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How to deal with Garden Pests

Pests. One of the most anaphoric blights for any gardener, they destroy plants, depreciate property value and are just a right nuisance! Coming from the Latin pestis meaning pestilence or plague, pests in all their forms often feel like a plague as they sweep through our yards and ravage our plants. However there are ways to deal with them, and we have highlighted New Zealand’s worst pests and how to fight them back if they have invaded your property. With the below solutions, we have outlined both chemical and eco-friendly ways for you to deal with each of the pests.

Of all the remedies listed beneath, there is one that stands out as the most effective for all: ladybugs. By increasing the presence of ladybugs in your garden, you will see a diminishing presence of pests as they consume, attack and kill all pests. Despite their small size and beautiful appearance, they’re some of the toughest predators on the vine.

APHIDS

Basically lice for your plants, Aphids swarm to healthy plants and damage the follicles in the surface of the plant by sucking out the sap. Aphids are able to reproduce rapidly, even without a mate, and if they become overpopulated they can cause extensive damage to your plants.

So how do we deal with them?

If you notice the presence of any ladybugs, then it is best to wait temporarily until they leave. As the natural enemy of aphids, they consume all aphid larvae and adults and leave a scent which discourages aphids from returning to the area. If you’re not blessed with the ladybugs however, then a simple pruning of the plants and removal of the infested leaves is usually the best place to start.

Following on from this, using a natural insecticide with a heavy stream of water from the hose, to help blast the aphids from the leaves.

A key thing to be aware of when taking care of Aphids is to look for any nearby presence of ant-hills. Ants and aphids work for mutual benefit, with the ants providing shelter for the aphids and their offspring, whilst they’re provided a heavy stream of honeydew. If there is a processional of ants to your plant that is infested with aphids, then you will need to take care of the aphids in the ant-hill also. Try applying a pest barrier around the base of the plants to help prevent ants and aphids from returning.

EARWIGS

The stuff of horror films, earwigs aren’t as fearsome as their name makes them out to be. Despite their slight figures however, they can pack a strong punch with the pronged forks at the end of the body and can cut through human flesh so care should be taken. Not typically an aggressive insect (towards humans) their pincers are used for defensive purposes and for the harvesting of sustenance. 

As a nocturnal species, earwigs operate by night and are very attracted to light. Therefore if you are watering plants, it is advisable to do it whilst there is still the presence of the last rays of daylight. Watering by night and using a light to see can attract earwigs to the plants and to the damp soil.

Earwigs strip plants of their outer layers and eat all other insects that are near the plant, making them both a pro and a con. If you notice an infestation however, then you should take immediate action to remedy it. Most often by creating drains in the soil to remove water from the area, this will cure the infestation as earwigs love wet conditions.

If this doesn’t work, then you should try a chemical or eco-friendly bug repellent and ensure to turn any mulch to expose them.

THRIPS (HEDGE CRICKETS)

Thrips are miniature insects, that are completely black and often compared to crickets. Thrips damage and kill plants but sucking the juice out of them and drying them out. In particular, they target plants that provide food, such as fruit trees and also hedges or other large plants. They will also target vegetable plants, such as pumpkin and onions and are usually easily to identify. Feeding primarily in large groups they are easily startled and will leap or fly away from the area.

Evidence of Thrips can be found in the leaves of plants, as they are typically sucked dry and therefore curl up and crumple slightly. The leaves will typically be spotty, turn slightly silver or be heavily discoloured after the Thrips have fed, and this ultimately leads to the plant becoming discoloured and scarred. Plants that start twisting will be bordering on death.

Fortunately there are a few ways to fix an infestation of this nasty insect. First and foremost, ensure that all excess plant debris is removed from the target area, thereby eradicating any external and foreign hiding places for the insects. Following on from this, an extremely high pressure insecticide hosing of the plants can help with flushing the bugs out of hiding. A blue insect tape can also be used to lure them out and help kill them.

For a more eco-friendly, “give back to the world” approach, try purchasing a commercial abundance of beneficial insects who will help restore virility to your plants and cure the infestation of Thrips. Such insects include, minute pirate bugs, ladybugs and lacewings. Alternatively, you can find a very specific bug known as the “thrips predator” which specifically targets and destroys all Thrips in the surrounding area.

WHITEFLY

Another friend to the aphids, Whiteflies are often in abundance around crops and damage plants by drinking the sap and rubbing their wings on the stem. Whiteflies often appear before aphids and ants and help in attracting them. This is because their wings, as well as leaving a damaging powder, generate honeydew which they line the stems of the plants with.

Whiteflies are experts at hiding and so will always be on the underside of leaves rather than on the surface, this can make them harder to find and more difficult to diagnose the plants illness, yet they're purest white and are easy to make out.

Whiteflies are easily removed by an insecticide, hosed heavily onto plants which will help with the eradication process. Insect tapes can also be used to help lure them away from the designated area.

If you’re looking for a more economical and beautifying approach, then try planting flowers nearby and monitoring them carefully to ensure that the whiteflies don’t move onto them. Once the flowers start pollinating and attracting bees, they will help in clearing out the whiteflies and freeing your plants - however this is a lengthy process and it would be preferable to do this before the infestation occurs.

For more great tips and tricks to cure your garden, watch this video beneath from the Home Channel UK:


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