How to Stop Bugs From Eating Your Plants
Springtime is here, and we’re all itching to get outside and get busy bringing our gardens back to life for the year. We’re excited to see our favorite perennials pop back up, and maybe we’ve got some new plants that we want to introduce as well. Even our indoor plants are perking back up again, bolstered by the lengthened hours of sunshine.
Of course, as delightful as this season is for experiencing the full beauty of your garden, it isn’t without its challenges. Weather and temperatures can be unpredictable. Diseases can creep into your garden. And of course, what would springtime be without the sudden appearance of tiny little holes in your plant leaves?
But what causes these holes? How can you prevent them, and how can you stop them from worsening? Today, we’re going to talk all about it.
Why Do Your Plants Have Holes in Their Leaves?
While the occasional hole in a leaf might be because the leaf was malformed or perhaps your kids thought it would be fun to poke holes, it’s easy to tell when there’s something much more serious going on. If every leaf on your plant is covered in regular holes, there’s clearly a systematic problem. In most cases, that problem is bugs.
Whether you’re working with indoor plants or an outdoor garden, you’ll find that both are susceptible to developing bug problems. These bugs are capable of burrowing through the soil to eat at roots, climbing the leaves to chew away flowers and buds and, of course, biting holes right through the center of new green leaves.
There isn’t just one type of bug that’s solely responsible for eating away at your plants, either. Instead, many different insect species are attracted to your plants and eager to begin eating them. For the most effective anti-pest measures, you’ll need to learn about each type of bug and how to guard against them.
Why Do Bugs Keep Eating Your Plants?
Bugs eat your plants because they’re hungry and your plants are likely the best option around at the moment. While it’s unfortunate for you as the gardener, it’s also easy enough to understand why it happens. Bugs are like any other living creature, and they’re usually just looking for their next meal.
Another related question you might be wondering is why the bugs are only going for specific plants in your garden while avoiding the others. It’s because, like most of us, bugs have preferences for what they eat. If you have an infestation of aphids, for example, they’re likely to head for one type of plants. An infestation of Japanese beetles will go for something different.
Why do you suddenly have bugs this year when you’ve never had a problem in years past? Think back to what’s different about your garden this year. Did you make any new additions? Add any unusual plants? The odds are good that these new plants are responsible for attracting your new visitors.
Wondering how to stop insects from eating plant leaves? It’s possible, but it takes planning and dedication. The reward will be worth it, however, when you see your plants begin to thrive once you’ve successfully removed all the bugs. Today, we want to walk you through the process of naturally getting rid of bugs that are eating your plants without hurting the plants in the process.
What Are the Most Common Plant-Eating Bugs and Insects?
Curious which bugs are likely responsible for the holes in your leaves and the droopy-looking plants in your garden? Take a look at our list of likely candidates.
Some of the bugs that might be causing your indoor plants to droop include:
These bugs are easy to pick out for their unique pale-green color. Unless you’re looking closely, aphids are almost easy to mistake for very tiny leaves. Closer inspection will reveal them to be very small, pear-shaped bugs with long antennae and two tubes pointing backward from their abdomen. These pests are frustratingly common and enjoy eating everything from fruits and vegetables to flowers and outdoor trees. Rather than chewing holes in leaves, however, they prefer to suck the sap out of plants, causing the leaves to droop and spreading disease in their wake.
These little white bugs are especially attracted to houseplants, and you’re most likely to find them at the small joint where the leaf meets the stem in your plants, as well as on the stems and leaves themselves. Like aphids, they feed on the plant’s sap instead of chewing on the leaves directly, causing the plant to wilt and eventually die if left unchecked.
3. Spider Mites
While these pests are technically arachnids instead of insects, there’s effectively no difference when it comes to how destructive they can be. These mites look like tiny red dots that collect on the underside of leaves, where they eat plant fluids and leave tiny dots at any location where they’ve been munching. While they can infest any household plant, they’re especially common in ivy and can cause a plant to yellow, wither and die.
While some of the indoor bugs, like aphids, can occur outdoors as well, you’ll likely have a new set of insects to worry about in your outside garden. A few of the important ones to keep an eye out for include:
1. Japanese Beetles
Japanese beetles are pests that you can find in almost every state east of the Mississippi, where they feed on many different flowers, fruits and vegetables. You can easily tell where they’ve been by the way they turn leaves into patchy skeletons, eat away at flowers and, in some cases, strip a plant entirely bare of any foliage. Adults are a metallic bluish-green with metallic red wing covers, while the larvae are white grubs.
2. Tarnished Plant Bugs
These bugs move extremely quickly, and you’ll recognize them by their green-and-brown coloring, as well as the yellow triangles with black tips located on their forewings. They’re not extremely picky about their food and will eat plenty of different vegetables, fruits and flowers. Rather than chewing on the leaves, they suck out the plant juices, leaving the plant wilted, drooping and often stunted.
3. Flea Beetles
Flea beetles are another pest that you’ll find on vegetable plants throughout North America. The adults will chew round holes right into the center of leaves, which can be particularly damaging to young plants. Larvae are more likely to chew at roots. You can identify this bug by its dark coloring and its unique ability to hop like a flea when startled.
