Insect eggs on leaves

GREEN LACEWINGS: A Beneficial Garden Insect

Unlike many bugs that invade your garden, you actually want green lacewings to stick around. They aren’t hungry for your tomatoes or even your cucumbers. Instead, you can rely on lacewing larvae to prey on the bugs you hate, including aphids, caterpillars, leafhoppers, mites, psyllids, thrips, whiteflies and the eggs of insects.

With that in mind, farmers and gardeners find lacewings very important in helping to control many insect pests that attack their fruit and vegetable crops and flower gardens.

So … What’s a Green Lacewing?

Adult green lacewings are small, soft-bodied insects that are light green in color. As an adult insect, this beneficial predator has antennae, big eyes, six legs and see-through wings. It resembles a dragonfly and is often mistaken for one.

Green lacewing larvae are what farmers and gardeners really love. Often called “aphid lions,” these young lacewings are savage hunters that stalk their prey between rows of your garden. In fact, lacewing larvae are so hungry for bugs that they will even devour each other! Because of this, a mature female lacewing places her eggs at the end of special egg-stalks that she deposits on the underside of a leaf. The egg-stalks help to keep the ravenous larvae away from one another.

Worldwide, there are about 2,000 species of green lacewings, and they are considered very common in North America. Most lacewings are crepuscular (which means active during the twilight hours) or nocturnal.

Green Lacewing Habitat

Green lacewings are found throughout the United States. Adult lacewings feed on nectar and pollen from plants so they may be found in flower gardens, vegetable gardens and agricultural fields. As a result, their eggs and larvae can be found in the same areas.

What Do Green Lacewings Eat?

Lacewing larvae eat a number of insects that are harmful to garden crops. Among their prey are:

  • Aphids
  • Caterpillars
  • Leafhoppers
  • Mites
  • Psyllids
  • Thrips
  • Whiteflies
  • Insect eggs (all varieties)

The larvae have huge appetites and will suck the juices of just about any prey they encounter. This is true of both green and brown lacewings, which we’ll get to later in the article.

Green lacewing larvae have segmented bodies with six thin legs and large pincers near their mouth. They are normally green or brown with mottled patterns. When attacking their prey, they grasp their victim, inject it with venom and then draw out its body fluids. Their pincers allow them to grab a wide variety of prey.

During their two- or three-week larvae life stage, lacewings can devour up to 600 garden pests. And be careful around them, because lacewing larvae may occasionally pinch your finger as they search for food!

Are Lacewings Organic?

Green lacewings offer natural aphid control for organic gardens in North America. Of course, they don’t just eat aphids – they are a great resource to control many other garden insects.

What makes lacewings an “organic” control? Since these beneficial bugs are regular inhabitants of most of North America, their presence in your garden doesn’t alter the ecosystem. That means that under federal standards, applying them to your plants will still allow you to qualify your harvest as organic.

Talk about a win-win situation! The lacewings eat all they want and you and your garden reap the benefit.

How to Attract Lacewings to Your Garden

Among the adult lacewing’s favorite plants are:

  • Angelica
  • Calliopsis
  • Caraway
  • Coriander
  • Cosmos
  • Dandelion
  • Dill
  • Fennel
  • Fern-leaf yarrow
  • Four-wing saltbush
  • Golden marguerite
  • Purple poppy mallow
  • Queen Anne’s Lace
  • Sunflowers
  • Tansy

Adult lacewings also consume honeydew, the liquid excreted by aphids and scale insects. They also occasionally eat mites and other small arthropods.

Once you have a small population of adult lacewings, it won’t be too long before they produce eggs that hatch into their bug-hungry larvae. As long as you continue to provide adults with food, their beneficial offspring should continue to appear as well.

Can You Buy Lacewings?

Many gardeners and farmers buy live lacewings in bulk to help them control pests in a natural fashion. Nurseries and online sellers offer packages of lacewings that you can release in a garden or greenhouse. Some even offer programs where they ship cartons of live lacewings to you on a weekly basis!

You have plenty of buying options, too – purchase adults, larvae or eggs and release them as appropriate based on their life stage.

What Are Brown Lacewings?

The brown lacewing is another lacewing used as a biological control agent. These lacewings lay non-stalked eggs, and they hunt other insects in both larval and adult form. Among their favorite meals are aphids, mealybugs and insect eggs of all kinds. Females lay more than 450 eggs during their lifetime, which results in large populations that can quickly eliminate a pest problem. At this point the use of brown lacewings for such purposes is relatively limited, though there have been successful deployment in Texas citrus orchards.

Lacewing Predators

Adult lacewings are often targeted by insectivores, including birds, bats and larger insects. When attacked, lacewings will release a foul-smelling excretion in an attempt to deter a predator. These insects have excellent hearing thanks to a tympanal organ under their wing. This organ is able to sense the ultrasonic calls of bats, and upon sensing this noise, they make evasive maneuvers.

