A Quick Way To Identify Garden Pests

identify garden pests

striped beetle

Do you know how to identify garden pests?

If we could cultivate a garden without interference from pests, then indeed gardening would be a simple matter. But constant vigilance is the watchword we must employ to have any chance of victory against those little foes whose havoc is far from little!


Just as human illness can be prevented by basic hygiene, so pests may be kept away by strict garden cleanliness. Heaps of waste are lodging places for the breeding of insects. Although I do not think a compost pile will do any harm, unkempt and uncared-for spots seem to invite trouble.

There are certain aids to keeping pests at bay. The constant stirring of the soil by earthworms helps keep the soil open to air and water. Many of our common birds feed upon insects. The sparrows, robins, chickadees, meadow larks and orioles are all examples of birds who help in this way. Some insects feed on other harmful insects, such as ladybugs on aphids. The ichneumon fly helps too as it is a parasite to pests. Toads and frogs are wonders in the number of insects they can consume at one meal. The toad especially deserves very kind treatment from all of us!

Each gardener should try to make their garden into a place attractive to birds and amphibians. Front yard landscaping information, a good birdhouse, grain sprinkled about in early spring, a water-place, are invitations for birds to stay a while in your garden. If you wish toads and frogs, fix things up for them too. During a hot summer day a toad likes to rest in the shade. By night he is ready to go forth to eat but not to kill, since toads prefer live food. How can one “fix up” for toads? Well, one thing to do is to prepare a retreat, quiet, dark and damp. A few stones of some size underneath the shade of a shrub with perhaps a carpeting of damp leaves, would appear very fine to a toad. A pond, of course, would appeal to frogs!

There are two general kinds of pestiferous insects. Each can be identified by the methods they employ to ruin your garden! The first type gnaws at the plant as it ingests your hard work. This kind of insect has a mouth fitted to do this work. Grasshoppers and caterpillars are of this variety of pest. The other kind sucks juices from a plant. This, in some ways, is the worst sort. Plant lice belong to this category, as do mosquitoes which prey on us too! All the scale insects fasten themselves onto plants and suck out the life.

Sometimes subterranean pests cause a lot of trouble. You may have seen a garden covered with ant hills, for example.

This question is constantly asked,

‘How can I identify garden pests and tell what insect is destroying my plants?’

Well, you can tell partly by the work done, and partly by seeing the insect itself. This latter is not always so easy to accomplish of course. I had cutworms one season and never saw one! I saw only damage they did. If stalks of tender plants are cut clean off be pretty sure the cutworm is abroad. What does he look like? Well, that is a hard question because his family is a large one. Should you see a grayish striped caterpillar, you may know it is a cutworm. But because of its habit of resting in the ground during the day and working by night, it is difficult to catch sight of one. The cutworm is around early in the season ready to cut the flower stalks of the hyacinths. When the peas come on a bit later, he is ready for them too. Greedy blighter! A very good way to block him off is to put paper or tin collars around the plants. These collars should be about an inch away from the plant.

Of course, plant lice are much more common. Those we see are often green in colour but they may be red, yellow or brown/black. Lice are easy enough to find since they are always clinging to their host. As sucking insects they have to cling close to a plant for food, and so are easily found. But the gnawing/biting insects do their work and then go hide. That makes them much more difficult to deal with.

Rose slugs do great damage to the rose bushes. They eat out the body of the leaves, so that just the veining is left. They are soft-bodied, green above and yellow below.

A beetle, the striped beetle, attacks young melons and squash leaves. It eats the leaf by riddling out holes in it. This beetle, as its name implies, is striped. The back is black with yellow stripes running lengthwise.

Then there are the slugs, which are common garden pests. The slug will devour almost any garden plant, whether it be a flower or a vegetable. They lay lots of eggs in old rubbish heaps, which is one reason why cleanliness is important. The slugs do more harm in the garden than almost any other single pest! One way to find them is by tricking them to the surface by sprinkling the ground with lime water. They tend to hide near the plants they feed on – not being the fastest of creatures!

A common pest in the vegetable garden is the tomato worm. This is a large yellowish or greenish striped worm. Its work is to eat into the young fruit. A great, light green caterpillar is found on celery. This caterpillar may be told by the black bands, one on each ring or segment of its body.

The squash bug may be told by its brown body, which is long and slender, and by the disagreeable odor that exudes from it when killed. The potato bug is another one to look out for. It is a beetle with yellow and black stripes down its crusty back. The little green cabbage worm is a perfect nuisance. It is a small caterpillar and smaller than the tomato worm. These are perhaps the most common of garden pests by name.

Beside the pest, such as the slug, that will attack virtually any kind of plant, there are also those who specialize in feeding off a select type of plant. Beans have pests of their own, so have potatoes and cabbages. In fact, the vegetable garden has many inhabitants. In the flower garden lice are very bothersome, the cutworm and the slug have a good time there too, and ants often become very numerous as the season advances. But the vegetable garden takes the prize compared with flowers, for only fruit gardens suffer worse under the hands (mouths!) of pests.

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wooden compost bins

Still, at least you know some of the dangers to your green-fingered creations now and hopefully are better able to withstand the assaults when they come! If you’d like in-depth information on how to identify garden pests and how to combat them using organic gardening pest control, check out this link.