There are many different types of caterpillars, and none of them spell good news for your garden. These insects are larvae that will one day hatch into moths, flies, butterflies and other insects, but until then, their sole purpose in life is mostly to eat. Unfortunately for gardeners, their preferred food is usually garden leaves.
Caterpillars aren’t picky about their food, which means they’ll eat away at fruits, vegetables and trees, often chewing along the edges of leaves. The good news is that these pests are usually easy to spot and recognize, making it simple to diagnose the problem.
How to Keep Bugs From Eating Your Plants
Once you’ve noticed that your plants are suffering from an invasion of insects, and once you’ve identified or at least suspect which bugs are to blame, your next step is to figure out how to keep bugs from indoor and outdoor plants alike. And while there are plenty of synthetic pest-killers out there that you can purchase for yourself by heading to the local plant nursery or home improvement store, many of us prefer a more natural alternative.
That said, let’s look at some homemade bug sprays for indoor and outdoor plants.
How to Get Rid of Bugs on Indoor Plants
Are bugs getting into your houseplants? Try a few of these homemade solutions.
The first step to getting rid of aphids is to avoid attracting them in the first place. They’re attracted to moist soil, so if you have a tendency to overwater your plants, it could explain your aphid problem. Avoid this practice, and you may have better luck staying clear of aphids in the future. If you’ve already attracted them, however, try wiping down the leaves of the infested plant with a solution of a few drops of dish soap and water. It’s also a good idea to pinch the aphids off the plant directly, especially in cases of extreme infestation.
One of the best homemade bug killers for the house, particularly where mealybugs are concerned, is a Q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol. Simply dab it on every bug you see for a quick and efficient removal system. You may need to complete several sessions of this procedure before the infestation is under control, but it should eventually prove effective. Once the bugs are gone, prevent them from returning by not over-watering or over-fertilizing your houseplants.
3. Spider Mites
Spider mites do their best work in dry conditions, meaning they love it when you let your plant go for a while without watering it. One of the best ways you can fight this pest off is by regularly misting the leaves to keep them moist. You should also dust and clean the leaves often to prevent these mites from laying eggs on them. For extreme cases, try a homemade bug spray made of water and neem oil for indoor plants.
How to Get Rid of Bugs on Outdoor Plants
Are your concerns centered more on your outdoor garden? If so, try a few of these home fixes.
1. Japanese Beetles
Start by shaking the bugs off the plants in the early morning, before they’re at their most active. Once they’re gone for the moment, spray down the plants with a homemade insecticidal soap. A great recipe for a homemade bug spray for vegetable plants is to use one tablespoon of dish soap, one cup of vegetable oil, one quart of water and one cup of rubbing alcohol. For best results, apply this spray in the morning and be prepared to spray the plants again with water if they seem to start drooping after the treatment.
2. Tarnished Plant Bugs
Avoid attracting these bugs in the first place by keeping your garden free of weeds all spring, at least as much as possible. Doing so means giving the bugs fewer places to hide and making your garden a less attractive spot for them. If you find yourself with a tarnished plant bug problem, however, control it by locating the nymphs and spraying them with neem oil. Finally, one of your best bets is to encourage natural predators of these bugs, as they’ll do a big part of your job for you.
3. Flea Beetles
A great natural bug repellent for flea beetles is garlic-based. For this remedy, you’ll need a head of garlic, one tablespoon of a dish soap that doesn’t contain bleach, two tablespoons of vegetable oil and two cups of water. Make the spray by peeling the garlic and pureeing the cloves along with the oil and water. Let this mixture sit overnight before straining it. Add the soap and mix it together thoroughly. Then, just pour it into a spray bottle and use it to cover the infected plants.
To deter caterpillars, you can try several different methods. The first is to encourage natural predators that will eat the caterpillars and thus clear them out for you. Another method is to spray the plants with a solution of neem oil and water.
Finally, you might try mixing together a homemade chili spray. To make this spray, grind three and a half ounces of dried chilies in a blender. Throw this powder into a half gallon of boiling water and let it boil for five minutes before adding half a gallon of cold water and a few drops of dish soap. Spray this mixture on the caterpillars every morning until you no longer see them.
Call in the Professionals
When it comes to bug infestations either in your garden or among your houseplants, home remedies are a great first course of action. Oftentimes, they’ll be just the trick you need to banish the bugs and get your plants looking great again.
In other situations, the bugs may persist despite your best efforts. In cases like these, it might be time to set the home remedies aside and call in professionals. If you’re based in or around the Phoenix area, we want to invite you to reach out to us here at Green Home Termite & Pest Control.
We’re a locally owned and operated pest control company, serving the area surrounding Phoenix. Because we’re a local business, we have the freedom to treat you like family, providing you with the very best in personalized services as well as the highest quality and safest products in the business. Together, our technicians have more than 30 years of combined experience, giving us the background necessary to make your pest problem a thing of the past.
Are you ready to get started finding a solution to your bug problem? Contact us today to tell us a little bit about your situation, and in return, you’ll receive a free quote.
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