Having difficulty with garden pests?! Read this!

Hello everyone!
Having a garden comes with its own sources of annoyances and inconveniences, coming in the form of bugs, weather, and more. This article is all about common garden pests, what they do to your plants, and how to deal with them and hopefully prevent them from coming back!

Aphids:

Aphids are tiny, pear-shaped insects. They can be in many different colors and are very small. Most adult aphids will not have wings, but some will grow wings if food runs short, the wings will allow them to fly to other plants and eat them.

What they do:
Aphids will suck the sap out of plants. Affected plants will show puckered leaves, stunted growth, and death if not treated. Aphids also secrete Honeydew which promotes the growth of sooty mold and attracts ants, the ants will protect the aphis because they want their honeydew. Flowers and fruit will become deformed due to their feeding. Aphids can also transmit diseases from plant to plant.

How to stop them:
Wash plants with strong sprays of water while removing and destroying affected plant areas. Dust your plants with flour if you find a large number of Aphids. Mix soap, water, and cayenne powder into a spray bottle and be sure to spray the mixture on your plants. Insecticidal Soap also works, along Lady Beetles, which feed on Aphids. Spray dormant horticultural oil to kill overwintering aphid eggs. Catnip, Mustard, Nasturtium, Garlic, and Chives are all-natural repellants of Aphids.

 

Cutworms:

Cutworms are common on a wide variety of vegetables and fresh seedlings. Different species range in color from grey to pink, green and black and can be as long as 2 inches, with color patterns such as solid, spotted, or striped. When not moving, you can most likely find them curled up. Cutworms tend to feed only at night and hide when the sun is out. Black Cutworms are the most commonly sighted.

What they do:
Cutworms will directly go for the stem of your plants and sever them, causing your plant to fall over and die. In the summer, they can crawl to the top of your plants and start eating away up there as well.

How to stop them:
Protect young seedlings with collars made from plastic drinking cups or cardboard rolls from toilet paper. Disposing of them by hand also works, so does putting your seedlings outside a few weeks later so they’ll have stronger stems. Circle stems with diatomaceous earth, a natural powder made from ground-up fossils which kill insects when they walk over it. Fireflies are the cutworms natural predator, look into getting some if you are having a problem.

 

Japanese Beetles:

Japanese Beetles are ½ inch in length with metallic blue-green heads, copper-colored backs, wings, and small white hairs lining each side of their abdomen. They love to feed in groups. During the month of June, they will lay eggs in the soil. The eggs will then develop into tiny white grubs with brown heads that can grow to be 3/4ths of an inch long. The grubs will remain in the soil growing for up to 10 months.

What they do:
Depending on if they are grub or an adult, they will do different things. Adult Japanese Beetles will swarm and eat your plats in groups, which is mostly why the plant damage is so severe. The Adults will skeletonize the leaves and eat the flowers of the plant. The grubs will feed on the roots of the grass, resulting in patches of dead and dying grass in your lawn.

How to stop them:

Row covers will work as it provides a barrier between your plants and the world, but it’s not 100% effective. Insecticides will work, but you need to contact your local garden center to see which ones are ok to use. Plant Geraniums close to the plants you wish to save, as Japanese beetles are attracted to them. Once they eat the blossoms, they will get dizzy and fall, making it easy to dispose of them.

  • Adults: Shake them from the plants into a sop water mixture. Hand-picking them off your plants is the most effective way to get rid of them. Parasitic wasps will also help in culling their numbers, just like with other pests.
  • Grubs: Apply beneficial nematodes (microscopic worms that occur naturally in the soil) or milky spore (a bacterium). Be patient; both of these organic options take a couple of years to build up in the soil and do their job.

 

Scales:

Scales are small, armored insects that are usually always found in groups of many. There are many different types of scales, so it’s best that you look up which kind you’re seeing in order to find the best approach.

What they do:
They suck the sap from plants, weakening them and causing foliage to turn yellow and drop off. When you find one, there usually are many more to be found. If left to their own devices, they will swarm the plant and completely kill it.

How to stop them:

Neem is an absolutely amazing product to use against these pests. If you catch the infestation in the early stages you can simply remove the infected areas. Washing your plants can help control the scales and their damage to your plants.

  • Small Infestation:
    Gently scrape the scaled off of the plant with an old toothbrush and spray with an insecticide every 4 days. Dab the scales with alcohol using cotton swaps, this will dehydrate the scale and cause it to fall off.
  • Large Infestation:
    Treat with Dormant Oil or Summer Oil Sprays. Heavily prune stems of infected plants.

 

Slugs:

Slugs look like snails without their shell, they can get to be a few inches long when fully grown. They leave trails of slime wherever they go. They hide during the day and feast at night.

What they do:
Slugs will eat holes into your plants much like caterpillars.  They especially like beans, lettuce, cabbage, and  tomatoes. Look for irregularly shaped holes in your plants and keep a mental note of where you planted things because slugs can consume entire seedlings if they want.

