Garden bugs can make ornamental and edible garden chores short. Therefore, it is wise to know the real culprits and how to reduce or eliminate their effects.
In this part of the south—Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi—many insects feed on leaves, fruits, and stems. Although small and rare, Asian citrus peel threatens just about every citrus growing state, not because it is food spoilage, but because it can carry and transmit bacteria known as citrus greening.
Gardening experts say check your plants at least twice a week. Closely examine the tops and bottoms of the leaves, as many culprits reside there. It is important to stop its spread quickly, especially if you are growing fruits and vegetables. Some damage from feeding on the leaves of edible plants can be tolerated, but preventing feeding on the fruit is of the utmost importance.
Texas and the Southern United States are plagued by pest insects
While every state has its share of insects, there are several that are common in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. These include:
Stink bugs – Stink bugs can damage many vegetables by feeding on the fruit. Their bodies are brown or green in the shape of a shield. Stink bugs appear in late summer and fall. When checking your plants for pests, remove masses of eggs, nymphs, and mature bugs by hand.
• Squash worms – Squash worms feed on squash, cucumbers, pumpkins, and melons. They look a lot like stink bugs but are longer and more oval in shape. They damage plant leaves by sucking their sap. Row covers can help protect young plants. Look for any egg masses on the undersides of the leaves and remove them. Nymphs and adults can be removed from the plants and placed in a container of soapy water.
• Squash Vineyard Borer – Squash Vineyard Borer are reddish-orange moths with black markings that lay eggs on squash, squash, and other cucurbits. The larvae then feed on the plant, boring into the stems and killing the plant. Destroy any plants that have died.
• Fruit Insects – Fruit insects, such as the tomato fruitworm and corn earworm, attack a variety of vegetables by boring produce. Moths fly at night to lay eggs on plants. Organic Azadirachtin can help kill insects.
Asian citrus psyllid – The Asian citrus brown fungus, a brown fungus the size of an aphid, can carry and transmit a bacterium called Candidatus Liberibacter asiatax (CLas), which causes Huanglongbing disease (HLB), also known as citrus greening. It is fatal to trees. Control using two products – a foliar pyrethroid insecticide to kill visible pests and a systemic insecticide applied in the soil to kill hidden pests in new plants.
Additional pests and ways to control them are listed below.
Scale is a significant issue for ornamental trees and shrubs, including soft scale and armoured scale. Soft scales produce a smooth coating that may be white, cottony, or waxy. The armored scale has a hard covering that conceals the insect. They stick to plants, feed on sap, and never move. Severe infestations can cause leaf yellowing or defoliation. They weaken the plant and make it susceptible to secondary pests and diseases that can kill the plant. Treat with horticultural or neem oil.
• Japanese beetles – These invasive insects can cause widespread damage to ripe fruit and broadleaf foliage. They feed in groups on a wide variety of plants from June to August. The larvae of Japanese beetles are white grubs that feed on grass roots in early spring. Adult beetles are about 3/8 inch (9.5 mm) long, metallic green with copper-colored wing coverts and white tufts on the undersides of the wings. Early in the morning, cut the plants and place them in a bowl of soapy water. If infestations are severe, a labeled insecticide can be used, but follow directions carefully, including how to avoid desirable insects such as pollinators.
• Blackberry (Raspberry) Crown Borer – One of the major blackberry pests, the blackberry (raspberry) crown bore, looks like a yellow jacket because of its black and yellow colour. This two-year life cycle includes the egg, larval, and pupal stages. Primary cane shows wilting or dying off of all leaves in May or June, indicating packing larvae. Dig up and destroy infected canes and roots in late fall or early spring. Insecticides can be sprayed first in mid-to-late October of the year, and then in April of the following year. Saturation of plants and soil. To achieve control, sprays should be used in both fall and spring for two consecutive years. Then apply once a year as a preventive measure.
• Strawberry Two-spot Spider Mite – This is one of the most damaging pests of strawberries wherever they are grown in the United States, as well as on other ornamental and edible plants. Its diet affects the size, quality and quantity of the fruits. Uncontrolled infestation can cause damage to the plant. Cankers appear as dark green dots on the undersides of leaves. With a 10x magnification, they are yellow to dull green with a dark spot on each side. Check the plants for nymphs and adults, as well as predatory mites. If the number of predatory mites is half that of two-spotted mites, there is no need to treat. If treatment is required, use an acaricide recommended by your local extension agent.
• Leaf-legged insects – Leaf-legged insects are primarily a problem on tomatoes and tomatoes, although they attack most other vegetables. Adult stink bugs have a grayish-brown body and a white horizontal stripe. Its hind feet look like leaves. Plant early to avoid overpopulation in the late summer and fall. Sunflowers can be grown to trap insects by spraying them with a contact spray such as pyrethrin. If you don’t kill them, the sunflower will function as a crop, producing more leafhoppers.
Thrips – Thrips are small insects that feed on the leaves and fruits of tomatoes, peppers, melons, other garden vegetables, and many ornamental plants. Several species occur, including western thrips, which carry tomato residual wilt virus. Look for tomato varieties that are resistant to the tomato spotted wilt virus. Reflective mulch is effective in reducing thrips populations. Additionally, chemical controls such as insecticidal soaps, neem oil, and permethrin can be effective when used as directed.
• Aphids – Aphids are a common problem in Oklahoma as well as other areas. Small insects, often yellow, green, red or black, suck the sap from the leaves and produce a sticky substance called honeydew, which can attract ants and form sooty mold. A strong blast of water under the leaves will dislodge many of them. Additionally helpful are insecticidal soaps or neem oil.
• Leafhoppers – Closely related to true insects, the adults fly away when disturbed. Wingless nymphs run when disturbed. Adults are wedge-shaped, about 1/8 inch to ¼ inch (3 mm to 1 cm) long, depending on the species. Leafhoppers can be yellow, green, gray, or patterned in color. Neem oil or pyrethrum can help reduce the large population.
• Sweet Potato Weevil – For the weevil, the adult is small and slender, much like an ant. They are blue-black except for the reddish midsection and legs. The larvae overwinter in the tubers and stems and continue their life cycle inside the stored tubers. Deteriorating tubers give off an unpleasant odor and taste. Practice crop rotation and plant hemp-free sweet potato stock. At the end of the season, destroy nearby vines, volunteers, and morning glory vines, which also serve as host plants. Insecticides can be applied after harvest to prevent weed growth during storage, but be sure to wash the potatoes before use.
Pellister beetle – adults feed on flowers and leaves of ornamental plants, clover, potatoes, garden vegetables and other plants. Immature pustular beetles either eat locust eggs or are considered dangerous and beneficial. Some species do, however, reside in solitary bee nests. It should not be handled because it contains a toxin (cantharidin) that can cause blisters. Animals that eat food contaminated with the beetle can get sick or die. Cut alfalfa threshing before it blooms to reduce the incidence of contamination. Controlling beetles with insecticides is usually not necessary.