Potato Bug Bites – How To Treat

  • By: Ray Johnson
  • Date: June 20, 2022
  • Time to read: 10 min.

You probably have seen some scary bugs in your garden or backyard and identified the bugs as potato bugs. These bugs are also known as Colorado potato beetles and Jerusalem Cricket, while their scientific name is Leptinotarsa decemlineata

The bugs can be scary, especially when you spot them for the first time. This article delves into potato bugs and, among others, discusses whether they can bite, whether the bites can kill, what the potato bug bite looks like, and whether they bite at night.

However, before proceeding to discuss anything to do with the potato bug bite, let’s briefly look at the background of the potato bug.

Brief Overview Of Potato Bug

Potato bug origin can be traced back to Western North America. The bug initially fed on the buffalo bur plant, which belongs to the same group as the potato plant.

When potato cultivation commenced in Western North America in the mid-1870s, potato bugs spread to other regions where potatoes were cultivated. The bugs became a cause of concern for the farmers as they fed on the potato plants and ruined the farmer’s potato crop.

According to Lockwood (2008, p. 136), during the Cold War, the potato bug became a subject of discussion in the Warsaw pact as it was claimed that the USA had introduced the bug into East Germany, the People’s Republic of Poland, and Communist Czechoslovakia as a type of biological warfare.

One of the notable features of identifying a potato bug is the black stripes on the wing. In addition, the potato bug has a hemispherical shape, is approximately 0.4 inches long, is either orange or yellow, and has black stripes on its wing.

Why Are Potato Bugs Called Potato Bugs?

Since many bugs can be found in the garden, they have been assigned different names to differentiate them easily. In some cases, bugs have been named after the crops they love eating.

Potato bugs are called potato bugs since the bugs love eating potato blossoms and leaves. Indeed, initially, potato bugs used to feed on buffalo bur plants, which grew in the wild.

However, as the land was cleared and buffalo bur plant cleared, potatoes were cultivated. As a result, potato bugs started attacking potato fields; hence they were christened potato bugs.

Potato bugs eat potato stems and leaves. When they are many, the bugs can defoliate potato plants. Even though potato plants can cope with the infestation at early growth stages, any attack on potato plants by the potato bug after blooming can severely damage the potato crop.

Do Potato Bugs Bite

Potato bugs are passive and will not bite in most situations. However, if you interfere with the potato bugs and are agitated, they will bite you and bite you hard.

Even though potato bugs mainly eat plant leaves and plant stocks, they can also eat some bugs. This is because the potato bugs are especially isopods, which means their mouths have four different sections.

The other sections of the potato bug mouth are essential in the potato bug feeding process. They make it possible for potato bugs to eat plants, decaying plants, some bugs, and decaying animal matter.

Potato bugs have some big mandibles that can be scary if you haven’t seen them before. The strong jaws and mandibles allow the potato bugs to burrow the earth and even take off some roots as they look for plants and decaying plant matter to feed on. 

Unless you should leave them in the garden in situations where the potato bugs are wreaking havoc on your crops, the ability to burrow in the soil means that the bugs can play a significant role in ensuring that the soil is well aerated.

Moreover, when the Jerusalem crickets eat dead roots and other composing matter in the garden, they help improve the soil with organic matter. 

How Does A Potato Bug Bite Look Like?

Do you have a bite mark on your skin, and you are unsure whether it was a Jerusalem cricket that has bitten you? Some indicators can help you determine whether the bite mark is from a potato bug or not.

If you had a moderate and short-lived pain that lasted for 3-5 minutes, there is a high chance that a potato bug has bitten you.

A potato bug bite will also have a rash or itch on the skin, while you might also have a bleeding cut.

The Jerusalem bug bite can be identified by a small lump on the skin red in color.

You must note that potato bugs do not sting. Thus, if you have a sting, that should never be considered a potato bug bite.

Potato bugs can bite at night but only when they are provoked. If you do not irritate potato bugs, they will not bite. However, if you hold a potato bug at night with your hands and become irritated, it might bite you.

Potato bugs are always passive (if you leave them alone, they will not be bothered with you). If you find them in your bed, shake them off your beddings and then sweep them out. Don’t try to handpick them since they might become irritated and bite you. As long as you don’t distress them, potato bugs will not bite in bed.

Can Potato Bug Bite Kill You?

When a potato bug bites you, you might feel pain and probably even get sore. The saliva that the bugs could deposit to your skin as they bite you cannot kill you as the bugs do not have any poison glands, thus making the bite non-poisonous to human beings.

If you do not want to be bitten by a potato bug, you should look out for signals since before they bite humans, the potato buys will always give a signal.

Potato bugs don’t scream; when the bug is about to bite you, it will make itself bigger and then lift both legs. In addition, the potato bug will also make either scratching or hissing sound.

3 Ways To Treat A Potato Bug Bite

Once a potato bug bite has bitten you, you should not be worried since, as I already pointed out, the bite is not poisonous. Indeed, the pain should go away in a few minutes. However, if you feel that the bite is painful, here are three different ways to treat the bite.

Using An Ice Pack To Treat A Potato Bug Bite

Using an ice pack to treat the bite by Jerusalem cricket will reduce the pain since the coldness in the ice will constrict blood vessels and reduce circulation to the specific spot where the potato bug has bitten you.

To effectively treat the bite mark, make sure that you first cover the bite mark with a cloth to ensure that your skin is protected from ice burn. After that, place the ice pack on top of the bite for 10 minutes.

