Gardening With Laurie: Invasion of pesky little bugs

March 17, 2011 at midnight
Updated March 16, 2011 at 10:17 p.m.

Laurie Garretson

Laurie Garretson

By Laurie Garretson

Right now many gardeners are getting bugged, really bugged.

It doesn't take long after our winters for pesky little bugs to find our gardens.

Man thought that most of the bugs would be killed off by the cold temperatures. Unfortunately, our winters just don't have that much impact on the pest population.

It seems that the biggest impact made to the insect world, in regard to our weather, has been the recent warm temperatures. All it takes is a week or two of spring-like days to wake up all the little bad guys. And when they wake up they're real hungry.

If you have planted a vegetable garden, don't put off protecting your veggies from unwanted pests. Being proactive with your pest repellents will really help.

There are safe and natural ways to eradicate, or lessen the populations, of all bad insects.

This season's snail population wasted no time in becoming active. These little guys can be very destructive.

A snail bait is available that is safe to use in your vegetable garden and anywhere else. Chemical snail baits can be very dangerous to use around domestic animals. Be sure you know what type you are getting when you shop.

Most everyone knows what lady bugs are. True lady bugs are very beneficial insects to have in the landscape. But, don't be confused by an imposter.

There are many different types of beetles, and many of these types you don't want to invite into your garden.

Another pest that easily upsets many gardeners is the squash vine borer. The adult squash borer is a really pretty little wasp-like insect that is black and red in color. Mamma squash borer lays brown, flat, oval eggs on the lower stems of squash plants. When the larvae hatch from the eggs they burrow into the stems of the plants and feed on the stems inside tissue for several weeks until the plant wilts and dies.

Putting out beneficial nematodes through out the landscape will help with many pests. Having them in the vegetable garden can also help with squash borers. Another tip to combat squash borers is to grow your squash vertically instead of letting the plants sprawl on the ground. Frequently check the lower stems for eggs or signs of the borer to help head off serious problems.

Growing tomatoes can be a challenge to keep your plants free from pests and diseases. One of those pests can be one of the many types of stink bugs or leaf footed bugs. You'll know you have a problem from these pests when you first notice a tomato that has a callused area on its' skin. When the tomato is cut open you will notice that the callused area is not just superficial.

Young leaf footed bugs are usually first noticed in clusters of small orange and black long legged insects on plants. It doesn't take long for these youngsters to become very destructive adults.

Early aggressive methods to eliminate this pest is always best. Handheld vacuums are great for sucking up the young ones.

Older leaf footed bugs can be harder to eradicate. Keeping fruit dusted with a diatomaceous earth product like Crawling Insect Killer can help along with spraying the bugs with a seaweed, molasses and orange oil mixture. Mixture one third cup of each product in one gallon of water.

Planting marigolds, chives, onions and milkweed near your tomato plants can also be helpful.

All this said, no action in the garden is more important than your daily inspection of each and every plant. It's what a good gardener does.

Until next time lets try to garden with nature not against it and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.



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