The Q&A Archives: Garden Pests

Question: I have wonderful sandy soil and have carefully planted plants to attract "good" bugs. While I have a healthy population of ladybugs and praying mantis, the sow bugs are getting a little out of hand and I have bean weevils, earwigs, and what I think are cutworms. 1-2" worms white to brown in color that curl up under the soil. What can I use to get rid of the bad guys without harming the good guys in my vegetable garden AND flower bed? I'm planning on planting onions, carrots, and garlic now and would like to get this under control first.

Answer: A healthy garden has a balance of beneficial insects, as well as insect pests. Congratulations on attracting the good guys to your garden! Sow bugs are not necessarily bad guys. The help in the recycling process by feeding on dead or decaying organic matter. If the populations get very large, however, they can end up feeding on live plant material, as well. One way to control them is to choose mulch materials that are coarse enough to let water pass through easily, to limit the moist and decaying matter environment they love so much.

Earwigs can be trapped by filling shallow tuna fish or cat food cans with an inch of water and floating a quarter-inch of oil on top. The earwigs will be attracted to the oil, will fall in and drown. Empty and refill the cans as necessary. Or, place rolled up newspaper (dampen it first) in and among your plants. The pests will crawl inside to hide. In the morning, empty the traps by shaking out the critters, or toss the entire trap into the compost pile.

Bean weevils have one generation per year outdoors, so clean up the garden, remove debris to remove hiding places, and cultivate the soil to expose eggs to weather and predators. If bean weevils get into stored beans, they can breed continuously. (To prevent, dry seed thoroughly, then freeze for 48 hours after harvesting.)

Cutworms are the larvae of many different kinds of moths. Grubs can be the larvae beetles. Some, like the predacious ground beetle, are good guys, but some of the other adults are not nice to have around. The botanical insecticide Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) is effective against cutworms.

Hope the above advice results in a healthy, productive garden for you!

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