No, im not talking about the 1958 horror movie classic “The Blob”. I’m referring to harmful insects that may be lurking in your garden, feasting on the leaves, flowers, and roots, of your beloved plants.
I am currently still in a battle with the hideous Japanese beetles!
According to the USDA, it is costing a bundle. Mid-Atlantic apple growers lost $37 million last year from damage caused by the brown marmorated Stink bug (BMSB) to the 2010 apple crop. Non-native, wood-boring insects such as the Emerald ash borer and the Asian long-horned beetle are costing an estimated $1.7 billion in local government expenditures and approximately $830 million in lost residential property values every year.
This doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the many other insects that are causing damage (and heartache) to our food crops as well as our ornamental gardens. Here are some others to keep on the look-out for:
Aphids are tiny little buggers! You can find them in clusters on the undersides of leaves. Aphids feed on vegetables, fruit trees, and ornamental plants. Prune heavily infested leaves and hose off plants with a strong stream of water. Attract natural predators, such as ladybugs and lacewings, whose larvae eat aphids. Plant members of the daisy family, or yarrow to attract ladybugs. Attract lacewings with yarrow, goldenrod, black-eyed susans, and asters. You can also smother aphids with a solution of one tablespoon canola oil and a few drops of dish soap in a quart of water. Put the solution in a spray bottle, shake well, and shoot plant with sprays of solution from above and below.
Chews large holes in the leaves of cabbage and related plants like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and turnips. It may also bore into the center of these crops and contaminate them with its fecal matter. It is considered extremely destructive. There are many natural predators of the cabbageworm, including spiders, yellow jackets, lacewings and parasitic wasps. As soon as damage is noticed on leaves, handpick the worms from the plants. After harvest, till under the garden debris to kill over wintering pupae before the adults emerge.
Colorado Potato Beetle
Both the adults and the larvae can completely destroy an entire crop. As soon as plants emerge, mulch at least 2-3 inches deep with a layer of hay to restrict the movement of over wintering adults. You can also protect plants with floating row covers through spring, and attract predators like ladybugs and lacewings. In early morning, shake adults from plants onto a ground cloth and then dump into soapy water.
Caterpillars that do most of their damage at night, when they feed by clipping off seedling stems and young plants near or just below the surface of the soil. They attack beets, cabbage, broccoli, kale, and cauliflower. Before planting a new garden, remove weeds and plant debris so that the developing larvae have nothing to eat (note: the larvae themselves do not harm plants). When planting your transplants, place cardboard collars (this can be a toilet paper tube) around the stems. Also, like slugs, cutworms cannot tolerate rough surfaces so coffee grounds, eggshells, or diatomaceous earth around plants can help deter them.
Earwigs can be beneficial because they eat organic debris like dead leaves, and can be helpful near a compost pile. They can also attack young plants like carrot tops and dill. Try to grow these vegetables earlier in the season so that they are hardier by the time the earwigs mature. Set out bait like molasses or soy sauce with water, or peanut butter in a small container. Periodically collect the bugs and tap them into a pail of water.
Mexican Bean Beetle
Adult and larvae feed on the undersides of leaves, and can attack young pods and stems. Damage can occur on all bean varieties. It is most severe in summer, so consider planting early maturing bean varieties. Adults and larvae both can be handpicked from plants and dropped in pails of soapy water; be sure to remove bright yellow eggs from the undersides of leaves. Beneficial insects such as ladybugs and lacewings prey on both the egg and young larval stage. Floating row covers can be used as a physical barrier to keep beetles and larvae from damaging plants, or diatomaceous earth can be used to deter larvae.
Slugs will eat a large range of crops including root vegetables and fruit. Slugs are harmful because they can eat a plant faster than it can grow! Even on root vegetables whose leaves are less valuable, slugs can kill the plant by removing its ability to photosynthesize. Placing a ring of coarse material such as crushed eggshells or coffee grounds around plants deters slugs; their soft undersides cannot tolerate these barriers. You may also try using diatomaceous earth, which is the crumbled, fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled algae.
Hornworms consume leaves, stems, and fruit, and are particularly destructive pests of tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplant. Because they are so large, they can somewhat easily be controlled by handpicking, followed by immersion in a bucket of soapy water. Plant crops that attract insects who feast on tomato hornworms: plant members of the daisy family or yarrow to attract ladybugs. Plant yarrow, goldenrod, black-eyed susans, and asters to attract lacewings.
You can order beneficial insects online by the 100’s or 1000’s! This seems like a good place…
I am considering this for next year, as it’s a bit late in the season to start now.
To fellow gardeners…Stand guard and defend what is yours!