How to treat common garden pests: A guide for Melbourne gardeners
Gardens have insects which are both beneficial and harmful. Most of the time, valuable insects, like pollinators and predatory insects, retain the destructive pests in check. Sometimes, the balance changes and the harmful insects can prevail in larger numbers, causing severe damage to plants.
Insect pests can harm plants, leaving gardeners stressed, or potentially cause animal health issues. Insect-eating may decrease the plant’s capacity to produce seed or fruit, or pests may feed immediately on the produce, poisoning human food supplies. They often ruin other organisms’ ecosystems and natural resources, resulting in a reduction in water quality, a rise in soil degradation and soil erosion, and the devastation of native plants that provide shelter and food for indigenous species.
Luckily, most garden insect pests can be treated using non-toxic techniques like hand-picking or heavy water spraying. How you cope with the situation depends on what kind of insect is creating the problem. Here’s how you can detect and respond to many of the most common pests in the garden.
Soft-bodied and tiny pear-shaped, aphids may be white, yellow, red, black, and maybe winged or wingless. White, cottony aphids like fruit plants. Aphids are commonly found clumping on the delicate new plant growth, where they feed on sap, resulting in warped leaves and flowers. While it might be frightening to discover hundreds of them clumped on a plant stem, they infrequently cause enough destruction to destroy a plant. Unless a significant agricultural crop is affected, it is not generally a matter of great concern.
Heavy spraying of the pump water will blow them off the plants or nibble them off the impacted stem and smother them on the surface. The spraying of insecticidal soap works as well, but the plant’s surface where they have been nourishing will always display some deformation as it develops. Ladybug larvae and lacewings (both useful insects) can significantly reduce aphids. Consider the fact that any technique used to limit or demolish aphids will also influence pollinating insects that feast on them.
Caterpillars, occasionally referred to as worms, are the larvae of butterflies and moths, that renders them more difficult to deal with since many will become pollinators that your landscape and garden require. Caterpillars and worms eat plants, devouring leaves and stems.
Native predators, like birds, can assist; renew the water in your birdbath every day to attract feathered tourists to the yard. Natural parasites, including certain tiny wasps assault caterpillars; look for different white eggs on caterpillars’ backsides as a proof of their presence. Prevent the laying of eggs with floating row coverings over small plants, but make sure to remove row coverings when veggie plants start to flower so that they can be pollinated. The biological pesticide Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) is harmless to humans, pets and grown-up insects, but very effective in protecting plants like spinach and cauliflower from caterpillars.
3. Flea beetles
Small black or grey beetles might be less than 1/8-inch in length. Numerous scattered pits or tiny, tattered holes in the leaves, usually showing up in spring and summer months. Take a close look at your garden in these months to see if flea beetles appear on your plants.
Safeguard young plants with a hovering row cover till the plants start to bloom. Existing plants expanding quickly in warm temperatures often endure a little flea beetle eating. Yellow sticky traps are going to attract beetles. Their large predators, especially predatory wasps, frequently keep the masses down. To lure tiny parasitic wasps, plant their favourite nectar plants, like dill, sweet alyssum, and fennel. If outbreaks of flea beetles are severe, spraying with neem oil or spray carrying spinosad may reduce them. Other insecticides are labelled for control of flea beetle but read the ingredients carefully to ensure which plants or vegetables they can be securely applied on.
Mealybugs are tiny, sap-sucking, powdery insects. Mealybugs consume sap from plants that cause contorted and restricted development and loss of leaves. They contain honeydew as they dine, that can lure ants and result in sooty mould growth.
In the garden, nectar plants, like yarrow and sweet alyssum, will bring large predators, such as ladybugs. Erase mealybugs from trees and plants with powerful water sprays or with alcohol-dipped cotton swabs. If the infection is severe spraying with insecticidal soap, neem oil, or pyrethrin may also control mealy bugs. Follow manufacturer’s instructions wisely to prevent damaging plants and pollinating insects.
5. Scale insects
Although there are many kinds of scale insects, they all start as crawlers, mobile to find a suitable destination for feeding. Once decided to settle, 1/16-inch-long pests become motionless and create hard, oval shells that are hard to differentiate from the bark. Scale insects suck out necessary plant liquids, leading to underdeveloped foliage, discolouration, and branch dieback.
To control scale insects, spray plants with dormant oil in late winter to suffocate the pests. In spring and summer, spray plants with neem oil or synthesised insecticides carrying carbaryl.
6. Slugs and snails
Slender, black or brown, slugs appear identical to small worms, but they have tiny antennas. Snails appear like slugs, but they have tough circular shells on their backsides. Both slugs and snails love the humidity and the rasp slits in the flowers and leaves. They eat in the nights and cloudy days, leaving shining trails.
These pests prefer wet, cool locations. You can see them lurking under compost, backyard debris, or near stones; at night time, pick them up and dispose of them. Set up a few traps of shallow saucers full of beer at the ground surface; remove drowned pests and fill up the traps regularly. Various commercially toxic snail baits are accessible. Make sure to check tags for product lines that may be damaging to people, pets and animals, or other pollinating insects.
7. Tent caterpillars
Tent caterpillars are larvae of many separate species of moths. The female moth lays its eggs on the tree branches and shelters the larvae colony in giant silk ‘tents’ or webs that they establish as they feast on the foliage. Larvae of tent-making moths and consume leaves of trees. Although it is frequently more of an unappealing pest than a danger, numerous caterpillars in a tree can devastate it and, if recurring for a few years, can end up causing tree’s death.
Tent-making moths have several predators (birds, other insects) so they occasionally cause much harm to plants. Devastation may be inhibited by removing their webs and moths when they’re still tiny. Cool mornings or evening hours are when moths are in their nets; this is the perfect way to eliminate them with a rod or gloved hands. Demolish the hive by burning or crushing after deletion from the tree. Insecticide control may be required after continued, massive damage over many years.
Garden pests are somewhat challenging for healthy and active plants grown under the right set of circumstances. Before using any pesticide, please consult the tag for a chart of plant species, environments, secure and effective application rate. Before using heavier chemical compounds, we always suggest starting with healthy, natural methods.
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