The Most Common Agricultural Pests

We all know that any time that you plant things, you are going to have to contend with pests. Sometimes these pests are mammals, perhaps an annoying neighbor, but most of the time they are an insect of some sort. Here, we’ll take a look at the most common agricultural pests so that you can identify what is tormenting you and find the agricultural pesticides that will give you the best results.

Agricultural Pests

  • Locusts tend to come in swarms. They often pass through agricultural land. These tiny little things can do major damage in just a couple of hours. They eat pretty much any kind of plant and will swarm over and destroy cropland.
  • Japanese Beatles were introduced to the United States in the early 1900s. They very quickly became a problem for farmers. The larvae eat grass roots while adults feed on leaves, flowers, and fruit of both agricultural and ornamental plants. Because they have few natural enemies, if you have these in your garden, you will need to join in the fight against them.
  • True Bugs are the most common of all the agricultural pests, mainly because there are so many species (about 75,000). Most actually aren’t pests. The term encompasses all insects of the Order Hemiptera, from aphids to whiteflies. They eat plants by using their piercing sucking mouthpieces to penetrate into the plant and suck out its juices. Though many are small, their rapid proliferation can cause severe damage to crops.
  • Corn Rootworms cause significant damage. Their larvae feed on corn plant roots, causing structural weakness and low yield due to reduced water intake. Adults eat leaves and corn silk, which can negatively affect pollination
  • Colorado Potato Beetles are difficult to control due to pesticide resistance. They mainly target potato plants, which they can completely defoliate. They also feast on eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes. 

Pest Versus Disease

If you are having trouble with your plants, you first need to decide if the trouble is due to pests or disease. Plant disease can be caused by parasites, including bacteria, fungi, viruses, or abiotic factors like pollution or poor nutrient balance. Some common disease symptoms include:

  • Yellow, brown, red, and/or wilted leaves
  • Spots or fuzzy mold on leaves or stems
  • Oozing from stems
  • Stunted plant growth
  • Wilted stems or branches
  • Rotting fruit

However, if you know that pests are attacking your plants, then it is time to take a look at the most common agricultural pest control methods.

The History of Pesticides

Although forms of pest control have been around as long as people have grown plants for food, the post-World War II world saw a rise in synthetic pesticide use. Pesticides allowed significant increases in farm yield. For chemical companies, it was a way to stay relevant during peacetime.

Yet the public knew little about the damage it could and would do to humans and the environment. Despite many chemicals that would later become insecticides being used during wartime to kill people, governments and regulators ignored the possibility they could do damage in their new capacity.

They were seen as a necessity and did not receive the same degree of regulation and monitoring that they do today. Though some have been banned due to their effects on humans and the environment (most notably, DDT), synthetic pesticides remain one of the most common pest control methods. 

The Types of Pesticides

Properly monitored and regulated, synthetic pesticides can be very useful. Let’s take a look at what’s available for controlling agricultural pests.

Insecticides (kill insects)

How to apply: Insecticides come in several types. You can get them in a spray that you can apply directly to plants. Apply granules by sprinkling them around the plants or adding them to the soil. You can add dusts directly to plants or soil. Mix concentrates with water before application. You can also get baits that combine insecticides with some type of attractant.

How it works: Insecticides enter a pest’s body in one of three ways:

  1. Ingestion (eating)
  2. Dermal (skin), either by direct application or by the insect walking over the pesticide
  3. Respiratory (breathing)

The mode of entry you choose will depend on your garden situation and the pest you’re trying to eradicate.

Insecticides also control pests in many different ways, including inhibiting their growth, drying them out, or damaging their nervous system.

Herbicides (kill plants)

Plants can be pests, too. Typically just called weeds, pest plants can take up nutrients, crowd out desired plants, or transmit plant and insect diseases.

How to apply: Herbicides can be applied directly to plants or to soil or water (for aquatic weeds). Some come pre-mixed, while others are sold as concentrates that you will need to mix with water.

How it works: Different herbicides work in different ways. Some prevent plants from producing needed substances, some inhibit photosynthesis, some cause rapid growth that leads to deformation, and others prevent roots or shoots from growing.

Bactericides (kill bacteria)

How it works: Bactericides are like antibiotics for plants. Some directly kill bacteria on the plant while others are incorporated into the plant to prevent bacterial colonization.

How to apply: Bactericides can be applied to soil or directly to plants.


Many pesticides are harmful to non-target animals, including humans. They are dangerous during application if you get them on your skin. In addition, you can ingest pesticides if you consume fruits and vegetables that aren’t properly washed, leading to poisoning.

Biopesticides aim to reduce risks associated with conventional pesticides. They are pesticides made from naturally-occurring substances and are typically less toxic than conventional pesticides, for humans, the environment, and even beneficial insects.

Different classes of biopesticides work in different ways. Some are completely non-toxic and control insects by interfering with their natural behaviors or luring them to traps with specific scents. Others are microbes that kill specific target insects. Finally, some biopesticides are genetic modifications to plants that make them resistant to pest attack. 

Few things are more rewarding than growing your own food. Agricultural pests can quickly take that away from you. We hope that this article will help you take care of your garden and rid your plants of unwanted agricultural pests.

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