Spring Flowers Bring May Pests - Garden Nuisances in NW North Carolina

May 2, 2019


Spring brings with it a range of lawn and garden pests in the North Carolina area, for a variety of reasons. The warming temperatures wake up sleeping, dormant insects and wildlife from underground and within trees after their winter hibernation. The frequent rains that are common in early spring can contribute to damp areas or small bodies of still water on properties. This can attract moisture-loving insects or those that lay eggs in the water.

Many of these pests have egg to larvae or larvae to adult life cycles that coincide with the seasonal transition in the spring. In addition to insect pests, there are also small rodents and other wildlife that can cause gardeners and landscapers some headaches. In this blog post, we’ll review some of the most common Garden Nuisances in Northwest North Carolina.

Stinging Insects – While pollinating insects like honeybees are a gardener’s best friend, non-pollinating bees and other stinging insects like wasps and hornets can become a nuisance in the spring. As they begin to wake up from winter hibernation and resume hive activity, they seek out food sources in your yards.

Aphids – These critters are only a few millimeters long and typically pear shaped. They can be colored anywhere from green to yellow to brown or even gray. They are often found on the underside of leaves for a variety of plants, including peas, beans, tomatoes, cabbage, asparagus, melons, and others. They feed by sucking out sap and other vital nutrients within the leaves, which causes the damage to the plant leaves. They tough out the winter in egg form, but when spring arrives, they hatch as larvae. Aphids can mature quickly, within 10 days or so and several generations of them can spawn in a single year.

Leafminers – Leaf miners are any of a few different species of larvae that live inside and eat plants leaves as they mature. A maze of zig-zag discolored lines on plant leaves are a classic sign, as is traces of frass (droppings) within the lines. These bugs can target a range of plants and trees, but in North Carolina are commonly associated with Azalea trees and Boxwoods. In gardens, they can be found on any leafy green or different members of the allium family, like garlic and onion.

Wood Destroying Insects – Free standing wood piles or compost piles can be attractive to subterranean termites that thrive in the dampness and moisture of the soil. Termites feed on cellulose, the organic material that provides physical structure to all plants. As the spring season warms the soil, the subterranean termites send waves of alates, or “swarmers” – a specific caste of termite in their social structure. These swarmers are responsible for forming new colonies. Unattended wood piles can foster the damp, cellulose rich environment termites thrive in. As the waves of alates further colonize yards and properties, they can target anything with cellulose, from gardens to homes!

Lace Bugs – There are many different varieties of lace bugs, but the lace-like “stippling” found on leaves is a dead giveaway for these pests. This occurs when lace bugs suck out the chlorophyll and/or other nutrients in the leaves, causing the discoloration of the stippling. Lace bugs are also commonly associated with Azaleas in North Carolina, but you will also find them on oaks, sycamores and hawthorns.

Rodents – Whether rats, mice, or their smaller relatives in field mice (voles), rodents are a recurring nuisance for many gardeners every spring. They’re known for chewing on a range of plant parts, such as flower bulbs, root structures, stems and leaves.

Potato Beetles – While these small oval beetles are commonly associated with potatoes, they also feed on leaves and new growth for a range of plants in the broader nightshade family: potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants and peppers. The life cycle for these pests starts in early spring, when eggs are laid on the underside of leaves, hatching usually within a week. The larvae that emerge are voracious eaters for a period of several weeks, in which time they can devastate plant leaves, causing leaf drop-off. Once “full”, the fully-grown larvae drop down and into the soil, where they pupate for about a week or so, before emerging as grown adults, repeating the life cycle.

Squash Bugs – Squash vine borers can target any vining plant in a garden, but are well known for their attraction to squash varieties: squash, zucchini, eggplant, pumpkins, etc. These pests also feed on the sap and nutrients of leaves and the stems of newly emerging fruit. When concentrated in high enough numbers, they can damage the plant in a few different ways, from lowering fruit yields to early wilting or even plant death. Their rust to copper colored eggs are laid on the top and bottom of squash plant leaves in late spring to early summer. This is often the best time to check for squash bug eggs, removing them from the plant leaves before they can hatch and join the adults in feeding.

Wildlife – In addition to rodents, smaller wildlife can also cause headaches for gardeners. Chipmunks, squirrels, raccoons, and skunks are all frequent diggers and chewers that can feed on bulbs and roots, in addition to nibbling on leaves and plant growth. Although they can chew on any plant in a garden, fruit bearing plants like berry bushes and vines can be a favorite snack for these small pests.

As you begin spring cleanups and planting, be sure to be on the lookout for the signs of these different types of garden pests. If you’re facing a particularly severe or devastating infestation of a pest, particularly those can easily migrate from garden to home (rodents, wildlife, termites, stinging insects), contact the professionals at A-1 Pest Control for a quote on inspection and removal services.




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