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LET’S TALK GARDENING – With the Warmer Weather Comes More Insect Damage to Our Plants

By Doug Hensel
Doug's Blog

IDENTIFYING THE CULPRIT

Over the past couple of weeks, I have lost count of how many people have come into the garden center with samples of leaves that “aren’t right” and have holes. Customers come to us for professional advice as to what is going on with the plant. If you are not sure what type of insect is attacking your plants, just bring us a sample and let one of our many experts recommend a remedy to help stop the damage. I can’t stress enough the importance of proper insect identification and the proper suggested product for control.

There are three main types of bad bugs: chewing, rasping, and sucking insects. Without identifying the culprit a gardener could buy the wrong product and not solve the problem and, at the same time, cause more damage to the plant. Invest a little time to find out what’s eating your plant and what—if anything—to do about it. Just don’t go and randomly start spraying everything.

CHEWING INSECTS

Leaf damage being done by assorted chewing insects is what I am seeing the most of with examples being brought to me by customers. A chewing insect is any insect that has teeth. Most winged chewing insects, such as beetles, caterpillars, and grasshoppers, feed only on leaf tissue, working from the leaf edge toward the center and eventually to the leaf stem.

RASPING INSECTS

Rasping insects are mites, snails, slugs, and thrips. They will scrape off the surface of the leaves. They suck up the fluids from the top layer until all the green tissue has been consumed, leaving only the skeleton behind.

SUCKING INSECTS

Sucking insects are the most common. This category includes aphids and whiteflies. Sucking insects have small mouthparts and they pierce the leaves and stems to suck out the plant fluids. Large populations of aphids or whiteflies can cause leaf curling, yellowing, or distorted leaves. Most sucking insects also produce large quantities of a sticky substance known as honeydew. This substance often turns black with the growth of a sooty mold fungus.

WE’RE HERE FOR ALL YOUR INSECT QUESTIONS

Like I stated earlier, we are warming up and with the warming temperatures come assorted insects. Just because you see no evidence of insect damage on your plant today does not mean you will not have damage tomorrow or next week. The best remedy is with observation and inspection.

We have insect control products in our garden pharmacy. Some of the products are considered organic and eco-friendly. Please ask for assistance if you are unsure as to what is causing problems on your plants.

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21 thoughts on “LET’S TALK GARDENING – With the Warmer Weather Comes More Insect Damage to Our Plants

  1. Hi Doug. I have a Rose of Sharon that is shaped like a small slender tree, and I believe it has Florida wax scale. It got pretty bad before I noticed it, and someone else I asked said to cut the tree down, dig it out, and get rid of any mulch around it. Do you have any other suggestions? Thanks so much!

  2. Cara,
    Yes – before getting rid of this beautiful tree, scale can be controlled. i want to suggest spraying the tree with an ALL SEASON HORTICULTURAL OIL. The oil will coat and sufficate the scale. It may be that the tree is too far into decline to save. But, let’s give it a try with this oil spray first. I don’t know where you live but if you live near by then come in the garden center and ask for me. Doug

  3. Hey Doug,
    How do I treat shotgun shell spots/fungus on my Laurels?

    Thanks!

  4. Kevin,
    Good Morning. Unfortunately, shot hole is common on these laurels. Shot hole is a bacterial fungus. From my knowledge the best approach to control is to spray your laurels with a fungicide that contains copper. Right now we only have small hand spray bottles available. Maybe check around and see if you can find this copper base fungicide. Good luck. Doug

  5. My Endless Summer hydrangea planted in 2011 had beautiful growth and lot of blooms until 2019 without any issues. however since May 2020 I am seeing that most of the leaves turn brown ( these are the new leaves) and the blooms also turn brown or black. They just bloomed once and lesser branches also, unlike before they bloom constantly. I have pruned those branches. Still this year I am starting to see the same browning and lesser blooms. my neighbors before have commented in the past that that was the best one they have seen. but now it is an eyesore. Please help.

