Most Common Garden Pests

Garden pests are some of the most destructive. Even the most tolerant of gardeners can’t stand them. The havoc they wreak can be truly disheartening, especially when it comes to edible plants. One of the major challenges is that they won’t stop until there is nothing left to destroy.

It’s good, however, to note that not all insects are pests. Some insects are actually beneficial to the growth and wellbeing of your plants.

Having said that, let’s look at some of the most common garden pests that you, as a gardener, may encounter as you go along.

Cabbage Maggots

These pests feast on and kill every plant in the cabbage family by burrowing through their roots, slowly but surely. Another way they destroy cabbages is by creating a leeway for disease-carrying organisms to come in and eat them up. To keep them away, you can put row covers over your plants or simply apply red pepper dust to the cabbage roots while they’re growing.


These larvae are well known for eating and killing leaves. They also burrow into different kinds of fruit. If an insect nests in your garden and lays eggs that will produce caterpillars, there is a chance that they could destroy your crops.

What should you do? Allow other insects that are predators, like spiders, to roam freely in your garden. They are one way to get rid of destructive caterpillars. Another way is to pick them off manually, but that may be too tedious for you.

Flea Beetles

These are basically beetles but can leap just like fleas if prodded. They mostly destroy vegetables by creating holes in them. Their larvae are equally destructive, feeding on the roots of plants. Take them seriously if you find them around your vegetable garden because they destroy plants in these two ways. You can keep them out of your garden by using row covers or by using a garlic-based spray on your plants.

Tarnished Plant Bugs

These bugs are either green or brown, making it nearly impossible to even see them without looking very closely. They easily fit in with the colors in your garden. They eat and destroy the fruit, vegetables, and flowers by sucking their juices and causing them to wilt or die.

If you have a variety of plants in your garden, none of them is safe from this destructive bug. Protect them by using neem oil spray and row covers. Also, since they tend to flourish in the spring, be sure to weed your garden before they show up.

Root Maggots

These look like your everyday maggot. The difference is that they feed on the roots of different types of vegetables, like turnips, onions, and carrots. The most notable thing about them is that they attack young plants. When these plants grow, they’re unhealthy and have rotted roots. 

To keep this from happening, you could apply some diatomaceous earth powder to the young stems to repel the egg-laying adults. You can also use floating row covers over your nursery beds as soon as you plant your seedlings.

Spider Mites

These are either pale or brownish-red in color. Spider mites aren’t exactly insects but a kind of arachnid instead. They hardly ever live alone, setting up their colonies under the leaves of different plants. Using a greenhouse won’t deter them since they specialize in attacking greenhouse plants.

They pierce leaf tissue and suck up the fluids within, leaving the plants dry. You’ll know your plants are being attacked by spider mites when their leaves become yellow, dry up, and fall off.

You could use predatory insects, like lacewings and ladybugs, to fight them off. Completely cutting off the infested leaves as soon as possible so they won’t spread to the healthy ones is a good idea, but make sure you burn them afterward. Cutting off leaves on which they live doesn’t necessarily kill them, but burning the leaves will. 

Stink Bugs

These destructive pests aren’t picky, feeding on any vegetable, fruit, or vegetation. There are different species out there, but the East Asian stink bugs are the most notorious because they don’t have a particular season they visit crops. Stink bugs can remain active all through the planting and growing seasons, whether in large or small numbers.

Another distinguishing fact about stink bugs is that they don’t restrict their movements to gardens or farms. They’ve been known to enter homes in swarms and stay. If they invade your home, you could use a normal insecticide spray to kill them.

In your garden, use floating row covers over your nursery beds as soon as you plant. Be sure to trim tall grass and clear away any fallen tree limbs so that they won’t find places to hide or nest near your crops.

Tomato Hornworms

These are possibly the largest species of caterpillars you could have the privilege (or not) of seeing in a vegetable garden. Their size alone should make it easy to see them and pick them off. But they are green and blend in well with the leaves that they feed on. They also have seven thin white lines drawn diagonally across their bodies. They feed on tomato plants, tobacco leaves, eggplants, and potato plants, among others.

As with most other pests, predator insects are good at keeping them at bay or simply killing them. You can also use an organic insecticide on the bottom of the leaves and in plant canopies.


These are usually found in large numbers underneath leaves. When the leaves are disturbed, they fly off in great white clouds. Another way to know they’ve infested plants is if there is sooty black mold or if the leaves become sticky. Tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, poinsettias, and citrus plants aren’t safe from these pests.

They feed on plant sap, resulting in sick or dead plants. When they suck sap, whiteflies cause stunted plant growth and yellow leaves. This opens the plants up to all kinds of diseases and eventually, death. Use sticky traps or insects that are natural predators to rid your garden of them. You can also use an organic pesticide if you can’t find predatory insects. Remember that you can’t use both methods at the same time.

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