Garden pests can be a frustrating problem, but there are some things you can do to help keep them at bay naturally. These techniques will not only help you create a healthy and thriving garden, they will also strengthen your garden’s immune system so that it can better defend itself from future pest invasions.
Ladybugs are one of the most adorable bugs you’ll ever see, but if they find their way into your home, they can become a pest. They can cause a variety of issues, including a rash or itchy eyes.
The good news is that there are 450 ladybug species in North America, and many of them help control garden pests like aphids. But a few species, such as Asian lady beetles, can also be a nuisance.
To encourage ladybugs to stay in your yard, grow plants that provide ample food and water. These include flowers and herbs that create pollen, such as alyssum, dill, cilantro, calendula, marigolds, fennel, scented geraniums, and yarrow.
Cucumber beetles are a major pest of cucurbits (cucumber, melons, acorn squash, zucchini, and patty pan squash) but they also feed on a variety of other vegetables. They are primarily found in the south, and they can cause significant damage to cucumbers.
In addition to feeding on the fruits and flowers of cucurbits, they can transmit bacterial wilt from one plant to another. The bacterium overwinters in the gut of the beetles and is spread when they chew or ingest contaminated plant parts.
To prevent bacterial wilt, monitor for the insects at least twice a week in early spring and treat when beetle numbers reach about 1 beetle per 2 plants. To minimize beetle movement between fields, use trap crops to attract the beetles away from your main crop plants.
Garden pests are an inevitable part of the gardening experience, but there’s an important lesson to be learned from them: many – if not most – pests can be controlled naturally. Aphids, for example, are a big problem for a lot of gardeners and are easy to control if you have ladybugs (lady beetles) around.
Mimic flies are an excellent example of Batesian mimicry – they look and sound like insects that sting or taste unpleasant. They may also be useful as a way of warding off predators!
Fungus gnats are one of the most annoying garden pests to have in your home. Not only do they swarm around your face, but they will literally crawl into your houseplants if you leave them unchecked.
They are also a major problem in greenhouses and nurseries. Their larvae feed on plant roots, causing plants to wilt or die.
The best way to control fungus gnats in your garden is through cultural and physical methods. Reduce excess moisture and organic debris around your plants, and eliminate sources of water (plumbing leaks or overwatered containers) that can support fungus gnats’ breeding.
Mosquitoes aren’t a fun garden pest, but there are some ways you can reduce them naturally without using harmful pesticides. One way is to eliminate standing water where mosquitoes breed.
Female mosquitoes lay eggs in standing water, which then hatch into larvae that become adult mosquitoes. Getting rid of standing water is the best defense against mosquitoes in your yard.
Clean up gutters, empty saucers under potted plants, remove old tires, clean out birdbaths and pet bowls, and regularly change the water in ponds and bird baths.
If you have a pond, stock it with fish like goldfish, bluegills and minnows that eat mosquito larvae. If you don’t have a pond, treat water in birdbaths and planters with larvicide mosquito rings sold at home and garden stores.