Lacewings in Your Garden

By drawing lacewings to your garden, you’ll have another layer of defense for your plants from harmful insects. Try coupling your effort with lacewings to applications of Safer® Brand BioNEEM® Insecticide and Repellent. This insecticide is ingested by plant-eating insects and interrupts their growth cycle. Since lacewing larvae won’t be eating your plants, they’ll be safe to hunt!

Safer® Brand leads the alternative lawn and garden products industry, offering many solutions that are compliant with organic gardening standards. Safer® Brand recognizes this growing demand by consumers and offers a wide variety of products for lawns, gardens, landscapes, flowers, houseplants, insects and more! Check out Safer® Brand on Facebook and subscribe to our E-Newsletter for great deals on our gardening products.

Green Lacewing

Green lacewings are an often under-appreciated group of beneficial insects. As with lady beetles, these natural enemies are important predators of many types of soft bodied insects and insect eggs. These insects are common in the spring summer and fall and their contribution to insect control is immense.

Figure 1. Green lacewings have many cross veins in their wings and golden eyes.

The adult green lacewing is about 3/4 inch long, light green and has a delicate appearance with lacy wings. One unusual characteristic are its eyes, they look like two golden hemispheres. They are weak fliers and are commonly found near aphid colonies. The adults feed mostly on nectar, pollen, and honeydew but with some species the adults will feed on insects.

The eggs are either laid singly or in small groups. Each is always found perched on the tip of a hairlike stalk that is about 1/2 inch long. This helps to reduce cannibalism of the eggs by sibling larvae. Females will usually deposit the egg close a food source for the larvae.

Figure 2. Each eggs is perched on a half-inch hair-like stalk.

The larvae are brown and white and may grow up to about l/2 inch in length. Larvae are called aphidlions, because they feed on other soft-bodied insects as well as aphids. They are voracious feeders, attacking with large, curved, hollow mandibles. This is the most beneficial stage with the lacewings. They feed on soft-bodied insects like aphids, but will also feed on caterpillars and some beetles.

Figure 3. Lacewing larvae have large sickle-shaped mandibles to feed on their prey.

The larvae will pupate on plants which they were searching for insect prey. The pupa is light in color and egg shaped.

While rare, lacewing larvae are known to bite humans. This is usually nothing more than a small skin irritation. Despite these rare encounters, they remain important natural enemies of many insect pests.

Purchasing Lacewings

Green lacewing eggs have been available from a few biological control supply houses in North America. These have been used with some success in Kentucky at controlling aphids in greenhouses and in plant beds. One advantage when using lacewing eggs over lady beetles is that the beetles are winged and will disperse from the release area. When the lacewing larvae hatch, they are wingless and remain in the general area to search for insect prey.

Revised: 11/19

The green lacewing (Chrysoperla sp.) is a common beneficial insect found in the landscape. They are a generalist predator best known for feeding on aphids, but will also control mites and other soft-bodied insects such as caterpillars, leafhoppers, mealybugs and whiteflies.

Adult lacewing with its slender body and net-like wings.

The adult green lacewing has a long slender green body and golden eyes. It has prominent wings with lace-like veins. An adult will be approximately 0.75” in length. They are typically night flying insects. Females can lay up to 200 tiny, oblong eggs on silken stalks attached to the leaf surface. Depending on the species, eggs are laid singly or in clusters, each on an individual stalk. Eggs are green when laid and darken as they mature. Eggs hatch in about 4 days. The adult is not a predator and feeds on honeydew, nectar and pollen.

Oblong lacewing eggs on a silken stalk.

The larval stage, sometimes called an aphidlion, is a voracious feeder. During its three stages of development, a larva can consume 200-300 aphids. Larvae look like an alligator; they are flattened and have a tapered tail.

Lacewing larvae

They are usually pale with darker markings and have six distinct legs. A set of sickle-shaped mandibles are present used for puncturing and sucking the fluids from its prey. The lacewing larvae pupate in a loosely woven spherical cocoon attached to plants or under loose bark. Pupation lasts for 10-14 days.

The spherical cocoon of the pupae stage

Growing diverse plant material in your garden or landscape will help to invite and maintain a healthy population of beneficial insects. If you are a greenhouse or nursery grower, green lacewings can be purchased to augment an integrated pest management program.

Stay in Touch!

This cluster of baby bug marbles belongs to the shield bug. (Photo: SIMON SHIM/.com)

Bugs lay their eggs in many different ways, and those eggs pop out in a fascinating array of shapes and sizes, colors and textures. Some are smooth and globular, others rough and ridged. Some look like Skittles and others more like Raisinets. Some eggs are transparent, others opaque, and many of them look intriguingly alien. Certain species of bug can even alter the color of their eggs to fit in better with environmental factors.

The eggs of the bronze orange bug, which belongs to the tessaratomidae family. (Photo: Emily Sephton/CC BY-SA 2.0)

Different species might lay their eggs in wood, on other natural or artificial surfaces, or glued to the underbellies of leaves.* If you’d like to see some egg laying in action, check out this ladybug producing perfect yellow cylinders.

