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10 Destructive Garden Pests and How to Get Rid of Them

Posted by Melisa on

No matter how hard you try to protect your plants against invaders, destructive critters have a way of sneaking into and wreaking havoc on the garden. While some insects are beneficial to certain plants, there are those that would happily feast on young leaves and ripening fruits!

Most growers use chemical-based insecticides or pesticides to keep unfriendly critters from ruining their plants. These products are the most popular because they are sold everywhere! But there are ways of discouraging and managing destructive garden pests without using chemicals.

The key to maintaining a pest-free garden is knowing the enemy and finding the most effective, albeit non-toxic, way of getting rid of it. In this guide, let’s take a look at some of the most destructive garden pests and how to get rid of them naturally:

Aphids

Aphids are some of the most common garden pests and are quite destructive too! These pear-shaped insects love to suck out plant saps! Worse, aphids reproduce quickly because these critters do not need a mate to build a colony. No wonder a few aphids are enough to destroy an entire garden. These destructive pests love fruit-bearing plants, flowers, ornamentals, and shade trees.

You know you have an aphid problem when your plants have puckered leaves and the foliage starts to drop. To get rid of aphids, wash the affected plants with a strong spray of water. The water will dislodge the stubborn critters from the plant stems/leaves. You could also trim the plants to remove the affected parts. Some of the most effective natural solutions for aphids are garlic or pepper-based sprays, neem oil, and vegetable-based horticultural oil.

Cutworms

Cutworms are the caterpillar forms of several species of night-flying moths. These caterpillars are often found underneath leaves or on top of the soil during the day. At night, cutworms feed on young plants, zeroing on the stems at or below the soil surface. One sign of a cutworm problem is when seedlings have been felled like a tree in a forest.

It's easy to keep cutworms at bay, just use a plant collar made from repurposed plastic or toilet paper rolls when transplanting the seedlings. You can also pick the cutworms one by one. These critters feed at night and they are easy to spot during the day. You can also install a birdbath or a bird feeder to encourage birds, such as robins, to eat the moth larvae along with other garden pests. Finally, transplant your seedlings only when they are established. This way, the seedlings have grown thicker stems that could resist nibbling pests like cutworms.

Japanese Beetles

Japanese beetles are small, metallic blue-green/bronze insects that feed on plant leaves and flowers. Japanese beetle larvae and adult beetles are equally destructive. The larvae will feed on the roots of grass and garden plants while adult beetles will skeletonize plant leaves and chew the blossoms. In most cases, adult Japanese beetles could defoliate plants completely!

To get rid of these pests, you can either pick them off one by one during the day or shake them from the plants and into a jar of soapy water. You can also install floating row covers to deter Japanese beetles or set baited traps on either side of the garden.

Cabbage Maggot

The Cabbage Maggot is an agricultural pest that feasts on a wide variety of crops, including turnips, kale, broccoli, and of course, cabbage. At its larval stage, the cabbage maggot resembles that of a seed corn maggot. However, it feeds on the roots of cole crops. Cabbage maggot causes damage to crops by tunneling into the roots. As the maggot burrows into crops and creates entryways, crops become more vulnerable to damage, diseases, and rot.

To eradicate cabbage maggots in the garden, try installing floating row covers or delay the planting period until the crops have been established. You could also burn the roots from harvested plants to control the spread of cabbage maggots. Mounding wood ashes or red pepper dust around the steps of your crops could also discourage cabbage maggots from feasting on your plants.

Scale Insects

Scale is a type of plant sap-loving pest that destroys plant branches and fruits. Often found in colonies, scales look like odd bumps on plant stems, leaves, or fruit. As the scale insects suck on the plant host's sap, the stems weaken, causing the foliage to turn yellow before dropping off. Eventually, honeydew accumulates on the leaves and fruits, causing diseases to set in.

