Why you're seeing more of these flea beetles in the Portsmouth area recently

Swarms of tiny black flea beetles have been spotted across the county in recent weeks.

Tuesday, 17th September 2019, 5:25 pm
Updated Tuesday, 17th September 2019, 6:38 pm

The Pyramid Centre in Southsea was forced to close for three days after insects got into the air conditioning vents.

While footage captured a swarm of the beetles jumping out of bushes and taking flight in the yachting village of Hamble, near Southampton, on Friday afternoon.

In the video the insects can be heard making a sound like a crackling open fire which caused one person to think the ‘bush was catching fire’.

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The beetle swarm in Hamble, Hampshire. Picture: Simon Czapp/Solent News & Photo Agency
The beetle swarm in Hamble, Hampshire. Picture: Simon Czapp/Solent News & Photo Agency

The beetles were also causing a nuisance at the Southampton Boat Show in Southampton, and were spotted 45 miles further along the coast in Poole, Dorset.

But why are they appearing more regularly in our area recently? Here’s what you need to know:

What are flea beetles?

Known by the scientific name Alticini they are insects.

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The flea beetles are part of the leaf beetle family and they are small, jumping beetles.

They can be beneficial or pests depending on the species.

For example some flea beetle species are beneficial because they feed on weeds and similar nuisance plants.

However many major agricultural crops are attacked by flea beetles, including various cruciferous plants such as mustard and rapeseed.

Numerous garden plants are also subject to flea beetle feeding and the insects execute their most severe attacks during dry weather and are most active on sunny days.

Why are we seeing them more in our area?

The increase in flea beetle activity recently has been linked to the warmer weather our region has experience in recent weeks.

This has caused the beetles to stick around a little longer, as they would normally have found sheltered spots in deciduous woodland to see out the winter.

Farmers Guardian Insights reports that a Rothamsted Research study found that the number of flea beetles that are resistant to insecticides is increasing.

PhD student Caitlin Willis, who is leading the study says: ‘The state of resistance is pretty much as expected.

‘Compared to the 2018 resistance monitoring data, the percentage of resistant cabbage stem flea beetles per sample has increased, an increase now observed across most of England.

‘Although only 50 samples were tested in bioassays in 2018, of these samples all bar one sat in the 0-75 per cent level of resistance categories.’

Have you spotted any flea beetles recently? Share your experiences in the comments below.