Garden Pests: Tips To Figure Out Who’s Eating Your Plants

Most gardeners are faced with pest problems from time to time, and although we have a wonderful guide to vegetable garden Pest here on our website, many gardeners need to be able to correctly identify a pest before turning to such a guide solutions to their problem. Garden Pest ID is a task that can be very difficult, especially if the pest is not bodily present on the plant when the damage is detected. Today we share an excerpt from the book Gardening Complete by the authors of Cool Springs Press (including several chapters by accomplished gardening contributors Jessica Walliser and Tara Nolan!). We are happy to share it with you because the extract offers some very practical advice on how to identify garden plague using methods that you may not have considered yet.

What is a garden plague?

In order for an insect to be considered a pest, it must cause significant economic or aesthetic damage to a plant. Yes, many insects eat plants, but most of them do not cause significant harm. And in most matter, the damage caused by these insects is not life-browbeat, but for a short time does not make the plant look so hot. It is surprisingly rare for a pest insect to finish its host plant directly; After all, it is not in the best interest of an insect to eliminate its food source and the food source of future generations.

Which economic or aesthetic damage is accurately classified as” significant ” depends on the tolerance of each individual gardener. Once you realize that most leaf-chewing insects are not out to finish your plants, your tolerance for their damage should naturally increase. Obviously, if you’re a farmer who needs to grow near-perfect crops for a living, your tolerance for pest damage that interferes with your bottom line is far less than a homeowner who only grows a garden to beautify their outdoor living space.

Pest numbers are also important. A tiny aphid is not a pest because the damage it causes is minimal, but hundreds of aphids can cause a far greater amount of damage, and the gardener may have to intervene with a management strategy. On the other hand, a tomato hornworm can nibble a whole tomato plant on the nub, so the implementation of some management tactics is certainly required, even if there is only one hornworm.

All this means that the decision whether a particular pest is worth time, money and effort or not is best determined by careful consideration of your personal tolerance, the nature of the damage caused and the number of pest present. The opinion of each gardener, when it’s time to intervene, will vary, but I encourage you not to intervene too early, since plants are not only very indulgently taken care of, but also, as you will learn after in the chapter, many pest problems are managed in a natural way by useful predatory insects.

Why do you need to identify pests in your garden

Another essential step in determining whether pest control measures are needed is to ensure that you correctly identify garden pest and understand their life cycles and the extent of damage they can cause. For example, some Pest have life cycles that last only a few weeks, while others feed on plants only for a short period of their lives, so taking action against a pest in one of these two groups is not worth the time and effort, since the pest has disappeared before it can do much damage. At the other end of the spectrum are the insects capable of producing multiple, overlapping generations within a single growing season. Their populations can explode in a short time and cause great damage in a short relative time. The only way to know how much the life cycle of a pest affects the amount of damage it can possibly cause is to correctly identify garden pest and learn about them before deciding to take action. There are several ways to do this.

Methods for identifying garden pests

1. Identify Garden pests using the body description. This method of identification takes into account the size, shape, coloring, number of legs, number of wings and other body characteristics of the insect. It is a useful method if you have access to a good insect ID book (see list ci-small) or a website where you can compare photos with the living insect in your garden.

3. identify garden pests by the host plant. In many matter, a leaf-chewing insect pest feeds only on a few selected species or plant families. Some insects are even so specific that they can only eat one type of host plant (think Asparagus beetles, holly leaf miners, and rose sawworms, to name a few). Bringing together the plant species with the insects that often feed on them is just another key to establishing the identity of a pest.

Sometimes only one of these three methods is enough to correctly identify Garden plague. In other matter, it may be necessary to use a combination of two or three of them.

Ledgers on garden pest identification

Then, to confirm the identity of the plague, you should consult a good book or website for plague identification. Here are some of my favorites for identifying Garden Pest.

Garden Insects of North America: the ultimate guide to garden insects by Dr. Whitney Cranshaw
Good Bug Bad Bug: Who’s Who, What They Do and How to Manage Them Organically by Jessica Walliser
National Audubon Society Field Guide to Insects and Spiders: North America by the National Audubon Society
Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America by Eric R. Eaton and Kenn Kaufman

Identification of Non-insect garden pests

For non-insect garden pests, you can use the same three methods that you use to identify garden pests that are insects. If you can not see how the animal eats your garden long enough to get a body description (maybe you dine at night?), look at how they feed on plants and what plants they consume. You can also search for footprints in and around the garden. Or, if you do not see the footprints, suck a layer of all-purpose car nibbled plants and see where the footprints are in the walker the next day.

Once you have correctly identified the culprit and read his dietary habits and life cycle, it is time to look for ways to prevent and control him. For this task we recommend to visit our guide to garden peste.

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