the warmer days of spring, around April or May, to commence their breeding cycle.
What Do Pollen Beetles Eat?
Pollen beetles, true to their name, primarily feed on the pollen of various plants. They have a particular affinity for flowers such as daffodils, dahlias, marrows, runner beans, roses, shasta daisies (Leucanthemum x superbum), and sweet peas, among others. The lifecycle of these beetles is closely tied to their feeding habits. After overwintering, the adults lay eggs in the unopened flower buds of these plants. The larvae then emerge and feed voraciously on the pollen for about three weeks, after which they descend into the soil to pupate.
How to Get Rid of Pollen Beetles?
Getting rid of pollen beetles may seem like it will be very difficult but we have some tips to help you get rid of them for good.
1 – Homemade Solutions and Natural Deterrents
A simple yet effective homemade solution is a garlic spray. Crush a few cloves of garlic, mix them with water, and let the mixture sit for a day. Then, strain it and spray it on the affected plants. Garlic’s strong scent is a natural repellent for pollen beetles.
These remedies are effective as a deterrent. However, they might need to be reapplied after rain or watering, as they can wash off.
Rosemary oil is another natural deterrent that’s safe for plants but unpleasant for many garden pests, including pollen beetles. Mix a few drops of rosemary oil with water and a bit of mild soap to create an emulsion. This mixture can then be sprayed onto the plants. Rosemary oil not only deters the beetles but also imparts a pleasant aroma to your garden.
When preparing these solutions, ensure the concentration is strong enough to repel the beetles but not so strong that it harms the plant. Always test a small area first.
2 – Beneficial Insects and Natural Predators
- Introducing beneficial insects, like ladybirds (ladybugs) and lacewings, can help control pollen beetle populations. These insects feed on the beetles and their larvae, naturally reducing their numbers.
- Planting flowers that attract these beneficial insects can be a strategic and long-term solution for managing beetle populations.
3 – Horticultural Fleece
- Covering susceptible plants with horticultural fleece is an effective physical barrier. It prevents the beetles from accessing the plants while allowing light and moisture in.
- Ensure the fleece is secured properly around the plant, especially at the base, to prevent beetles from getting in.
4 – Manual Removal Techniques
- If you find beetles on your plants, you can manually remove them by gently shaking the plants over a bucket of soapy water. The beetles will fall off and drown in the water.
- Another method is to place the cut flowers or affected plants in a shaded area. The beetles prefer light and will leave the plants to seek brighter conditions.
How to Prevent Getting Pollen Beetles?
Preventing pollen beetles from taking over your garden is often more effective and easier than trying to get rid of them once they’ve settled in. Here’s how you can keep these tiny intruders at bay:
- Regularly inspect your plants, especially during the early flowering stages. Catching beetles early can prevent larger infestations.
- Keep your garden tidy. Clear away debris and dead plant material where beetles can hide and overwinter.
- Ensure good air circulation around plants. This can be achieved by proper spacing and pruning, which also reduces the humidity that beetles favour.
Companion Planting and Biodiversity
- Planting certain herbs and flowers can deter pollen beetles. For example, marigolds and chrysanthemums have natural compounds that repel many pests.
- Companion planting not only helps deter pests but also encourages a diverse range of beneficial insects that can help control beetle populations.
- If you notice a particular plant variety is more prone to beetle infestations, consider replacing it with a more resistant variety.
Regularly check for signs of pollen beetles, especially during warm, sunny weather when they are most active.
Can I Use Insecticide on Pollen Beetles?
When it comes to using insecticides on pollen beetles, it’s crucial to consider the broader impact on your garden and the environment. Here are some reasons to avoid chemical insecticides:
- Harm to Beneficial Insects: Many insecticides don’t discriminate between pests and beneficial insects. By using them, you might inadvertently harm or kill helpful insects like bees, ladybirds, and other pollinators that play a vital role in your garden’s health and the ecosystem.
- Environmental Impact: Chemical insecticides can seep into the soil, potentially contaminating groundwater. They can also affect non-target plants and animals, contributing to a decline in local biodiversity.
