Spring is here and with it comes discussions of diseases, insect pests and weeds. The question on the minds of home gardeners is what to do to control pests. Proper identification is the first step to understanding how to control pests. Your local county extension agents are here to help you identify and manage pests in your garden. If you have a species of insect that is difficult to identify, specimens can be submitted to the University of Tennessee Soil, Plants and Pest Center in Nashville for a definitive identification.
After the pest has been identified, the next step is to determine control measures. It is important to consider the life cycle of the pest, type of plant and the degree of control you wish to reach. I always recommend using an integrated pest management approach to controlling pests.
Integrated pest management involves decreasing pest outbreaks and disease epidemics, environmental contamination and pest management costs. This is achieved by encouraging cultural methods, biological controls and low impact pesticides. Non-chemical methods involve promoting healthy plants via soil testing, choosing pest-resistant plants, irrigating properly and preparing a good site.
If a chemical is needed, use low impact pesticides. Insecticidal soaps and oils have contact activity and little residual. They are not toxic to pollinators after the spray dries. Bacillus Thuringiensis (also known as “Bt”) is a naturally occurring soil bacterium that can be used to control caterpillars. Be sure to read and follow label directions.
A common-sense approach to managing pests in the landscape will produce a happier, healthier garden. If you have any questions about identifying pests or choosing the appropriate control methods, please give me a call at 901-752-1207. I am happy to help!
Photo Credit: UT Extension; Julie Morgan TEMG2004; Clemson Extension.ed