Master Gardener: Insects that are eating our plants

By Jerry Vitalis, Chisago County Master Gardener

Donna Tatting is a Chisago County Master Gardener who has much to do with the success of our weekly articles.

Donna mentioned that she would like to write about something other than all the problems in the garden so her next article will focus on more of the positives of gardening.

I suppose I can do the same, so I will mention that gardeners are looking forward to an excellent strawberry crop.  Also, if we don’t get hail, it should be a great blueberry crop too.

So much for the positive remarks, now back to the reality of the garden.  Deb Brown, who for many years worked for the University of Minnesota Extension Service, and is now a contributing writer for the Star Tribune, had an article on insects that are eating our plants.

Deb wrote on information gathered by Jeff Hahn, Extension entomologist at the U of M.

According to Jeff, the four-lined plant bug is already feeding on perennials, herbs and some shrubs.  The nymphs are small yellow insects with black blotches on their abdomens and a yellow strip on each wing.

The adults are greenish yellow beetles with four black strips down their wings.  They leave small dark, circular depressions on the foliage that drop off leaving small round holes in the foliage.

Although they rarely kill plants, you may want to cut back or remove infested plants because they are unsightly.  If the damage is severe you may consider using an insecticide labeled for use against four-lined plant bugs.

Aphids are already found in many gardens.  They are tiny, pear shaped insects that can be green, black, brown, pink or almost colorless.  They tend to cluster on stems, often just below the flower buds, as well as on the underside of leaves.  Aphids are sap suckers that can wilt the plant if they cluster in large numbers.

They can be removed with a blast of water from a hose or you may spray with insecticidal soap or horticultural oil.  Be sure to try a little soap in a small area to be sure that it won’t harm the plant.

Another insect that could be eating your plants this spring and summer are earwigs.  They are little brownish bugs with narrow bodies, short wings and antennae.

Although they look like they could bite people with their ugly looking pincers, they use them to feed on decaying plant tissue or insects.  They also chew holes in healthy leaves, flowers and seedlings.

The damage looks like slugs have been there and like slugs, they hide during the day.  A chemical free trap is to roll out newspaper at night.  In the morning, shake the paper into a pail of soapy water.  If the problems becomes severe, find a spray or dust labeled for earwigs.

Much of the information for this article was taken from the Star Tribune Home and Garden Section on Wednesday May 30, 2012.


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