Garden Insect Pests are a damaging nuisance, but part of the natural order in your herb garden.
Learning to identify Garden Insect Pests from images in the insect pest photos below is one of the first projects to complete when the herbs in our garden begin to appear in the spring. If you learn to identify the Garden Insect Pests in your herb garden you can avoid destroying the beneficial insects.
Herb Garden Insect Pests are naturally attracted to our herbs by the very same assets which attract us; their wonderful scent and beauty. Can we blame them? Typically, at the first sign of insect damage we run to the garden shed and grab the first can of insecticide spray we find and hose down the little critters. Doing so would be one solution to the insect pests infecting crops. Doing so would may also kill every bug in the garden; good and bad.
The good news is that we need not spray or dust poison onto anything!!
Damaging insect garden pests can be controlled without the need of spraying toxic insecticides on any of the herbs which will flavor our favorite pizza or pasta dish! Let beneficial insects handle the problem! Many beneficial insects which are natural enemies of the insect pests in our herb gardens are easily available online. Read on and see some of the guilty bugs, then see our article on beneficial insects to find what bugs will handle the job of ridding your garden of the common garden insect pests.
Brown marmorated stink bug is eating its way into your garden!
Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs are named for the characteristic, disagreeable odor they produce when disturbed (or squished!), making the invasion of the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug even more distressing. During a typical growing season the brown stink bugs can impose tremendous environmental and financial damage by using their piercing mouthparts to feed on plant sap that it sucks from fruits, vegetables, ornamentals and commercial food crops.
Brown Marmorated Stink Bug was first identified in the US in Pennsylvania in 2001. As awareness of this serious invasive insect pest has increased, surprising detections have been reported in most areas as they spread rapidly across the country to most parts of the USA.
The brown marmorated stink bug has a "shield" shaped body that is characteristic of all stink bugs. The adults are approximately 17 mm (5/8 inch) long with a mottled brownish (marmorated) grey color. On warm fall days the stink bugs congregate on the warm, sunny sides of houses and buildings and then wander inside in a manner similar to box elder bugs and multicolored Asian lady beetles.
Aphids feed on the most tender and freshest growth
Aphids are small, winged insects that can be green, yellow, brown, orange or black in color. They feed on the juices they suck from the herbs. Aphids congregate on herbs where they feed on the most tender and freshest growth.
Aphids can be controlled organically through the use of insecticidal soaps or preferably by the use of the many beneficial insects which feed on the pest. The primary insects of choice used to provide control are the Assassin Bug, Damsel Bug, one of the many species of Big-eyed Bug, Lady Beetle and Lacewing Larvae.
whitefly can cause “bug clouds" in gardens and green houses
Whitefly is a pure white little bug about .8mm (.03 in.) long and feeds on the undersides of the plant leaves by penetrating the under leaf surface with its piercing-sucking mouth parts. Adults congregate and fold their wings over their bodies while at rest or feeding. They can occur in such numbers that when disturbed they may create white, very irritating “bug clouds" in gardens and green houses. They appear to be more active during the day, but not as active during the early morning, late evening or at night.
Feeding damage by both the nymphs and adults results in the accumulation of a sugar-rich sticky substance deposited on the leaves known as honeydew, a euphemism for bug excrement. The presence of honeydew can promote the subsequent growth of telltale sooty black mold. Other forms of damage include the removal of plant sap. It is believed that the pest injects foreign enzymes into the host plant while feeding, affecting the normal physiological processes.
Japanese beetle - popillia japonica
Japanese beetle is slightly over ½ of an inch long (1.5 cm) and almost ½ inch wide (1 cm) with iridescent copper-colored wings and green body and head. With its western spread across the United States it has become a serious pest of about 200 species of plants.
Japanese Beetles are naturally repelled by catnip, chives, garlic, and tansy. When present in small numbers, the beetles may be manually controlled using a 70% Monterey Neem Oil-water spray mixture.
Pay attention if you think you will have a problem with Japanese Beetles; they are capable of stripping your plants overnight! The picture is of my Concord grape vines following only an hour or two of feeding by adult Japanese Beetles.
