It is that time of the year- pest damage is at a season high, and not just from one type of pest. Now is prime time for the dreaded Japanese Beetle. They are widespread, hard to get rid of and like pretty much anything to eat! They can defoliate plants to the point of death, and efforts to rid them from your garden can backfire and you may get more! Not to mention aphids, slugs, white flies, saw flies and borers. So what should the average gardener do?
There are pests in every garden, but if you are active and keep an eye out, you will likely be able to solve the problem before it gets out of control. Knowing the signs of common pests is important for identification and treatments. There are many “home remedies” that people swear by. These may or may not be backed by science, but they have been around for generations, so they are worth a try. There are also numerous biological controls such as lady bugs, lacewings and beneficial nematodes. Many plants also repel specific types of pests, Geraniums and herbs are the most proven.
Adult Japanese Beetles eat the leaves of many plants including roses, fruit and vegetable plants, Linden trees and many shrubs. They do not eat the veins of the leaf, so the result looks like a leaf skeleton. They also feed in groups, producing pheromones to attract others. This is the main reason not to crush them! Hand picking them is the most effective means of control. Japanese Beetle traps may work, but they also lure more beetles to your yard. A fermented can of fruit cocktail strategically placed in a bucket of soapy water is a great trap.
Aphids are another pest that don’t discriminate. There are many species of Aphids, and some are very specific to a certain type of plant, for example potato aphids and melon aphids. They tend to be in large groups so they are easier to spot. If you suspect Aphids are the cause of curling, yellow or misshapen leaves look on the underside. Aphids like to gather there and start sucking the sap out of the leaves and stems. Another tell-tale sign is honeydew, or sap that the aphids leave behind. Ladybugs are Aphids number one predator. You can also use flour, insecticidal soap, dish soap mixtures or rubbing alcohol.
Slugs are my personal least favorite. They thrive in cool, moist dark places so if you have mulch in the shade it is a haven for these slimy pests. Slugs eat the leaves, stems and roots. They favor new tender leaves, keep an eye out in springtime as new leaves emerge. Slugs produce an iridescent trail wherever they go. It is unmistakable when combined with leaf damage. Diatomaceous earth, commercial slug bait and stale old beer are a few slug stoppers. Birds love slugs! Attracting birds to your yard is a great way to cut down on slugs as well.
Borers have the potential to do huge amounts of damage. Generally borers target woody plants- trees and shrubs. Usually these are more sizeable in a landscape and require action right away. The first sign of a borer is holes and sawdust. Adult borers lay eggs within the plant and the larvae eat the insides of the tree or shrub. They can weaken branches and the entire plant by disrupting the nutrient flow. If you have a large tree that is having problems and you suspect a borer call a certified arborist to assess the situation. There are commercially available insecticides as well.
Bugs will always be around to bug you! If you know where to begin you have a much greater chance of getting a handle on the situation. Do your research before you treat anything and always remember ladybugs!