Knowledge is the best weapon
When summer comes around, life of all varieties is in full swing, which unfortunately means garden pests are in abundance, too. While healthy plants and rich soil create the first line of defense, a little knowledge goes a long way to better prevention.
If leaf or fruit damage is spreading, identify the pest that’s causing it. There are often simple measures that can neutralize them, such as shallow beer pans for slugs. Tomato hornworms can be spotted and picked off the plant (if cardinals don’t do it for you).
Spray aphids directly with insecticidal soap or simply a few drops of soap mixed with water. If you can’t really tell what’s eating leaves and fruits, Neem oil is a plant extract that targets only chewing insects, by acting on the gut after being ingested.
Some pests can be confused with beneficial insects, such as leaf-footed bugs and assassin bugs. The juveniles of these species, called nymphs, look very similar – but closer inspection reveals their actual insect type. Leaf-footed bugs congregate in groups while assassin bugs are loners, slowly stalking unwary prey.
The LSU AgCenter says assassin bugs are one of the most important pest predators we have. That’s one reason why it’s important to avoid the use of broad-spectrum pesticides, which kill everything – including beneficial insects that keep pests under control and pollinate your vegetables.
Wise gardening practices can prevent most problems, especially coupled with the principles of Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Plant flowering herbs and native wildflowers and shrubs in your yard will attract the good guys, such as tiny parasitoid wasps, hoverflies, ladybugs and lacewings.
When pests arrive, healthy plants mount their own defenses, and pest predators usually arrive soon after. With a little research you can target specific pests that become a problem, without disrupting natural systems of pest control.