February Garden Pests Control in South Florida
We’re now in February, and as we near the warmer season with hot humid days, expect to see more activity in your gardens from wildlife to pollinators ensuring that your garden plants put forth their best. Pollinators are responsible for transferring pollen between plant species leading to fertilization and helping in the process of seed and fruit production.
Then there are garden insect pests that will seek to wreak havoc on our gardens by feeding on garden plants and even in some cases transferring diseases, but the good news is the good guys (beneficial insects) will also be present lending their assistance in policing or protecting our garden plants by helping to bring control to these (garden Pests) uninvited guest. With the amount of biodiversity that takes place, these miniature ecosystems ( our gardens) can offer many rewards being of great benefit
But as we work our gardens during February let’s keep an eye out for garden pests that are actively weathering the cool season, we will be taking a closer look at these garden pests and how to control them.
10 Garden Insect Pests in Your Florida Gardens
1. Aphids and Their Control
Aphids are small pare-shaped soft-bodied insect pests that infest outdoor as well as indoor plants, aphids cause damage by feeding on the tender, young, or soft shoots of garden plants piercing the plant’s tissue and extracting the juice or the plant’s fluids. Aphids vary in colors from pink, green, red, brown, black, and other colors, aphids range in size from 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch long.
Besides their presence that can be found in great numbers, other signs include leaves that are twisted and curled, infected leaves that turn yellow, and shoots that become stunted and die. If aphids are allowed to persist the plant’s health will continue to decline.
To reduce their population a strong stream of water sprayed directly on them from a garden hose with an attached nozzle will knock them off garden plants bringing elimination however to avoid damaging or breaking the tender plant shoot by blasting with a strong stream of water consider the application of horticultural oil or insecticidal soap, applying pesticides according to the manufacturer’s direction will bring good results.
2. Scale Insects and Their Control
Scales can be found in great masses in a fixed or unmovable position on garden plants. Scales are sucking insects and suck the sap from the plant. Many scale insects have the appearance of small circular bumps that appear to be apart of the plant and may be hard to detect by the untrained eye.
Depending on the scale species they vary in colors from cottony white to brown, these garden pests measure up to 1/4 of an inch long.
Because scales are sucking insects, they attract ants in search of their excrement which is a sugary substance known as honeydew.
Their excrement causes plants to be covered with a black substance known as sooty mold that grows on the plant. Sooty mold causes the plant to appear sickly, some pesticides that bring control are insecticidal soap and neem oil, before using pesticides read and follow the manufacturer’s directions for the best results.
3. Spider mite and Their Control
Spider mites are so tiny they are barely visible to the naked eye, these insects are so tiny you will need the help of a 10x hands lens, the adult female is the largest and is less than 1/20 inch long. Spider mites live in colonies mostly on the undersides of plant leaves. A single colony may contain hundreds of individuals.
The female lays her eggs on the undersides of the plant leaves in groups of 10 or 20, the eggs are protected or incase in white spider webs, the female spider mite may also lay or deposit her eggs in fallen leaves, weeds, or debris to overwinter or staying dormant until early spring. Signs of their presence are plant leaves that look gray, and dusty, webbing can also be seen on the leaves
Some pesticides that can be used for spider mite control are insecticidal, soap, horticultural oil, neem oil, etc…. before using insecticides read and follow the manufacturer’s directions for the best result. Once the area is treated keep kids and pets out of these areas.
Then there are other means of control for example biological control which involves the use of beneficial insects that are natural predators of spider mites. Examples of beneficial insects are ladybugs, lacewing larvae, the spider mite destroyer, big-eyed bugs, Western flower thrips, minute pirate bugs, etc…. beneficial insects can be purchased and released in your garden or introducing them naturally by installing the right plants.
4. Thrips and Their Control
Thrips are sucking insects that cause leaf yellowing, twisted leaves, and leaf drop. These tiny insects can do serious damage, thrips are soft-bodied garden pests that have the resemblems of a cigar or have a cigar shape. Thrips can be either brown, yellow, or black and then there are some with colored markings. At maturity, they reach only 1/25 inch long. Thrips have narrow wings that are fringed and are also known to be poor fliers.
If you have a thrip issue then move quickly to bring control because of damage if they are allowed to continue feeding. Some thrip control measures include pruning infested branches and thoroughly disposing of them. Insecticidal soap will also bring control, applying diatomaceous earth, or introducing natural predators in your garden, for example, predatory mites, lacewing, ladybugs, nematodes, minute pirate bugs, or parasitic wasps.
5. Whiteflies and Their Control
Whiteflies are tiny white insects that can cause serious damage to plant life, whiteflies suck the plant juices causing yellowing of leaves and leaf drop. They can usually be located on the underside of the plant’s leaf. When the leaves are shaken you will see them flying once you discontinue shaking the leaves they will attach themselves back to the leaves on the underside.
