Let’s face it, there’s nothing better than spending long, warm, summer days relaxing in your garden, especially if you’ve spent the majority of spring digging, planting and maintaining your beloved backyard.
But, there is something, or someone lurking in the corners ready to spoil your enjoyment… garden pests!
- What are garden pests?
- The health risks of garden pests
- Types of garden pest
- Beneficial garden insects
- How to get rid of garden pests
What are garden pests?
Garden pests refer to any insect or animal in a garden which could cause damage to both your property and, in some cases, your health.
Garden pest damage
Garden pests can cause all sorts of damage to your garden. However, it’s important to note that not all damages caused by garden pests are significant enough to need an intervention.
Garden pests are known for causing damages to:
- Grass and lawns
- Fruits and Vegetables
- Garden Furniture
The destructive nature of some garden pests leaves your backyard vulnerable to attack. The type of damage inflicted depends on the pest in question, and can range anywhere from eating plants to destroying garden furniture to build nests and harbourage sites.
Garden pest health risks
Some garden pests can have the potential to cause a threat to your health due to their stings and bites. This can be particularly worrying if you suffer from allergic reactions to insect stings and bites, plus they can be incredibly itchy!
Although they don’t bite or sting, other garden pests are known for spreading diseases such as salmonella through their urine and feces, affecting areas of your garden which you could come in contact with.
Types of garden pests
There is a whole range of different garden pests that are responsible for inflicting damage to your backyard. They can be anything from bugs and insects to rodents and other wildlife (deer, foxes, raccoons), and other animals such as worms and spiders.
Common garden pests
Garden pests can be placed into the following categories:
- Garden Insects
- Garden Rodents
- Other Garden Pests
Garden insects consist of the most common garden pests ranging from simple garden ants to wood damaging termites and stinging insects such as wasps and hornets.
- Cause damage to plants by consuming leaves.
- Spread plant diseases.
- Secrete large amounts of honeydew, which attracts other garden pests.
- More of a nuisance than a pest.
- Different species have a different effect on your garden. Fire ants can cause a nasty sting whilst carpenter ants can cause damage to wooden structures.
- Can also be responsible for attacking fruit plants to fulfill their sweet tooth craving.
- In some cases, they have been known to protect aphids from predators in order to ensure a constant supply of honeydew
- Feed on organic matter made from cellulose
- Will consume wood in the form of trees, mulch, wooden fences and gates, sheds, tree stumps, and decking.
- Can use your garden as a stepping stone to your home
- Will use specific areas to feed and breed
- Can spread certain diseases such as salmonella if they come into contact with human food
- Some species can cause painful bites
- Use standing water, often found in buckets and ponds, to breed
- Will bite humans
- Can spread diseases such as Malaria and Zika virus
Wasps, bees, and hornets
- Will build nests underground, in sheds, on trees, and the underside of decking
- Will sting if they feel threatened or if you are too close to their nest
- Attracted to flowers and fruit
Asides from insects, rodents can also be considered garden pests. Their natural instincts can lead to a whole range of different damages to your backyard including your lawn and shed and can also put your health at risk with the diseases they spread.
- Will consume fruits, vegetables, and seeds
- Naw at shed doors and outside lighting wires.
- Spread diseases through urine and feces.
- Will eat fruits and vegetables but prefer seeds.
- Will gnaw on garden furniture.
- Disrupt soil by burrowing underground, depending on species.
- Will eat flower buds
- Strip bark off trees making them vulnerable to weather conditions and diseases
- Consume garden vegetation.
- Disrupt soil by burrowing underground, making lawns uneven and soft.
Other garden pests
Often mistaken for insects and rodents, there is a range of other garden pests which can inhabit your backyard and bring with them a range of damages to your property.
- Disrupt soil by burrowing underground
Slugs and snails
- Most common garden pest
- Thrive in damp conditions
- Feed on a large range of living and decaying plants
- Some species can be venomous
- Being the natural predators of some garden pests, they can actually be quite beneficial to your backyard.
