13 Worst Garden Pests and How to Get Rid of Them

Mitch
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You’ve been lovingly tending to your garden, watering religiously, singing lullabies to your roses, whispering sweet words of encouragement to your seedlings, and practically bathing in dirt. But then, uninvited guests arrive – pests! Let’s delve into the who’s who of the peskiest pests and the (not so) secret strategies to send them packing.

Aphids

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With over 4,000 species globally, they infest plants and feed on sap, causing wilted leaves and stunted growth. They multiply faster than you can count, with one female capable of producing up to 80 newbies a week.

A simple blast of water from your garden hose can dislodge these sap-sucking rascals. For an extra kick, try some insecticidal soap. You can also introduce natural predators into your garden, such as ladybugs and lacewings.

Caterpillars

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A single caterpillar can eat up to 27,000 times its body weight in its lifetime! So, how do we show these voracious eaters the exit sign?

Introduce their natural predators, like birds or ladybugs. Or, for a more hands-on approach, pluck ’em off your plants and relocate them to a less valuable green space.

Slugs

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Did you know a single slug lays about 500 eggs in a year? That’s an entire army waiting to invade your greens! They’ll feast on your favourite flowers, decimate your dainty dahlias, and leave your lettuce looking like a lace doily.

So what to do? Sprinkle diatomaceous earth around your beloved plants; these little sharp fossils are like walking on glass for the slugs. You can also use copper tape around your pots; it gives slugs a tiny electric shock, making them slither away.

Ants

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Ants cause direct damage by feeding on plants and exacerbate issues by farming aphids for their sweet, sweet secretions known as honeydew.

A mixture of borax and sugar can do wonders. The sugar attracts the ants and the borax; let’s say the ants won’t be organizing any picnics anytime soon. Also, consider introducing natural predators like birds by making your garden bird-friendly.

Grasshoppers

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According to the USDA, grasshopper infestations can wipe out over 25% of the total crop in severe cases. But fear not; there’s hope yet.

One popular control method is the application of Nosema locustae, a protozoan specifically targeting grasshoppers, available commercially as Nolo Bait or Semaspore. Consider inviting birds to your garden if you’re more ‘old school’.

Spider Mites

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You’ll know them by the delicate, silky webs they spin and the mottled, yellowing leaves they leave in their wake. Their rapid reproduction speed – a new generation every 7 days – makes them a formidable foe! They feed on plant juices – causing your plants to look yellow and sickly.

To control them, introduce predatory insects like ladybugs or use insecticidal soap. For severe cases, a well-timed application of a miticide can help.

Groundhogs

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Groundhogs, also known as woodchucks, are notorious for their voracious appetite. They can chow down on a smorgasbord of your prized vegetables, including beans, peas, and carrots.

The most effective way to bid them adieu? A good ole’ fence, buried at least a foot deep to prevent under-fence tunnelling. And if you’re really serious, consider adding a strand of electric wire.

Rabbits

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These voracious veggie villains have an insatiable appetite for your crisp lettuce and juicy carrots. According to a USDA study, rabbits cause an estimated $30 million in damage to agricultural crops annually.

Here’s a top tip: Install a chicken wire fence at least 2 feet high and buried 6 inches deep. Also, planting rabbit-resistant plants like geraniums and lavender can help.

Earwigs

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While they feed on decaying matter, they also have an appetite for live plants. They’re particularly fond of dahlias, zinnias, butterfly bush, hollyhocks, lettuce, cauliflower, and celery. The worst bit? They’re nocturnal.

A simple trap made from damp, rolled-up newspaper placed near infested areas can be a simple, non-toxic method to control their population. As morning arrives, you’ll often find those nocturnal nibblers hiding inside, after which you can simply dispose of the paper in a sealed bag.

Beetles

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They come in all shapes and sizes – from tiny flea beetles to those intimidating Japanese beetles. Fun fact: a single female Japanese beetle can lay up to 60 eggs. How to deal with these uninvited guests?

Well, handpicking can be effective if you’re brave enough. For those who like to keep their hands clean, consider using floating row covers for protection or introducing nematodes, the natural predator of beetle larvae, to your soil. You can also plant “trap crops” that attract beetles, protecting your mainstay plants.

Cutworms

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If you’re finding your young plants toppled over like they’ve had a night out on the town, you’ve probably got a cutworm problem. So, what’s the battle plan?

Try handpicking them after dark (a headlamp is an excellent accessory for this), or create plant collars from cardboard to deter them. If all else fails, beneficial nematodes in the soil can play the hero, naturally parasitizing and controlling cutworm populations.

Scale Insects

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These pint-sized pests latch onto plants and suck the life out of them. And they’re crafty, too – they disguise themselves as harmless bumps on your plants’ stems, leaves, and fruit. They can cause leaves to yellow and drop, stunt growth, and even lead to plant death.

Horticultural oil works wonders, suffocating the pests without harming your plants. You can also use insecticidal soap or neem oil. Regularly inspect your plants for these stealthy hitchhikers.

Moles

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Moles are subterranean creatures that tunnel through your yard, upending plants and turning your once pristine lawn into a minefield of molehills.

A study conducted by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources suggests that trapping is the most effective method of mole pest control. Set traps in active tunnels (those neat lines of raised soil are a dead giveaway), and be patient. You can also opt for a mole-specific repellent.

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Author

  • Mitch

    A computer science enthusiast with a keen interest in technology and games, Mitchelle (Mitch) contributes a cutting-edge perspective to the Frenz Hub writing team, integrating her academic knowledge with her personal passions

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