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Here Come the Bugs

In spite of the cool rainy spring we’ve been having (in one case because of it) the bugs and other garden pests have started to appear and others will be coming soon. Among those I’ve had to deal with or seen in some of my clients gardens are aphids, slugs and various caterpillars.



As you can see aphids come in many colors. In addition to what you see here, I’ve seen bright red, black, gray, & white aphids. They can also muliply very quickly because females can give birth to new aphids without needing male aphids (called parthenogenesis) and will swarm quite quickly. They insert their mouthpieces into a plant stem and suck out the plant juices.

In small numbers they can be crushed or scraped off into soapy water. For an infestation like what you see above, I would use insecticidal soap. I controlled an infestation like the one above just recently on one of my lupines (a flower not a veggie). You can also buy lady bugs to help control infestations. The ladybugs can control individual infestations, but once they’ve eaten all the aphids, they’ll leave your yard to go somewhere else that has food, so you’ll need to buy more if you get additional infestations.



I’ve never had large problems with slugs but I know people who have. When slugs do cause problems it’s usually by eating the leaves of your lettuces and other leafy greens. The classic way to control them is with bowls of beer in your garden. You get a shallow bowl, dig it in so the lip is at ground level,  and fill it part way with beer. You need to fill it up just enough so the slugs need to crawl all of the way into the bowl where they will drink the beer and drown. Apparently, slugs are also averse to copper so you can break-up copper dish scrubbers and place them around the affected plants to keep the slugs away.

Soon to come will be Cabbage worms and Colorado Potato beetle larvae. The cabbage worms are relatively easy to prevent harming your garden by using row covers. Row covers are a very light-weight fabric you can lay over your plants. They are so light, that as the plants grow, they will actually push up the row covers. The adult of the Cabbage worm is a white butterfly that lays it’s eggs on the leaves of all members of the cabbage family, though I’ve noticed they especially like broccoli & kale. The row covers prevent them from doing so.

Cabbage Worm Butterfly

Cabbage Worm Butterfly

If you don’t want to put out the row covers right now you can just keep an eye out for the adults and cover when you start to see them, but you need to check your plants to pick off any eggs they’ve laid already.

Row covers can work for the Colorado Potato Beetle only if you don’t have any in your garden already. This is because the beetle survives the winter in the soil, so if you have any in your garden and then put a row cover on top, you’ll just be trapping them inside with your potatoes. You can however easily control the beetle larvae by checking the underside of your plants’ leaves daily for the egg masses, which are bright orange, and crushing them or scraping them off into soapy water.

Remember your best defenses against bugs are healthy soil and paying attention to your garden. In the first case the plants can resist damage better and in the latter you catch problems early.

If anyone has any other bugs you’ve had problems with so far, let me know and I’ll post on them.

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Image of Bug, Slugs, & Other Thugs: Controlling Garden Pests Organically (Down-To-Earth Book)



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