Common Pests of Plants in Your Garden

When you have a beautiful garden, seeing it invaded by pests is disheartening. These pests can wreak havoc on your plants, causing damage at different stages of your plant’s growth and hindering their growth and potential yield.

Garden pests range from insects to rodents and even some diseases. They attack parts of plants that are important to their food production, water transportation, and structural support, such as the leaves, roots, and stems, respectively.

This article will explore the common pests of plants that can infest your garden and discuss effective methods to identify, control, and prevent them.

Understanding Common Garden Pests

Every living organism has to feed to complete its life cycle. Pests are living organisms that are important parts of the ecosystem. Unfortunately, their means of feeding negatively affects your garden plants.

Pests are organisms that harm plants by feeding on them, sucking fluid from their phloem, causing diseases, or creating openings through which other disease-causing organisms can gain entry into your plants and disrupt their natural growth processes. Regardless of your expertise in gardening, garden pests will pose a challenge at different times. You can proactively protect your plants by familiarizing yourself with these garden pests.

Types of Pests in Gardens

Just as there are many types of plants, many pests can attack your garden plants. These pests are usually differentiated by their feeding, reproductive habits, and biological classification.

Some pests feed on the economically important of your garden plants, such as seeds, fruits, and leaves. Others attack other parts like the stem and roots, which may interfere with your plants’ metabolic and physiological functioning, such as the stems and roots.

The different types of pests you’ll find in your garden include:

Insects

The pests in this category include insects at every growth stage, including caterpillars and larvae. They may be winged or crawling, and they vary in size. Common insect pests in any garden include aphids, caterpillars, whiteflies, and spider mites.

Diseases

Garden crop diseases are caused by microorganisms that contact the affected plants through any mechanical means. Some diseases, such as viral diseases, are transmitted by other living organisms, while others are present in the soil or transported through gardening tools.

Diseases are regarded as garden plant pests because they cause a reduction in the quality and quantity of garden plants. Common garden plant diseases include powdery mildew, leaf spot, and mottled leaves.

Rodents

Rodent - Garden pest

Rodents are arguably the largest pests of garden plants. They are mammals that cause damage to plants by chewing on fruits and leaves, tunneling into the ground, and damaging plant roots or eating root crops. Common rodent pests are mice, rabbits, voles, raccoons, groundhogs, squirrels, moles, and gophers.

Types of Pest Damage on Plants

Different garden pests attack different parts of garden plants. Each pest has an affinity for certain garden crops. However, they can still cause some damage to other plants in your garden. Therefore, watching for every type of pest in every garden plant is safer.

When you see certain deviations from physical normalcy in your plants, how can you tell which type of pests has caused the damage? Generally, you can tell which specific pests have caused any damage by:

  • Seeing them in action
  • Understanding their feeding habits.

The different types of pest damage you can find on your garden plants are caused by their feeding habit, and they include:

Chewing Damage

Chewing damage on garden plants is usually caused by herbivores, such as deer, goats, and some chewing insects. You’ll recognize them by the chewed-off parts of leaves, sometimes fruits.

Many pests, such as caterpillars, beetles, and grasshoppers, have mouthparts that allow them to chew on plant foliage. This can result in irregularly shaped holes or notches in leaves.

Leaf Mines

Leaf miners, such as larvae of flies and moths, create tunnels or mines within the leaves of plants. They create these tunnels due to their feeding action on the leaves.

These tunnels appear as squiggly lines or scars on the leaf surface and consequently cause the leaves to produce less food than they should.

Sucking Damage

The sucking damage to garden plants is caused by piercing and sucking insects, such as aphids. They are recognized by the curling of leaves and the wilting of the plant in severe cases.

Aphids, mites, scale insects, and other pests have piercing-sucking mouthparts. They feed on the plant’s sap, causing leaves to curl, turn yellow, or wilt. Sucking pests can also excrete honeydew, a sticky substance that attracts ants and promotes the growth of black sooty mold.

Gall Formation

Galls are the abnormally swollen parts of plants that are formed to provide nutrient storage and shelter for some pests.

These pests, such as gall wasps and mites, induce abnormal growths or swellings called galls on plant stems, leaves, or other plant parts. These galls provide shelter and nutrients for the pests.

Boring Damage

Insects and caterpillars cause boring damage. They bore into the stems of garden plants for shelter and feeding.

boring damage

Borers like beetles and caterpillars tunnel into plants’ stems, trunks, or branches. This can weaken the affected plant parts, causing wilting, dieback, or even death.

