Common Garden Pests and How to Get Rid of Them
WHAT ARE GARDEN PESTS
We build beautiful gardens for a couple of reasons and some of them include rectifying boredom, creating great outdoors, feeling of satisfaction to see something grow, or simply just because it makes the world beautiful. However, there is always a pitfall in growing your own garden and it is important to know how to avoid it or manage when needed. It is true that every vegetable gardener, no matter how small or big his garden is, can never avoid pest issues. The only way to be able to grow a healthy and fertile garden is by controlling these pests and the best way to do it is by using organic methods if possible.
It is widely known that bugs are gardeners most dreadful enemy. They come in various forms and shapes, but all have one common goal and that is to ruin your garden. However, a single bug is not necessarily a problem. Others become worried straightaway when they see one munching on their plants, but that’s how our nature works. As intelligent gardeners, you need to remember that no matter how you take extra care of your garden, it is normal to be confronted with garden pests at some point. Furthermore, not all damages require immediate action, you just need to set the level of damage that is fairly endurable before you act on the problem. There are a lot of garden pests to mention and below are some of the most common and detrimental pests to your vegetable garden.
COMMON GARDEN PESTS
It is a good practice to inspect your garden on a regular basis so that potential problems can be identified and managed right away. Below is a list of garden pests commonly encountered:
- Blister Beetles
- Cabbage Worms
- Corn Earworms
- Red Spider Mites
- Root Maggots
- Slug and Snails
- Red Spider Mites
IDENTIFYING WHICH ONE IT IS
In order to achieve and maintain a healthy and productive garden, it is best to first identify your enemies. Knowing the common pests is essential in maintaining a healthy garden as this will help you determine which one needs direct attention, as well as decide what needs to be done to solve the problem.
Animals like deers, rabbits, racoons, birds, and even your own pets, such as dogs and cats, can be your enemies in the garden. First of all, get to know what exactly are the animals despoiling your garden since this will help you determine the next appropriate steps in protecting your vegetation. Building a high fence for deers, for example, would be ineffective if your actual problem is with racoons or rabbits. Following their tracks, particularly for nocturnal animals, is one good way to accurately pinpoint which animal is ruining your garden.
When you notice sap-sucking insects surrounding young plants on your garden, then you are dealing with aphids. They are tiny insects shaped like pears that may come in red, green, brown, yellow, black or even gray. Their color depends on the type of specie (approximately 4,000 species) and their source of food. They are small (approximately 1/8 inch long) and are soft to touch.
Depending on the type of specie and stage in life, aphids can either be winged or non-winged. Adult aphids have wings while young ones normally don’t have one; however, they may grow wings too, especially if their population is quite high. They have two antennaes at the tip of their head and a pair of tube-like structures projecting backward out of their hind end which are called cornicles. Furthermore, you can easily identify aphids when you see a black mold thriving on leaves. This mold is from the viscous fluid, also known as honeydew, secreted by the aphids as they feed.
This pest is named after its welt-raising liquid released whenever it is squeezed or slashed. This fluid contains cantharidin, a blistering agent that can be used as a treatment to the lesions caused by pox virus. Aside from that, it can also be used in removing warts.
There are several non-toxic beetles that might resemble blister beetles. Therefore, proper identification is important in order to protect and make sure appropriate pest control can be taken. There are about 250 type of blister beetles and they differ in size and coloring. Most full-grown blister beetles are one-half to one inch long. Their bodies are generally soft and their heads are wide with antennae. The frontal part of their chest between their head and body resembles a slender neck. Their wings are soft to touch and flexible, and they have relatively long legs.
They come in diverse colors, striped or flat, and can be bright, as well. Basically, those that have the shades of gray and brown matched with yellow stripes wing covers are called striped blister beetles. The ash-gray blister beetles are entirely gray while the black blister is of course black. Finally, margined blister beetles are typically black with gray to cream band along the edge of each wing cover.
