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Common garden pests and how to get rid of them - Here are the steps

Common garden pests and how to get rid of them - Here are the steps

Every gardener knows that bugs are part of the deal. There are millions of insects in Australia alone and guess what? Many of them are great for the garden! Worms and grubs aerate the soil. Bees, butterflies and other flying insects pollinate plants. But, on the flipside, there are some creepy-crawlies that will never be our plants pals. 

These pest species can wreak havoc on your plant babies and cause heaps of damage. So, to help you spot the signs of garden pests, here are some of the most common offenders and what you can do to get rid of them!

Aphids 

Aphids are little pear shaped critters with long antennae. These garden pests come in a variety of colours ranging from white, green or yellow, to brown and black. Some are even pink! Be sure to look for these guys under the leaves as well as on top and they love a little nibble on those new, fresh, young tips that are growing.

These little critters suck on the sap of plants (especially fruits, vegetables, and ornamentals) and cause a whole bunch of problems. Keep an eye out for curled leaves, stunted growth, yellowing or browning leaves or leaf drop. You may even see sticky liquid on leaves and stems. This substance (‘honeydew’) is actually aphid poop (yeah sorry). It’s super sweet and can attract lots of ants. 

Psyllids

Psyllids are little sap-suckers that resemble mini cicadas. These garden pests prey on crops such as potato, carrot, apple, citrus and pear plants, as well as native plants (like gum trees, wattles and lillipilly). As well as sucking out plant juices, these guys also poop out honeydew (sorry again), which can lead to sooty mould spots and ant invasions. Some psyllids even use their honeydew poo  (the fancy name is Frass ) to build protective covers (or lerps). Points for creativity, right? 

Signs of psyllids include:
  • dimpled leaves with circular scars (pockmarks) - this is the biggest giveaway 
  • yellow/discoloured leaves
  • early leaf drop
  • distorted/dwarfed leaves and shoots. 

Scale Insects 

Scale insects range from 1 to 5 mm in size and can be either soft or armoured. Female scale attach themselves to a juicy looking plant (usually leafy ornamental plants, trees and shrubs) and begin to feed. Once they are comfy they produce a waxy coating for protection that resembles a reptile or fish scale. Once these scales form, these garden pests are very hard to get off. 

The most obvious signs of scale are the unique bumps on the surface of leaves and stems, as well as distorted or stunted fruit, yellow spots or leaf drop. These guys also poop out sweet honeydew (sorry once again), which can lead to sooty mould or ant infestations. If you see ants on your plants, it's a sure sign that you have scale somewhere on them, so go hunting.

 

Mealybugs 

Another common sap-sucker are Mealybugs. These guys are pests to both indoor and outdoor plants, and are often found on ornamental and citrus trees, ferns and orchids. Mealybugs love sucking the juices from your plants and usually cluster on the underside of foliage, or the crevices between stems. These guys love to hide in all those little hidden nooks.

They cover themselves in a white, fuzzy-looking coating to protect themselves as they feed. Mealybugs are also honeydew poop producers (assume we’re always sorry), which attracts ants and promotes sooty mould growth. You may also notice wilting, leaf yellowing or curling or your plants.


Thrips

Another indoor/outdoor pest are thrips. These tiny, slender, cricket-like creatures can cause major damage to flowers, foliage, and fruit as they feast. To make matters worse, some thrip species also carry plant viruses, like Tospovirus, which infect and kill off plants. Thrips are also part of team honeydew poo, which means (yup you guessed it) outbreaks of black sooty mould and ant infestations although not as bad as scale usually.

 

They are so small, they will appear as little moving slivers on leaves, but they are very shy and usually hop away when approached. Instead, be on the lookout for silver or speckled appearance on leaves, deformed or stunted flowers and shoots, browning petals or fruit and mysterious flower drop. It can also look a bit like discoloured tracks between the leaf layers. 

