There are bad bugs. That’s right, you heard it here. There are bad bugs! These bugs are not simply misunderstood. These bugs cannot be rehabilitated. These bugs wet the bed, started fires, and would kill the neighbors animals if given the chance. They hit the trifecta of badness. Our only hope is to be able to recognize them and eliminate them before they wreak havoc on our precious gardens.
I’m going to give you the top ten offenders with some natural or otherwise eco-friendly ways to combat them. One of the most important things to remember is that it is a very bad idea to reach first for the broad spectrum insecticide from your local box store. If you do this, you risk killing or scaring off the plethora of beneficial insects that your gardens need. I’ve been pesticide free for five years now but I still have the urge to grab the Malathion at times. You just have to fight it. We can fight it together. So, here they are, the top ten offenders.
#10 Flea Beetles
These guys are small, but they do big damage. They are highly mobile and only about 1/10th of an inch long. On top of that, they feed at night, skeletonizing your vegetation then curl up to sleep in the dirt during the day. They also feed and live in large colonies so they can eat massive amounts of food in a relatively short period of time.
How to combat them: Start with floating row covers. If they can’t get to your plants, they’ll move on to easier picnics. You can also sprinkle Diatomaceous Earth around the base of your plants as a deterrent. Companion plantings of Tansy, Garlic, Wormwood or Candytuft can help with these rascals as well. At the end of this article I give three “recipes” for home brewed insecticide, you could try these for flea beetles.
#9 Slugs and Snails
Slugs and snails are not insects but rather soft bodied mollusks. Whatever the nomenclature, they like to eat plants in the garden, they have to go. There are a few ways to rid yourself of these. The easiest, pick them off and toss them in a bucket of salt water (or relocate them to a more advantageous home for those that would rather). However, since these guys frolic late at night and in the wee hours of the morning, chances are this is going to be more of a challenge for those that like to do things like sleep at night. So, if you’re not going to change your sleep clock to defend your Delphiniums, there are a couple of other ways to discourage this pest. You can trap them using the bottom of a two liter bottle filled with beer. The slugs are attracted to the brew but they really aught not drink and slime. Barriers work pretty well. Some of the more successful barriers: diatomaceous earth, coffee grounds, well ground egg shells, ground nut shells (such as pecans or walnuts), and oat bran. If you use this method, you must be vigilant about reapplication of your barrier after heavy rain. A barrier is only as good as the person that applies it, you must take care.
#8 Japanese Beetle
These pack a double whammy. The adults feed on vegetation, the larva feed on roots. You can hand pick the adults but you’ll need to be hyper vigilant and many find they need some kind of biological aids. These aids include, but are not limited to: nematodes, companion plantings of tansy, marigolds (French Marigolds are better), and when all else fails, Pyrethrin or Neem.