How to Identify Bugs on Red Potatoes


Red potatoes are cool-season root vegetables that have red skin and white flesh. Many different kinds of bugs infest red potato plants, some attacking mostly the above-ground plant parts and others tunneling into the soil to attack the potato tubers or roots. Some insects can severely damage the red potato plants, while others are merely a nuisance and don't warrant any control when they're present in small numbers. The most important part of treating an insect infestation of your red potatoes is to correctly identify the pest.

Step 1

Spot the potato tuberworm burrowing into the terminal stems and tunneling into the red potato's tubers, stalks and leaves, turning the potato tuber's eyes pink with its silk and excrement. Potato tuberworms are less than a half-inch long and dull white to pinkish with dark-colored heads.

Step 2

Look for dull-brown caterpillars that are typically hiding just below the soil surface during the day, and on the red potato plant's lower stems or leaves to spot cutworms. Cutworms have smooth skin with some visible markings and tend to curl into a C-shape when disturbed. These pests can destroy red potato seedlings, feeding on the stems, leaves and young potatoes.

Step 3

Identify aphids by their tiny size and soft, pear-shaped bodies with long legs, slender mouth parts and long antennae. Aphids often have pairs of tube-like "cornicles" growing out of their hind ends and may or may not have wings, depending on the species. You'll find aphids feeding in groups on the leaves and stems of your red potato plants throughout the growing season.

Step 4

Spot Jerusalem crickets on your red potatoes by looking for large insects that are up to 2 inches long with black and brown striped abdomens, large brown heads and long brown antennae. You can find Jerusalem crickets feeding on the red potatoes' roots.

Step 5

Look for shiny black beetles that are only 1/16 of an inch long and feed on the red potato plant's leaves to identify potato flea beetles. These bugs chew holes into the foliage during late spring and create white streaks on the leaves, causing the foliage to wilt and die when infestations are severe. Flea beetles jump like fleas when disturbed.

Step 6

Identify leafhoppers on your red potatoes by looking for curled or crinkled leaves on the plant. Leafhoppers are wedge-shaped, up to three-eighths of an inch long and green. These insects hop when disturbed and tend to move from plant to plant.

Tips and Warnings

  • Don't mistake cutworms for wireworms on your red potatoes. Unlike cutworms, wireworms are slender and yellowish with six short legs near their heads. Wireworms tend to resemble mealworms and feed on the potato plant's roots and shoots. Wireworms bore into the plant's stems and the red potato tubers.

Things You'll Need

  • Magnifying glass


  • UC IPM Online: Pests in Gardens and Landscapes -- Potatoes

Who Can Help

  • University of Illinois Extension: Watch Your Garden Grow -- Potato
Keywords: red potato pests, red potatoes insects, potato plant bugs

About this Author

Sarah Terry brings 10 years of experience writing novels, business-to-business newsletters, and a plethora of how-to articles. Terry has written articles and publications for a wide range of markets and subject matters, including Medicine & Health, Eli Financial, Dartnell Publications and Eli Journals.