Treating Potato Bug Bite With Apple Cider Vinegar

As explained by Health Line, apple cider vinegar has antimicrobial properties and enzymes, probiotics, and vitamin C, which are capable of minimizing soreness, irritation, and itching. Besides, the solution also has skin curing properties.

To treat a potato bug bite with apple cider vinegar, you need to mix apple cider vinegar with equal water. After that, dip a piece of clothing or cotton ball in the solution and apply it to the bite mark. You can repeat the process every six hours until the pain is no more.

Treating Potato Bug Bite With Honey

Honey has various benefits to the skin. Indeed, some of the properties that make honey one of the go-to substances when one has skin pain aret has natural antimicrobial propertt is an antioxidant, has remarkable anti-inflammatory properties.

To use honey in treating the potato but bite mark, apply a good amount of honey to the bite mark and wait for 10 – 15 minutes.

Why Do I Have So Many Potato Bugs In My Basement?

Usually, potato bugs are commonly experienced during spring when potato plants emerge from the ground. The bugs love hibernating in burrows that they make in the soil under different objects that could comprise heap trash, leaf litter, and woodpiles.

You have many potato bugs in your basement because your basement has a lot of moisture and darkness. Jerusalem crickets require high moisture for their survival, which is why you have many potato bugs in your basement.

The presence of potato bugs in your basement should be seen as an indicator of damage to your foundation. Indeed, as the potato bugs seek refuge from hot weather and at the same time look for water for their survival, the bugs can enter the basement through cracks.

To get rid of the potato bugs in your basement, carefully inspect the basement and find cracks and crevices that the bugs used to enter the basement. Once you have found the cracks and crevices, cover them.

You can also use garlic solution by spraying it in the basement since garlic is irritant to the bugs, and they will free your basement as they can’t stay in a place where they are irritated. You also need to remove any decaying material in the basement while making sure that any leakages or other sources of moisture are repaired.

Can Potato Bugs Swim?

Potato bugs are mainly oval and have a yellow back covered with yellow wings with 10 black stripes. You might have probably found them in your swimming pool or other moist areas such as the bathroom and basement, leaving you wondering whether the bugs can swim.

Potato bugs have gills, making it possible to get water from any moisture in their surroundings. At times, their search for water might lead them to pods and swimming. However, once they get into a pool of water, they drown since they cannot swim.

Can Potato Bugs Climb Walls?

Many bugs can climb and cling to walls even when the walls are slippery, as is the case with glass walls.

Potato bugs can climb most walls since even if we might see the walls as a smooth surfaces and assume that the bug will fall, it will not. This is because the walls have minute pits and holes, which makes them porous.

Potato bugs can feel these minute holes and pits and tightly hold onto them with their stiff hair in the bottom of their legs, thus allowing them to climb walls.

Do Cats Eat Potato Bugs

Even though you might believe that cats eat bugs to get the much-needed protein present in many bugs, that is not the case. Indeed, the main reason why cats chase, kill, and eventually end up eating the bugs is because cats are natural-born hunters.

After all, cats can’t tell the kind of nutrients present in whatever they hunt.

If there are some potato bugs in your garden, yard, or house and the cat comes across them, the cat will first chase, hunt, and eventually kill some potato bugs. After killing the potato bugs, some cats will eat the bugs.

If your cat has eaten a potato bug, you shouldn’t be worried. Potato bugs are not toxic to cats. However, if the cat was to eat many Jerusalem crickets, the cat might show some symptoms such as painful stools, lack of appetite, and stomachache. It will take the cat some time to fully recover in such cases.

Moreover, if the cat hurriedly eats the potato bug without chewing it correctly, the cat could vomit.

Potato Bug Vs. Camel Spider

Even though a potato bug can be mistaken for a camel spider, the two are different from each other in their way.

In view of appearance, the potato bug is 3/8 about 0.4 inches long and is oval with yellowish-orange wings and 10 black stripes. A small camel spider is about 0.4 inches long when mature. The camel spider does not have any black strips.

A potato bug has 6 legs, while a camel spider has 8 legs. Indeed, even if you see that the camel spider has 10 legs, it is essential to note that it has two sensory glands that look like legs and are scientifically known as pedipalps.

In view of feeding, potato bugs mainly feed on plants belonging to the potato family. However, when there are no potato plants, the bugs can feed on tomatoes and other plants. They also burrow the earth and even take off some roots as they look for plants and decaying plant matter to feed on. Occasionally, the bugs can also feed on other bugs. They feed on silverfish, beetles, wasps, termites, scorpions, and spiders for camel spiders.

When potato bug bites human beings, the bites are not toxic, are only painful for a few minutes, and are not deadly to humans. Likewise, the bite from the camel spider is not poisonous, but the pain is sharp and can last a day or two.

Potato bugs love to stay in places with a lot of moisture, while camel spiders live in hot areas.

The table below features a summary of the comparison between potato bugs and camel spiders.

FeaturePotato BugCamel Spider
Scientific nameLeptinotarsa decemlineataSolifugae
Body length0.4 inch0.4 inch
Number of legs68
Physical appearanceOval with yellowish-orange wings and 10 black stripesTan and dark brown with small hairs on the body
Is the bite deadlyBite is not toxicBite is not toxic
How long does the pain from the bite last on human beingsFew minutes1 to 2 days
FeedingFeeds on leaves, plants, and decaying plant matterSilverfish, beetles, wasps, termites, scorpions, and spiders.  
Where they livePlaces with moisture – mainly underground coming out at nightDry places
Table 1: A comparison of potato bug and camel spider


University of Florida. Colorado potato beetle

Lockwood, Jeffrey A. (2008). Six-Legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War. Oxford: Oxford University Press