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bad garden bugs: the dirty dozen

These bad garden bugs are wanted in the Wild, Wild West kind of way: dead or alive.

These bad bugs eat or suck the juices out of our prized backyard plants. And since they go from plant to plant, they also spread diseases.

Teach your kids how to recognize these bad garden bugs and get rid of them. 

Here are the dirty dozen bad garden bugs to be on the prowl for:

1. bad garden bugs: aphids.

Aphids are little pear-shaped bugs that live to suck the life out of the tender greens on your plants. They come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, and colors: green, red, black, yellow, or brown.

They don't have much of a discriminating palate, though - they'll attack various vegetables, legumes, stone fruit crops, roses, apples, and ornamentals. Spray these bad bugs off your plants with a strong stream of water.

2. corn earworms.

The small, white moth eggs that produce the earworm are often deposited directly on the silks of corn ears, or on the foliage on tomatoes, putting the newly hatched caterpillars in position to burrow immediately through the silks and into the tops of the ears (often leaving a telltale hole).

Handpick these bad garden bugs off your plants.

3. tomato hornworms.

Tomato hornworms can ruin your tomato crop in record time; they also feed on eggplant, pepper, and potato. They can also blend in quite easily with the green foliage.

They feed non-stop, creating spotty and chewed leaves and fruit. They do the most damage in the caterpillar, or larvae, stage.

They are pale green with white and black markings, plus a horn-like protrusion. Handpick these bad garden bugs off your plants on sight.

4. vine borers.

The squash vine borer is a serious pest of vine crops, commonly attacking summer squash, winter squash, and pumpkins. Cucumbers and melons are less frequently affected. In home gardens, entire crops may be lost in a year of high borer populations.

The adult borer resembles a wasp. It is about 1/2 inch long with an orange abdomen with black dots. The first pair of wings is metallic green while the back pair of wings is clear.

Eggs are flat, brown, and about 1/25 inch long. Get rid of these bad garden bugs by inserting wire into its hole in the stem and skewering.

5. cucumber beetles.

Cucumber beetles are nasty little pests that attack cucumbers and related plants (squash, melons, pumpkins) throughout.

The beetles are 1/4-inch-long insects that are yellow-green with a series of black stripes or spots. They create holes in the leaves and hide out on the bottom side of the foliage. Their green color makes them difficult to detect.

If that's not bad enough, the pests also carry and spread a disease called bacterial wilt. Plants infected with the disease begin to wilt and die.

If you cut a leaf from the plant and look closely, you may see a stringy white substance (that looks like mucus) where you cut off the leaf. You'll want to handpick these killers off your plants upon sight, too.

6. cutworms.

Cutworm is the name used for the larvae of a number of species of adult moths. They do the most damage early in the gardening season, when they emerge from hibernation. 

Different species range in color from grey to pink, green and black and can be as long as two inches. They can be solid, spotted or striped.

Cutworms chew through plant stems at the base or even underneath the soil. Some species will climb plants as well and destroy foliage.

In most cases, entire plants will be destroyed; they do a lot of damage in no time at all. Use cut worm collars to remove these bad garden bugs. You can can create your own from sections of toilet-paper or paper towel rolls pushed into the ground around stems of transplants.

7. cabbage loopers.

Cabbage loopers are small caterpillars with big appetites. They can be one of the most destructive pests in vegetable gardens. The bugs love plants in the cabbage family, including cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, and collard greens. It also likes potato, tomato, spinach and cucumbers.

These 2-inch-long small green worms have silvery or white stripes running down their backs. They typically eat holes in the leaves and hide out on the bottom side of the foliage. Another remove-by-hand bad bug.

8. mealy bugs.

Mealy bugs are about an eighth of an inch long and have a white powdery appearance. Mealy bugs feed on plant sap and generally position themselves under leaves and at stem joints, while they attack the plant with piercing mouths known as stylets.

This penetrative feeding style damages the plant by draining its sap and transmits bacterial and fungal infections. Heavy infestations can kill a plant.

Spray these bad garden bugs off your plants with water or swab off with alcohol on a paper towel or tissue.

9. spider mites.

Spider mites are garden pests that give gardeners serious headaches. They cannot perform anything harmful when they are working as a single unit but when they start to attack your garden as a colony, the plant that they choose to infest on will die off in no time.

People sometimes call them red spider mites because there are some other species which are of different colors. The most common one will be the red. Nasty creatures. Spray them away with water in a squirt bottle.

10. snails and slugs.

Adult snails have coiled shells on their backs and are 1 to 1.5 inches long. Slugs are without shells and are 1/8 to 1 inch long. Most slugs and snails are dark or light gray, tan, green, or black; some have darker spots or patterns.

Both slugs and snails eat soft, succulent plant tissue and rasp large holes in foliage, stems, fruit, and bulbs. They can completely demolish seedlings and severely damage young shoots and plants. Handpick these slow but deadly garden killers and crush.

11. earwigs.

These mini cockroach-like interlopers invariably end up inside the lovely garden roses you bring inside your home. Stop them by trapping on sight and then crushing.

12. whiteflies.

Spray off these insidious insects with water or set out yellow sticky traps to catch and remove them. Finally, make sure you also know the garden good guys - the 10 Most Wanted Good Garden Bugs. Keep these good guys safe from your bad guy removal routine.

Check out the Clean Organized Home Store for the gardening tools and products you need for your garden.



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About the Author

Tara Aronson

Tara Aronson is a native Californian. Having grown up in San Diego, she studied journalism and Spanish to pursue a career in newspaper writing. Tara, whose three children - Chris, Lyndsay, and Payne - are the light of her life, now lives and writes in Los Angeles. She also regularly appears on television news programs throughout the U.S.