Leaf Beetles are insects which measure 1/16 to 1/4 inch in length. They come in a variety of colors and patterns. As their name suggests, Leaf Beetles feed on the foliage of African Violets, chewing small holes at the edges of the leaves.
Because Leaf Beetles come in a variety of color and patterns, you will almost certainly need an insect field guide to identify them. However, if you spot insects which look like beetles, and you find holes in the leaves as described above, your African Violet is probably being attacked by Leaf Beetles.
If possible, remove Leaf Beetles by hand. For heavier infestations, you may need to spray with Malathion (1 teaspoon of Malathion 50 per 4 liters of water). Please note that Malathion may discolor the flowers of African Violets. If this happens, do not be overly concerned. The discoloration is only temporary and will cease as new flowers open.
As an alternative to traditional chemical treatments, try spraying with Neem (Azadirachtin). Neem is a substance which has natural insecticidal properties, and according to currently available research, it is biodegradable and non-toxic. When sprayed on African Violets, it discourages Leaf Beetles by making the plant unpalatable. Though Neem does have some systemic effect in plants, spray it as you would other contact insecticides, being sure to cover those areas where Leaf Beetles tend to attack.
When working outside, always change clothes before working with indoor plants. Leaf Beetles may get trapped in clothing where they can go undetected until they find their way to your African Violets.
Important Note on the Use of Pesticides
Please note that almost all pesticides are formulated for specific uses and conditions. When applied incorrectly, pesticides can cause ill health or damage to plants. Therefore, when using any kind of pesticide or chemical treatment, always apply as indicated on the product label.
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