  6. Good to hear from you.
    As you may already know, Endless Summer blooms in different seasons because it forms flowers on old growth as well as on new growth. I suggest no pruning unless absolutely necessary. And, if you do need to prune then the best time is in the spring once it has finished blooming for the spring. Also, be careful on the watering. Best way to water is with a soaker hose. Try not to get too much water on the leaves. Wet leaves, especially at night, can lead to fungal issues because the leaves stay wet too long. Another thing is that this type of hydrangea likes to get some shade, especially from the hot afternoon sun and heat. Lastly, if you have not fed it recently then you may want to consider feeding it now. Doug

  7. We moved to WV in 2019 and have noticed over this time ants, small and large, have been a problem eating holes in our hostas, roses, etc. Tried some sprays and powders but they still are a problem. Any solution will be appreciated!richard

  8. Anthony,
    From my experience, dogwood leaves turning maroon is usually an indication that the tree is getting a lot of direct sun. If so, then this may not be the most ideal location for a dogwood tree but it will survive. Doug

  9. Richard,
    Ants can be a nuisance. can you locate their home base? If so, a solution of white vinegar & water ( 50 / 50 solution ) poured onto the ant hill will kill the ants. Inspect these hostas and roses more carefully. I don’t think ants are the culprit. Ants may be drawn by secretion being made by other insects that are actually doing the damage on the hostas and roses. Look closely for slugs on the hosta and look for beetles or caterpillars on the roses. Good luck, Doug

  10. I purchased three guara plants this year and have noticed a lot of aphids on the stems where the blooms form. I’ve rinsed them several times and applied neem oil twice and they’re still coming back! Any suggestions? Is the neem oil going to eventually hurt the plant? Thanks 😊

  11. Chris,
    Good Afternoon.
    Aphids seem to be on everything right now. I have lost count as to how many customers have come in with aphid issues on their plants. Need oil is excellent control. Ivory soap and water bath can ehlp alot. Just stay diligent with your campaign and you will win. take care, Doug

  12. What is the best way to get rid of aphids on tomato plants? More natural the better if possible. They destroyed my plans last year and I noticed them again this year.

  13. My dogwood leaves are shriveling up and turning black. Also my Lady Annabelle hydrangea is doing the same. I have tried BayernAdvanced for fungi.

  14. How do you treat whiteflies and aphids on holly and boxwood bushes? I prefer something environmentally friendly. Any suggestions? I have quite a few effected.

  15. What is the best bet for Japanese beetles? Every year they attack my grapes with a vengeance along with some other plants, This year I have a good bit of catnip and various mint around the grapes.

    I am trying to not use major chemicals on something that I will be eating.

  16. Jennifer,
    The best thing you can do is to give your tomato plants a soapy bath. With a spray bottle mix some Ivory Soap and water and then spray away. The soap will not harm the plant.Doug

  17. Sarah,
    I am not sure how long you have had these two plants planted. But, black leaves is usually an indicator that the plants are getting too much water. And, it is also an indicator that your soil is poor draining. Is this possible? Using the Bayer product was fine to do. But, I still think that watering is more of the issue. Let me hear back from you if you have more detail to share with me or if you have any further questions. Doug

  18. Von,
    If you are positive that your hollies and boxwoods have both whitefly and aphids then consider using the ALL SEASONS HORTICULTURAL OIL spray. This spray is both safe and effective and used for organic gardening. Doug

  19. Paul,
    At this point, you will want to spray your plants for protection. You want a spray with a Pyrethrin or Neem at the first sign of attach. Both are safe and effective to control Japanese Beetles on vegetables, small fruits, rosesm shrubs, etc. A natural control is to use 4 TBS of Ivory Soap to a gallon of water and give all these plants a good bath. Another effective control if to use the Japanese Beetle Traps with bait. The bait is a lure that will draw the beetles away from your plants that you are trying to protect. Lastly, later this fall I would suggest putting down Milky Spore on your lawn. The Milky Spore will kill the white grub worms before they go down deep into the soil for the colder, winter months. Then you will want to repeat this application of Milky Spore again in mid to late February to help kill any white grub worms that survived and kill them before they hatch out later in the summer. I know this is a long answer. But this is what I suggest. Doug

  20. Paul,
    Another thought that I forgot. These Japanese Beetles do not bite. As gross as this may seem, you can spend some time in your plants and pick off the beetles by hand and toss them into a garbage bag. Doug

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