Do It Yourself Pest Control: Special Tips For New York Bugs

From aphids to wire worms, learn how to deal with those New York pests using the least evasive method possible.

You can wipe out the vast majority of destructive insects in your garden by giving your fruits, vegetables and flowers a good spray of synthetic, broad-spectrum insecticides. The problem is that, in doing so, you will probably wipe out all of the beneficial insects in your garden, along with a few birds. You also must realize that any chemical powerful enough to kill just about any bug or animal it comes into contact with, is not going to be any better for humans.

Remember that nature tries to strike a balance. Not all bugs that nibble on the leaves of your plants will do them harm. Likewise, a few destructive bugs may do minimal damage, but not enough to ruin your garden. Just as there are bugs that eat your plants, there are beneficial bugs that, in turn, eat the destructive bugs. There are also other insects, such as bees, which pollinate your plants and help your garden to flourish. By letting loose on nature with powerful chemicals, you are upsetting the delicate balance nature has created. Therefore, your best course of action is to try to help nature keep it's balance, rather than destroying it altogether.

The best way to control pests in your garden is to keep a careful watch of that balance. Remember, only a small percentage of bugs are actually harmful to your garden. First learn to identify them before taking any pest control measures. It is only when you find that the bugs destructive to your plants are getting a bit dominant that you should consider taking some measures to control them. Consider measures which will not further harm your garden or its helpful inhabitants.

Aphids are one of the most common pests that can invade your garden in New York. These tiny bugs can be black, white, green, pink or yellow. They attach themselves to the bottom side of leaves. They create a sugary substance known as "honeydew" and leave black spots that resemble soot. Your first measure to rid yourself of aphids is to begin hosing down the underside of the leaves with as strong a spray as the plants can stand. For infestations, after daily hosing, try spraying with a mixture of warm (not hot) water and some mild dishwashing liquid. If all else is failing, you may want to look into an insecticidal soap to spray on the affected plants. If you know your area has trouble with aphids, try preventative methods. Make sure your garden has a healthy supply of beneficial bugs- particularly lady bugs, which feed on aphids. You can actually purchase lady bugs from some gardening centers. Release them in the evening, when it is cool. They will settle, lay eggs, and soon lady bug larvae will be picking off those aphids. Note that if you have recently sprayed with insecticides, they may fly right off your land. If you have a small or container garden, you might want to consider using aluminum foil. Simply wrap cardboard in the foil, cut a slot in it for the stem, and lay it over the base of the plant. Aphids get confused by the reflection and avoid landing on the plant. A side benefit to this is that in Northern gardens the foil reflects sunlight back onto the plant, promoting better growth.

The Asian Long-Horn Beetle is new to America, first appearing in the 1990's in New York City. It was probably imported in wooden packaging from Asia. This black beetle with white spots wreaks havoc on hardwood trees. Unfortunately, the only way to be rid of them is to completely uproot and destroy the tree. If you believe any trees on your property or in your neighborhood house these beetles, contact the Department of Agriculture for help.

The Colorado Potato Beetle is a small beetle with beautiful stripes. The adults burrow in the soil for the winter, then emerge in the spring and lay eggs on the bottom side of leaves. Discourage their reproduction by using a thick layer of organic mulch to prevent the adults from emerging. If you notice these beetles, or find yellow egg clusters or red larvae (spotted with black down the sides), pick them off by hand and destroy them. After watering your plants, sprinkle them with bran. Any remaining beetles will eat the bran, which kills them by expanding in their stomachs.

There is nothing so heartbreaking as to come out to your garden and find your new seedlings lying on the ground as though they have been snipped at the soil line with a pair of scissors. The culprit may be a cutworm, the larvae of moths. They hide in the soil during daylight hours, and feed at night by curling tightly around the plant stem. Take preventative measures with these creatures by making a natural barrier when you transplant seedlings. Spread wood ashes around the base of the plant, which discourages the adults from laying eggs there.

Flea beetles are not really fleas, but they look like them. They are small, black, and jump quickly from a plant when it is disturbed. You may notice your leaves are riddled with holes if you find them present. They can also spread bacterial diseases from plant to plant. If flea beetles become a problem, make a spray by adding crushed garlic and hot pepper to warm water, and spray the underside of the plants. This will be harmless to your plants and blossoms, but should rid you of the beetle larvae. Lady bugs and lacewings in your garden will keep the flea beetle population low.

Slugs, while not bugs, can be among the most troublesome creatures in New York gardens just the same. You'll know if they have been feeding in your garden at night if you find your leaves and stems have been munched, and there is a slimy trail along them. You can best discourage slugs from coming into your garden by spreading sand or wood ash around the plants. These creatures dislike slithering across anything grainy or rough. If you fear they have already made their way in, you can set traps for them. Put out a few tin pie plates of stale beer around the garden. Slugs are attracted to it, but when they crawl in, they drown. Also you can lay some large cabbage leaves around plants you believe to be infested by slugs. In the middle of the day, turn the leaves over and you might find the slugs seeking shelter from the midday heat. Remove the slugs from the garden, destroy them by pouring salt on them and dispose of them.

Wireworms, long, hard-shelled, inch-long worms, feed on stems, roots, tubers, and the underground portion of a number of plants and vegetables. If you have had a problem with wire worms, before planting, set a trap for them. Take a few pointy sticks and impale potatoes upon them. Bury the potatoes in the ground, a few inches under the surface, leaving the sticks protruding out to mark their location. Wait a week or two, then dig up the potatoes and destroy them. The worms will likely be inside. The bigger a problem you have had, the more trap potatoes you should plant (and the closer together).

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