One example is the beetle, which usually lays dozens or hundreds of eggs in one sitting. After laying her eggs, a beetle wanders off and the wingless beetle larvae are left to fend for themselves–it’s important to ensure that they aren’t accidentally eaten by other animals, and that there’s a source of food nearby. The larvae then develop into pupa, and finally, adult beetles.

Eggs belonging to the large white butterfly (Pieris brassicae). (Photo: Волков Владислав Петрович/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Butterfly eggs can be identified by a small depression at their tops, which has a hole at its center called the micropyle. This is where the sperm enters during fertilization. If you look really, really closely, you’ll also notice thousands of tiny, microscopic pores called aeropyles, which are like breathing tubes for the developing larva.

When mother butterflies scope out locations for egg laying, they intentionally avoid spots that have already been claimed, to avoid the chance of eggs being eaten by predators like cannibalistic caterpillars. Laying the eggs in batches can improve chances of survival, though can also jeopardize the whole cluster. When laying eggs, the butterfly looks like she’s piping icing with her abdomen.

The eggs of a Vietnamese or Annan walking stick (Medauroidea extradentata). (Photo: Geza Farkas/.com)

Female stick insects can actually produce eggs without any kind of fertilization by a male, in a process known as parthenogenesis (check it out in action here). They will only lay between one and seven eggs per day, either dropping them to the ground, burying them, or glueing them to plants. Depending on the species, eggs may take between two and 14 months to hatch into nymphs.

(Photo: D. Kucharski K. Kucharska/.com)

The eggs of the Chrysomela populi, the red poplar leaf beetle, are laid in clusters. They are also prone to sibling egg cannibalism, which is just what it sounds like.

(Photo: Nik Br/.com)

These eggs, resembling a ninja’s iron spike ball, belong to the stink bug (Podisus maculiventris). The momma stink bug actually has the ability to choose the color of her eggs. The coloring ranges from pale yellow to black, depending on the surface on which she lays them.

In addition, stinkbug eggs have little blobs on top that are nutrient-rich and attractive to ants, which incentivizes ants to carry the eggs off and store them with their food. The eggs hatch in the comfort and protection of the ant colony—and interestingly, when they first hatch, the bug larva even resembles ants.

(Photo: Therese15/.com)

These tiny, tawny eggs belong to the red-shouldered stink bug (Thyanta custator).

(Photo: Sammy Ramsey)

The eggs to the far right of this dime are the largest eggs of any insect, while the smallest, in comparison, must be viewed under a microscope. From left to right: clusters of Atlas moth eggs; Saturniid moth eggs; Madagascan comet moth eggs; Extatosoma tiaratum eggs (Macleay’s Spectre Stick Insect); Heteropteryx dilatata eggs (Jungle Nymph Stick Insect).

(Photo:Luis Miguel Bugallo Sánchez/CC BY-SA 3.0)

These are what the eggs of the green shield bug (Palomena prasina) look like once they are hatched and abandoned.

(Photo: gbohne/CC BY-SA 2.0)

Resembling miniature melons, these eggs of the pentatomid bug (Holcostethus limbolarius) are being scoped out by a Scelionid wasp.

(Photo: aroonrojkul/.com)

Likely the eggs of the horned squash bug (Anasa tristis).

(Photo: pattara puttiwong/.com)

A brilliant green metallic wood-boring beetle (belonging to the Buprestidae beetle family) laying what look like tiny chicken eggs.

(Photo: hagit berkovich/.com)

A delicate collection of butterfly eggs (species not identified).

(Photo: Christian Vinces/.com)

These look like the eggs of the pipevine swallowtail butterfly (Battus philenor). Either that or fruit gummy candy.

(Photo: Ryan C Slimak/.com)

A nest of spider eggs—not a nest you want to bump into.

(Photo: Sammy Ramsey)

Here’s a whole assortment of different eggs, mostly belonging to stick insects (phasmida). It looks like a pile of dried beans.

(Photo: Drägüs/CC BY-SA 3.0)

A collection of eggs produced by different stick insect species (phasmida). Even within one type of insect, the eggs can take on all sorts of different looks. Phasmida eggs are some of the most interesting in appearance, with many looking like ancient pottery.

*Correction: This story has been updated since it was first published to address conflicting details about the terminology used to describe insects that lay eggs.