During the larval or grub stage, the Japanese beetle lives in lawns as a grub worm. By feeding on the roots of the lawns, Japanese Beetle grubs cause devastating root damage. In the process, the grubs can attract various predator animals that will dig up lawns in the search of the Japanese Beetle grubs to eat.
Mealybugs have many natural enemies, however, ants are their protector!
Mealy Bug is the common name of insects in Pseudococcidae, a family of unarmored insects found in warmer climates. They feed on plant juices of greenhouse plants and house plants.
Mealybugs females are wingless, though unlike many female scale insects, they retain legs and can move. They secrete a powdery wax covering (the name mealy bug) used for protection while they feed on the plant juices, normally in crevices of the host. The males do not feed as adults and are short-lived as they only survive to fertilize the females.
Mealybugs have many natural enemies, however, ants feed on the Mealybugs honeydew and will actually protect them from predator and parasites. For this reason, mealy bugs only tend to be serious pests in the presence of sufficient numbers of ants. Mealybugs have a natural coating that repels insecticidal soap. You can suffocate Mealybugs by using an Insecticidal Oil, or daub them with rubbing alcohol on the end of a cotton swab.
Thrips are difficult to control
Thrips are tiny, brown or tan, slender insects about one-eighth of an inch long, with fringed wings. They're very narrow, appearing the shape of a tiny alligator. Thrips are generally are not good flyers, although they can be carried long distances by the wind. In the right conditions, many species can explode in a swarm making them an irritation to humans.
Thrips are difficult to see with the naked eye, but their damage is very clear. Thrips feed on a large variety plants by puncturing the surface and sucking the contents. Thrips also chew the top surface of leaves, leaving a striped, tan dead layer of leaf behind. The damage can appear as ‘white spots', or a lacy or skeletal appearance on the leaves.
Due to their small size of Thrips and high rate of reproduction, Thrips are difficult to control using classical biological control. The predators of Thrips must prey extensively on Thrip eggs and larvae and also be small and slender enough to penetrate the crevices that Thrips hid in while feeding. Only two families of parasitic insects are known to parasitize the eggs and larvae of Thrips: the Eulophidae and the Trichogramma (Trichogrammatidae). Other biocontrol agents of adult Thrips and larvae include aphid wasps, anthocorid bugs of genus Orius, and Phytoseiid mites. For this reason, growers are occasionally forced to make limited use of pesticides in the field and in greenhouses, to control populations of Thrips.
Thrips can be killed very effectively, but on a small scale, by using an Insecticidal Soap. To kill Thrips, repeat treatment about every three days to kill young thrips hatching from existing eggs on the plants.
Spider Mites favor hot, dry conditions
Spider Mites generally live on the under sides of leaves of plants, where they can cause damage to several hundred species of plants. Spider Mites cause damage by puncturing the actual plant cells to feed.
Spider Mites seem to thrive under hot, dry conditions that are often associated with population build-up of spider mites. At 80ºF and above, the two-spotted spider mite can hatch in as little as 3 days, and become sexually mature in as little as 5 days. One female can produce and lay around 20 eggs per day and over a period of a few weeks can lay hundreds of eggs. Her offspring can explode into a population of a million spider mites within a month.
Spider Mites can be effectively controlled by an organic repellent known as Neem oil, diluted four teaspoons per gallon of water and applied at three ounces per square foot of soil.
Spider mites have a variety of natural enemies in the bug world. Because of this making the organic control of Spider Mites relatively easy for the herb grower. Pirate bugs (family Anthocoridae), big-eyed bugs (Geocoris) and several species of lady beetles are effective natural enemies of Spider Mites.
fungus gnats are irritating but harmless
Fungus gnats are small, dark flies whose larvae feed on plant roots or fungi and aid in the decomposition of organic matter. The adults are 2-5 mm long, and are important pollinators, and can also help spread mushroom spores.
Fungus gnats are very irritating to humans but harmless to otherwise healthy plants. Fungus gnats in the area of your indoor plants is generally an indication of overwatering. The gnats may be attracted to fungus growing in saturated top soil or may be feeding rotting roots that have been sitting in water too long. Draining the excess water and allowing the soil to dry is a good deterrent.
An effective deterrent for Fungus Gnats is a yearly bath in insecticidal soap to the top of your houseplant soil.