Root Damage

Soil-dwelling pests like grubs, nematodes, and root maggots can feed on plant roots, leading to stunted growth, yellowing of foliage, and wilting.

Their feeding site, the roots, absorbs water and nutrients from the soil. Therefore, their feeding action, causing damage to roots, causes the affected plants to be unable to take up adequate water and nutrients, which may lead to their death.

In other cases, rodents, like rabbits, can dig up root crops like carrots and cause you to lose your harvest. This is common with garden plants like carrots and beetroots.

Fruit and Flower Damage

Various insects may damage fruits and flowers, including beetles, caterpillars, and fruit flies. They can cause blemishes, holes, or premature drops of fruits or flowers.

Consequently, you don’t have as many fruits to harvest as most of the plant’s flowers, which should give rise to the fruits, have been lost due to pest action.

Disease Vectors

Some pests, such as certain species of insects and mites, can transmit plant diseases. For example, aphids can spread viral diseases between plants as they feed.

The action of some other garden pests, such as boring and sucking pests, create openings for disease vectors to enter the plants and introduce diseases to them.

Common Garden Pests to Look Out For

Although there are hosts of pests that can cause damage to your garden plants, these are the most common and destructive ones.

Aphids

Aphids are small, pear-shaped insects that come in various colors, including green, black, brown, yellow, or pink. They have long antennae and soft bodies.

Common garden pest - Aphids

Aphids can be found on the undersides of leaves, stems, and new growth of plants.

Aphids feed on plant sap by piercing the plant tissues with their mouthparts. Their feeding can cause distorted or curled leaves, stunted growth, yellowing, and the secretion of sticky honeydew, which attracts ants and can lead to the growth of black sooty mold.

Slugs and Snails

They are mollusks with soft, slimy bodies. Slugs are usually brown or gray, while snails have a hard shell. Slugs and snails are most active during moist conditions and are commonly found in shady areas of the garden. They feed on various plants, including leaves, stems, flowers, and fruits.

Slugs and snails leave irregular holes and chew marks on leaves and can cause extensive damage, especially to seedlings and young plants. Their feeding can destroy entire plants or cause the loss of crops.

pest of plant - slug and snail

Caterpillars

Caterpillars are the larval stage of butterflies and moths. Depending on the species, they vary in appearance but generally have soft bodies and distinct body segments. Some may have hairs or spines. Caterpillars can be found on plants’ leaves, stems, and flowers, where they feed voraciously.

Caterpillars can devour leaves, resulting in skeletonized or ragged foliage. They can also damage fruits and flowers. Some species, like tomato hornworms, can defoliate entire plants if left unchecked. Another destructive caterpillar is cabbage worms.

Garden plant pest - Caterpillar

Beetles

Beetles come in various shapes, sizes, and colors. Examples include the Colorado potato beetle (yellow-orange with black stripes) and Japanese beetles (metallic green with copper-brown wings). Beetles can be found on plants’ leaves, flowers, and stems, feeding on foliage.

Garden beetles like the Colorado potato battles and the Japanese beetles can devour foliage and flowers, leading to defoliation and reduced plant health. Severe infestations can significantly weaken plants and reduce crop yields.

Whiteflies

Whiteflies are tiny, moth-like insects with white wings and a powdery appearance. Whiteflies typically gather on the undersides of leaves, forming small clusters.

Whiteflies suck sap from plants, which weakens them and causes stunted growth, yellowing leaves, and leaf drop. They also excrete honeydew, leading to the growth of black sooty mold.

Mealybugs

Mealybugs are small, soft-bodied insects covered in a white, powdery substance. They have a segmented body and thread-like mouthparts. You will find them on leaves, stems, and the undersides of plant parts, often in protected areas or concealed by plant crevices.

mealybug - common pests of plants

Mealybugs feed on plant sap, causing yellowing, wilting, and stunted growth. They also excrete honeydew, leading to sticky leaves and the growth of sooty mold.

Spider Mites

Spider mites are tiny arachnids that can be red, yellow, brown, or green. They have two body parts and eight legs. These minuscule pests are not insects but are related to spiders.

Spider mites are found on the undersides of leaves and create fine webbing around the affected plant parts.

