These jumpy little black beetles chew small, rounded holes in the leaves of many vegetables (such as brassicas, eggplant, potatoes, and tomatoes). They sometimes kill seedlings. If you've had flea beetle problems in previous years, avoid them by delaying the planting of susceptible crops by a week or two beyond normal planting times for your region.
Because flea beetles overwinter as adults, full-size adult beetles appear in your garden very early in the season. If food isn't there when the adults emerge, they won't lay their eggs in the garden, which means fewer problems later in the season. When you do plant, use transplants rather than direct-seeding your crops whenever possible—transplants can withstand flea beetle damage much better than young sprouts.
Mix Up Flea Beetles: Timing planting right helps prevent flea beetle problems, and so can interplanting, says Sally Cunningham, author of Great Garden Companions. "One year I planted eggplants all alone in one area, and in another place, I interspersed eggplants with marigolds and basil," Sally says. "Guess what? The solo eggplants were full of holes, but the other ones were camouflaged enough that they squeaked through the season undiscovered! Flea beetles are easily confused."
Related: 10 Most Destructive Garden Insects And How To Get Rid Of Them