Worms generally move sluggishly; however, unlike any other typical worms, cabbage worms can be really destructive. They sometimes can leave a great and irreparable damage to your garden when no proper intervention is taken.
This type of worm is about 1-1/4 inches long and is velvety green in color. Their short fine hairs and light yellow strips on their sides and back are very discernible. Cabbage worms have five sets of pro-legs. You will know if a cabbage worm is already full-grown if it appears white or pale yellow, and contain three or four black spots on its wings.
A full-grown larvae of a corn earworm is about 1-1/2 inch long and they can be seen as lightly striped from light green or pink to brown. Their color becomes darker as they age. Adult corn earworms usually fly at night and are greenish gray or brown in color. Their wings can spread up to 1- 11/2 inched and they have unconventional dark lines and spots on the external borders of their fore and hind wings. They can be seen feeding on nectars during daytime if they are not hiding in a nearby fauna. Also, adult moths are known to be good flyers and can move long distances.
One corn earworm is enough to cause a severe plant damage. This pest carries a lot of names, depending on the type of plant it has affected — it is known as the cotton bollworm when it attacks cotton while it is called tomato fruitworm when it is found ingesting on tomatoes. .
Cutworms, the name given to the larvae of adult moths, can be described as soft-bodied, plump, and are gray or dull brown in color. It’s length stretches around 1-2 inches and it normally curls up when either at rest or in motion. You can see them ingesting plants during the night while they dig their bodies into the soil during daylight.
Cutworms are actually caterpillars, but they are mistaken for larva most of the time. Among the most popular cutworms is the black cutworm. You can easily identify this specie because of the tiny dark spots all over their bodies. Cutworms come in different colors from gray to pink or green and black, depending on the type of specie. Female cutworms normally lay their eggs in dry soil after they mate so it is important to keep an eye out of them.
Adult flea beetles are usually small of about 1/10 inches long, glistening, and are either dark brown or black in color. When troubled, they jump to escape using their large posterior legs. In some cases, they contain white or yellow stripes on their wings. Their larvae, on the other hand, are also small around 1/8 – 1/3 inch long and are cream-colored worms. They thrive belowground and ingest the roots of young plants, as well as on developing seeds. Gardeners need to be extra careful of this pest because they carry agents that transmit viral and bacterial diseases.
These remarkably small beetles move very swiftly and leap like a flea. Just like cutworms, there are many plants that are considered hosts to flea beetles. Some of these plants include tomatoes, radish, corn, potatoes, and eggplants. Signs of infestations include small, round holes in the leaves.
Adult grasshoppers are usually 1-2 inches long and they may come in brown, reddish yellow or green in color. They are characterized by their fully-developed wings, but they only use their back wings for flight. Grasshoppers have shorter antennaes compared to the length of their body but they have long hind legs which allow them to leap at long distances. On the other hand, nymphs are smaller and only have wing sprout, but they look just about the same as the adults.
You can identify female grasshoppers from males by their size; females are generally bigger than males. They also have an egg-laying tube-like structure that can be seen at the end of their abdomen. Furthermore, grasshoppers create a sound by rubbing their hind legs against their abdomen or forewings.
Red Spider Mites
Also called the two spotted spider mite, red spider mite feed on both indoor and outdoor plants. They are about 1mm long and they appear to be yellowish-green in color, with two noticeable dark green spots on their back. There are two kinds of red spider mites, one is the European red spider mite and the other type is called the Southern red spider mite. The latter is considered to be the most common as it attacks a much diverse variety of plants while the former is usually seen only on apple trees.
There are a number of spider mites and you can distinguish each of them by merely looking at their colors with the help of a magnifying glass. During the cold season, they become inactive, their colors turn red, and can be found mostly in brickwood cracks or even between bamboo stalks. During the warm season, they become very active. Female red spider mites lay their eggs during spring season and carry on until summertime. As breeding continues, infested plants become masked with webbing which causes their leaves to wilt and die.
