Table of Contents
- What Are Garden Pests
- 3 Types Of Garden Pests
- 1. Orchard And Tree Garden Pests
- 2. Vegetable Garden Pests
- 3. Flower Pests
- Other Ways To Prevent And Manage Garden Pests Infestation
Any gardener will know that there’s nothing more dangerous to plants than garden pests. Even if you don’t have a garden, and you just have some ornamental plants, you have probably struggled with pests.
One day you have a green and blooming backyard, the next you see your plants wasting away. You see a bug on a leaf one day, and you think “one insect won’t destroy my garden!”. This mentality overlooks that pests breed like crazy, and one little bug can start a whole infestation. Once infested, you’ll need to work hard to rejuvenate your garden.
Taking on garden pests might seem like a Sisyphean effort, but with the right plan, you can do it. Don’t get intimidated by the amount of work it takes to protect your work from pests. It’s an inevitable task, and you have to be prepared for anything.
As long as you focus on prevention, you will limit the number of times you will have to exterminate pests. When pests will inevitably appear, you have to know how to deal with them. To get all the information you need about garden pests and how to prevent and manage them, read on.
What Are Garden Pests
People can get frazzled at the sight of every little insect or animal that disturbs their gardens. While it’s better to be safe than sorry, it’s important to acknowledge that not all beings roaming around your garden are pests.
Garden pests are any organisms that spread disease or cause destruction to your garden. Oftentimes, they are insects, but they can also be animals or birds. It is important to note that not all beings you find on your plants are pests; some are beneficial to your garden. For example, some birds are necessary because they eat unwanted insects. Even some insects, like dragonflies, get rid of certain pests.
To correctly take on the pests in your garden, you’ll need to stay informed. Learn which species you need to be wary of and which are the ones to be welcomed.
3 Types Of Garden Pests
Depending on the plants you have in your care, you need to be aware of different types of pests. While these categories might overlap, they have certain specificities to look out for.
1. Orchard And Tree Garden Pests
Whether you have an orchard or just a few fruit trees in your yard, you need to know how to care for them. Some tree pests appear every few growing seasons, requiring an immediate attention, while others appear each year and cause little harm. It is important to note that larvae are the ones who affect the plants. But you still have to get rid of adults to avoid breeding. While there are many species of tree pests, the following are the most common.
While the name shows this pest only infests apple trees, it will also attack pear, cherry, apricot, and plum. The affected fruits will have pitted areas on the surface, with rotten trails running through the inside. If untreated, the fruit will become wormy, unfit for being eaten by humans. The only purpose it will have will be as food for livestock. The larvae are white, their length ranging from 7 to 8.5 mm. Adult apple maggots are shiny black with white markings, with an average length of 6.25 mm. Red sphere traps are the most efficient way to control apple maggots.
This pest prefers to attack apples, but it will also infect pear and hawthorn. The fruit gets damaged when larvae feed. There are two types of injuries: strings and deep entries. Look for brown spotting or brown frass to spot codling moth infestation. The larvae are 12 to 20 mm long, with a black head capsule and creamy white bodies. Adults are about 12 mm long and have a dull grey coloring. The wings have bronze patches, appearing tent-like when at rest. You can use pheromone traps to manage the population.
Depending on the type of sawfly, the plants attacked, and the injuries will be different. A commonality is that they all feed on leaves and foliage. They might leave holes and notches in the leaves, or even fully devour the tissue between the veins. As a result, a heavy infestation can kill a tree. Sawflies look different depending on the species, but they get their name from the saw-like appendage at the tip of their body. Hand-picking their eggs is a wonderful method to control small populations, but for larger infestations, use insecticidal soaps.
Also known as plant lice, they are sap-sucking insects. While there are over 100 species, most of them range from 25 to 50 mm long. They penetrate plant tissue to feed on nutritious liquids. As they feed, they produce honeydew. However, most species are harmless in small numbers. Broad-spectrum insecticides usually control psyllids. Use neem oil if the damage becomes unbearable.
Weevils are the only pest that develops inside the pecan kernel. Females lay eggs inside the kernels. The larvae feed off the nut. At the end of autumn, they chew their way out and bury themselves in the ground. The larvae are about 15 mm long, white with reddish heads. The adults are 10 mm and brownish. We recommend multiple applications of insecticides when dealing with Pecan Weevils.
