There are several garden pests that wreak havoc on your flowering plants. The most common are scale, aphids, Japanese beetles, whiteflies and fire ants. Some of these pests are easy to spot while others hide.
To keep your garden safe this season, first identify garden pests then treat the problems. Be diligent and spot check your garden a few times a week.
Identify the Culprits:
Take a close look at your plants.
- See tiny bumps or a sticky liquid on your plant? You’ve got scale, a nasty garden pest that feeds on plant nectar or sap and can eventually kill.
- See a sticky liquid on your plant paired with a black, sooty mold? Or yellow, distorted leaves and buds? Aphids have sucked the juices out of plants and will continue to until they eventually kill the plant. Their sticky mess, called honeydew, also attracts ants and other insects.
- See leaves with only veins remaining? Japanese beetles did it. They’re one of the most common and prolific garden pests. They start as grubs in your lawn, so identifying and treating the lawn early will kill most before they emerge as adult beetles. (See grub killer.)
Shake your plant lightly.
- Did a white cloud emerge? Whiteflies are to blame. They suck the life out of your plants by congregating in huge numbers on the underside of leaves.
Look down at the ground.
- See a small mound in your garden? It belongs to fire ants. A fire ant’s sting can be painful for weeks, so take action now.
How to Get Rid of Scale:
- Cut away affected branches and throw away to avoid infesting other plants.
- Spray the plants with a soap solution: Mix 2 teaspoons liquid soap with 1 gallon of room-temperature water. Use a spray bottle or a sprayer that attaches to your hose to thoroughly coat the stems and both sides of leaves.
- Rinse off the mixture using room-temperature water.
- Spray the plant with an inspect spray following product instructions.
- Scrub the scales off with a soft brush and then apply the soap mixture mentioned above.
How to Get Rid of Aphids:
- Spray outdoor plants with a hose.
- If possible, isolate any pots or young plants until aphids are gone.
- Cut off any infested plant parts and trash them. Leave enough foliage for your plant to survive.
- If the aphids come back, fill a spray bottle with a solution of water and a few drops of mild dishwashing detergent. Spray both sides of the leaves.
- Need something stronger? Use an insecticidal soap and follow directions on the label.
- Still seeing signs of aphids? Treat with Neem oil or other pesticide control. Always follow label directions.
Tip: Welcome ladybugs because they’ll eat aphids. You can order live ladybugs from The Home Depot online store and release them in your garden.
How to Get Rid of Japanese Beetles:
- The easiest way to capture baby, young adults and adult beetles is to use a trap. Place the trap 30’ from the plants you are protecting to lure them away from the garden.
- Hand-pick your plants clean and drop beetles into a bucket of soapy water.
- Look for a pesticide with carbaryl, acephate and permethrin. Ask your Garden Center associate for help choosing the right one.
- Organic Neem-based pesticides and insecticidal soaps also provide good control.
How to Get Rid of Whiteflies:
- Purchase ready-made traps, allowing one trap for every large plant.
- Make your own traps by painting wood bright yellow. Coat the surface with petroleum jelly or sticky tape. Clean and reset periodically.
- When spotted, vacuum whiteflies with a battery-powered vacuum in early morning.
- By hand, remove the stems and leaves that are infested as soon as they appear.
- Spray lower leaves and underside of leaves with an insecticide specifically labeled for whiteflies.
How to Get Rid of Fire Ants:
- Keep family members and pets away from the area where there are fire ant mounds before and directly after treating.
- Choose an insecticide and follow all label directions before applying. Make sure to wear gloves.
- Use a liquid insecticide to drench the mound for quick results.
- Granual insecticides are sprinkled directly on and around the mound. Some granular insecticides kill on contact while others are eaten by ants and contain slow release insecticides, often known as fire ant baits.
- Pruning shears
- Watering can or hose
- Spray nozzle
- Spray bottle
- Soft brush
- Garden gloves
- Sticky tape
- Petroleum jelly
- Mild dishwashing liquid
- Fire ant bait
- Insecticidal liquid
- Insecticidal soap
- Insect spray
- Hand-held vacuum
- Optional: Chemicals such as Neem oil or malathion
- Optional: Ladybugs