Adult root maggots are about 1/5 inches long and are dark gray in color. People sometimes misidentify them as houseflies, but only smaller. You can find their eggs primed at the base of their host plants. Maggots, on the other hand, are only 1/3 – 1/4 inches long and are apparently smaller in size, yellowish white in color, heads are needle-like, and are legless. Also, it is important to note that their feeding manner can build entry points for rot diseases such as black rot.
Root maggots got their name from the fact that they feed on the roots of root vegetables such as onions and radish. The problem with this pest is that infestation may not be totally evident until damage is done to your root vegetables. Evidence of infestation show small openings in the roots or tubers of the plant.
Slugs and Snails
If you find snails just around your garden, it is usually the common garden snail which is called the brown garden snail. It’s shell is brown and coiled which is about 1 to 1 1/2 inches long, and its body is gray in color. Slugs can best be represented as snails without shells and they are directly related to clams and oysters. They are soft-bodied and are brownish or grayish in color. Their size ranges from 1/8 to 2 inches and even becomes longer when extended.
Slugs and snails are considered to be the most infuriating pests in the home gardens throughout North America. They can be found in moist, shady regions along a rock foundation or in well-fertilized vegetation. They usually feed at nighttime on various plants, as well as on deteriorating plant parts. Slugs intimately resemble snails in terms of their anatomical structure and biology, except that snails have shells while slugs don’t. Both slugs and snails depend on their hefty foot for movement along with the slime they produce for gliding.
GETTING RID OF GARDEN PESTS
Making a garden is indeed fun and exciting; however, it doesn’t end up there. You need to take certain measures in order to keep your garden from all the pests surrounding it. All these pests problems, nevertheless, have earth-friendly solutions to keep your garden off the hook.
It is all-important to build a fence or barricade in order to protect your garden from animals. Depending on your location and the type of animal you are dealing with, building a fence or barricade can potentially be high-priced. According to studies and research, an 8-ft high fence is proven to be rough-and-ready for deer protection while affixing chicken wire to the lower border of your fence can work for rabbits. Another way to protect your garden from animals is by using repellents. Products that are foul-smelling may be utilized to scare off pests. Others, on the other hand, would prefer to use traps when all other methods fail.
Aphids feed on various vegetable plants such as cabbage, tomatoes and lettuce. They suck juices from leaves causing the curling formation and distorted growth of plants. In reality, a low number of aphids isn’t something that’s alarming. Large infestations, on the other hand, is the one that needs immediate attention since it may cause wilt and inhibition of plant development.
One of the easiest way to remove aphids from their vegetable hosts is by spraying them off with a sharp stream of water from a high-pressured hose. Also, using a floating row to cover your plants can be very helpful in protecting them from insects. Insecticidal soap can be very effective in getting rid of aphid outbreak.
Cutting off infested leaves or other plant parts is the easiest way of controlling aphids dispersion. Most gardeners recommend the use of Bug Blaster as it is a safe and non-toxic way of controlling garden pests. It works by creating a stream of water which blows plant pests from the undersides and upper part of the leaves. It is proven to be effective in controlling aphids. Quick-acting botanical insecticides should only be used as a last resort.
This type of beetle feeds on just about any leaf that can be seen in your garden. It is important to inspect your garden habitually and thoroughly because the number of blister beetles grows gradually in the primal months of the season.
Blister beetles are usually seen operating in large flocks and when they are not removed at once and become well-established, they are almost impossible to wipe out completely, even if toxic sprays are used already. To others, hand-picking blister beetles can be very effective in home gardens, especially when their population is low. Just always remember to never pick these beetles with bare hands; always wear gloves.
Diatomaceous earth, also known as DT, is also very helpful in minimizing the number of blister beetles in the garden. All you have to do is spread the powder in the surrounding area of the threatened plant. DT can also be used as an obstructor for plants placed in small pots. It not only kills these pests but also drives them off.