This pest infests a variety of stone fruit trees, attacking not the tree, but the fruit itself. It burrows into the trunk and devours its way inwards. The infestation is recognizable by the frass around the trunk. If left untreated, the infestation kills the tree. The larvae are beige and brown, measuring 35 mm long. Adult moths resemble wasps and are 25 mm long. Use pheromone traps to get rid of larvae, and citrus extract spray to repel adults.
Signs of infestation:
- Exit holes in trunks or branches
- Loss of leaves
- Holes in leaves (or the complete lack of tissue)
- Withered leaves
- Sticky sap/ honeydew
- The presence of nests/ pests themselves
How to prevent and manage infestations:
- Monitor trunks and leaves constantly
- Keep trees clean
- Plant saplings in periods when pests are less likely to emerge
- Treat with specific treatments when needed
2. Vegetable Garden Pests
Many people who have yards dabble in growing vegetables. Because most of them do this as a hobby, they risk overlooking signs of infestation. Whether you are a newbie or a pro in gardening, you need to be aware of the most common vegetable pests.
This pest is a velvety green larva with faint yellow stripes. It feeds on plants from the cabbage family. When mature, it becomes a Cabbage White Butterfly. The larvae camouflage so well, you might see their fecal matter before you see the worm. They feed on foliage. If you don’t manage the infestation, they could end up leaving the plant with only stems and veins. To kill these insects, spray the leaves with Bt every couple of weeks.
Colorado Potato Beetle
As the name suggests, this insect feeds mainly on potatoes, but it also indulges in eggplants, tomatoes, peppers, and nightshade. Larvae feed on the foliation. While some plants, like potatoes, can endure 10 to 30 percent defoliation, a higher percent is deadly. The larvae are red or pink with black heads. Adults are oval-shaped and yellowish. They measure 9 mm lengthwise. Use pesticides, like carbaryl, to kill the potato beetles.
No matter the species, cutworms all look similar. They are smooth, curl into a “C” shape, and measure 50 mm in length. Some are uniform in color, but they can also be spotted. They attack an array of plants by curling their bodies around stems and feeding on them. As a result, they cut the plant off above the soil surface. For severe infestations, use carbaryl.
All species of leaf miners look similar and cause comparable damage. Adults look like average, black flies, identifiable only by their yellow wings. Larvae are pale yellow or green worms, around 8.5 mm in length. In small numbers they are unharmful, but when the population gets out of control, it can destroy plants. While feeding, they leave visible tunnels in hosts plants (beans, blackberries, lettuce). This damage restricts plant growth. You can purchase a parasitic wasp (a beneficial insect) that kills Leaf miner larvae to control their population.
Whiteflies Garden Pest
Despite the name, these insects aren’t flies, though adults have wings. There are hundreds of species, but most of them affect a few hosts (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant). Adults are moth-like, measuring 1.5 mm in length. Larvae are flat and oval, around 2 mm lengthwise. They feed off plant juices. Because they stick to the plant and don’t move, we can often identify them only when they have damaged the plant. A way to notice them soon enough is to look for honeydew. Yellow sticky traps are a good way to manage the number of whiteflies.
Slugs and slimes Garden Pest
As you probably know, slugs and snails are soft-bodied mollusks. The only difference between them is that snails have a hard shell. Snails are between 25 and 75 mm long and can be identified by the slime secretion they leave around. They feed on leaves or seeds from most plants, leaving holes in your plants. If you are dealing with these garden pests, you can easily pick them off by hand.
Signs of infestation:
- Large holes (or other damage) in the leaves
- Chew marks on the plants
- Leaves curling up/ falling off
- Trails of slime
- Snail shells
- Stem damage at ground level
- Yellow spots on leaves
How to prevent and manage infestations:
- Use barriers (nets)
- Plant natural pest repellents (garlic, basil)
- Take care of the soil
- Rotate the crop
- Handpick larger pests (slugs and snails)
- Use pesticides when needed
3. Flower Pests
Whether you keep flowers inside, or you have a beautiful flower garden, you will be susceptible to garden pest infestation. Because flowers are ornamental, the last thing you want is to have withered, eaten plants lying around. When you take care of plants, there are a few pests you need to know about.