Spider mites pierce plant cells and feed on sap, causing yellowing leaves, stippling (tiny yellow spots), webbing, and eventual defoliation if left untreated.

Thrips

Thrips are tiny, slender insects with fringed wings. They can be yellow, brown, or black. Thrips are often found on flowers, buds, and the undersides of leaves.

Thrips puncture plant cells and feed on the sap, resulting in distorted growth, silvery streaks on leaves, browning petals, and reduced flower quality.

Rodents

Rodents such as mice, rats, and squirrels have varying appearances but are generally small to medium-sized mammals with fur, sharp teeth, and clawed paws. Rodents can be found in and around garden areas, nesting in burrows or seeking shelter in structures like sheds. They may also climb plants to access fruits and vegetables.

Rodents can cause physical damage by gnawing on stems, roots, fruits, or vegetables. They can also dig up seeds, bulbs, or newly planted crops.

Deer

Deer are large mammals with slender bodies, long legs, and antlers (in males). Their fur color ranges from brown to reddish-brown. These animals can be a nuisance in gardens, as they graze on plants and cause extensive damage, especially in rural areas.

Deers graze on plants in open areas, forests, or suburban gardens, particularly during the evening or early morning.

Deer can cause extensive damage by browsing on foliage, buds, shoots, and fruits. They can strip plants of leaves, destroy flowers, and consume entire crops if not deterred.

Prevention and Control of Pests in Gardens

There are two ways to ensure you have some produce from your garden plants at the end of the seasons. They are:

  • Preventing garden pests
  • Controlling garden pests

Preventing garden pests involves limiting their population to a level where they’re unable to cause any impact on the productivity of your garden plants. You also don’t have to control them. However, with garden pest control, you must return them to a population level that doesn’t negatively impact your garden plants’ productivity.

Garden Pest Control

To effectively combat garden pests, it’s crucial to identify them correctly and employ appropriate control methods. Here are some strategies for dealing with common pests:

Natural Methods

These methods are relatively cheap and require using organic matter from other living organisms or their exudes to control the population or chase certain pests away from your garden. They include:

Beneficial Insects

To maintain balance in the ecosystem, organisms feed on one another. Insect pests have natural enemies, and some of them include other insects.

Ladybug - beneficial insect

Encourage beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, lacewings, and lady beetles, that prey on garden pests. They act as natural predators and help maintain a balanced ecosystem in your garden.

Companion Planting

Practice companion planting by growing pest-repellent plants alongside susceptible ones. This method can confuse pests and make it more difficult for them to locate their target plants.

Some ornamental plants, such as marigolds and lavender, are excellent garden pest repellents. Others include borage and nasturtiums.

Organic Sprays

Use organic sprays from natural ingredients like neem oil or garlic to deter and control pests. These sprays are safe for plants and help minimize the use of harmful chemicals. If your garden is experiencing a light infestation, you can also spray some warm water from vermiwash or soapy water on infested plants to remove the insect pests from the leaves’ surfaces. However, ensure that you follow the spray of water with the introduction of predatory mites and other such insects.

Chemical Methods

Usually, as a last resort, use chemical sprays to combat insect and disease pests. Such chemicals include:

Insecticides

In severe infestations, chemical insecticides may be necessary. Choose products specifically for garden use and follow the instructions carefully to avoid harming beneficial insects or pollinators.

Fungicides

When dealing with fungal diseases, fungicides can effectively prevent the spread and growth of pathogens. Select appropriate fungicides and apply them as directed.

Preventing Pest Infestations

Prevention is always better than cure when it comes to garden pests. It is better to keep the population of garden pests bare minimum than try to eliminate them after they’ve multiplied. Here are some practices to minimize the risk of infestations:

Healthy Garden Practices

Maintain a healthy garden by providing proper nutrition, adequate watering, and appropriate spacing between plants. Healthy plants are less susceptible to pest attacks.

Regular Inspections

Regularly inspect your plants to detect early signs of pest infestations or diseases. Prompt action can prevent the problem from escalating.

Proper Planting and Maintenance

Pay attention to proper planting techniques, including selecting disease-resistant varieties and providing sufficient sunlight and air circulation. Prune damaged branches and remove any dead plant material to discourage pests.

Conclusion

Keeping your garden free from pests requires a combination of vigilance, knowledge, and proactive measures. By understanding the common pests and their control methods, you can create a thriving garden where your plants can flourish without being compromised by unwanted visitors.

 

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