From the name itself, these pests affect all members of the cabbage family including radish, cabbage, Brussels, cauliflower, broccoli, turnip, kohlrabi, and kale sprouts. Cabbage worms can cause complete wreckage of your vegetable garden by chewing holes in the leaves and flowers of your plants.
The imported cabbage worm is known to be one of the most common garden pests. During the early season, it is best to use their natural enemies such as predatory beetles, spiders, and worms; therefore, see to it that your garden welcomes these animals. Since birds primarily feed on worms, it’ll be very helpful if you hang birdhouses in your garden. The use of toxic sprays during the early season is not advisable as they might destroy or kill these predators.
During the late season, you might consider using chickens and ducks in controlling cabbage worms. Chickens, as well as ducks, are known to be extensive pickers of these worms. However, they might also end up eating your plants so make sure your plants are already peck-able in size before letting your chickens and ducks out.
Covering vulnerable plants with floating row cover is also very helpful, especially when you do it from the time of planting up until harvest season. You may also choose to hand-pick these worms as it is proven to be effective.
The corn earworm outspreads in vegetable gardens but can also penetrate other fruiting vegetables, as well as on lettuces. One of the natural ways of controlling corn earworm is by selecting a variety of corn that is naturally insusceptible to corn earworm. However, this method will not totally keep the infestation away and using pesticide may still be necessary. Furthermore, planting corn at the right time is very crucial. The best time to plant corn is during the early and mid-season.
Planting lure crops, e.g. tomato, around your corn field can help prevent these pests from attacking your corn. Corn earworms will possibly feed on the surrounding crops before attacking your corn. This method, however, is not a guarantee that earworms are entirely prevented from invading your corn, but rather a way of reducing the problem.
Pest populations vary greatly from year to year. When the infestation is large, cutworms can destroy up to 75% of a crop. The best time to look for cutworms is during nighttime since cutworms get out of the soil at night in order to feed themselves.
Unfortunately, any young sprout is susceptible to this pest, but their preference include cabbage, tomatoes and broccoli. Cutworms chew the outer stems of seedlings which causes the plant to wilt or severe. In order to protect the young seedlings, you may add a base with rim using a toilet paper tube or aluminum foil burrowed 1/2 into the ground. Cornmeal or wheat bran placed in a submerged bowl can also be used as baits since worms are attracted to grains. When ingested, cutworms die because they can’t breakdown these baits.
A regular change in the type of crop on a particular area could help prevent the problem with flea beetles. Flea beetles are also repelled by talcum powder so most gardeners use them when dusting their plants such as tomatoes and potatoes. Another option would be the use of sticky traps. Yellow sticky cards can hook and trap adult flea beetles when they jump so it may be helpful to put them above plant tops.
Row covers may also be used to keep flea beetles away from your plants. You just need to make sure the covers are securely sealed. Also, it is best to use row covers immediately after transplanting to avoid giving time for these pests to find the plant.
Grasshoppers, both adult and nymphs, are rapacious feeders on the leaves and stems of plants. They may ruin an entire field if the pestilence is severe. It is best to till crops in the spring season to demolish overwintering eggs of grasshoppers. Using Harvest-Guard to cover and protect small areas in your garden is proven effective, but if you would like a lasting protection for your garden from grasshoppers, then Semaspore Bait is the solution for you. It is a good idea to apply Semaphore Bait to hatching beds, and that is when grasshoppers are still undeveloped. However, massive invasion of grasshoppers would already require multiple applications.
Applying EcoBran is also very helpful in killing grasshoppers quickly, especially when your garden needs immediate attention. EcoBran is environment-friendly as it only destroys insects such as crickets and grasshoppers.
Red Spider Mites
Just like most garden pests, red spider mites affect a wide mixture of plants, particularly azaleas and camellias. Red spider mites can be seen anywhere adjacent to an infested plant and just before you know it, that plant becomes permanently harmed if no proper intervention is provided.