Insect Eggs Stock Photos and Images

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  • fox moth (Macrothylacia rubi), insect eggs on the leaf of wild rose
  • Insect Eggs on a Leaf Costa Rica
  • Extremely Detailed Close-Up Of White Insect Eggs And Larvae Under Leaf
  • Cluster of unhatched insect eggs of a shield bug on a leaf
  • Insect eggs on the leaf.
  • This mysterious structure is called silkhenge, it is made by a spider to house its eggs. Here a beetle stands nearby.
  • Insect eggs on a rose leaf, highly enlarged
  • insect eggs
  • Female longhorn moth (Nemophora metallica), laying eggs in field scabious (Knautia arvensis) seedhead, UK
  • Asian Longhorned Beetle is native to China and other areas of the Far East. They lay their eggs in tree bark and and is now
  • Red wasp above the nest protecting the eggs in development
  • A cluster of tiny round insect eggs found on a dead leaf on the forest floor in North Central Florida.
  • insect eggs on nasturtium leaf Tropaeolum majus
  • Small bush frog, Raorchestes dubois Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu. Breeds during monsoons and froglets hatch from eggs.
  • Insect Eggs On Wood
  • Insect eggs hatching on a plum leaf
  • Wattle psyllid eggs
  • Insect eggs on leaves
  • Hemiptera eggs laid in a garden, close-up of the insect eggs
  • Sawfly (Macrophya montana), laying eggs, Germany
  • A female Locust Leaf Miner (Odontota dorsalis) lays an egg mass on the underside of a leaf.
  • Clutch of insect eggs on the underside of a leaf in the Ecuadorian Amazon.
  • Some eggs and young insects of the Brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys) on th lower side of a green leaf
  • Close up view of a Group of green insect (moth or butterfly) eggs under a leaf
  • This mysterious structure is called silkhenge, it is made by a spider to house its eggs. Here a beetle stands nearby.
  • Insect eggs on a rose leaf, highly enlarged
  • harlequin beetle. insect, bug, close-up, macro, eggs
  • The egg sac of a praying mantis, Mantis religiosa
  • Grasshopper laying eggs
  • Insect eggs on bottom of leaf with dew
  • A cluster of tiny round insect eggs found on a dead leaf on the forest floor in North Central Florida.
  • Leaf-footed bug eggs, Wayne County, Pennsylvania
  • Gorse Shieldbug eggs (Piezodorus lituratus) on gorse. Tipperary, Ireland
  • Close-up Of Insect Eggs On Leaf
  • Insect eggs hatching on a plum leaf
  • Female silkworm moth and eggs she has laid
  • Thousands of Insect eggs on leaf
  • Shield bug protecting it’s eggs showing parental care, considered a garden pest, insect on a leaf from a tropical garden in Brazil
  • Alcon Blue, Alcon Large Blue (Phengaris alcon), eggs on marsh gentian, Germany, Bavaria
  • Cimex lectularius eggs in a kalanchoe plant with a teddy bear in the background anda a cactus
  • Clutch of unidentified insect eggs under a branch in the rainforest understory, Ecuador
  • Some eggs and young insects of the Brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys) on th lower side of a green leaf
  • Common Vapourer Moth (Orgyia antiqua) eggs hatching. The newly emerged caterpillars can be seen eating their egg cases. UK.
  • A photo of shield bug eggs that have recently hatched.
  • Spider’s egg sack suspended from branch
  • European fruit lecanium scale insect Parthenolecanium corni, female dorsal view surrounded by dispersed eggs
  • The egg sac of a praying mantis, Mantis religiosa
  • Insect egg slime mold, Leocarpus fragilis
  • Brown widow spider make sac for its eggs with green background
  • Orange ladybug eggs on branch with blurred background
  • Cabbage White butterfly eggs on a cabbage leaf.
  • A bunch of caterpillars emerging from eggs, under a leaf
  • Close-up Of Insect Eggs On Tree Trunk
  • Macro Photography of Wasp on Nest with Eggs Under Green Leaf
  • Funny shaped leaf beetle eggs on eucalyptus stem
  • Anoplocnemis phasiana, or squash bug. On the bottom of a leaf with its eggs. It is a common pest. Is part of Coreidae family.
  • Hemiptera eggs laid in a garden, close-up of the insect eggs
  • brown aeshna, brown hawker, great dragonfly (Aeshna grandis), female laying eggs, Germany
  • Cimex lectularius eggs on a kalanchoe plant with an violet and green stripes background
  • Clutch of insect eggs on the underside of a leaf in the Ecuadorian Amazon, Morona Santiago province
  • Cluster Of Yellow Insect Eggs Probably The Caelifera Grasshopper Suborder Attached On A Tree
  • Dramatic shot of a group of brown insect eggs on a fresh green leaf. Animal life cycle. Entomology.
  • Scarlet or Red Lily Beetle larva and eggs
  • Little insect eggs on tree trunk, close-up
  • Leaf Mantid (Mantidae) female laying eggs in frothy mass, Lusaka, Zambia, November
  • The egg sac of a praying mantis, Mantis religiosa
  • Insect egg slime mold, Leocarpus fragilis
  • Brown widow spider make sac for its eggs with green background
  • Eggs of the Vapourer moth, or Rusty Tussock Moth, Orgyia antiqua, cocoon, with eggs laid on outside. attached to a cliff-face.
  • Alfalfa leafcutter bee ‘Megachile rotundata Fab.’, completed depositing its eggs, nectar & pollen into artificial nesting cavities.
  • Cushion scale insect, Pulvinaria floccifera, laying eggs on the underside of an ornamental garden Rhododendron leaf
  • Close-up Of Insect Eggs On Plant
  • scarlet lily beetle Lilioceris lilii eggs
  • Leaf eating ladybird eggs
  • Paper wasps, Polistes annularis, lay eggs to the building nest, Iowa, USA
  • Shield bug eggs looking like eyes on a leaf
  • fox moth (Macrothylacia rubi), insect eggs on the leaf of wild rose
  • Lacewing eggs Hacienda Baru Costa Rica
  • Dead Leaf Mantis nymphs {Deroplatys dessicata} hatching from ootheca (egg mass). Photographed against a white background.
  • Insect eggs on plant macro close up
  • Ladybug eating insect eggs on a milkweed leaf.
  • A group of yellow insect eggs deposited on the underside of a leaf
  • Insect eggs in hexagonal packing on domestic window frame, Swiss village of Berschis
  • Emperor Dragonfly (Anax imperator) female laying eggs in vegetation at water surface, Oxfordshire, UK.
  • pair of Red-eyed Damselflies (Erythromma najas) in tandem laying eggs under water
  • eggs of Stick Insect, Extatosoma tiaratum, giant insect, Australia, in front of white background, cut out, cut out line out, Pha
  • Brown widow spider make sac for its eggs with green background
  • Giant Prickly Stick Insect (Extatosoma tiaratum), eggs, native to Australia, captive, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
  • Red Ant – Myrmica rubra
  • Cushion scale insect, Pulvinaria floccifera, laying eggs on the underside of an ornamental garden Rhododendron leaf
  • Close-up Of Insect Eggs On Plant
  • Oak Apple Gall on a leaf
  • Moth eggs on leaf
  • Small eggs of a butterfly
  • Earwig with eggs. UK
  • vespid wasps, social wasps (hornets & yellowjackets & potter wasps & paper wasps) (Vesperidae, Vespidae), queen guards nest with eggs, USA, Arizona
  • insect eggs on the stem of coleus plant
  • Leaf Katydid, Tettigoniidae sp, laying eggs, Ecuador
  • Carpenter Ant Queen
  • Katydid with eggs, lowland tropical rainforest near Chilamate Costa Rica.