The adult whiteflies possess a yellow-white wedge-shaped body with white wings, another way of identification is they resemble white moths. The waxy powder on their wings is similar to mealy bugs, whiteflies at maturity reach 1/10-1/16 inch long. To control these garden pests as part of whitefly management use yellow sticky traps at high levels to reduce their populations, reflective mulches can repel whiteflies from vegetable gardens. Neem oils or insecticidal soap will also bring control.
6. Leafhoppers and Their Control
Leafhoppers are among the group of garden insect pests that do damage by piercing the plant’s tissues and feeding on the sap. These garden pests have been known to cause damage to crops. The leafhopper has also been known to be many colors but the most common colors are brown and green. The adult leafhopper is elongated, wedge-shaped, and somewhat triangular in cross sections.
Leafhoppers can be identified by a green, gray, or yellow body, they might be brightly colored or similar in color to the host plant, or they can have color patterns. Leafhoppers range in size from 1/8 to 1/2 of an inch long.
To control leafhoppers apply diatomaceous, insecticidal soap. Shade cloth and row covers can be used as physical barriers, Assassin bugs, green lacewings and ladybugs which are biological controls is a safe methods of control.
7. Leaf Miners and Their Control
The larvae of leafminers do serious damage to garden plants, the larvae feed within the plant’s leaves. This feeding produces large blotches, there are also translucent patches or squiggly trails on the plant’s foliage.
The leaves on plants that are affected by these insects turn light green with grey spots. The areas of the leaf turn this color because this is where the female lays her eggs. The plant’s leaves drop to the ground surface below, the larvae burrow into the soil and when they emerge they are adults.
The larvae have cylindrical-shaped bodies that are green-yellowish, control the larvae by Borer-miner killer spray, drenching the soil with a liquid insecticide, or applying Bayer advanced tree & shrub insect control.
8. Caterpillar and Their Control
Caterpillars can cause much damage to plants by chewing on the leaves, shoots, fruits, flowers, and other plant parts, signs of caterpillars besides spotting them are chewed leaf edges, holes in leaves, and leaves that are rolled up and fastened with silk. In some cases, the entire leaf might be missing.
There are several ways to bring control, either handpicking them and throwing them in a container of soapy water, insecticidal soap, or a microbial insecticide with an active ingredient like Bacillus thuringiensis. When using pesticides make sure and follow the manufacturer’s directions for the best results. Biological control has also proven to be beneficial, for example, releasing parasitic wasps or encouraging adult beetles in your garden. Before using pesticides read and follow the manufacturer’s directions for the best results.
9. Grasshoppers and Their Control
Grasshoppers can become a real issue, these garden pests can consume a great number of garden plants and food crops, and their feeding pattern includes eating most of the plant’s leaves and stem. If you see many ragged, chewed holes through plant leaves, stems, fruits, and vegetables on your garden plants it may be a grasshopper infestation.
The common grasshopper grows 3/4-2 inches long, but some are much larger or smaller, grasshoppers in a lot of cases are mistaken for crickets however grasshoppers possess larger hind legs and shorter antennae than crickets.
Grasshoppers especially at the adult stage are more difficult to manage, it’s best to put control measures in place at the immature or baby stage. Some control measures include handpicking and squashing, throwing them into a bucket of soapy water, using Nosema locustae baits, a natural way to grasshopper control is to attract birds to your garden applying neem oil will slow down and deter grasshoppers, etc… these are just a few of the many ways to grasshopper control.
10. CutWorms and Their Control
Cutworms spend the daytime hours resting in the soil, except for cloudy days when they surface. Cutworms are active at night time, these worms cause partially or completely cut stems. Vegetables that are infected by cutworms show signs of wilt. Transplanting for a fall harvest along with late-season seedlings are a favorite of these garden pests. During the fall months, it’s best to till your garden because cutworms overwinters as larvae in the soil and will emerge once spring arrives.
Cutworms can either be black, pink, brown green, usually with muted strips running lengthwise along their bodies, when disturbed cutworms curl up into “C”. At maturity, cutworms reach the size of 1-1.75 inches in length. Cutworms cause the most damage during spring and early summer by cutting young plants off at the base near the soil level.
Some cutworms have been known to climb up on plants to feed on the foliage or leaves, leaving plant leaves with ragged holes, controlling cutworms include some of the following. Surrounding your plants with diatomaceous earth (D.E.) which is a natural powder, Sevin Insect Killer Ready to Spray or Sevin Insect Killer Concentrate, parasitic nematodes will also bring control.
The final word on February garden Insect Guide in South Florida
You can win the war on garden insect pests by following this guide, why let these garden pests turn your dream garden into a nightmare or rob you of your food crop? working in our gardens has so many benefits. Let’s be good to our gardens by ensuring they are safe from insect pests because as you work for your plants your plants will work with you.
About the author
Norman loves being in the garden, both at home and for his job....
he is 'Natures Little helper' being outdoors, growing his vegetables and flowers from an early age.
Now having spent over 22 years in the profession he want to give some of his knowledge to others...
his vast array of hints and tips you will find scattered over this site will help you no end growing plants in your garden.