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Guide to Vegetable Garden Pests: Identification and Natural Control Tips

For people who have vegetable gardens, pests are an unavoidable nuisance that needs to be dealt with as possible. Fighting with these insects can be stressful and draining, especially if you don’t know what you’re dealing with.

Knowing your enemy is half the battle, and in that light, we want to acquaint you with some of the most common garden pests, as well as with reliable strategies to eliminate them in a natural fashion, so let’s start from the very top.

Cabbage worms

As the name implies, cabbage worms mainly attack cabbages, as well as similar plants from the same family, such as broccoli, kale, radish, turnip, and occasionally cauliflowers and kohlrabi. The tricky part about dealing with cabbage worms is that they’re able to blend with the flowers of cabbage-like plants.

Their light green color makes them almost indistinguishable from the plant if they’re not eating or moving, and their sluggishness doesn’t help much either. Luckily, they have yellow stripes across their backs while adults also have spotted backs and wings.

They chew small holes in cabbage leaves, and they usually come in numbers. Unless you’re dealing with a full-blown infestation, cabbage worms can easily be handpicked. In the case of infestation, attracting birds is the best possible solution.

Another viable solution is using BT-based pesticides, although finding a spray that features exclusively organic compounds may be tricky.

Cucumber beetles

Often dismissed as cute and harmless, cucumber beetles can make short work of your gourds, squash, melons, and cucumbers. They rarely show interest in smaller vegetables and plants and will normally stick with chewing leaves, but they’re particularly dangerous due to the fact that they are transmitters of bacterial wilt.

Cucumber beetles host numerous harmful bacteria that can inflict various diseases to the plants they come in contact with, regardless of whether they actually feed on their flowers or leaves.

Their bodies are usually around 0.25-inch long, and their backs feature black and yellow stripes; physical identification of cucumber beetles isn’t easy since there are dozens of different species, each having different physical characteristics.

They are best dealt with by covering the plants with row covers, although this may not be a long-term solution if you’re dealing with a large number of cucumber beetles.

Experts suggest that the best way of making your garden beetle-proof is to plant wilt-proof plants in the first place. If you already have a garden and are looking for a way to deal with this menace, Spinosad-based insecticides have proven to be effective.


Leafminers are a nightmare for most garden owners, mainly since they grow inside the plant tissue rather than eating their way from the outside in.

These flies are much smaller than regular garden pests, and are difficult to identify solely based on their physical appearance. Their small, black bodies are almost indistinguishable from other plant species; they leave marred foliage in their wake, which is currently the only way of identifying them, as they rarely appear on the exterior of plants they attack.

Various species exist, each feeding on different types of plants, although most of them prefer spinach, beets, blueberries and chard over other vegetables.

Frequent leaf cutting is the best way to prevent infestations, but it’s not an effective counter-measure against ongoing ones. Row covers may work in most cases, although this option isn’t the best for plants that need sunlight during the pollination process. Most organic-based insecticides offer immediate results.

Squash Bugs

Squash bugs are arguably among the largest vegetable pests, which can grow slightly above half an inch in size. Their physical appearance is unmistakable, as they have three pairs of legs, a pair of large antennae, and black, dotted bodies.

Due to the fact that they mostly feed on plants in groups, squash bugs infestations are more common than most. Furthermore, they also breed in groups, which means that a few of them can colonize a garden in a very short period of time.

They mainly feed on cucumbers, melons, and some species of pumpkins, from which they tend to suck juices until the plant eventually withers and dies.

The best way to deal with squash bugs is to handpick any that you see, and be particularly diligent when searching for their eggs. Even though you may only find a couple in your garden, they tend to multiply faster than they organize group feedings.

While most garden pests can be dealt with organic pesticides and insecticides, adult squash bugs are fairly resistant to most.


Due to their innocent physical appearance and tiny bodies, whiteflies are often mistaken for harmless insects by beginner farmers. Even though they can’t cause severe damages to your plants, they can weaken most garden plants and make their leaves wilt, especially tomatoes, citrus, and potatoes.

Whiteflies excrete sticky honeydew whenever they land on plants, which is the dead giveaway of their presence. They can be dealt with in the same manner as you would hunt regular flies – sticky cards will inevitably catch more than a few, which will prevent a large-scale infestation. After their numbers have been trimmed, they’ll eventually migrate.

Most types of organic pesticides, such as insecticidal soap and neem work well with all species of whiteflies.


Aphids are probably the most annoying garden pest due to their rapid reproduction time and an extremely eclectic diet. They’ll take a nibble on pretty much everything in your garden, from tomatoes, kale, over cabbages and cucumbers, to lettuce.

A couple of aphids can’t cause serious damages to any plant, but they tend to feed in particularly large groups. They hinder the growth of the plants they feed on and can even kill weaker ones in just a couple of weeks.

Organic pesticides work well against them while handpicking may not be a good solution due to the fact that there can be as many as fifty of them on a single leaf at a time. Predator insects also work like a charm against all species of aphids.

We hope that this guide was useful to you and that you have learned something new today on vegetable garden pests and got to deal with them. Make sure you are staying safe in these times we are all going through and have a good one, guys!


Author Bio:   Emma Houston is a gardener, a bookkeeper, writer, and mother of three. She is spending her time mostly in her garden. When she is not there, you will find her working on developing her own line of homemade natural skincare products.

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