Watch For These Winter Pests
Insects that feed on your garden are abundant in the spring and summer. But did you know there are many insects in the fall and winter? Watch for these winter pests.
Brassica crops are the primary plants grown in the fall and winter. Broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, greens, and bok choy are among the plants insects love to munch.
Nine Winter Pests
The cabbage looper, as an adult, is a greyish brown moth with silvery figure 8 markings. The adults will lay eggs on the host plant. When the eggs hatch, the larvae start feeding on the plant. The sign of cabbage looper damage is large holes in the leaves.
The cabbage looper in its caterpillar stage has yellow stripes down its sides and is pale green. When the caterpillar moves, it forms a loop, hence its name.
As the name implies, these bad boys feed on a wide variety of vegetables, not just cabbage.
If you see signs of cabbage loopers, investigate your plants thoroughly. Pick off and destroy all caterpillars and treat the plants with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt for short). Some loopers hide deep in the heads of cabbage and go unseen until cooking.
The diamondback moth male is noted for the diamond shapes on its back. The caterpillars are greenish-yellow with small black hairs. If you disturb a diamondback moth caterpillar, it will wiggle back and forth. It hangs from a silk thread when it falls off a plant.
The diamondback moth, just like the cabbage looper, lays eggs on the host plant. When the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on the plant.
This moth enjoys eating the cole crops (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, collards, kale, mustard, and turnips).
Pick off any caterpillars. A bit of good news, rainfall and watering kills the larva. Phermone-bait traps are successful in leading male moths away from garden areas. Also, treat your plants with Bacillus thuringiensis. Diamondback moths are resistant to some insecticides.
Aphids are prominent bad guys in the garden throughout the year. This aphid, in particular, thrives on cabbage, brussels sprouts, kale, and cauliflower. The cabbage aphid tends to like the young leaves and punctures the leaf with its straw-like mouthpart. It, then, sucks the nutrients out of the leaf.
Cabbage aphids are greyish or white in color and are very small. The telltale sign that they are present is a wilting or sick-looking plant.
Not only do aphids suck the nutrients out of a plant, but they also secrete a substance called honeydew. This honeydew sticks to the plant and is a prime place for mold growth.
The aphid has several natural predators. These predators include the lady beetle, braconid wasp, and larval wasp. To rid your plants of aphids, wash the plants with a stream of water. Insecticidal soap also works to kill aphids.
Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? The cabbage maggot resembles a white blob. It is legless and only about 1/4 inch long. The maggot is the larva of the cabbage maggot fly.
The fly is extremely small and is found around cabbage, broccoli, radishes, and other brassica plants. The fly lays eggs in the soil. When the eggs hatch, the larva feeds on the roots and stems just below ground.
The best way to control cabbage maggots is prevention. Add row covers to your beds, and don’t plant in cold soil. Sticky cards also help trap the flies before they have a chance to lay eggs on your plants.
Cutworms are the collective name for the larvae of a species of moths. The moths lay their eggs on grasses and weeds. Once the larvae hatch, they find shelter in the soil where they begin to feed on the plants.
The cutworms emerge at night to do their feasting. They chew the stems of new seedlings and transplants at the base. If touched, cutworms curl up in a ball.
Wilting or plants falling over are the signs that you may have cutworms in your garden. Wrapping aluminum foil around the base of plants keeps the worms from damaging further plants. Bacillus thuringiensis also helps control the cutworm population.
Onion thrips are extremely small, rice-looking, winged insects. They lay their eggs in the plant tissue. When the eggs hatch, the nymphs feed on the plant. Onion thrips have rasping mouthparts. Rasping mouthparts tear into the plant to feed on the nutrients.
Damage by onion thrips appears as blistering or scarring on the leaves. Because the thrips tear into the leaves, the leaf becomes susceptible to fungus infections.
Prevention is the key to controlling thrip population. Avoid planting cabbage near grains, and choose varieties of cabbage resistant to thrip. Use straw mulch on plants.
Crucifer Flea Beetle
These very small beetles are black and shiny. The adults feed on the plants causing small holes in the leaves. They lay their eggs in the soil. The larvae feed on the roots and then emerge as adults to eat the leaves.
Sticky traps placed by damaged leaves can indicate the size of the beetle population present.
Picking the beetles off is one method of removal. However, as their name implies, they have the ability to jump like a flea. Prevent infestation with row covers and crop rotation.
This cabbage worm will do damage to your brassica plants. Watch out for a brown moth with dark, black eyes and smudges on the tips of its wings. These moths lay eggs on the back of leaves.
Once the eggs hatch, the larvae eat the leaves. The larvae are a pale green and then change color as they grow. The larger caterpillars are black with yellow sides.
Spotting the damage caused by a cross-striped cabbageworm is relatively easy. They eat the leaves and only the veins remain.
To prevent the moths from laying eggs on your plants, use row covers. If you see caterpillars on your plants, pick them off and use insecticidal soap on the plant.
The imported cabbageworm moth lays its eggs on the underside of leaves. The larvae eat the leaves. Just like the cross-striped cabbageworms, they only leave the stem and veins.
The moths are white in color with black markings on the wings. The caterpillars are green and soft in appearance. If spotted, pick the caterpillars off and dispose of them.
To prevent eggs from being laid on your plants, place a row cover over your crop. Look for eggs on the underside of cabbage, broccoli, mustard, and kale leaves. Remove those leaves.
We hope you don’t have to deal with any of these boogers! It is never fun to fight an insect. Here’s to an insect-free fall garden! But please watch for these winter pests.
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Watch For These Winter Pests
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I’ve always loved gardening and recently started gardening full-time. I also enjoy tending to our chickens, dogs, and other family pets (a bird, a snake, and rabbits).