 

Whiteflies

Whiteflies are very similar to thrips and are actually related to them, as well as aphids and mealybugs. These guys feast on a wide range of plants and vegetable crops. Like their cousins they also produce honeydew and you know what that leads to? Yup! Black sooty mould and ant infestations.

Whiteflies can cause lots of issues in plants including stunted growth, silver or yellow leaves and wilting. If you disturb a plant with white flies, they will fly away in clouds (so keep an eye out!)

 

Spider Mites 

These little critters look like tiny spiders and while they’re not technically related, they also spin little webs as they move around your plants and feed. These webs protect them as they grow and multiply. The most well known species is the red spider mite, but they come in lots of colours. These garden pests gather on the undersides of leaves and suck out the sap (like lil’ vampires).

 

These guys favour warm weather and as their little party gets bigger, they can really do a number on your plants. Other than the tell-tale web, some signs of spider mites include: patchy or gritty leaves, small holes or stripping around leaf veins, or yellow spots on the top of leaves. It looks like a lot of tiny pin prick dots on the leaves.

 

I’ve spotted garden pests! How do I get rid of ‘em?  

Step 1: Prune 

If the pest infestation is light or confined to a small area of the plant, you can cut off any affected foliage with some light pruning. Make sure you bag up all the cuttings in a bag away from other plants and throw it in the bin quick smart to reduce their spread! 

Step 2: Hose 

Next, blast the plant with a strong stream of water (jet setting on your hose). Try to angle your water blasting so the pests aren’t washed away onto other plants. 

Step 3: Wipe

Inspect the plant for any stragglers and wipe them off with a damp cloth. If you’re treating scale insects, this may take some time. 

Step 4: Oil or wettable sulphur

Once the plant is dry, use neem oil (a natural insecticide) to kill any remaining bugs or eggs and protect from future pesties. To do this, dilute concentrated neem oil with the recommended amount of water and transfer to a spray bottle then spritz the plant all over! Remember don't use neem in full sun as it can burn your plants. Spray in the cool of the evening to avoid burning and hose off the next day. Scale can be a little persistent as their shells protect them from the oil. A systemic spray can work better for these. Wettable sulphur is pretty safe and does a great job on mites and aphids.

 

Step 5: Trap 

If you have thrips or whiteflies, you can place down colourful sticky traps to capture adult thrips as they buzz around your plant. 

Continue these steps until you are totally rid of your pests. If your plant continues to shed leaves, buds or flowers during treatment, make sure you tidy them up and bin them quickly (again, to stop the pests spreading).

 

Help! I’ve treated my plant, but the pests won’t go away!

If you are dealing with a widespread pest infestation that still isn’t responding to treatment, you might need to cut your losses and dispose of the plant to avoid infecting other plants. This is usually only necessary for serious infestations of thrips, whiteflies or scale insects.  

A couple of friendly reminders 

Pests don’t mean bad plant parenting 

If you find pests on your plant babies, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad plant parent!  Remember the key is to be observant and treat as soon as you see any critters. So if you spot pests, try not to take it to heart. Just focus on getting rid of them.

Think, before you squish!

Just remember not all bugs are the enemy! Assassin bugs, ladybirds, spiders, miniature pirate bugs, mantids and other predatory insects can help protect your plants from unwanted outdoor pests. In fact, it’s a great idea to encourage predatory bugs to your garden, so you can further boost your pest control measures. So next time you think about squishing a bug, make sure you find out if it’s a pest or pal! We love our predatory bugs out here and we even buy them in to give us a hand if bug numbers are building up. IPM (integrated pest management ) is the name of the game.

Pests, be gone! 

Whether you’ve found garden pests on your plants or you just want to be prepared, arm yourself with our trusty Eco Trio Pack. The pack includes Eco Seaweed, Eco Neem and Eco Fungicide to keep your plants, lean, mean, pest resistant machines. All of these goodies are 100% natural, pet safe and kid safe! So you can get your garden pest free, organically (hey that kinda rhymes!). (no drinking it though - that's a no no!)

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