Aphids and Spider Mites and Grasshoppers, Oh My!
by Penney Adams
With our recent hot weather and watering restrictions, your plants can get stressed and that is when we often see summertime pests in our Steamboat gardens. You may remember basic plant pathology from your high school biology class. If not, here are the basics: The roots of the plant gather nutrients and water from the soil which travels up the xylem and allows the shoot to grow and develop foliage. The leaves gather sunlight turning it into sugar molecules (photosynthesis), which feeds the plant via the phloem. This sugary liquid is called plant sap.
To get rid of these pests:
- Introduce some of their natural predators - lady bugs, lacewings or parasitic wasps
- Spray the plant with a cold water stream physically removing them and their sap
- Try using soapy water, an insecticidal soap, Neem oil or a horticultural oil
- As a last resort, insecticides containing the active ingredients acephate, bifenthrin, and imidacloprid can be effective (follow all label instructions)
Grasshoppers are easily recognized insects and can be the most damaging insects and difficult to control due to their mobility. There are over 100 species of grasshoppers in Colorado alone. They lay their eggs in dry undisturbed soil encouraged by a hot dry spring. They are 1-2 “ long and feed voraciously with their mouthparts on grasses and foliage. They leave jagged and tattered holes in leaves.
To control these pests:
- Introduce natural predators of grasshoppers such as Preying Mantis, chickens, ducks, or cats. Other natural predators are garter snakes. birds and coyotes.
- Leave a tall grass area nearby with a short grass border. Grasshoppers are reluctant to enter the short grass where they are not protected from predators
- Roto-till your garden in the spring to kill overwintering eggs
- Use row covers
- Use Neem Oil
- Use Nolo Bait, an organic bait that kills grasshoppers and passes the infection on to others
- As a last resort, spray an insecticide such as carbaryl (Sevin)
Spraying insecticide is most effective in early June but can be costly for large areas. Additionally, these sprays are broad spectrum, meaning they will kill pests including beneficial insects such as bees, lady bugs, and mantises.
The best way to prevent pests in the garden is to keep your garden well watered to encourage healthy plants.
Penney Adams moved here last June from Hilton Head, SC and recently completed the Master Gardener program.