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Insect Pests Start to Become Active at This Time of Year

Sunday, March 31, 2024

As the weather begins to warm, gardeners may start noticing some movement in the landscape, and it’s not plants sprouting from the soil. Many garden insect pests become active this time of year, so be on the lookout.


Caterpillars, aphids and cutworms are some of the archnemeses of gardeners. These pests can damage and kill plants in a short amount of time. This is why gardeners need to check their garden plants for damage every few days.


Many moths are active at dusk. When spending evenings around the garden and gardeners notice adult moths, start looking for the larvae and damage soon after. Caterpillars are easy to remove by hand. Take a closer look for additional egg masses and remove those, too. An effective insecticide safe for both the environment and humans contains Bacillus thuringiensis, otherwise known as B.t. Available under different names in a spray or dust, just ask the garden center professional for an insecticide containing B.t.


Just as the beautiful flowers in the garden come in many colors, so do aphids. These pests feed on plant sap and secrete a honeydew substance. Gardeners are most likely to find them on tender, young growth, as well as on the undersides of leaves. Before treating with an insecticide, rinse the plants with a strong stream of water. This will knock off many of the aphids from the leaves. Next, apply an insecticidal soap. Be sure to follow label instructions.


Cutworms are another pest that can wreak havoc in the garden, especially on young, tender transplants. One way to help reduce damage is to place a barrier such as aluminum foil around young plants until the cutworms move on. Another option is to place a straw or a popsicle stick right next to the stem of young transplants. Remove the barriers as the plants grow.


For more gardening information, check out the Oklahoma State University Extension webpage. 

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