Natural Pest Control

Natural Control for Pests in Italian Gardens

Pest control with small insects

The weather here in Italy is lovely right now with glorious sunshine, blue skies and warm temperatures- but we are not the only ones to make the most of it...!

More pests up close Pests on a leaf

As spring advances the pests in Italian gardens are multiplying by the hour in our vegetable gardens and flower borders- and they really mean business! Hungry and voracious after a winter hibernating underground, under leaf matter and in hedgerows they have their eyes on your vegetable patch.

The Flea beetle (Phyllotreta spp) is a tiny, industrious and social little insect that jumps rather like a flea when disturbed- giving it its name. Despite its minute size it can ravage small seedlings and young leaves in the vegetable garden by appearing in vast numbers that quickly set about eating tiny holes in the leaf's surface thus nearly destroying the plant.

The adult flea beetle emerges from its hibernation in early spring and has a flying range of around 1km, it soon lays masses of eggs at the base of the plant which soon hatch into tiny larvae that feed on the roots of the plant. On emerging they meet en masse in the nearest vegetable patch and begin devouring brassicas and other leafy, salad vegetables - leaving the leaves with large areas that appear to have been peppered by shot from a shotgun.

Flea Beetle eating brassicas

The flea beetle is a particularly nasty little pest, in that it is extremely mobile and difficult to eradicate- without using harmful, toxic pesticides. Covering the plants with a fine mesh after seeding can prevent the beetle from reaching the plant and the planting of more desirable 'trap' plants like the Chinese giant mustard (Brassica juncea 'Crispifolia') between rows or around the vegetable garden can reduce the infestation but its effects are somewhat limited.

Garden infested with flea beetles

Mulching the young plants with straw can benefit the plant by helping water retention and aiding healthy growth, but by far the most effective treatment is a simple crushed-garlic and hot chilli spray... let's do it the Italian way.

  • garlic recipie organic pest control6 cloves of garlic
  • 1 heaped tablespoon of chili powder
  • 1 sliced onion
  • 1 tablespoon of pure soap
  • 1 large bucket of hot water

Crush the cloves in the water and allow it to rest for a couple of days. flea beetles and how to get rid of themThen pour the mixture through muslin or an old sheet and the remaining liquid can then be used as spray.

Hot chili powder can also be dusted on the leaves of plants (preferably when leaves are slightly damp) to repel the flea beetle and other leaf eating insects. The application of simple potash at the base of the plant will deter the emergence of the insect after its larval stage.

By Jonathan Radford



Wednesday, February 04TH, 2009 by Guest

It seems that natural pest control in Italian gardens is almost the same as in our place. However, we deal with the same bugging problems that you do. Nice pictures - I might get some myself of my garden and post them soon somewhere here if possible.

Keep up the good work
-Ricardo from
How to Get Rid of Pigeons Blog

Monday, December 20TH, 2010 by Guest

Wow that's amazing. I didn't know I could use garlic to ward off garden pests as well (apart from Vampires, of course :D). But seriously this is a really great idea. I'm just hoping the beetles wont get immune to this concoction and come back stronger next season. Oh well, its worth giving this a shot. Thanks!
Sam from Pest Control in London

Saturday, April 13TH, 2013 by Guest

Ive had similar problems with my plants here in Southern California. I've not seen the insects, but the damage to the leaves looks exactly the same. Gonna try the chili powder