bad garden bugs: the dirty dozen

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

These garden insects eat or suck the juices out of your plants.

And since they go from plant to plant, they also spread diseases.

Teach kids how to recognize these unwanted interlopers and get rid of them. And how to recognize the good bugs, too.

If you're handpicking these bad guys off your prize plants, you have two options: pick and crush (not for the faint of heart), or pick and toss into a jar half full of water and a dash of liquid soap.

Here are the dirty dozen bad garden bugs to recognize and eliminate on sight.

1.  Bad garden bugs: aphids

Plant aphids are little pear-shaped bugs that live to suck the life out of the tender greens on your plants. They come in various 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 guys off your plants with water from the garden hose or a spray bottle. (And encourage good garden bugs that eat them for you!)

2.  Corn earworms

The small, white moth eggs that produce the corn earworm are often deposited directly on the silks of corn ears or 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 feed non-stop, creating spotty and chewed leaves and fruit.

They do the most damage in the caterpillar, or larvae, stage. Handpick these bad garden bugs off your plants on sight.

4.  Vine Borers

The vine borer commonly attacks summer squash, winter squash, and pumpkins.

Cucumbers and melons are less frequently affected. The adult borer bug resembles a wasp. It is about 1/2 inch long with an orange abdomen with black dots.

Get rid of these bad garden bugs using the basic stem borer control method: Insert the wire into its hole in the stem and skewer.

5.  Cucumber beetles

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

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. Handpick these killers off your plants upon sight.

6.  Cutworms

Cutworm is the name used for the larvae of several 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 cutworm collars to remove these bad garden bugs.

You 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 tiny caterpillars with big appetites. They are 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 potatoes, tomatoes, spinach, and cucumbers.

These 2-inch-long 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. Handpick cabbage loopers off your plants.

8.  Mealybugs

Mealybugs are fuzzy white bugs on plants that are about an eighth of an inch long.

Mealybugs 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 off with water or swab off with alcohol on a paper towel or tissue.

9.  Spider mites

Spider mites give gardeners severe headaches. When they start to attack your garden as a colony, the spider mite damage to the plant they choose to infest will be catastrophic.

People sometimes call them red spider mites because some other species are of different colors.

The most common one will be red. Nasty creatures. Spray spider mites off 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.

A slug infestation can completely demolish seedlings and severely damage young shoots and plants. Handpick, crush, or set out beer traps.

11.  Earwigs

These mini cockroach-like interlopers - commonly known as the pincher bug - invariably end up inside the lovely garden roses you bring inside your home. Trap earwigs on sight and crush.

12.  Whiteflies

Spray off these insidious insects with water or set out yellow sticky traps to catch and remove them.

Finally, make sure you know the 10 Most Wanted Good Bugs. Keep these beneficial insects safe from your bad guy eradication routine.

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