How to control pests in your yard and garden this summer
Many of the questions posed to the extension office this summer relate to pest identification and control. There are many beneficial and harmless insects to watch out for and encourage, but when the pests feed and damage flowers, fruits, and vegetables, it can be overwhelming. Here are some of the common landscape and garden pests to watch out for this time of year, and some control options.
Caterpillars that feed on trees are a common concern. There are reports of caterpillars and walnut moths on pecans, sophora worms on Texas Mountain Laurel, tomato hornworms on vegetables, and other pesky caterpillars. Not all caterpillars are parasites, some are beneficial butterflies. But moth caterpillars can be destructive in the garden and the landscape. Bt (aka Thuricide, Caterpillar Killer) is a good, effective and non-toxic option for other types of insects. Just be careful not to let it drift onto butterfly plants, as it will kill butterfly caterpillars as well. Spinosad is another good option for caterpillars and is also effective against a wider range of pest insects.
Spider mites are small and difficult to see, and can suddenly appear to devastate tomatoes and other garden crops. Scout regularly to catch them before they get out of hand. Take a magnifying glass to inspect under the leaves and shake the plant on a sheet of white paper to check for tiny spots that move around. Spider mites are arachnids, not insects, so they are more difficult to control. But products like neem oil or insecticidal soap can help – and the release of beneficial agents like predatory mites, ladybugs, and green lacewing can also help.
Squash bugs are another common pest that can quickly destroy a productive garden plant, and spotting and catching them early is the best defense, as are spider mites. Search online to see what the adults, nymphs, and squash bug eggs look like and keep an eye out. Destroy the egg masses as soon as you see them. Spraying pesticides is often not very effective once they reach a large population size.
Other common summer pests include grain bugs and white grubs in lawns, and pests that bother people like fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes. Check out the website https://tomgreen.agrilife.org/horticulture/ for more information on how to manage them.
Don’t overdo it with pesticides – when used correctly they can keep landscapes and gardens from being damaged, but if used too frequently they can damage populations of beneficial insects and make it worse. pest problems.
Allison Watkins is the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Agent for Horticulture in Tom Green County. Contact her at [email protected]