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Guide to vegetable garden pests: Identification and organic controls

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Find our full disclosure here.

Every vegetable gardener faces pest issues from time to time, and learning how to manage the little leaf-munching menaces without using synthetic chemical pesticides is an essential step in growing a healthy, productive garden. To help gardeners with this task, we’ve put together this easy-to-use guide to vegetable garden pests.

To make our guide to vegetable garden pests both user-friendly and straightforward, we’ve included essential details about 15 of the most common – and destructive – veggie garden pests and lots of info on how to protect your garden from the damage they cause. Use the photos and descriptions to help you identify the culprit, then implement the useful prevention techniques. If these preventative tips don’t solve your problem, move on to employing the listed physical control methods. As a last resort, we’ve also included our favorite organic product controls for each garden pest. Apply them with caution and only after carefully reading the label. Use this guide to vegetable garden pests to grow a high-yielding, gorgeous, organic vegetable garden.

Our guide to vegetable garden pests: 15 of the worst offenders

Aphids can be found gathered in small groups on many vegetable plants, including cabbage and lettuce.

Identification: Aphids are tiny, pear-shaped insects. They can be green, yellow, brown, red, gray, or black. There are both winged and non-winged aphids, depending on their species and life-stage.

Plants affected: Aphids feed on many species of potential host vegetable plants, including tomatoes, lettuce, kale, and cabbage. Their prolific nature makes them sure-finds on every guide to vegetable garden pests.

Description of damage: Aphids suck plant juices, causing distorted, deformed growth. They typically feed in large groups on new plant growth or leaf undersides.

Preventative measures: Promote beneficial predatory insects by including a lot of flowering plants with small flowers in the garden. Learn more about using beneficial insects as pest control here.

Physical controls: You can remove aphids from plants by spraying them off with a sharp stream of water from the hose. Hand-squishing aphids is easy, or cover plants with floating row cover to protect them from insects.

Organic product controls: Use horticultural oil, insecticidal soap, or neem-based insecticides to get rid of challenging aphid infestations.

Asparagus beetle (Crioceris asparagi)

Asparagus beetle adults are very distinctive.

Identification: Adult asparagus beetles are 1/4″ long. They’re black with creamy yellow spots and a red mark right behind their head. The larvae are army-green, grub-like creatures with a black head.

Plants affected: Asparagus beetles only feed on asparagus plants.

Description of damage: Both larvae and adults chew asparagus spears and ferns. Severe infestations can cause complete browning of the foliage and a reduction in the vigor of the next year’s crop.

Preventative measures: Adult asparagus beetles overwinter in garden debris, so cut down ferns and clean up fallen leaves in the asparagus patch in the autumn.

Physical controls: Protect emerging spears with floating row cover and keep it in place throughout the harvesting season. Look for small, dark eggs on spears and hand squish them. Knock the larvae off the plants daily with a soft broom – once on the ground, spiders and other beneficial insects will find and consume them.

Organic product controls: Neem– or spinosad-based products are effective controls recommended here in our guide to vegetable garden pests.