Everyone knows this insect, and many people think it’s cute. In reality, it has toxic saliva that causes damage, like spotting and leaf curling, to plants like roses. They are also virus carriers. Adults are about 6 mm long, have wings, and can be green, brown, or yellow. Nymphs don’t have wings and are lighter. To manage the infestation, apply diatomaceous earth to plants. In severe cases, treat with insecticidal soap.
These insects are wingless and appear as white, cottony masses on the plants. They feed off the plants’ sap. Because of this, the leaf can wither and curl as the plant becomes weaker. They usually leave honeydew on the plants. Adults are oval and covered in wax, measuring from 2.5 to 6 mm lengthwise. Nymphs look a bit different, being yellow and free of wax. If you suspect you are dealing with mealybugs, don’t overwater or over-fertilize the plants. Use neem oil to get rid of them.
These bugs live on houseplants, feeding off sap. As a result, they rob the plant of nutrients. The honeydew they excrete leads to the growth of sooty mold. The effects on the plant are like those caused by Mealybugs, but Scales are harder to control. They are small, oval, and flat, protected by a tan or brown shell. Effective treatments are neem oil and insecticidal soap. For less extreme cases, dab the bugs with alcohol.
These insects are very similar to the previous two. The major difference is the way they look. Additionally, they are much less harmful. Adults are often smaller than 6 mm, vary in color, and have pear-shaped bodies. They also feed off sap, leaving plants weak, with curled leaves. As a result of infestation, flowers can become deformed. Sometimes, spraying cold water on the infected plant can get rid of them. If that doesn’t work, plant the flowers in diatomaceous earth.
Signs of infestation:
- Changes in leaf color, texture, and shape
- The webbing attached to the plant
- Honeydew on the plant
- Spotting on leaves, flowers, or stems
- Misshaped flowers
How to prevent and manage infestations:
- Visually inspect plants for any abnormality
- Clean leaves regularly
- Soil management (adjust fertility, pH levels soil type)
- Use pesticides or insecticidal soaps in extreme cases
Other Ways To Prevent And Manage Garden Pests Infestation
1. Choose Resistant Plants
If you struggle with garden pests, try switching up the varieties of plants in your backyard. Some plants are less affected by pests. If you want a low-maintenance ornamental plant, Snake Plant is the most pest-resistant one you can get.
2. Attract Beneficial Insects
Whether commercial or naturally occurring, some insects feed off the pests that affect your plants. Ladybugs, Praying Mantis, and other feeder insects will become your best friends when you’re dealing with infestations.
3. Try Inter-planting
Alternating between crops, vegetables, herbs, and flowers in your garden is called inter-planting. Pests like to live where a single type of crop is grown, so this strategy confuses and alienates them. Some plants (lavender, rosemary, catnip, basil) are natural pest repellants. Start planting them between your usual crops to keep unwanted insects away.
4. Handle Outbreaks As Soon As Possible
If you notice damage on your plants and insects roaming around, act quickly. Whether you choose to use household remedies or chemical methods, that’s your prerogative. Just be aware that the longer you wait, the harder it will be to squash the outbreak. Ideally, try chemical-free methods at first, but don’t be afraid to use pesticides if needed.
While this all might seem overwhelming, if you are careful, you will not be at risk of suffering from an infestation. If you see one little bug, there’s no need to freak out. One garden pest won’t be able to take on your entire garden. As long as you stay informed, you check your plants often, and you take preventive measures, you’ll be fine.
In many cases, especially when you identify the issue quickly, you can tackle the infestation on your own. If you are careful and use preventative measures, you will only have to deal with a few insects at a time. If you allow things to get out of hand, chances are you will have to call a specialist.
The time necessary differs from case to case. It depends on the severity of the infestation and the treatment you choose. If you use chemicals, you might combat them in a few hours. If the case is severe, or you use natural methods, it could take days, even weeks.
While it is true that using pesticides incorrectly can be harmful, sometimes they are necessary. As long as you learn how to use them, you will be fine. When you are spraying plants, keep kids and pets away. Make sure your skin doesn’t touch the pesticides, or that you don’t ingest them. Read the label thoroughly and follow the instructions cited there. Remember, don’t overuse them as they can damage the plant irreparably.