The good and bad bugs of summer

Gardeners can follow these tips to identify good bugs and eliminate the bad ones.

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July 1, 2024 - 2:21 PM

Courtesy photo

Some look small as a pin head, others big as your thumb. Some are cute, most are ugly. But they’re all quite destructive. These are the bad bugs of early summer.

Others are good guys, the kind you want to hang around and work their appetites on the bad ones.

With the growing season in high gear, it’s impossible to miss this vast array of insects affecting flowers, vegetables and shrubs.

Here, you can get to know some of the important ones — both the good and the bad — and some remedies, mostly organic, to deal with them. Many kinds of commercial insecticides are on the market. If you choose to use one, make sure the product states on the label that it is effective against the insect you’ve got.

THE BAD ONES

• Aphid. Soft-bodied, winged or wingless, prolific and tiny, sap-sucking aphids attack the succulent growth of many fruits, vegetables and ornamentals.

Look for curling, mottled leaves as a first sign of infestation and densely packed clusters of them along new growth. A hard stream of water, applied two to three times, should get them to move on to something less valuable.

Or try garlic spray repellents, insecticidal soap or an insecticide containing pyrethrin. Lady beetles are an excellent remedy.

• Colorado potato beetle. Easily identified by 10 black stripes and its yellowish-orange body, the Colorado potato beetle can defoliate plants of potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and petunias.

Knock beetles into a pail of soapy water; spray with pyrethrin, apply Bacillus thuringiensis to kill beetles in larval stage. Lightweight, nearly transparent garden fabric spread over plant beds can also help deter attack by this beetle.

• Mexican bean beetle. Distinguished by 16 black spots on oval, yellow-brown bodies, Mexican bean beetles feed on lima and green beans and cowpeas. They’re reasonably easy to pick off with your fingers and kill. Or knock them into soapy water. Spray undersides of leaves with pyrethrin.

• Bagworm. The tiny, wingless female moth lives in a tentlike bag attached to junipers, cedars, pines and arborvitae.

From this, tiny brown caterpillars hatch in spring and feed on foliage, causing distinctive browning.

Pick off and destroy the bags in winter and spring. Spray caterpillars with Bacillus thuringiensis.

• Japanese beetle. Their iridescent, bluish-green heads and shiny copper-brown wings give Japanese beetles dramatic flair that could be interesting, were they not so destructive to a wide variety of plants, including roses, crape myrtles, grape vines and plums.

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