- Risk of Resistance: Overuse of insecticides can lead to pests, like pollen beetles, developing resistance, making them even harder to control in the long run.
- Health Concerns: Regular exposure to chemical insecticides can pose health risks to humans and pets, especially if not used correctly.
What Flowers Are Resistant to Pollen Beetles?
Choosing flowers that are resistant to pollen beetles can be a strategic part of managing these pests in your garden. While no plant is completely immune to pollen beetle infestations, some varieties are less attractive to them. Here are a few types of flowers that tend to be more resistant:
- Geraniums: Known for their vibrant colours and hardy nature, geraniums are generally less appealing to pollen beetles.
- Fuchsias: The unique shape and structure of fuchsia flowers make them less inviting for pollen beetles.
- Snapdragons (Antirrhinums): Their closed flower shape is not as accessible to pollen beetles, making snapdragons a less favoured choice for these pests.
- Foxgloves: The tubular flowers of foxgloves are not particularly attractive to pollen beetles.
- Petunias: Their funnel-shaped flowers are less likely to host pollen beetles.
- Begonias: Begonias are less appealing to pollen beetles, possibly due to their flower structure and texture.
- Impatiens: Known for their bright and varied colours, impatiens are generally not the first choice for pollen beetles.
In this article, we’ve taken a deep dive into the challenge of pollen beetles, those tiny yet troublesome visitors in our gardens. We’ve looked at various natural and sustainable ways to keep them in check, from whipping up homemade repellents to welcoming beneficial insects, and from setting up barriers like horticultural fleece to staying on top of garden maintenance and regular checks. The big lesson here is that dealing with pollen beetles doesn’t mean you have to immediately grab the insecticide. Instead, there’s a whole world of eco-friendly tactics out there. These methods not only help keep the beetles at bay but also support a thriving, healthy garden environment.
Garden Doctor Tips
“Create a repellent spray by soaking crushed garlic in water to naturally deter pollen beetles from your flowers!”
“Cover your plants with horticultural fleece as a physical barrier to prevent pollen beetles from reaching the blooms!”
“Attract ladybirds and lacewings to your garden, as they are natural predators of pollen beetles and help control their population!”
“Maintain a clean and tidy garden to reduce hiding and breeding spots for pollen beetles, keeping them at bay!”
Frequently Asked Questions
What attracts pollen beetles?
Pollen beetles are drawn to bright, open flowers, especially those that are yellow or white. They are attracted by the scent and the pollen of these flowers, making gardens with a variety of flowering plants particularly appealing to them.
What are the tiny pollen beetles?
The tiny pollen beetles, primarily Meligethes aeneus and M. viridescens, are small, black or dark-coloured beetles. They are about 2-3 mm in size and are known for infesting and feeding on the pollen of various flowering plants.
What are pollen beetle predators?
Natural predators of pollen beetles include birds, predatory beetles, lacewings, and parasitic wasps. These predators can help control pollen beetle populations in a garden ecosystem.
How do you keep beetles away?
To keep beetles away, use physical barriers like horticultural fleece, attract natural predators, maintain garden hygiene, and use natural deterrents like garlic spray or planting repellent flowers.
Are pollen beetles harmful to humans?
Pollen beetles are not harmful to humans; they do not bite or sting. However, they can be a nuisance in gardens and to flower growers as they damage blooms.
Where do pollen beetles come from?
Pollen beetles are commonly found in Europe and parts of Asia. They often originate from surrounding landscapes, especially from fields of crops like oilseed rape, which provide an ideal breeding environment.
Trevor Wright is not just a seasoned horticulturist; he’s the esteemed Garden Doctor. With a BSc in Horticulture and years of hands-on experience in the soil, Trevor has become a trusted mentor for all things gardening. As the founder of Garden Doctor, he’s committed to clarifying the intricacies of gardening, offering straightforward advice that’s rooted in years of practice. His writing is a garden of how-tos, savvy insights, and comprehensive guides that enable individuals to nurture and grow their garden dreams. When he’s not knee-deep in garden beds, Trevor is at his keyboard passing on his green-thumbed wisdom to budding gardeners, ensuring that the legacy of sustainable and joyful gardening blossoms far and wide.