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bugs on a leaf

Get your garden in shape by dealing with these hungry interlopers

While folks up north are bracing for chilly winds and icy temperatures, the growing season is just beginning in South Florida. For gardeners, that means prepping soil in pots and raised beds and swarming into garden centers to purchase annuals, seeds, vegetables, and herbs.

Floridians aren’t the only ones excited, though. Pests are also chomping at the bit to get into your garden and sample what you’ve planted. Here, then, is a short list of bugs that could potentially bug you and your lovely garden.

1. Aphids

It seems no garden would be complete without an aphid infestation. They’re one of the most common pests in the garden and can be found feeding on young stems, leaves, and buds. They not only cause leaves to brown and curl, but they are also known to distort plant growth and spread viruses.

Aphids excrete a sugary-sweet honeydew, which is a delicious treat for their predators: ants. Unfortunately, the honeydew also serves as food for a fungus known as “sooty mold,” which turns leaves black.

These small insects can be controlled with a burst of water or regular application of 1 tablespoon of liquid soap per gallon of water.

2. Silverleaf whitefly

A distant relative of the aphid is the silverleaf whitefly, the most common whitefly found in Florida vegetables, including tomatoes, melons, eggplant, cucumbers, squash, okra, beans, cabbage, and broccoli. Like its cousin, whiteflies suck on plants and produce honeydew, a sugary waste product.

Damage to the edible parts of the plants results in smaller harvests. Tiny wasps, attracted to the honeydew, are natural predators – so planting flowers in the garden may draw them into your garden. If not, insecticidal soaps will do the trick.

3. Cutworms

Nothing can be more hurtful to a gardener than discovering a small seedling or tender transplant cut at its base and laying on the ground. This is the work of a cutworm.

During the day, cutworms remain below the soil – only to emerge at night to do their dirty work. They feed on the leaves and stems of young plants.

To control them, create small sleeves from paper cups by removing the bottoms. Place the barrier over the plant and press the bottom edge into the soil. If using an insecticidal spray, aim for the base of the plant and wet the soil 3” to 5” from the stem.

4. Armyworms

Armyworms are the larval stage of the armyworm moth. Several types of armyworms are known to be in Florida gardens, munching on corn, beans, peas, potatoes, and tomatoes. Subtle differences distinguish one kind of armyworm from another.

Bacillus thuringiensis is a bacterium often used as a biological insecticide for young or small armyworms. Once they’ve exceeded 1/2” in length, they become more difficult to control and insecticides are recommended.

Honorable Mention

Although not an insect, iguanas deserve to be mentioned in the list of pests. Known for their voracious appetites, iguanas are primarily found along waterways. Their increasing numbers, though, now have them foraging for food in yards not directly on the water.

Iguanas essentially eat most flowers. Bougainvillea, hibiscus, poinsettias, and countless annuals are tasty treats for them. If there’s any good news, iguanas avoid citrus, bananas, Clusia, and desert rose.

The Elephant in the room

Not so much an elephant or a room – It’s the mosquito in the garden. And while these little pests don’t eat our gardens, they do bite the gardeners. Platinum Mosquito Protection cares about gardens and the people who tend to them. That’s why we’re proud to offer misting systems using a range of products – most using insecticidal solutions made from Pyrethrum, an extract of the chrysanthemum – to suit your needs. We also offer a “green” option that utilizes Geraniol, an effective, plant-based mosquito repellent which is in a special class of “Minimum Risk Pesticides.”

If you would like us to help you enjoy your garden so you can deal with the other pests, fill out our online contact form for a free on-site consultation.

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