As the growing season moves forward I wanted to alert everyone to be on the lookout for a Physalis pest that has started to appear this season. The three-lined potato beetle (Lema daturaphila) is found on solanaceous crops (members of the nightshade family) and their larvae can cause extensive damage to Physalis plants. The adult beetles appear in early June and lay clusters of orange eggs on the underside of Physalis leaves (pictured below).
Around mid-to-late June the larvae will emerge, and begin to feed on the Physalis foliage. It is during this stage that plants can become severely damaged (see picture below). Last year most affected plants did recover, however there were a few instances of no recovery.
To control the infestation of these insects we recommend removing adults and eggs as soon as you see them. One method of removal is to brush them off into a pail of soapy water (though old-fashioned squishing works too!). If larvae do appear, get rid of them as soon as possible. At our Ithaca field site I am already finding adults as well as eggs on both Physalis pruinosa and Physalis peruviana, so keep your eyes peeled and be ready to take preventative measures.