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By Brooke Moffis
The heat and humidity of summer creates a thriving environment for our insect friends and foes. Butterflies and lady beetles are out in droves, but so are the chinch bugs, scale, aphids, and other plant pests. If insect pests are wrecking your landscape and ruining your weekend, you can take preventative actions to make life easier.

One of the most important steps in reducing pest damage in your landscape is to routinely scout your plants for insects. Scouting can be performed by flipping over leaves and looking for insects and other plant problems. Venture out into your landscape weekly and focus on the soft growing tips and the oldest leaves of your plants. Plant pests tend to attack or lay eggs on these areas first.

Scan the landscape and look for irregular growth; this could be a sign of pest problems. If you see abnormal growth, take a closer look, you may have an insect pest lurking on the undersides of leaves. The point of scouting is to catch pests early before they require repeated pesticide treatments.

If you locate an insect pest, bring it into the extension office for positive identification. You must know what insect you are dealing with in order to determine the best means of control. Sometimes control is not warranted because the insect that is thought to be a pest is actually a predatory insect that eats other bugs.

Collect your insect specimen in a jar of rubbing alcohol or place a section of the plant containing the insect in a plastic baggie. The more of a sample you can bring in, the better. Master Gardeners are available to help you identify landscape problems at the UF/IFAS Extension Lake County Office Monday through Friday from 9am to 4pm.

If it is determined that you do have an insect problem, consider using soaps and oils first. If applied correctly, these products can offer effective control while minimizing the use of other insecticides. While using these products it is important to get thorough coverage of the insect, because soaps and oils work by suffocating and desiccating the pest.

When applying insecticides always read the label, the label will tell you how to correctly apply the product to control the insect while reducing negative effects on the plant. On tough plants, insects can simply be blasted off with a hard stream of water from a hose.

Catch plant pests early and use the UF/IFAS Extension Lake County Service to properly identify your insect problems.

Visit our plant clinic with your landscape problems and visit Discovery Gardens for garden ideas. Both are open weekdays from 9am to 4pm at the Ag Center, 1951 Woodlea Rd. Tavares.


Brooke Moffis is the Residential Horticulture Agent of the UF/IFAS Lake County Extension office. Email her at burnb48@ufl.edu. Extension programs are open to all persons without regard to race, color, sex, age, disability, religion, or national origin.
Reducing common insect pests in your garden
UF/IFAS
UF/IFAS
Aphids have small pear-shaped bodies with paired cornicles. Aphids are usually most numerous in the spring, but may be present throughout the growing season. They may or may not have wings. (Photo courtesy UF/IFAS)

 

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