One of the most popular pages on this blog continues to be the Weed identification page posted in May, so I decided it would be a good idea to follow it up with a pest ID post for those of you out there who are finding bugs and bite marks in your garden and wondering who did what.
I’ll start off with the good guys, the bugs we’re happy to have around and want to support. The most famous among these is the ladybug, whose adult form we can all recognize easily: red shell and black spots representing how old they are….or at least that’s what someone told me they meant in elementary school! Some important things to know about ladybugs though are:
Their eggs look like this. If you see these eggs on the undersides of leaves, don’t destroy them, and in 2-5 days you’ll find….
…these guys! Now, even though they look like a troublemaking alligator-insect hybrid they are ladybug larvae, and are even more useful to have around than adult ladybugs because they have a voracious appetite for aphids.
Attract ladybugs by planting pollen and nectar flowers, dill, dandelion, queen anne’s lace and yarrow are all favourites.
Some more bugs that look like pests but are actually beneficial predators and plants that specially attract some of them:
eat aphids, caterpillars, corn rootworms, grasshopper eggs, beetle larvae
attract with goldenrod, hydrangea, catnip, milkweed and wild parsley
eat soil dwelling pests; slugs, worms and fly pupae
eat aphids, thrips, mealybugs, scales, moth eggs, caterpillars and mites
attract with pollen and nectar flowers and flowering weeds
eat general pests, flies, mosquitoes, beetles, caterpillars
Now that you’re familiar with some of the beneficial insects in the garden, let’s discuss some more damaging ones. We’ve gone into flea beetles and leafminers in previous posts, and some methods to deal with them, though now that we’re further into the season I would definitely say they aren’t worth stressing about, they are an season pest who prey upon young leaves, but as long as the infestation isn’t severe enough to kill your seedlings they’re not worth much concern.
Aphids are one of the top garden pests, they’re so small and so annoying and basically suck the life force right out of plants so are the bane of many a gardener’s existence. Luckily all that rage has led to a great deal of knowledge about these pests. They can be dealt with by attracting beneficial insects like those above, and by planting strongly scented deterrents such as anise, basil, chive, catnip, coriander, garlic, stinging nettle or trap crops like yellow nasturtium and sunflowers. If aphid infestation is severe, they can be killed by spraying with a strong, direct stream of water, or managed using a tomato leaf spray.
Imported Cabbageworms are the bane of my personal existence. I spent months in Vancouver picking them and their eggs off of cabbages, broccoli and cauliflower, and it made me determined to get them in their egg state as much as possible. These are the caterpillar form of those white moths you see everywhere in spring and summer, and they love members of the brassica family. They will lay their eggs within the grooves of the leaves and plant heads, and they hatch releasing caterpillars who chew large holes through the leaves. Beneficials are a great way to deal with these pests, and garlic or hot pepper sprays can also help. The best approach is just to be vigilant, however, keeping a close eye on the undersides of brassica leaves, and considering planting red or purple varieties to make the bugs easier to spot.
More pests posts will come soon! In the meanwhile, feel free to ask about any pest damage you’ve encountered, and I’ll try to get to the bottom of it!