By Evan Anderson, Walton County Agriculture Agent:
Gardening is an attractive pastime, not only for homeowners but also, it seems, for every critter out there that wants a free meal. If a gardener isn’t trying to keep deer, rabbits, or moles out of their crops, they’re fighting against insects of many
different sorts. With as many different sorts as there are, it can be dizzying to try and keep track of them and to figure out what’s doing damage to which vegetables.
Just because you see an insect in your garden doesn’t mean it’s a bad one. There are many that can be friends to a gardener, patrolling the plants to snack on pests. It’s important to know what you’re looking at before you try to control them; you might end up killing off a helpful bug instead of one that’s a problem!
It can be helpful to look at the damage done by the insects that are plaguing your garden to figure out what kind they are. Piercing / sucking insects drink the fluids from inside plant tissues, and leave small dots or stippling marks, and may exude honeydew, a stick fluid that sometimes grows sooty mold on
it. These bugs include aphids, scales, mealybugs, spider mites, stink bugs, and thrips.
Chewing insects are those that usually go after plant leaves. They chew holes, and if an infestation is bad, they might defoliate a plant very quickly! Caterpillars, grasshoppers, and some beetles are the worst offenders of this sort.
If you need help identifying or figuring out how to control an insect in your garden or any other horticultural topic, feel free to contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office!