To get rid of scale insects, remove and destroy the infested plant parts by hand. You can also use soapy water to scrub these nasty critters away. You can use neem-based leaf shine as well as vegetable-based horticultural oil to control a minor infestation. For a widespread infestation, try using summer oil spray.

Slugs

Slugs are slimy, slow-moving mollusks that love chewing their way into any garden plant. You can tell that you have a slug problem when the plant foliage is ridden with holes! Slugs are much easier to control than other garden pests because they have a weakness for beer.

To lure slugs, fill an empty can with beer and bury the can near the plants, leaving the can rim exposed. As the slugs detect the beer, they will make a beeline to the trap, drowning themselves in the process. In the morning, throw out the entire can and replace with a fresh batch. This trick will only work for slugs that are nearest to the plants.

For a serious infestation, you have to set multiple traps around the garden. We highly recommend sprinkling crushed eggshells, wood ashes, coarse sand, or diatomaceous earth around the plant stems. Slugs have soft bodies that are easily damaged by rough surfaces. By spreading coarse materials around plant stems, the slugs will keep their distance.

Caterpillar

The caterpillar is easily the most recognizable of all garden pests because of its bright coloring and fleshy body. These soft, segmented larvae are often found nibbling at fruits, flowering plants, vegetables, even shade trees, and ornamental plants.

Thankfully, getting rid of caterpillars is easy. You can either pick these critters by hand or install floating row covers. You can also plant thyme, oregano, and other aromatics to keep these destructive critters at bay. Attracting caterpillars’ natural predators like birds into your garden will also discourage these pests from destroying your plants.

Earwigs

Earwigs are nasty-looking creepy crawlies that are considered as garden pests and helpers at the same time. Earwigs can be beneficial to plants because they eat other garden pests like slugs, snails, aphids, as well as certain types of insect larvae. However, these critters also nibble on plant flowers and leaves. As long as earwigs aren’t taking over the garden, these can be beneficial to plant growth.

To control earwigs, try rolling up sheets of wet newspaper in the evening and then lay the newspaper around the garden. These critters thrive in damp, dark places and the soggy newspaper will lure the earwigs in. In the morning, collect the newspaper - earwigs and all - and either burn the newspaper or shake the earwigs into the toilet and flush them out. If you don’t dispose of the newspaper properly, the earwigs will just make their way back into your garden.

Spider Mites

Spider mites are tiny bugs that belong to the arachnid class and are closely related to ticks and spiders. These creepy crawlies love sucking plant sap from the bottom of the leaves. Once the affected plant is sucked dry, the plant will turn brown or yellow then die. If you are seeing fine silk webs underneath plant leaves, you have a spider mite infestation in your hand. Spider mites could reproduce quickly and it will only take a little time before these pests overtake a garden.  

One of the quickest and most practical ways of getting rid of spider mites is to rub a rubbing alcohol-based solution directly on the plant leaves. Just mix one part rubbing alcohol and one part water. Spray liberally on the plant leaves. You can also use liquid dish soap to kill spider mites. Introducing predatory insects like praying mantises, assassin bugs, and lady beetles is also an effective way of solving a spider mite infestation!

Squash Bugs

Squash bugs are destructive critters that feed on cucumbers, pumpkins, and winter squash. This garden pest sucks plant juices from the foliage, causing plant hosts to wilt and die. Worse, squash bugs would secrete a toxic substance that causes plant stems to turn black and dry, a condition called anasa wilt. Small and young plants are the most vulnerable to a squash bug infestation. Established plants, on the other hand, could recover from an infestation as long as the pests are contained.

To kill squash bugs, try spraying neem oil directly onto juvenile squash bugs and egg clusters. You can also install floating row covers after the pollinating season. You can also pick the bugs individually by hand, dropping the pests into a jar filled with soapy water.

These garden pests may be deadly but it is possible to keep these unwelcome guests under control the natural way! Try these all-natural pest repellants to keep your garden blooming all season long. For more gardening tips and resources, sign up for our newsletter today!


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