In the following video, our horticulturist shows you what asparagus beetles look like in all stages of their lifecycle. Plus, she offers tips on how to get rid of asparagus beetles organically.

Cabbage worms (Artogeia rapae)

Imported cabbage worm caterpillars are very destructive pests of the vegetable garden.

Identification: Imported cabbage worm caterpillars are 1″ long and light green with a faint yellow stripe down the back. Adults are white to yellowish-white butterflies with up to four black spots on the wings.

Plants affected: All members of the cabbage family, including cabbage, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, radish, turnip, kohlrabi, and Brussels sprouts can fall victim to cabbage worms.

Description of damage: Cabbage worm caterpillars chew holes in leaves and flower clusters. They can cause complete defoliation if infestation is severe.

Preventative measures: Hang birdhouses in garden as birds enjoy eating cabbage worms.

Physical controls: Cover susceptible plants with floating row cover from the time of planting until harvest as host plants do not need to be pollinated to be productive. Hand-picking the caterpillars is also effective.

Organic product controls: Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt)-based insecticides work great, as does spinosad, and hot pepper wax.

Carrot rust fly (Psila rosae)

Carrot rust fly maggots leave distinctive tunneling behind as they feed.

Identification: Adult carrot rust flies are very small, shiny black flies with an orange head and legs. The larvae are tiny, beige-colored maggots. Though this pest is not found in every guide to vegetable garden pests, it’s becoming more problematic for many gardeners and deserves to be featured.

Plants affected: Adult flies lay eggs near many vegetable crops, including carrots, celeriac, parsley, celery, parsnips, and others.

Description of damage: Carrot rust fly larvae feed on crop roots, leaving tunnels and scarring behind. As the season progresses, the damage grows more prominent. Roots riddled with tunnels and scars are the result.

Preventative measures: Adult carrot rust flies are poor fliers so rotate crops every season. Try to pick a site downwind from last year’s crop location. Also, wait to plant carrots until late May or early June as that’s off the mating cycle of this pest.

Physical controls: Keep carrots and other susceptible crops covered with floating row cover from the time of planting until harvesting day. Female flies find their host plants through smell, so inter-planting carrots and other crops with onions, garlic, and chives may help limit carrot rust fly egg laying.

Organic product controls: Beneficial nematodes released into the soil near the carrot crop help control the larvae. Species of nematodes in the genus Steinernema are most effective. Apply in the spring according to the package instructions.

Colorado potato beetle (Lepinotarsa decemlineata)

Colorado potato beetle larvae feed on the leaves of potatoes, tomatoes, and other garden crops.

Identification: Adult Colorado potato beetles are 1/3″ long, rounded, with black and tan striped wing covers. The larvae are 1/2″ chubby, reddish-purple with rows of black dots on the side.

Plants affected: All members of the tomato family are potential hosts, including potatoes, eggplants, peppers, tomatillos, and tomatoes.

Description of damage: Both adult and larvae Colorado potato beetles skeletonize foliage all the way down to the leaf veins. They’re often found toward the top of the plant.

Preventative measures: Adult beetles overwinter in garden debris, so clean up the garden and rotate crops every year.

Physical controls: Cover plants with floating row cover and leave in place until harvest. You can also hand-pick both the adults and the larvae.

Organic product controls: Spinsoad-based organic sprays are very effective, as are neem-based insecticides.

Cucumber beetles (Acalymma vittata; Diabrotica undecimpunctata howardi)

Striped cucumber beetles have black stripes while the spotted species have black dots instead.

Identification: Adult cucumber beetles measure 1/4″ long at maturity. They are bright yellow with spots or stripes, depending on the species. Their larvae live underground and are seldom seen.

Plants affected: All members of the cucumber family are hosts, including melons, cucumbers, pumpkins, gourds, and squash. Cucumber beetles are also sometimes found on corn, beets, beans, and other vegetables.

Description of damage: Adult beetles make small, ragged holes in the leaves and flowers, and transmit bacterial wilt.

Preventative measures: Only plant bacterial wilt-resistant cultivars, or plant cucumber beetle-resistant varieties such as ‘Saladin’, ‘Little Leaf 19’, and ‘Gemini’ cucumbers, muskmelons, butternut-type squashes, and squashes in the species group Cucurbita moschata as they are less favored by the beetles.

Physical controls: As with many other insects listed in this guide to vegetable garden pests, cucumber beetles can be kept off of plants by covering them with floating row cover, but in this case, you’ll need to remove the cover when the plants come into flower to allow for pollination. Mulch susceptible crops with loose materials like straw or hay to prevent egg laying.

Organic product controls: Spinosad-based organic pesticides are effective against the beetles, but planting resistant varieties will always be your best line of defense.

Cutworms (many species)

Cutworms chomp off plant stems at ground-level.

Identification: Adult cutworms are brown or gray night-flying moths. Their larval caterpillars are up to 2″ long and curl into a tight C-shape when disturbed. The caterpillars are found in the top few inches of soil, and they can be green, yellow, brown, or gray, depending on the species.

