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Advice from the UGA ExtensionScouting and controlling garden insects

As homeowners, we often don’t “scout” our crops for insects as much as we should, or we tend to wait to scout until it is too late for treatment. Don’t wait around to watch your vegetables get eaten by bugs. Start scouting immediately. (“Scouting” is a term used for the intensive searching for specific insects in our vegetables.) Here are some tips for controlling insects in your home garden.

First and foremost, learn and understand what insects you may see. There are three classification of insects you may see; sucking pests, chewing pests, and boring pests. Some that are common in gardens include:

1. Piercing-sucking pests like aphids, whiteflies, spider mites, and stink bugs.

2. Chewing pests like caterpillars and flea beetles.

3. Boring insects like the squash vine borer and wireworms (root crops).

So, what do you do when you’re seeing damage but no insects? Sometimes, we are not “scouting” and checking our plants when we can actively see the pests on them, or we aren’t scouting in a timely manner and the pests have left. Use the information above to determine what kind of pest is causing your vegetable harm. Are the insects leaving holes in the fruit, or are they feeding on the leaves? Maybe your squash plant can’t get enough water and it looks like it’s declining? Are the insects still there? These questions will assist you in determining how to proceed in treating your vegetables.

Once we determine what insect we may have, choosing a good insecticide or treatment option will help prevent an insect from completely damaging your crops. When selecting an insecticide, make sure that you first read the label to ensure that the product you choose is recommended for the vegetables you have and also the insects you have. In most situations, piercing-sucking insects like whiteflies, aphids, stink bugs, and spider mites respond well to insecticidal soaps. If you prefer a more organic way to reduce insect pressure, try imidacloprid, bifenthrin, and acetamiprid. Chewing insects like caterpillars and flea beetles respond well to carbaryl, cyfluthrin, permethrin, Bacillus thuringiensis, and Spinosad. Boring insects are a bit trickier. Typically, we do not recognize that we have a boring insect problem until too late. If you have trouble with boring insects, we are usually better off to restart with insecticide applications made before planting. If you have concerns with boring insects, contact your local county agent.

Once you have chosen what product you will use and have read the label to ensure that your product is labeled for the insect as well as the crop, application is the next step. When applying any pesticide product, make sure you read and follow all label requirements because that label is the law. Important items you will find on the label are complete instructions for mixing and spraying, the protective equipment you should wear when applying, timing of the application, how much water to apply, and how much of the product to apply in an area. Another good tip when applying any insecticide is to apply later in the day when pollinators like bees and lady beetles are not active so you won’t harm them.

Gardening and growing vegetables can be difficult and time consuming; don’t let your hard work and dedication be wasted by forgetting one important step to grow healthy and quality vegetables. For any questions concerning your garden, contact us at the local Extension office at 478-237-1226.

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