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Did you know...?

A firefly (or lightning bug) is not a fly at all. It's a beetle.

Battling Bugs in Your Garden

Posted on May 18, 2017
BugsInTheGarden

If you’re a gardener, this is perhaps your favorite time of year. Your perennials are coming up, and some are even starting to bloom. You’ve got your vegetables in the ground, your containers are colorful, and the nurseries are filled with all kinds of delightful new varieties of plants. You’re like a kid in a candy store.

And then, you see aphids on your tomato plants, or find slugs in your petunias. There is only one downside to gardening, and that’s battling the bugs. Here are some of the most common garden pests and tips for how to keep them at bay and protect your plants.

Hornworms

These hungry green nuisances are actually caterpillars and enjoy chewing down on tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, and peppers. Hornworms aren’t small — they can be several inches long — and can easily be plucked off plants and destroyed. You can also deter these pests by planting marigolds in your vegetable beds. If you need to resort to an insecticide, try the organic bacillus thuringiensis, which can be purchased at most home improvement or garden stores.

Aphids

These tiny little bugs can do a whole lot of damage to many garden plants, including fruits, vegetables, ornamental shrubs, flowers, and even some trees. They damage foliage by sucking the sap out of the plant. You’ll find them in clusters on stems and leaves, and they are particularly fond of tender new growth. First, try to physically remove aphids with a strong spray of water, and then apply insecticidal soap, which typically works well to eradicate an aphid problem. It might take several applications, though.

Slugs

The name of this all-too-common garden pests pretty much says it all. These unwelcome creatures slither into your garden and chow down on leaves and fruit of just about any plant a gardener holds dear. Like many other pests, however, there are some creative ways to take care of slugs. Most gardeners are familiar with using beer to help eliminate slugs. You simply place cup of beer (or milk) in the ground and the slugs crawl in, but cannot slither out. These cups only attract slugs from their immediate area, so you might have to use multiple beer traps. Also, remember to refill the traps every few days. Putting salt on non-soil surfaces can also help deter slugs. And planting herbs like garlic, chives, mint, and chicory discourages these slimy creatures, too.

Spider Mites

Congregations of these annoying and damaging pests can be found in just about any garden, and even on many houseplants. They’re called spider mites because colonies do emit a kind of webbing, which will typically be your first indication you have a spider mite infestation. Spider mites congregate on the undersides of leaves, so if you see the webbing, flip the leaf over and chances are you’ll find the culprits. Again, physically removing the insects with a forceful spray of water is the first step. Then, insecticidal soap or horticultural oils should be applied to finish the job. Like many other pests, spider mites are persistent, and it might take several applications before you are rid of them.

Whiteflies

Common in the Southeast, whiteflies pose a threat to just about any plant — flowers, ornamentals, fruits, and vegetables. These tiny white insects also emit a substance called honeydew which encourages the growth of black fungus on the leaves of plants. Chemical insecticides typically don’t deter whiteflies, but spraying your plants with a mixture of dishwashing soap, lemon, and water kill whiteflies and their larvae. A good squirt of soap per gallon of water is a good rule of thumb for mixing your whitefly-deterring spray.

Mosquitoes

While mosquitoes don’t actually damage plants, they are perhaps the most unwanted pests in any garden or yard. Not only are they annoying, but mosquitoes are dangerous due to the diseases they carry. In fact, mosquitoes cause more deaths worldwide than any other animal or insect. Battling mosquitoes yourself can be challenging. To discourage them, make sure you don’t have any standing water in your yard and try to air out extremely moist areas. Citronella can help deter them, and you can spray yourself with products containing deet. However, mosquitoes are persistent. If you decide you need assistance, American Pest Control offers affordable mosquito solutions.

Beneficial Bugs

Yes, there are some good bugs you actually want in your garden, primarily because they eat bad bugs. These include lady bugs, lacewing, hover flies, and some predatory wasps. Hopefully you have a nice balance of good and bad bugs in your garden naturally. But if you want to help nature along, you can actually buy live ladybugs to release into your garden.

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