Beneficial garden insects
Not all insects in your garden are harmful to your backyard. Some garden insects are actually beneficial. Their impact on your garden can range from being natural predators to garden pests to helping with pollination.
Beneficial insects for gardens
Midges can be quite an annoying pest in your garden. However, these garden pests can be quite beneficial to your garden, especially the larvae of some species. For example, the larvae of the Aphidoletes aphidmyza species of midges will feed on over 70 different species of aphid.
Although they are considered to be a pest due to their stinging abilities, bees are extremely beneficial to a garden, and our ecosystem. These stinging insects are responsible for helping to pollinate a variety of different plants and flowers.
Wasps & Hornets
Although wasps and hornets are seen as garden pests they can also be quite beneficial to your garden. Wasp and hornet pupa feed on a diet consisting of other garden pests such as aphids. Adult members will often go out hunting for said pests and bring them back to the nest to feed the young.
Ladybugs (Hippodamia convergens), sometimes referred to as lady beetles or ladybirds, are very beneficial to your backyard and help defend it against garden pests. This is because their diet largely consists of mites and aphids (both eggs and adults).
The praying mantis (Tenodera aridifolia Sinensis) is probably one of the most well-known beneficial garden insects. Praying mantises are exceptional garden pest predators, their two thick front legs lined with spikes makes it easy to grasp prey quickly, quietly and easily. Unlike the other insects in this section, the praying mantis doesn’t have a preferred prey.
Although there are a handful of species of beetle that are a pest in your garden, there is also a range of species which actually help ward off unwanted garden pests, feeding on a variety of garden insects. The two main species of beetle which are beneficial to your garden are:
- Ground beetles: Feed on slugs, snails, and colorado potato beetle larvae
- Soldier beetle: Feed on aphids, caterpillars, and other insects
You can attract beneficial garden insects to your backyard by manually introducing them, or, by planting specific plants which attract said insects.
How to get rid of garden pests
Insect repelling plants
Companion planting can help keep garden pests away by using plants which are known to repel certain species of insects and rodents.
Plants that repel insects:
There is a range of options to help control pests in your garden. This includes natural garden pest control options to prevention tips and enlisting the help of a pest control professional.
Garden pest prevention
To help get rid of pests in your garden there are a few prevention methods you can try to reduce the appeal of your backyard.
Maintain soil health
Ensuring that all vegetation is watered properly and using organic fertilizers will help keep them, and the soil strong and healthy, helping them to withstand pest damage. Removing weak and damaged plants can also assist in your efforts to maintain a healthy soil.
Clear garden of debris
Removing old tree stumps and fallen branches can help make your garden less appealing to garden pests. Removing old and rotting fruit and vegetables will limit potential food sources as well as limiting the spread of fungal diseases.
Using barriers made from copper and certain fabrics can be good alternatives to pesticides in some circumstances. Different barriers can be used for different garden pests, by helping to protect plants from pest damage.
Repairing any damages to your shed and greenhouse will help keep pests away from stored items such as seeds as well as plants and flowers.
Regularly inspecting these areas of your garden will help ensure a quick, reactive response to garden pest infestation. Using expanding foam, wire mesh and door bristle will help keep pests out of your shed and greenhouse.
Store compost in a secure location and ensure it is sealed in a container with a tight lid to help prevent garden pests. Compost can often provide pests with a great place for harborage. Remove easy access to compost to keep certain garden pests away.
Remove standing water
Standing water in buckets, trays and flower pots provide biting insects such as mosquitoes with a brilliant nesting environment. Water in birdbaths and pet drinking trays should also be changed regularly. Removing this element from your garden can help with your prevention efforts.
Make sure ponds have a sufficient filtering system and regularly inspect for mosquito eggs to help control their number.
Ensuring outside bins aren’t overflowing with garbage as well as secured with a tight lid will help eliminate potential food sources for many garden pests. This will help make your garden less appealing, as well as reducing the possibility of obtaining a pest problem in your home.
Spring/Summer pest prevention guide
Some of the common garden pests can also infest your home as well. Learn how to prevent the common spring and summer pests from both your home and garden!
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