It’s a repeating problem.
I see this question asked often on gardening forums.
Gardeners see some pest on their vegetable plants but struggle to know what it is.
And without knowing what the pest it, you cannot get rid of them.
That’s why I made this pocket guide which will help you find out exactly what is the pest attacking your vegetable plants.
This guide will help you move in the right direction to identifying and fixing the pest problem. It’s concise and simple to follow. So it won’t contain detailed instructions, but it will guide you to other resources that hold the answers.
1. Check for signs and symptoms of the pests
Pests on the vegetable plants will show signs and symptoms that help us identify it. For example, aphids infested my pepper plants last growing season.
The signs I found were lots of ants on the plant collecting sticky honeydew. One symptom was the leaves turning yellow as the aphids were sucking the sap from them.
Later, it was being attacked by mealybugs and the signs were white powdery stuff on the leaves and branches. I had to look closely to see mealybugs running around on the plant.
There can be tons of different pests attacking plants, but most often they are some common vegetable plant pests. I’ve created a list below that should help you recognize the pest based on their signs and symptoms.
|Pest||Signs and Symptoms||Treatment|
|Aphids||Curling leaves, distorted growth, sticky residue||Spray with insecticidal soap or neem oil|
|Whiteflies||Yellowing leaves, tiny white insects in clusters||Use yellow sticky traps or apply insecticidal soap|
|Caterpillars||Holes in leaves, chewed foliage||Handpick or use biological insecticides|
|Spider Mites||Yellow stippling on leaves, fine webbing||Spray with water or miticidal soap|
|Thrips||Silver speckling on leaves, distorted flowers||Apply insecticidal soap or neem oil|
|Flea Beetles||Small holes in leaves, jumping insects||Use row covers or apply insecticidal dust|
|Squash Bugs||Wilting leaves, brown spots, presence of bugs||Handpick or apply insecticidal soap|
|Cucumber Beetles||Biting damage to leaves, feeding on flowers||Use row covers or apply insecticides|
|Slugs||Irregular holes in leaves, slime trails||Handpick or use slug baits|
|Snails||Irregular holes in leaves, slime trails||Handpick or use snail baits|
|Leafhoppers||Yellowing leaves, hop-like movement||Apply insecticidal soap or neem oil|
|Tomato Fruitworms||Holes in fruit, frass (excrement) near damaged areas||Handpick or use biological insecticides|
|Colorado Potato Beetles||Stripped foliage, orange eggs on undersides of leaves||Handpick adults and larvae or apply insecticides|
|Onion Maggots||Wilting plants, maggots in bulbs or stems||Apply insecticidal nematodes or remove infested plants|
|Scale Insects||Sticky leaves, tiny immobile insects on stems||Apply horticultural oil or insecticidal soap|
|Mealybugs||White, cottony masses on leaves and stems||Apply insecticidal soap or neem oil|
|Nematodes||Stunted growth, root galls, discoloration||Crop rotation, solarization, or nematicides|
|Stink Bugs||Pungent odor, sucking damage to fruits and seeds||Handpick or use insecticides|
|Leaf Miners||Serpentine tunnels on leaves, leaf discoloration||Remove affected leaves or apply insecticides|
|Japanese Beetles||Skeletonized leaves, metallic green beetles||Handpick or use insecticides|
2. Take a picture of the pest to share
Now you may have already identified the pest in the 1st step or not. Regardless, it’s good to take clear pictures and get opinions from other gardeners.
Sometimes we may think it’s a particular pest to find out later that we were mistaken and the problem still exists.. So it’s good to get help from other people who may already have faced the problem, know exactly what it is, and how to go about fixing it.
When taking pictures, capture different angles of the pest and its symptoms. This will help with identification and allow for a more accurate diagnosis. Taking multiple pictures will ensure that you have a backup in case one picture is blurry or unclear.
To make sure that your pictures are clear and bright, try taking pictures during the day when there is natural sunlight. This will allow for better lighting and make it easier to see the details of the pest and its symptoms. Avoid taking pictures during the night or in low light conditions, as this can cause blurry or grainy images that are difficult to interpret.
3. Use forums or apps to identify the pest
Now that you’ve taken clear pictures, it’s time to share this on gardening forums or use gardening apps. The gardening forums have other gardeners and experts who can help identify the pest and how to get rid of it. The gardening apps may either use image recognition or send the image to an expert to identify the pest.
You can use the free forums and apps to discover the problem, though you can pay for options if you really need them..
I like to post pictures on gardening forums because they contain people having a ton of experience with similar problems. So the guidance becomes quite good on identifying and fixing the pest problem.
When posting pictures on forums or using apps to identify pests, it’s important to provide as much information as possible. This can include the type of vegetable plant the pest is attacking, the location of the plant, and any other relevant details.
The more information you can provide, the easier it will be for others to help you identify the pest and come up with a plan of action to deal with it.
4. Make sure it’s not a beneficial insect
It’s important you identify the pest before you take some action such as spraying pesticide. This is because maybe the insect that you thought is a pest is actually beneficial to your vegetable plants.
It’s a fact that most insects that visit the garden are beneficial or neutral, which means they don’t harm the plants. So there’s a good chance you may not need to do anything, and it’s a false alarm.
Beneficial insects have a role to play in your garden as they feed on pests, pollinate flowers, and help with soil health. So I would want more of these in my garden and so should you.
You want insects like ladybugs and lacewings in your garden because they get rid of pests such as aphids, mites, and other soft-bodied insects.
Here’s a list of common beneficial insects that may visit your vegetable garden and get rid of pests.
|Ladybugs||Control aphids, mealybugs, mites, and other soft-bodied insects|
|Green Lacewings||Prey on aphids, thrips, whiteflies, and other small insect pests|
|Praying Mantis||Feed on a wide range of insects, including caterpillars, aphids, beetles, and grasshoppers|
|Hoverflies||Pollinate flowers and feed on aphids, thrips, and other small pests|
|Ground Beetles||Prey on slugs, snails, cutworms, and other ground-dwelling pests|
|Parasitic Wasps||Parasitize and control pests such as caterpillars, aphids, scales, and whiteflies|
|Tachinid Flies||Parasitize and control caterpillars, beetles, and other pests|
|Minute Pirate Bugs||Feed on aphids, thrips, mites, and small insect eggs|
|Braconid Wasps||Parasitize and control caterpillars, aphids, beetles, and other pests|
|Predatory Nematodes||Control soil-dwelling pests like grubs, cutworms, and root-feeding larvae|
|Trichogramma Wasps||Parasitize and control hornworm eggs, reducing their population and damage|
5. Find information on how to get rid of the pest
Now that you identified exactly what kind of pest is attacking your vegetable plants, it’s time to get rid of them.
You can easily find solutions to get rid of the pest by searching online or asking for help from experts and gardening communities. Once you’ve identified the pest, it’s important to act quickly to prevent further damage to your vegetable plants.
Here is a list of gardening forums and websites that will help you find solutions.
I prefer to use organic methods to get rid of pests. This includes hand plucking, using natural predators such as ladybugs and lacewings. Or organic sprays made from ingredients such as neem oil, garlic, and hot pepper to repel pests.
If the infestation is severe, you may need to resort to chemical pesticides. However, it’s important to use these with caution and only as a last resort. Always read the labels carefully and follow the instructions to ensure that you’re using the product safely. It’s also important to avoid spraying pesticides on windy days or near water sources to prevent contamination.
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