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Garden pests can suck the joy out of gardening overnight if you don’t develop a schedule (preventative and/or maintenance) to combat these tiny creatures that love nothing more than to feast on your vibrant, healthy flowers or your juiciest vegetables. Proper identification of your garden pests is key to getting the correct product (organic or synthetic) to effectively do the job. Today we have a few examples of garden pests that suck (in more ways than one), but we can really help you out if you confiscate the little rascals, seal them up in a clear plastic baggie and bring them in for us to clearly identify.

Pull those petals back and search for these tiny thrips. They like to hide, so removing spent flowers can help prevent more infestations.

Thrips can turn your beautiful roses into this shriveled mess.

  1. Thrips are garden pests that love to suck the life out of flowers that form a nice tight bud before blooming, like roses, hibiscus and the like.
  • Signs you have thrips: Flowers fall from plants before opening. Flowers have crinkled, dried up edges. You’ll need to peel back the petals of the buds and look inside. If you see tiny yellow bugs scrambling to get closer to the center of the flower, you most likely have thrips.
  • Treating thrips: One of the best synthetic products for thrips is a systemic insecticide. If you prefer a more organic route, you can use spinosad. Spray the entire plant, with much of the focus on the flower buds. Remove spent flowers on a regular basis to prevent a “safe house” for the thrips to hide in.

Aphids come in a multitude of colors.

Aphids are garden pests that love to line up all along your plant and suck away!

2. Aphids are very common garden pests that clone themselves rapidly and get out of hand quickly. They puncture plants and suck from their life-giving juices, leaving a gateway for disease to easily enter.

  • Signs you have aphids: Leaves on plants may curl up and have a yellowed appearance. A sticky, sooty substance (excreted honeydew) may develop on the plant, and/or the plant may look misshapen and weak. Look for light green or yellow insects under the leaves, as this is where they prefer to hide (aphids can come in other colors, though these are most prevalent).
  • Treating aphids: You might only need a blast of water from the hose to dislodge/displace aphids. If an infestation is out of control you can try insecticidal soap, or products like pyrethrin or spinosad to completely rid yourself of the pests. Look into beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, to control these garden pests naturally.

Check out those back feet….a sure identification clue! They are difficult to control once they are adults with this hard outer shell, so get them while they are young like in the pic to right.

Time to get a handle on these leaf footed nymphs!

3. Leaf Footed Bugs are garden pests that pierce your prized tomatoes and suck from their juices leaving fruit blemished. With diligent observation in the garden you may see orange-brown eggs lined up in a string-like strand on a stem or along a leaf vein. Once eggs are hatched, the nymphs appear as orange insects with black spots and spindly black legs. As adults, leaf footed bugs look like stinkbugs but their back legs have enlarged growths that resemble a brownish-gray leaf.

  • Signs you have Leaf footed bugs: You may notice small tomatoes aborting, or depressions/discolorations on fruit where the leaf footed bugs have fed. Mature fruit may have discoloration on the surface.
  • Treating Leaf Footed Bugs: Treatment is easiest caught early when the young bugs are still soft-bodied. Once adults, they have a hard body and treatment becomes more difficult. Treat nymphs with neem oil, insecticidal soap or products containing pyrethrin. Adult leaf footed bugs can be plucked or vacuumed off plants; sprays are rather ineffective at this stage.

Always observe the “days to harvest” warnings on any insecticides used on edibles, and always wash edibles that have been treated before eating.

Extra tip: Choose a concentrated product that you can add a surfactant to (1o drops of liquid dish detergent does the trick.) This will make sure your product will stick to glossy, waxy or hairy leaves by breaking the leaf surface tension. Remember that you should follow up with whatever maintenance schedule is listed on the product to make sure you get full coverage for the entire life cycle of these garden pests.

For more “sucking” garden pest info, you can visit a past Happy Gardener, “Sayanora, Suckers!”

~The Happy Gardener