Spring summons many garden pests
TRACY HODGEIn Central Florida, springtime brings plenty of sunshine and mild weather. While you may enjoy spending more time in your garden at this time of year, you will probably see an increase in outdoor pests. Since we have had mild winter weather, these pests may show up a bit earlier than usual this year.
Published: February 6, 2013
Published: February 6, 2013
Swarming insects are abundant from spring until fall here in central Florida. These pests do not typically damage landscape plants, but they can be difficult to control. Biting midges are most common around mangroves in coastal areas, but they can migrate to our portion of the state, as certain species attack cattle on farmland. While these pests are very small, they can produce a bite that is itchy and uncomfortable.
If you plan to work outdoors this spring, be sure to have insect repellents on hand that are labeled for biting midge control and avoid going outdoors during peak biting times such as just before dark.
Lady beetles are another common springtime insect in our area. While these insects do not bite, they can become a nuisance when present in large numbers. However, we should avoid using insecticides to eliminate these bugs because they are actually beneficial insects that eat plant pests and keep them under control.
These bugs are known to feed on whiteflies, mites, scale insects, mealy bugs and some mildews on plants. If you find yourself with a lot of lady beetles, be sure to seal up gaps around doors and windows to keep them outdoors where they belong.
There are some insects that will cause you grief when they feed on the plants in your yard or garden. Aphids are one of the most common early spring pests here in central Florida.
These tiny little bugs are also referred to as "plant lice" and they are not picky when it comes to sources of food. Aphids can be black, brown or white but they can also be found in bright colors such as red, pink or yellow. Not only can aphids damage our plants through feeding, but they can also transmit viruses that can compromise plant health.
Since aphids prefer to feed on new growth, they are abundant in the spring when plants begin to flourish. If you suspect aphids are damaging your plants, examine the undersides of plant leaves where they typically live. Aphids are common on ixora, hibiscus, crape myrtle, camellia, rose and oleander. They also are also found on palms, oak trees, ornamental grasses and citrus.
Light infestations of these pests are usually controlled by spraying your plants two or three times each week with a water hose. Stronger insecticides should only be used when plants are sustaining heavy damage, to avoid damaging beneficial insects.
One of the most frustrating garden pests here is the Southern chinch bug. These bugs primarily infest St. Augustine grass, which is commonly placed in many residential lawns.
It may be hard to believe, but this 6 mm pest causes millions of dollars in damage each year and leaves homeowners scrambling for a solution. According to Stacy Woods of the University of Florida, IFAS Extension, southern chinch bug damage is common in central and South Florida counties.
If chinch bugs are feeding on your lawn grass, you may find brown or yellow circles scattered around your yard. Most chinch bug infestations are sporadic, occurring in different areas of the yard.
Discolored grass can also be caused by a number of things such as a lack of water, other insects and root rot diseases, so proper identification of the pest is important to keeping damage to a minimum. You may want to hire a professional exterminator to eliminate these pests.