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Outdoor Insect Guide: In the War Against Pests, Having Good Intelligence Is Key to Victory

Slugs aren't insects, but they are enemies of a healthy garden all the same. Slugs aren't insects, but they are enemies of a healthy garden all the same.


Check out the Rosebud Magazine guide to insect and pest problems. We've got tips on battling everything from spider mites to grasshoppers in your outdoor garden or hydroponic indoor grow room.


Know the Enemy: Grasshoppers can move in and chew up a healthy outdoor garden in no time at all, particularly when things get hot and dry. Their mobility and hardiness make them a very formidable enemy for gardeners, as do their sheer numbers and eating power.

How to Spot ’Em: Their eggs are laid in dense clusters, typically in drier and undisturbed soils. Once they emerge in early spring, the tender juveniles need a food source quickly; this is when they are their most vulnerable after the egg phase. Once they mature, they are very hardy and quick.

Fight Back: Irrigating and lightly tilling in early spring with aerobic compost teas may help to reduce populations in the egg stage. Contact sprays and baits are common control methods once outbreak levels have been reached. Some gardeners collect the juveniles or adults off the plants by hand, dropping the green devils into a covered metal bucket containing a small amount of a flammable solvent. Once the bucket is full of the pests … Opa!

Spider Mites

Know the Enemy: While there are a variety of mites that attack plants, being from the Acari subclass means that they are going to look and behave similarly. In most regions, you are less likely to encounter them outdoors, however, they may have already set up shop if your outdoor transplants originated from indoor gardens or greenhouses. Most mites prefer hot and dry conditions and can launch a new generation every 10 days if conditions are favorable.

How to Spot ’Em: These soft-bodied insects are about the size of a pinhead and can be seen typically on leaf undersides, hiding towards the leaf veins. Leaves may show pin-sized yellow dots — the discolorations that arise from chewing and sucking the plant’s juices. Eggs appear as little white balls, which may be observed more easily through a magnifying glass.

Fight Back: Natural predators include ladybugs, pirate bugs and Phytoseiulus persimilis.


Know the Enemy: These soft bodies are the used hypodermic needles of the plant world. They use their piercing mouthparts to suck the juices out of plants, spreading viruses along the way. In warm conditions, aphids may reproduce in seven to eight days. Aphids are very common outdoor garden pests and especially love roses.

How to Spot ’Em: All are small (around 2 mm) and appear pear-shaped, with long legs and antennae. Most are wingless, and they may also have tube-like structures sticking out of their back ends. Aphids are usually found right along the stem underneath flower buds like roses and peonies.

Fight Back: Aphids are a favored food of ladybugs, pirate bugs, lacewings and parasitic wasps.


Know the Enemy: Often referred to as cutworms due to their ability to quickly cut down and defoliate young plants (or even large trees) by way of chewing. They can be small or large and come in a variety of colors. Some are wooly, some bald. All can cause damage.

How to Spot ’Em: Some types can be found right in the soil, where they chew at the plant roots, while others ravage in armies, either at the base or even over the entire plant. Many build tents from their silk. All must be destroyed before they devastate the hopes and dreams you have planted.

Fight Back: Lightly tilling or troweling the top soil will expose some of the soil-dwelling types. Birds and toads may help eat some, but for adequate control measures you’ll need to spray or manually remove them. Sticky barriers and other traps may help control and monitor populations further.


Know the Enemy: Never underestimate the level of devastation a few slugs can cause in your garden. Garden slugs have chewing mouthparts that grate and grind plant material as they pass over it. Serious damage occurs when they crawl up the base of the plant stem. The plants can topple over and die quickly.

How to Spot ’Em: A trail of slime left on destroyed seedlings is a clear sign of a slug attack. Adults lay eggs in the soil or other moist hiding places. While slugs are less of a problem in hot and dry conditions, irrigation and rainfall can bring them out in numbers.

Fight Back: Slugs may be deterred by copper tape and wire, ground up by diatomaceous earth, electrocuted by traps from simple batteries and wires, or tricked into congregating under flat boards strategically placed in a border surrounding the garden. Kill ’em all — no mercy.



Know the Enemy: These tiny roundworms hide in the soil and feed on plant roots. While hurting a plant’s ability to absorb water and nutrients from damaged root systems, the wounds created also open the plant up for diseases.

How to Spot ’Em: It’s very difficult, which leads us to …

Fight Back: As with all pests, prevention is the best strategy. Once they set in, it’s hard to harm nematodes without harming the host plant. Savvy growers know the value of microbial-rich aerobic compost teas to deter and control nematodes that may be lurking beneath the soil’s surface. Beneficial garden inoculants such as Piranha also contain species of fungus that are beneficial to crop growth and yields while detrimental to harmful soil pests like nematodes.

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Last modified on Friday, 28 September 2012 18:56

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