When insects become garden pests

Insects are our friends.

Without them, the web of nature crumbles. This is how important insects are to the world we live in.

However, apart from insect hotels, even we agree that there are a few pests that require some control.

Here’s a list of the most common pests that invade our gardens this time of year – and our recommended non-chemical controls:

japanese beetle. Hello climate change. A generation ago, this common garden pest was not known in these areas because our winters were severe enough to kill them. Now, Japanese beetles love to forage on lawns, lime trees, virginia vines, roses and more. They are voracious.

You may read elsewhere that the best control is manual picking. We are saying nonsense. Once you get started, you might as well quit your day job as it becomes endless. Pheromone (sex) traps work best in the urban garden. Hang them up where the problem is most persistent and empty them at least once a week.

Gypsy. Gypsy moth caterpillars arrive in such quantities that they can truly be described as hordes. Many municipalities spray with the relatively benign Bacillus thurengensis – or BT – when the butterflies are in the larval stage. The fluid reacts with the lining of the larvae’s stomach, causing them to burst at the seams. Not nice. But neither does the defoliation of your trees when they arrive. Or the droppings, their droppings, as they fall from trees above.

The stickiest thing in the universe has to be Tanglefoot. Squeeze a ring around the circumference of a tree, just below the lowest branches, and the larvae get stuck there. We hear reports that supplies are limited and other reports that small birds can get stuck there (it is this tights).

You can pick the larvae by hand and drop them in a bucket of water with vegetable oil floating in it. Note that gypsy moth larvae rarely kill trees, despite the leafless state in which they leave them.

Larvae. White grubs, cutworms, they both nibble on the roots of grasses and cause damage. But not as much as the raccoons, skunks, and opossums that scour your lawn at night looking for them. The larvae are shrimp cocktails for these nocturnal creatures.

Control them now with nematodes, available at garden retailers. Mix them with water and spray the solution on your lawn and water it thoroughly. Nematodes are naturally occurring and do not harm your plants.

Raccoons, skunks, and opossums can cause as much damage to lawns as the larvae they burrow in the grass.

Colorado potato beetle. If you grow potatoes, you have the Colorado potato beetle. Where do they come from? We have no idea. Formerly Colorado, but now here it’s Colorado potato beetles from Ontario.

Pick them by hand or apply a dry powder of silicone dioxide or diatomaceous earth; it is packaged in a squeeze bottle and sold as anti-ant or crawling insect repellent. It removes the waxy protective coating on the belly of the beetle. Reapply after a rain or watering.



Cabbage moth. This cute little white butterfly that you see flying in your garden lays eggs of little green caterpillars. Unlike a Cabbage patch doll, which is fun and cuddly, moth larvae are hungry for the leaves of any member of the cabbage family, including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and of course cabbage. Silicone dioxide works well in dry weather. A butterfly net works, but if you catch a desirable butterfly, thank it and let it go.

Which brings us to the gist of this problem: 99 percent of all insects are beneficial and serve humans in the natural cycle of eating and being eaten in the natural world. A nesting family of downy woodpeckers will consume up to 14,000 caterpillars per day (busy mom), so we need them.

The cabbage moth lays eager larvae of broccoli leaves, Brussels sprouts and of course cabbage.

There are also many pest control friends for the gardener. Songbirds and bats feed on insects relentlessly. Frogs and toads eat flying insects, including mosquitoes. Snakes, possums, skunks, and even raccoons will seek out terrestrial insects and gobble them up.

We have friends in the pest control department. Let’s not rock this boat.

Mark and Ben Cullen are expert gardeners and contributors to The Star. Follow Mark on Twitter: @ MarkCullen4

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