These tiny, sap-sucking insects are quite difficult to control and destroy. They hold on to the bottom of leaves and suck in the nutrients which sometimes causes the leaves to dry out and eventually die. Since spider mites are captivated by both indoor and outdoor plants, it is important to inspect your garden regularly for noticeable signs of spider mites. One of the most common signs is the white or red spots on the leaves that are moving — they are actually spider mites.
Since spider mites are known to quickly develop resistance to some pesticides, it is advisable to use organic methods to kill spider mites. First of all, isolating the infested plant immediately before removing the spider mites from the leaves is a good way to start with. This will help avoid the spread of spider mites to your other garden plants. Get rid of the infested parts of the plant and ensure that all the webbing is totally gone. Put them in a sealed trash bag to prevent them from escaping out of the trash. Subsequently, spray the plant with water with the use of a high pressure water nozzle. You may also opt to use soap or pepper spray, or an oil solution to prevent spider mites from attacking your other garden plants.
This type of garden pest is commonly found in the grounds of North America. They feed beneath the roots of young plants which makes them specifically destructive during the early season of plantings. Root maggots attack vegetable crops such as radish, cabbage, and onions.
The moisture released from freshly planted seed rows entice female flies to lay their eggs. To avoid them from laying their eggs on your garden, cover your seedbeds with floating row cover. This cover has small pores that prevents insect pests to enter, but instead only lets in sunlight, air, and water for plant growth and development. When using floating row cover, it is also important to widen the cover at least 6 inches on each side of the seed rows so that female flies are prevented from laying their eggs around the plants stems. For added security, some gardeners would also put solid and heavy materials around the base of the plants.
Slug and Snails
Snails and slugs aren’t picky. They feed on the leaves of different types of plants, as well as on ripening fruits and vegetables. It is best to search for them during mild, damp nights. Since slugs and snails feed on both living and decaying plant materials, you must remove any form of debris, weeds, and lumber from all thriving areas of the plants and only apply an average amount of fertilizer around the plants.
Another quick and easy way of getting rid of slugs and snails is through handpicking. It is best to handpick these pests just two hours after sunset. If handpicking doesn’t work for you, materials such as strips of cardboard, rocks, and plywood may be used as traps and should be used during daytime.
Placing addled beer in a container is also another means of killing these pests. The barm in the beer attracts slugs and snails which causes them to tumble and drown. For best results, it is advisable to replace the beer after a rain or ever 2-3 days.
GENERAL PEST INFESTATION PREVENTION
There are several ways to prevent pest infestations, not just to your garden but to every corner of your house. Here are some of the things you can do to prevent an infestation:
- Make sure to store food in airtight containers to avoid ants feasting over them.
- Make sure your trash bins are tightly sealed.
- Regularly check your home for breaches or holes in walls, as well as on your roof vents. If there is any, fill them immediately to avoid pests from getting in.
- When buying dried foods, check for worms moths, and other pests.
- Landscaping is always fun but make sure it doesn’t come in contact with your home as it is an easy port of entry for pests.
- Immediately fix faucets, pipes, and even appliances that are leaking as standing water can attract pests, and repairing water leaks can be expensive and require the help of a carpenter.
- Make sure your tables and floors are free from leftovers or any sort of food.
- Install screens on your windows and doors so you’ll be able to let in fresh air without having to worry about pests getting in.
- Scrap woods attract beetles and termites so it is best to eliminate any scrap of wood anywhere on your home.
- See to it that your house is organized and clutter-free since pests favors hiding in dark areas of your home.
- Use pest control such as sticky papers, zappers, and others to control the problem as early as possible.
- Check your pets for fleas before you let them in to your house.
- Vacuuming is also a good practice in eliminating pests and their eggs.
- For your balcony or outdoor areas, you may use citronella candles to keep mosquitoes away.
- Use gravel or rock for your landscaping instead of wood mulch.