How to Combat Pests & Insects in Your Garden

No gardener wants to see the fruits of their labors ruined at the hands – or in this case, mouths – of insects. But no garden is immune to pests. During the summer months, it’s common to find caterpillars like tomato hornworms, armyworms and pickleworms attacking your tomatoes, squash, cucumbers and other summer vegetable crops.

__Armyworms__ are the larvae of a moth and overwinter as pupae (insect stage between larva and adult) in the soil. Moth emergence begins in early April and continues into May. Egg masses are deposited onto foliage and about six days later, the eggs hatch and the caterpillars begin feeding on the leaves of vegetable plants. Over a three-week period, the larvae will feed on the tender foliage if you don’t catch them first. The mature larvae then burrow into the soil and change into pupae. Two weeks later another generation of moths emerge. It is possible in southern climates that three to four generations can occur each year.

The worms can be tough to find on the lower side of the leaf when they are small in size, but after just one day of feasting, these pests can really grow. Look for holes in leaves and turn the leaf over. Then put on gloves and start squishing.

__Pickleworms__ will damage fruit by creating an almost perfectly round little hole. Once the fruit is cut open, it will be seen that the damage is much greater and the worms have eaten the meat of the fruit. Young pickleworms usually feed on leaves or within blossoms. Growing vines can become riddled with holes and cease growth. Larvae are often found in the squash flowers where they hide under the ring of stamens at the base of flowers. When about half grown, pickleworms bore into the fruit and continue to feed, causing internal damage. Entry holes are usually marked with a pile of white/yellowish goo. They prefer young fruit before the rind becomes too tough.

Daily observation in the garden by looking for moths, eggs, and the smallest stage of caterpillars or other damaging bugs is the best way to get ahead of these pesky insects. Holes in the leaves of plants is the most tell-tale sign that there are insects on plants and if treated immediately can save the fruit from being destroyed .

Here are some more tips about how to combat pests in the garden:
– Inspect your garden plants regularly for signs of insect damage. If you can find eggs, problems will be lessened or destroyed before damage can be done.
– Holes in leaves or fruit are usually a sign of caterpillars. Look on the underside of the leaf for these pests.
– Most natural method is squishing them with your hands
– Next method is using Bt powder or spray. Bacillus Thuringiensis is a natural occurring bacterium that affects the digestive lining of the caterpillar. Within hours the insect will stop eating and will starve to death. Synthetic pesticides are non-selective and will kill beneficial insects. Every garden will be easier to tend with beneficial insects making their home in it. Beneficial insects such as ladybugs and praying mantis will eat harmful insects, saving gardeners the trouble of dealing with these crop-damaging insects. Around Charleston, you can purchase Bt at Possum’s Landscape & Pest Control Supply and at Hyams Garden Center.
– Introduce beneficial/predatory insects into your garden, such as ladybugs and praying mantis. You can purchase these at local garden stores.
– Practice crop rotation.
– Plant flowers and herbs that repel pests: marigolds, borage, chives, garlic, catnip, nasturtiums, rosemary and sage.

Other harmful insects you may see in your garden this summer include squash borer, beetles, aphids, slugs, tomato fruitworms and cucumber beetle. Also check out this video tutorial on managing pests and diseases in your Lowcounty garden.

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