Well, they're back. This is the time of year when insects such as squash bugs, cucumber beetles, Japanese beetles, potato beetles, and tomato hornworms, begin to rear their ugly heads.
Garden pests are showing up all over the county, but you can limit the impact they have on your vegetables by looking for signs of troubling bugs. When it comes to controlling garden insect pests, one of the best things you can do is to scout your garden daily for potential problems. Look for insects on your plants by thoroughly checking the leaves—top and bottom—and looking at the stems as well. Also look for eggs laid on the plant that may be signs of a problem to come.
Even if you don’t see any problem insects, you should keep your eyes open for signs of injury that may be caused by them. Some problem insects are well camouflaged in our gardens, but they usually leave some signs of injury on plants they live on. Some things to look for that might indicate insect injury: leaf yellowing or spotting, leaves disappearing/being stripped from the plant, holes chewed in leaves or fruits, or plants suddenly wilting.
If you have a problem and need assistance identifying a pest, the Paulding County UGA Cooperative Extension Office is here to help. You can email digital photos to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can also submit physical samples to our office—please call us for tips on how to prepare the sample for submission 770-443-7616.
Once you have positively identified your insect pest, you have several options for controlling a problem. If you opt to use an insecticide, organic or otherwise, be sure to read and follow the label instructions carefully—the label is the law. Insecticides are generally not selective in action, meaning that they will kill good bugs just as effectively as they kill pests. There are many more beneficial insects in our gardens than pests, including pollinators like honeybees, bumblebees and butterflies, as well as insects that contribute to pest control like ladybugs, wasps, wheelbugs, assassin bugs, and the list goes on! So use insecticides with care and only in situations where they are warranted.
Top 5 Most Unwanted-Be on the lookout for these insect pests in your vegetable garden:
5. Japanese Beetles are small, green, metallic beetles eat the tender leaf tissue between the veins of leaves and leave them skeletonized. If you have just noticed them and their populations are not too large, you can hand pick them or shake them off your plants into a container of soapy water. Do not spray your plants with soapy water-it will kill the beetles, but it will also kill your plants!
4. Colorado potato beetles are small brown/tan beetles with black stripes on back and an orange head. It only takes a few of these beetles to cause damage to potato plants by defoliating the plant. They will also damage tomatoes and eggplant. A great way to reduce problems with this pest culturally is to rotate your plantings each year. Be sure not to plant potatoes in the same spot each year. Crop rotation is an excellent practice for all of your vegetable plants to help reduce insect and disease pests.
3. Tomato hornworms are a caterpillar that will eventually turn into a large moth. On its way to becoming a moth, this hungry critter can rapidly can defoliate entire plants. It is green in appearance and is very well camouflaged by the leaves of plants. Scouting for this caterpillar is important, but control is as simple as picking the caterpillar from the plant and squashing it-How is that for organic pest control?
2. Cucumber beetles are oblong, yellowish green, with three black stripes and can damage all the parts of cucumber and related plants (squash, melons, gourds and pumpkins). They feed on leaves, stems, roots and fruit. These insects can also spread a wilt disease. Control of this insect is important to prevent loss of your affected plants.
1. Squash bugs have already started their yearly assault on yellow and zucchini squash plants. They will also feed on other plants in the squash family—pumpkin, cucumbers and melons. These shield-shaped grey/brown bugs look like stink bugs and can pierce plant leaves and inject a toxic substance into the plant. They can also spread disease. It is common for squash infested with squash bugs to appear fine one day and then overnight to “turn over” yellow and wilted. Look for adult bugs and nymphs of this insect. Also inspect your plant for squash bug eggs. Remove and destroy bugs and eggs and consider control options. Remove and destroy plants if they show signs of infestation. The vegetable demonstration garden at the Extension office was infested with these heavily for a couple of years and finally, last year, Master Gardeners removed squash from the vegetable garden rotation for a year to try to reduce their populations.
For more information on your lawn and gardening questions, contact Paulding County UGA Cooperative Extension at 770-443-7616 or look for us online at www.ugaextension.com/paulding.