Plants affected: Any young seedling is susceptible, but favorites include tomatoes, broccoli, kale, cabbage, and others.

Description of damage: Cutworms sever seedlings at ground level or girdle them by chewing the outer stem tissue. The presence of wilted or severed seedlings is a clear sign of cutworms.

Preventative measures: Crop rotation is important as is protecting the stems of young seedlings at their base with a collar made from a toilet paper tube or aluminum foil nestled 1/2″ into the ground.Tilling the garden in autumn to expose pupae to predation and cold temperatures is also helpful.

Physical controls: Bait cutworms with cornmeal or wheat bran paced in sunken bowls near susceptible plants; the caterpillars are attracted to the granules, but cannot digest them and die.

Organic product controls: Beneficial nematodes (species Steinernema carpocapsae or Heterorhabdtis bacteriophora) mixed with water and applied to the soil are very helpful for controlling cutworms.

Flea beetles (many species)

Flea beetles may be tiny, but they can cause big trouble for eggplants, radish, and other vegetable crops.

Identification: Extremely small, black or brown beetles, flea beetles are 1/10″ long. They move very quickly and hop like a flea.

Plants affected: Many different plants are hosts to flea beetles, but favorites include radish, potatoes, tomatoes, brassicas, corn, and eggplants.

Description of damage: Flea beetles make small, round holes in plant foliage. Their larvae live underground and can consume plant roots, too.

Preventative measures: Practice crop rotation.

Physical controls: Place yellow sticky cards above plant tops to lure and trap adult flea beetles. Do not use floating row cover as it can trap newly emerged flea beetles underneath it.

Organic product controls: Beneficial nematodes can help control larvae when added to soil. For adult beetles, use garlic oil, hot pepper wax, neem, spinosad, or kaolin clay-based products.

Leafminers (many species)

Leafminers leave behind marred foliage. These have attacked beet foliage.

Identification: Adult leafminers are nondescript flies that do not feed on plants. Their tiny, brown or green larvae feed inside plant tissues.

Plants affected: Different species of leafminers feed on different plants, but for this guide to vegetable garden pests, common host plants include spinach, chard, beets, nasturtiums, and blueberries.

Description of damage: Leafminer larvae tunnel between layers of leaf tissue, creating tell-tale squiggly tunnels and lines on leaves.

Preventative measures: Cut off leaves where tunnels are present throughout the growing season and toss them in the garbage to prevent another generation. Damage is seldom severe enough to cause harm to the plant.

Physical controls: Place floating row cover over susceptible vegetable crops to prevent adults from accessing the plants. Include lots of flowering herbs in the garden to attract beneficial insects to help control the leafminers (more on this later).

Organic product controls: Leafminers are difficult to control with products because the larvae are between leaf tissue layers. Neem– and spinosad-based products have some effect.

Mexican bean beetles (Epilachna varivestis)

When it comes to vegetable garden pests, one of the most common is the Mexican bean beetle. Here is a larva.

Identification: Adult Mexican bean beetles are copper-colored, ladybug-like beetles with 16 black spots (see lower right image in this post’s featured photo). Their larvae are light yellow with soft, bristly spines.

Plants affected: All beans, including green, snap, pole, runner, lima, and soy, can host these beetles and their larvae.

Description of damage: Adults and larvae consume leaf tissue down to the veins. Occasionally, they also feed on flowers and bean. The larvae are often found on leaf undersides.

Preventative measures: Plant lots of flowering herbs as they attract a beneficial, predatory wasp that feeds on the beetle larvae.

Physical controls: Cover bean plants with floating row cover from the time of germination until flowering.

Organic product controls: Hot pepper wax and spinosad are both useful for the control of Mexican bean beetles.

Slugs and snails (many species)

Slugs are among the most despised vegetable garden pests.

Identification: Slugs and snails are not insects, but land-dwelling mollusks. Snails have a shell, slugs do not. They can be gray, black, orange, brown, tan, or mottled, and often leave a slime trail behind.

Plants affected: No guide to vegetable garden pests is complete without slugs and snails because almost any young seedling is a favorite of these pests. Slugs and snails feed on numerous species of plants and vegetables.

Description of damage: Snails and slugs leave irregular holes in leaf margins or centers. They feed at night or on rainy days, so often the culprit isn’t present during the day.

Preventative measures: Water in the morning only as slugs and snail prefer feeding on wet foliage. Encourage birds, snakes, frogs, and toads in the garden because all of these critters eat slugs and snails. Copper strips placed around plants prevent feeding due to a chemical reaction with the slime produced by slugs and snails.

Physical controls: Handpick slugs and drop them into a jar of soapy water. Beer traps also work, but the beer should be emptied and refilled daily.

Organic product controls: Use only slug baits with the active ingredient of iron phosphate; do not use baits made from metaldehyde or methocarb as both are poisonous to pets and other wildlife.

For more on how to control slugs, check out our guide to organic slug control methods.

