Summer backyard landscape with white hydrangeas.

Garden Pests: How To Identify Them And What You Can Do To Get Rid Of Them

Erin Gobler7-Minute Read
July 20, 2022

Not only is gardening a fun hobby for many people, but it can also turn your outdoor living space into a beautiful oasis or a source of food for your family. Unfortunately, planting a garden also means you may be attracting garden pests that can damage or even destroy your plants. The good news is there are ways to control a pest problem and prevent them from taking over your yard.

What Are Garden Pests?

Garden pests are small creatures that make their way into your yard and latch onto your plants, causing damage or destruction. Garden pests can include insects, invertebrates or animals. Each could be attracted to a different type of plant and can cause different types of damage.

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The Top 10 Most Unwanted Garden Pests And Their Crimes Against Gardens

There are countless garden pests that can make their way into your garden and cause damage. However, there are a handful of pests you’re most likely to find. Some of these pests do most of their damage as larvae, as young insects are eating their way into their adult form.

If you aren’t sure what type of pest you have in your garden, invasive.org can be a useful tool in helping you to identify and eradicate garden pests.

1. Aphids

Aphids are extremely small and, therefore, hard to spot. They are often found in large groups and like to eat the fresh new growth on plants. Aphids also excrete a substance on your plants that encourages fungal diseases and attracts ants.

2. Caterpillars

Most of us can recognize caterpillars when we see them, but you may not know the damage they can do to your garden. Caterpillars can cause destruction to many different plants in your garden, including fruits and vegetables. These pests often snack on your leaves, leaving holes behind.

3. Slugs

Slugs are some of the most hated pests by frequent gardeners because of the damage they cause. These small creatures, in addition to being unpleasant to look at, munch on your garden plants until they’ve left total destruction behind them. Signs of a slug infestation include jagged holes and slime trails on the leaves of your plants.

4. Grubs

Grubs are the larvae of beetles that snack on and can destroy your plants. Unfortunately, grubs can do far more than just damage individual plants. They can also feast on organic matter in your soil, including the roots of your lawn, to leave behind dead patches.

5. Whiteflies

Whiteflies are winged insects that infest themselves on the underside of leaves of both indoor and outdoor plants. Because of their small size and where they infest themselves, they can be difficult to spot. However, they can cause serious damage to plants. They leave behind a sticky residue and can transmit viruses between plants.

6. Cutworms

Cutworms are actually moth larvae. You can identify them by their thick, long bodies, similar to caterpillars. They feed on stems and tend to cut entire plants down, hence the name. They’re most active at night, so if you suspect you have cutworms in your garden, check your plants at night to see if you can spot them.

7. Flea Beetles

A flea beetle is a small, dark beetle that jumps like a flea when it's disturbed. These pests feed on the plants in your garden, especially beans, cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes and more. These pests can cause total destruction for your vegetables. Flea beetles tend to feed the most on warm, sunny days. 

8. Leaf Miners

Leaf miners are the larvae of moths, beetles, flies and other creatures. These pests live between the outer layers of leaves, which they use for protection. Unfortunately, they can cause destruction to these host plans. They can leave trails of brown tissue and destruction.

9. Snails

A snail is a small creature that’s similar to a slug, but with a shelled exterior. Snails feed on the leaves of plants in your garden, leaving behind holes and destruction. They can also eat the roots and stems of your plants, causing even more damage and ultimately decaying the plant material. Snails are most likely to feed on your garden at night.

10. Moles

Moles are small mammals that tend to be just a few inches long. They have round bodies and velvet fur, with small eyes and ears. Moles may not look like the rest of the pests on our list, but they can cause just as much destruction. Like other garden pests, they can damage your plants. They tend to create intricate tunnel systems under your garden.

How Do I Know If I Have A Garden Pest Problem?

In many cases, it will be immediately obvious to you if you have a garden pest problem. But other times, it may not be quite apparent.

One sign of a pest problem is large holes in leaves, either around the outside or in the middle. Even if there aren’t holes in your leaves, chew marks that don’t go all the way through could also indicate a pest problem. Finally, in addition to holes and chew markets on your leaves, yellow spots and other discoloration can also indicate pests.

