At first signs of insects, don’t reach for the pesticide

June 6, 2013

By Carol White

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Shriveled leaves? Discolored or spotted leaves? Chewed and dying leaves? Insect infestation! If your first course of action is grabbing the pesticide and spraying a fog of killer clouds throughout your garden, stop!

Many insecticides can indiscriminately harm or kill a broad range of insects — some of which do no harm to plants. (Not to mention the allergies and irritations pesticides can cause to humans and animals.)

Aphids, thrips and mites are the most common intruders, which suck the juices from plant stems and blossoms. Often, insecticide sprays will miss direct contact with the “bad bugs” because of their ability to hide under leaves and in tight spaces between plant stems.

If your garden is constantly being bombarded with pesticides, even as a preventive measure, you will soon begin to notice an unbalance of enjoyable insects (butterflies, bees) and birds (birds eat insects). Consider a less risky solution to control the intruders who want to feast on your plants: beneficial insects.

If you go

The Newcastle Fruit and Produce stand is hosting a free container gardening workshop from 8-11 a.m. June 9.

It will begin with a short lecture, followed by an opportunity to work hands on with the containers.

Space is limited. Register at the stand,  13013 Newcastle Way.

These defenders of the garden include lady bugs, lacewings, praying mantis, predatory snails and parasitic wasps. “Beneficials” will make a meal out of the insects that attack plants. It is important that “beneficials” have shrubs, trees or tall grasses in which to seek refuge.

If given a place to hide from cold winters, you may discover new generations of insects to help maintain a healthy balance of insect activity in your garden. You can find beneficial insects at many garden centers, online or at mail order companies.


Carol R.C. White is a professional landscape designer and horticulturist employed by Newcastle Fruit and Produce.


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