Why is it when 97% of the world’s insects are considered to be either beneficial or harmless, your garden attracts only the remaining 3% that are considered PESTS? Although it may seem this way, there are both “good” and “bad” insects in your yard.
There is a constant battle going on to maintain a balance between these two groups. Toleration of some pests should be allowed as they provide a food source for the beneficial insects, allowing them to thrive in your yard and keep the pests in check. However, even in the best of gardens, uncontrolled outbreaks do occur. Preventing an infestation of bugs is an important part of gardening. By taking several precautions and putting forth a little bit of effort in the beginning, you will hopefully be rewarded with (almost) pest-free veggies and flowers.
Why are some bugs in your yard a good thing? A vast majority of the insects in your yard provide many services that improve your garden and lawn. Insects help pollinate the blossoms, which lead to more fruit, vegetables, flowers, and seeds. Insects improve the soil condition by crawling through the surface layer. Droppings and dead bugs increase the fertility of the soil. Earthworms and centipedes also help aerate the soil during their travels. Insects keep the numbers of bugs in line by capturing and eating other types of insects
Learn to identify and manage three basic types of garden pests:
Soil Insects: This type of pest feeds on the seed in the ground or small tender vegetation. They will also attack larger, established root crops (such as potatoes and carrots). Examples of soil insects include cutworms, white grubs, slugs, and mole crickets.
Sucking Insects: These insects have a mouth type to pierce the skin and to suck the sap from the plant. Sometimes the hole made by these critters is so small that it is unable to be seen without a magnifying glass. Severe injury or even death can occur once your plant has fallen victim to these sucking insects. A badly infested plant will become yellowed, wilted, stunted or deformed. Examples of sucking insects include aphids, leafhoppers, stinkbugs, spider mites, and squash bugs.
Chewing Insects: This group causes the greatest amount of damage to gardens and yards. They chew off all parts of the plant including leaves, fruits, vegetables and flowers. Chewing insects include Colorado potato beetles, tomato hornworm, cabbage looper, webworms, leaf miners and various caterpillars
There are even parasitic insects that live off “bad” bugs, eventually killing them! The braconid wasp larvae infests the tomato hornworm and uses it as a food source. Insects act as janitors for your yard. They search out any dead plants or animals and feast on them, which provides a cleaning service for you. Most important of all is the insect population control created through fighting among themselves.
Surveillance of your garden
Plant your garden in a location so you can constantly see it. If an insect attack occurs you can take care of it early.
Choose resistant plants
Your local nursery or Extension Office can help you select some plants that are less tempting to the pests in your area. Other information sources are seed catalogs and plant reference books at the library.
Plowing and cultivating you garden brings soil insects to the surface. Birds and other predators can then feast on them as a snack.
Follow an organic fertilizing program and provide the proper amount of water. Strong and healthy plants will be less likely to come under attack by pests.
Practice “clean culture”
Remove debris, including old or dead fruit and veggies, before planting the next season’s crops. By either burning, burying or removing the debris, you will rid the area of insect infestation or disease. Keep surrounding weeds under control.
Encourage beneficial bugs
Do not use an indiscriminate insecticide. Try to use target-specific sprays.
By moving your plants around yearly, any bugs specific to certain crops will be forced to relocate. Garden pests can be placed into three separate groups: soil insects, sucking insects, and chewing insects.