Garden supplies, plants, garden

Common Garden Pests

10 Common Garden Pests

1. The Aphid

A small, soft-bodied insect who lives and feeds in colonies.

The aphids feed by sucking fluids or sap out of a plant, causing leaves to curl and a general stunting of plant growth.  Aphids aren't choosy about where they feed -- you'll find them on roots, leaves, flower buds and fruit.  If left undiscovered, aphids will stall flower or fruit production and can eventually kill a plant.  In addition to these garden "headaches", the aphid is also capable of transmitting a wide variety of plant diseases.

Some aphids expel a sweet, sticky substance known as "honeydew" from two "pipes" at the end of their abdomen.  Honeydew as a special treat for certain species of ants that feed on it.  These ants will actually "farm" a colony of aphids, moving the aphids from plant to plant and taking them into their nests at night, or in bad weather, for protection.  Black molds will grow on any honeydew that is left on the plant's surface, causing a dark, sooty patch to appear.

Aphids reproduce quickly and will migrate from one plant to another, beginning new colonies.  A sharp-eyed gardener can stop an aphid problem before it gets out of hand.  Natural predators include birds, ladybugs or lady beetles as they are sometimes called, and parasitic wasps.  Chemical control include contact insecticides in dust or spray form.  Additionally non-chemical approaches include insecticidal soaps, rubbing alcohol and even dishwashing liquid.

Special Note:

Aphids come in a variety of colors.  Look for green, black, yellow, or pink tiny insects living in colonies.

2. The Mealybug

A small white insect found living in colonies, usually on leaf undersides.

This unusual-looking insect is covered with a cottony mass of wax, an is nearly immobile. Male mealybugs are winged, but the females are not and as they feed, they crawl slowly along over the plant's surface.  Mealybugs, like aphids, suck plant fluids from the plant, causing wilting and eventually death, if they are left undisturbed.  Also, like aphids, mealybugs secrete honeydew, attracting ants and providing a growth medium for black molds.

Be on the look-out for these cottony pests. Control measures:  Natural predators such a s parasitic wasps and ladybugs, or lady beetles; chemical controls include various contact insecticide sprays.  Non-chemical approaches include insecticidal soaps and rubbing alcohol.

3.  The Spider Mite

Another "sucking" insect that can be a real problem in any season -- but especially in summer.

These tiny pests can only be seen with the use of a hand lens, but their damage is visible to the naked eye.  Examine leaf undersides for fine, stippled markings -- evidence of the mites' feeding activities.  ook also for fine, silvery webs -- another sign that this pest is present.

Controls include the use of special miticides, and the clearing out of weeds and other debris in which the mites overwinter.

4.  The Thrip

A very tiny, fast-moving insect, usually "equipped with narrow, fringed wings".

Thrips feed by rasping at the surface cells of plant tissue with their cone-shaped mouthparts, sucking out the sap as it flows into the wound.  Where thrips have been feeding, flower buds and leaves are often distorted, plant growth may be slowed, and edible portions of vegetables can be misshapen.  Thrips are also capable of transmitting a virus disease known as "wilt" from one plant to another.

Controls include the use of stomach-poison or contact insecticides.

5.  The Whitefly

A small, common insect pest that may go unnoticed -- until it is disturbed and takes flight.

Whiteflies, too are "sucking" insects, extracting sap from plant leaves and stems a excreting honeydew as they feed.  Wilting, stunted growth, and reduced yield are signs that whiteflies may be active in your garden.  Check leaf undersides for these winged pests.  In year-round, warm-weather areas they are especially prevalent.

Many insecticides are available for use in controlling a whitefly problem.  Insecticidal soaps and rubbing alcohol are also effective as non-chemical control methods.

Special Note:

Whiteflies are covered with white scales that give them their powdery appearance.

6.  The Scale

A small, "sucking" insect that usually lives in colonies and is usually covered with a protective waxy shell.

Scales feed by attaching themselves to stems and leaves, and sucking out plant fluids.  This loss of fluids causes a general state of "wilt" in the plant.  Many species of scale secrete honeydew as the feed, attracting ants and supporting the growth of black molds.  Check leaf underside, as well as the base of stems, for signs of this pest.  If leaf unnoticed, they can kill a plant.  Stunted growth and deformed fruit are also "warning signals" for scale.  A very damaging pest to citrus, as well as ornamentals.

Controls include the use of contact or systemic insecticides, or the mechanical washing of the plant with a mild solution of vinegar and water, or detergent and water.

7.  The Grasshopper

A late-summer pest with a ravenous appetite.

This "chewing" insect is most common in warm-weather, hot-summer climates.  It is most damaging to filed crops and grasslands, but ornamentals are subject to their share of grasshopper problems, too.  Young, tender plants are the grasshopper's preferred food.  Watch for ragger-edged holes in leaves -- a sign of grasshopper feeding.

Contact insecticides or poisoned baits are effective controls.  Also natural biological control are available as well.

8.  The Cutworm

A soil pest that like to feed at night and rest during the day.

Cutworms are actually the larvae of a medium-sized dull colored moth.  They feed primarily of plant leaves -- and on young seedlings, which they will "chop off" at ground level.  During the day, you can actually find them curled in a ball, resting in the soil.

These chewing pests can be controlled by deep spading of the ground in late summer or early fall.  (Spading destroys eggs and exposes pupae.)  "Collars" made from tin cans of cardboard can be used to protect seedlings.  Simply insert "collars" or a depth of at lest one inch into the soil, and allow them to stand two inches above the soil surface.

9.  The Diabrotica (Cucumber Beetle)

A small, "chewing" pest that may be spotted or striped.

Cucumber beetle larvae feed on plant roots, but adults are "general" feeders, feasting on foliage and stems.  You'll find these bright green pests on a wide variety of vegetables and flowers.  Look for ragged-edged holes in foliage -- a sign of a chewing insect.

Controls include the use of insecticide sprays or dusts, applied to leaf undersides where this insect feeds.

Special Note:

Adult cucumber beetles can transmit both viral and bacterial diseases.

10.  The Snail & The Slug

Chewing pests with a bad reputation among gardeners.

These very common garden residents are actually mollusks, and are among the most destructive pests.  Snails and slugs feed at night, or on cool, overcast days.  During warm, sunny weather, they hide under plant debris, leaving a slimy trail behind them.  These foilage-feeders are easily detected -- just watch for their trails and holes in plant material.

Use of poisoned bait is an effective means of controlling these pests.  Also predatory snails are another control method.  Some people have even had success with placing pie tins filled with beer out in to the garden.  This method attracts the snails to the tin and they drown in the beer.

A reminder!
Keep all pesticides in a locked cabinet, out of the reach of children.  When empty, pesticide containers should be properly disposed of ----- Never re-used.

Do not store pesticides in anything other than their original containers.  Please follow the directions printed on each pesticide label and heed all cautions.