Another sign of a garden pest problem could be trails of slime on your plants. Both snails and slugs can leave behind slime, which can damage your plants. And in addition to leaving slime behind, snails can also leave their shells behind.

A final indication of a pest problem will be signs of moles. You may notice mole tracks in your garden or signs of trails under the surface of your soil.

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How Can I Get Rid Of Or Control Garden Pests?

The good news is that if you have a problem with garden pests, it is possible to get rid of them. There are a few different ways to get rid of pests, and the best course of action depends on the type of best and damage they’re leaving behind.

Use Pesticides

Pesticides are substances used to kill or repel certain garden pests and diseases. While there are several types of pesticides, insecticides specifically are used to control various insects. Some insecticides are designed to kill the pests in your garden, while others are designed to prevent them from infesting your garden in the first place.

Consider Natural Alternatives

If you’d rather not use pesticides in your garden, there are plenty of natural alternatives available. Some natural insecticide alternatives can easily be found at your local garden center. Others can be made yourself using essential oils and other ingredients.

Find An Organic Solution

There are also ways to get rid of pests without using any sort of substance to ensure a more . First, you can set small traps in your garden designed to attract garden pests. Another trick is to use ladybugs, which control other pests by eating them. You can also reduce pests by keeping your garden clean and reducing weeds, which can further attract pests.

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Best Flowers To Deter Garden Pests

You might be surprised to learn that certain flowers can help to deter garden pests.

Marigolds

Marigolds are one of the best plants to deter insects. The scent of marigolds helps to keep certain pests at bay. They also attract other insects that kill aphids and other pests.

Nasturtium

Nasturtium is another plant known to deter certain pests. Not only that, but they also have stems and leaves that form a lush groundcover that can deter weeds and pests.

Chrysanthemum

Chrysanthemums are some of the best insect repellents when it comes to flowers. These flowers contain a neurotoxin that kills insects and serves to repel fleas, beets, ants, and more.

Best Practices To Avoid Common Garden Pests

You don’t have to wait until you have a pest problem to address it. There are also ways to avoid common garden pests from coming into your garden at all.

Prepare Your Soil

Properly preparing your soil can go a long way in preventing garden pests. Healthy soil makes strong plants that are more equipped to fight pests. Additionally, tilling and covering your soil allows the accumulating heat to kill pests, eggs, larvae, and microorganisms.

Use Disease-Resistant Seeds

Using the seeds in your garden can go a long way in helping to reduce damage to your plants. Certain seeds will indicate on the package if they are resistant to certain diseases caused by pests. There are also plants that are naturally prone to keep pests and diseases away.

Water In The Early Morning

Watering your plants at the right time can also help to keep pests away. When you water your plants early in the garden, it gives the plants time to dry throughout the day. When you water your plants later in the day, the soil is more likely to remain most and allow pests, fungus, and disease to flourish.

Keep Your Garden Clean

Keeping your garden clean is another step you can take to reduce pests. First, pests and parasites, as well as their eggs and larvae, tend to live in weeds. By reducing the number of weeds in your garden, you eliminate a potential habitat for pests. Additionally, pruning and cleaning your plants will help to get rid of damaged leaves and prevent disease and decay from spreading.

Pests That Are Hazardous To Humans

The pests we’ve mentioned so far are damaging to your plants, but there are also garden pests that can be hazardous to humans. For example, mosquitoes can carry diseases such as West Nile virus, while ticks can result in Lyme disease, which can have both short-term and long-term ramifications for humans.

The Bottom Line: Rid Your Garden Of The Pests That Plague It

Garden pests aren’t just annoying. They can also cause serious damage — and sometimes even destruction — to your plants. It’s important to be vigilant and proactive about removing pests from your yard and taking steps to prevent them from taking over in the first place.

If you're a homeowner, visit our Homeowner Guide to get more good advice on how best to manage your home.

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Erin Gobler

Erin Gobler is a freelance personal finance expert and writer who has been publishing content online for nearly a decade. She specializes in financial topics like mortgages, investing, and credit cards. Erin's work has appeared in publications like Fox Business, NextAdvisor, Credit Karma, and more.