Yes Folks, unfortunately it is that time of year again. As our plants start to show successful growth and establishment, so do those nasty little bugs. They show up once they know that the plants are big enough to feed on. Since the previous post of pesty weeds, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about what bugs your plants as these pests are equally bothersome, perhaps even more!
When going out to your garden, some of you may be saddened by the destruction of your plants. We spend so much time and money in growing them and want them to reach their full potential as worry free as can be. If your plants have had some insect and/or disease stress, your first initial reaction would likely be to get rid of them. You don't have to react so quickly as there are many solutions and growing alternatives to overcome this issue.
It is true that in order to successfully eliminate these bugs and protect our vegetables, flowers, trees,shrubs,or wherever the issue may be in your garden, the first defense is through identification. When searching for these little culprits, remember that not all bugs are destructive. We refer to these bugs as "beneficial insects". Beneficial insects will eat and feed off of the nasty ones. Of course there are more destructive insects then there are beneficial types, however if you get rid of the bad ones, then the beneficial insects will increase in population. I referenced the most common beneficial insects and where they benefit your garden below with some photos to make identification easier. This class of insects also makes an ideal solution in dealing with pests as a biological means. What this basically indicates is that instead of using chemicals you can promote beneficial populations to naturally occur by creating habitats as well as purchasing from your local Garden Centre or Agriculture Services.
Growing types of plants that will attract beneficial insects is a great start to entice and increase the population. We have provided a list of those plants and you can find those by clicking here. I am sure most of you have heard that if you see many lady bugs then the aphid population will likely be lower. Ladybugs or lady beetles enjoy eating aphids as well as other types of destructive insects. You can encourage the ladybug population with habitats such as a ladybug house or choosing not to spray any chemicals especially while these bugs are present. These houses and habitats are enticing for other beneficials such as the lacewing which will also help you gain control over aphids and other bothersome insects.
Pictured below are ladybugs at both young and adult stages to help in making a proper identification.
Lady Beetle Nymp stage Lady Beetle adult stage
As mentioned, another popular beneficial insect is the Lacewing. Lacewing insects will consume an array of destructive bugs similar to what Lady Beetles eat. I'm sure you all have heard of mealy bugs and have had experiences with these that you want to forget. Encouraging the Lacewing population will help you solve this issue.
Adult Lacewing and Eggs
Two other popular beneficial insects that are visibly seen are the Parasitic Wasp and the Praying Mantis. These insects are not as common as the Lady Beetle or Lacewing but can be seen in some regions. Both are pictured below to help you identify them when you are out in your garden.
|Adult Praying Mantis|
Along with these beneficial insects mentioned comes another type called Beneficial Nematodes. Many gardeners are unaware of these types of beneficials that in particular are successful at controlling soil pest insects such as larvae or grubs. This method of control is becoming more widely known as insect and disease control methods have changed greatly over the past number of years. Beneficial Nematodes are environmentally friendly, safe and effective as an alternative to using pesticides. Keep in mind that with any organic/biological control methods, reading directions on the label will still be required. You can purchase these Beneficial Nematodes at your local agriculture centre or nursery.
Now for the not so fun part, but will be in the end, as you gain control over these guys.
I'm sure you can identify the "big guy" pictured above...have you ever seen them this big before? While out for a walk one morning I noticed that the sidewalk was just polluted with slugs and all were just as big as this one. They appear to be pretty resilient while inching their way across the rough surface below. Is it any wonder your peas, beans or other veggies and flowers have been completely stripped of their foliage? You can generally tell when slugs are present in your garden as they leave a shiny, sticky clear trail behind. Your garden can quickly be here today and gone tomorrow if these opportunistic guys get a chance to do their thing. Please don't give up hope because there are many alternatives for control over slugs. Broadcast a product called Diatomaceous Earth on top of the soil around the baseline of your plants. Slugs will stay away as this product is very sharp for them to crawl across. This is one of many successful control methods when dealing with slugs.
Have you ever seen how quickly your plants can become infested? You can go from this...
The above pictures of corn are of the same plant, the first one is completely pest free...or so we think! Insect infestations can happen so quickly. If you are unsure of what the cob of corn is infested with, it is aphids. For almost every plant family, there is a specific species of aphid for each one. Rest assured though because you will be able to successfully gain control when first seeing them. This is where lady bugs or lacewings will come in handy to help gain control.
Many gardeners have been inquiring of this insect this past season. Even though he is tiny, he will quickly make a big mess of your plants. Yes, this is a photo of the infamous cucumber beetle that everyone is talking about lately. It is interesting how its name is derived as being the Cucumber Beetle. This insect actually prefers squash and pumpkin foliage before nibbling on cucumber plants. Quick and efficient identification and treatment is essential when dealing with this little guy. Use of row covers as soon as the seed has been planted is your best defense against this pest.
Row covers that tightly cover the soil surface where these seeds were planted, have shown great results. Once the plants are big enough and have set out their bloom, row covers will need to be removed. At this stage your plants are typically not in any real amount of danger as the population is decreased and the plants are large enough that bugs wouldn't be able to consume the plant. There are other ways in dealing with this insect, however row covers would be my first recommendation. Once you have purchased row covers, you can use them for many different plants and other uses throughout the season as they are very easy to use and re-use.
Does this plant damage look familiar as well as the previous pictures that I have included up to this point? I have seen and heard many gardeners talking of this problem this year and especially on certain crops. If you haven't already guessed what this damage is from, its from flea beetles. As with many other destructive insects, flea beetles are very tiny too. They can rapidly pack a punch of damage in your garden especially on leafy green vegetables such as this Nappa Cabbage transplant. You can see this tiny little bug resting at the top of the leaf of this plant. They will basically make the plant look like it was poked with holes leaving almost a light brown transparent look to the leaf which will eventually result in nothing but a stem. You can also treat this issue by applying row covers as soon as seeds or transplants have been planted.
Of course there are many other types of destructive insects, and so many that it would take many blogs to mention, however it shouldn't prevent us from the joy of growing a garden and all of the benefits that go along with them.
Another type of a natural means of getting ahead, or behind, in this case is to plant your crop a little later or possibly even a little earlier where weather permits. I'm sure many of you have heard of growing degree days and if you haven't you can click the above link that best defines it.This table is essentially used to determine when insect and disease population is at its height. This will enable you to time your treatment plan in accordance to when these populations are at their highest making it most beneficial. You may also choose to plant your crops in time before or after when these risks are higher. This will also prevent plant distress and vulnerability.
A few more common destructive insects identified below:
Please feel free to contact us though facebook, email or good old fashioned phone calls if you are ever skeptical of what may be bugging your flower or vegetable gardens. We are always happy to help!
Next post: Plant diseases