How to stop them:
Fill empty cans with beer and leave them in the garden. Slugs are attracted to beer, they’ll enter and drown in it. Alternatively, you can sprinkle small sharp objects like sharp sand, wood ashes, or crush seashells around the stem base to discourage slugs from crawling onto the stem to eat the plant. Spraying them with cold coffee is effective, but they must be completely drenched for it to work. Frogs and Toads are natural predators to the slug, so keep that in mind if you want to protect your plants.

 

Spider Mites:

Spider Mites are tiny but colorful. They spin webs and hatch their eggs close to them. These are one of the least concerns out of all the pests in this article.

What they do:
Often in large numbers, Spider Mites will completely destroy a plant, sapping a plant’s vitality until it dies. This is a common method used by the pests in this article. In small numbers, they don’t post a severe threat to your garden, but in large numbers, they will kill leaves on your plants which will heavily reduce plant yield and will cause sunburning on your plants.

How to stop them:
Bring some Spider Mite predators to your gardens “playing table” such as Lady Beetles, Praying Mantises, and Assassin bugs! Apply insecticidal soap and horticultural oil to your plants to prevent further Spider Mite activity.

 

Squash Bugs:

The squash bug is fairly large with a brownish or gray body and flat back. The edges and undersides of the abdomen have orange stripes. Young squash bugs are gray and have black legs.

What they do:
Squash Bugs will suck the juices out of your squash plants and cause wilting, this will kill your plants. They will also lay eggs on your squash, these things are the bane of gardens everywhere.

How to stop them:
Scrape them into a container of soapy water, scrape off egg clusters, or spray Neem onto egg clusters and juvenile squash bugs. If you scrape off the egg clusters, keep in mind that they hatch in 10 days so be sure to check again once those days are up. You can place a wooden board in your garden at night because Squash Bugs will congregate there at the night time, in the morning all you need to do is kill the bugs and dispose of the board. Nasturtium and Tansy are good at repelling squash bugs, so plant them close to your squash.  

 

Squash Vine Borers:

Squash Vine Borers Larvae look just how they do in the image above. Adult Squash Vine Borers resemble wasps. They are black with bright orange markings, their first set of wings are metallic green and the second pair is transparent. The adults are great fliers and will fly around during the day, rather at night time like most moths.

What they do:
Plants will wilt at an increasing rate seemingly out of nowhere until it dies. The problem with these pests is that they feed on the inside of the plant, so look for swollen stem areas, stuff on the ground that looks like sawdust, rotting areas of your plant, and holes near the base of any of your vine plants. You’ll know you have Squash Vine Borers if you see any of this.

How to stop them:
Don’t plant squash or other vine plants in the same bed two years in a row because Squash Vine Borers will sleep in the soil during winter. Plant your vine plants at the earliest time you can so that you’ll be harvesting them at the time when the Squash Vine Borers appear. You can also plant a few weeks later in the season and use a row crop cover until they flower. If you see a swollen stem, slit one side and extract the borer. Then place the stem on the ground and cover with soil to encourage rooting. The adults are attracted to yellow, so set up some soapy water in a yellow bowl or use food coloring, check the water daily for adult squash vine borers. Parasitic wasps will help out greatly with these pests.

 

Tomato Hornworm:

Hornworms are green caterpillars that can grow up to 3-4 inches long. They have 7 diagonal whites along their body and a red or black horn sticking out of them. When fully grown, the Hornworms turn into Hawk Moths. Hawk Moths can be gray or brown in color with white zigzags on their rear wings. They also have orange spots on their bodies.

What they do:
They eat the foliage of tomatoes primarily, but also peppers, potatoes, and eggplants. This will result in the plant dying, so it’s best to deal with them before they ruin your garden.

How to stop them:
Drop them into soapy water. You could also introduce predatorial insects to the area. Lady Beetles will eat the eggs and the young caterpillars, while parasitic braconid wasps lay eggs on larger caterpillars!

 

Whiteflies:

Whiteflies are tiny, white, and often found in groups. You’ll know that you have whiteflies if there is a sticky film on your plant leaves, yellow leaves, or noticeably less plant growth. Be sure to check the undersides of your plant leaves for these pests if you see any of the previous conditions.

What they do:
As yet another sap-sucking pest, Whiteflies will weaken plants and stunt plant growth. Whiteflies will also leave behind honeydew which could lead to fungal diseases and attract other pests.

How to stop them:
Spray them off the plants with a hose and then cover the plant with insecticidal soap, make sure to get the tops and bottoms of the leaves. The best way to stop them is to have their natural predators in the area. Ladybugs are especially good along with Green Lacewings, Pirate Bugs, Whitefly Predators (actual name of the insect), and Whitefly Parasites (also the actual name of the insect)

 

Thank you for reading this article! If you enjoy it, leave a comment and talk about it in the Seed2need discord! I hope now you all know a little bit more about the more common pests you can encounter while gardening. Good luck out there!

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