Squash bugs (Anasa tristis)

These mating squash bugs will soon lay bronze-colored eggs that will hatch into more leaf-sucking squash bugs.

Identification: No guide to vegetable garden pests is complete without a mention of what’s probably the toughest veggie pest to control: squash bugs. Adult squash bugs are 5/8″, dark brown with flattened, oval-shaped bodies. The nymphs are gray and without wings. They often feed in groups. Squash bug eggs are bronze and laid in groups.

Plants affected: All members of the cucumber family fall victim to squash bugs, including cucumbers, zucchini, squash, melons, and pumpkins.

Description of damage: Adults and nymphs suck plant juices with their needle-like mouthpart. Damaged leaves are mottled with yellow and they eventually turn yellow and die. Plants may turn crispy with a severe infestation.

Preventative measures: Plant resistant varieties, rotate crops, and use trellises to keep the growing vines off the ground.

Physical controls: Use floating row covers from the time of planting until flowering begins. Remove egg clusters on a daily basis with a piece of tape; be sure to check leaf undersides as that’s where most egg-laying occurs.

Organic product controls: Products don’t work well on adults, but nymphs can be targeted with insecticidal soap or neem.

Squash vine borers (Melittia satyriniformis)

Squash vine borer adults are seldom seen, but this female is ready to lay eggs on the plants.

Identification: Adult squash vine borers are red and black moths that look like large wasps. Their larvae are chubby, white caterpillars found inside the base of squash vines.

Plants affected: All members of the cucumber family are susceptible, including both summer and winter squash, pumpkins, melons, and gourds. Cucumbers are not often affected.

Description of damage: The presence of borers is often noted as a rapid wilting of the plant. Look for hole in the stem tissue near ground level for confirmation.

Preventative measures: Wrap a strip of aluminum foil around the base of the plant soon after the first true leaves appear to protect the base of the plant from egg-laying females (more on this technique here).

Physical controls: Cover plants with floating row cover soon after planting and leave in place until flowering begins. If borer hole is found before plant dies, slice open the stem, dig out the borer, and cover the cut with a mound of soil.

Organic product controls: Inject Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) into the borer hole with a needle-less syringe. You can also spray insecticidal soap on base of stem weekly to smother any eggs.

Tomato/tobacco hornworms (Manduca quinquemaculata; Manduca sexta)

These tobacco hornworms, and their close cousins the tomato hornworms, are destructive pests in the veggie patch.

Identification: Adult hornworms are large, nocturnal moths with brown/gray wings. Hornworm caterpillars are green with white stripes or Vs on the side of their body and a soft horn or spike protruding from their posterior.

Plants affected: Members of the tomato family, including tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplants, and tobacco, are host plants.

Description of damage: Tobacco and tomato hornworms leave dark pellets of excrement behind. Damage is eaten leaves, often toward the top of the plants. The caterpillars feed at night and shelter in the foliage during the day.

Preventative measures: Plant lots of flowering herbs with tiny flowers near susceptible plants as these flowers attract tiny parasitic cotesia wasps that use hornworms as hosts for their young, eventually bringing death to the hornworm (more on using beneficial insects to control pests in a bit). This is a great way to prevent all of the pests discussed in this guide to vegetable garden pests.

Physical controls: Inspect plants for hornworms on a regular basis and handpick, but do not destroy any hornworms that have the white, rice-like cocoons of parasitic wasps hanging from their backs.

Organic product controls: Spray products are seldom necessary as handpicking is more successful. If necessary, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) and spinosad are effective.

Whiteflies (Trialeurodes vaporariorum and others)

Whiteflies are annoying vegetable garden pests that suck plant juices and cause distorted growth.

Identification: Whiteflies are tiny, white, moth-like flies. Infested plants are often coated in sticky honeydew, the excrement of the flies. Whiteflies are often present in large numbers on leaf undersides.

Plants affected: Common whitefly hosts in the vegetable garden include sweet potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, citrus, and others.

Description of damage: Both whitefly adults and nymphs suck plant juices, causing weak plants, yellow leaves, wilt, and in severe cases, leaf drop.

Preventative measures: Carefully inspect all new plants for whiteflies before purchasing from a nursery. This is a helpful idea for preventing all of the insects featured in this guide to vegetable garden pests.

Physical controls: Hang yellow sticky cards just above plant tops to capture the adult flies and prevent a new generation.

Organic product controls: Insecticidal soap, horticultural oil, neem, and hot pepper wax are all effective whitefly controls.

More on controlling pests in the vegetable garden

No guide to vegetable garden pests would be complete without mention of how interplanting your veggie patch with flowering herbs and annuals can help limit pest numbers by attracting the many species of beneficial insects that prey upon garden pests. For more info on how to use these good bugs to battle the pests in your garden, check out Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden: A Natural Approach to Pest Control by Savvy Gardening contributor Jessica Walliser.

And, if you have pests plaguing your flower and shrub beds too, we recommend a handy little field guide called Good Bug, Bad Bug to help identify and manage pests in other parts of the garden.

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