Garden Full of Bugs. Overall cure?

sherribabyJuly 27, 2006

Not sure if I need to vent or if I'm looking for suggestions. Probably both. It seems that I've got every bug known to man in my veggie garden. And every disease too. UGH I just realized that I have a problem with squash vine borers too. Not sure how I missed that one. I saw that damned wasp looking adult moth a couple weeks ago and thought 'hmm i've never seen a wasp that looks like that'. Not a clue. Today I'm reading this forum and it hit me over the head...that was the adult svb and THAT is why my zucchini looks mangled like it does where it comes out of the ground. Thank God for google images or it still wouldn't have dawned on me!

Now what do I do?? Ok, here's what I have going on in the garden. I'll list the bugs. Unfortunately I could spend all day long on the computer finding remedies that may or may not work. And each pest has a different solution. I want one magic spray that is organic and will kill and prevent all harmful bugs. That would be nice.

To date I've seen or know that I have:

squash vine borer (zucchini, winter squash - can't see any entry but the base of vines are getting mangled like photos from google images)

striped cucumber beetle (cantaloupe, zucchini and cukes - they have only been here for about 3-4 days, I tried the homemade clove oil experiment as posted on that thread but didn't catch anything)

cabbage worm (brussel sprouts - i was planning on trying the flour/salt mixture)

whiteflies (not sure what they do but i've seen them flying)

flea beetles (everywhere - don't think they've done a lot of damage but they've certainly done some and there are a ton of them)

A little advice please. I've been handpicking the cabbage worms, I set out clove oil traps for the cuke beetles, I have no clue what to do about svb- my plants are still producing rather well but if my cukes start to go to hell i am going to be really really upset - I haven't done anything for flea beetles.

Well, I guess that's not every bug known to man but it's certainly more than I care to have! I also am combatting disease issues with my tomatoes and peppers.

So what do I do to rid myself of these guys as soon as possible??

Thanks for your help!!


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Hello! I'm an upstate NYer myself. I have lots of the same pests you do! I do not think there is one organic spray that will kill the pests and not the beneficials.

Flea beetles & white flies are easy to get rid of. I use a soap shield but you'll have to be persistent with the flea beetles.

For the others, I usually start off using a pyrethrin (sp?) based pesticide (like Pyola, it's organic). It has a chrysanthymum extract which kills insects but will also kill beneficials.

As a last resort, I use Sevin (not organic). It too will kill the beneficials as well the pests. It will take care of the cucumber beetles, but will also kill off bees.

You could also try having a bucket of soapy water handy when you're out in the garden and drownding the little buggers or hand picking and smooshing.

I'm clueless when it comes to SVB or cabbage worms.

With the tomatoes and peppers, I've had to be diligent too. Pluck off anything that looks diseased (yellowed or spotted) and discard it (do not compost). I'll also spray with Ortho Disease Control (not organic) when we get a few days in a row where rain is not predicted. I've heard that a spray of 1 part milk to 9 parts water will help control fungal diseases with tomatoes but I've never tried it.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2006 at 9:15AM
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Remay is the gardener's answer to prayer. Too late for the squash but you can cover the cukes and anything afflicted with flea beatles (being sure that they are clean first). I cover stuff with Remay before it comes up and remove covers only when necessary for pollination. That's how to get absolutely clean chard, no squash bugs, no cabbage worms, no broccoli aphids, no carrot maggots, no......
You need to cover base of squash with dirt to encourage more roots. And spray with idminacloprid. Or pyrethrin or whatever.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2006 at 10:19AM
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clickermel(z6a SW Ohio)

Sherri, I totally know where you're coming from! I too have every pest known to man. AND early blight. Ugh.

I am trying the cuke peels in a blender trick (I added whole cloves and ground cloves too for good measure as I haven't gotten any oil yet) but didn't have any luck. Probably because a) I set the containers on the ground (I will hang them next time) and b)I tried using dish soap instead of insecticide. (I really don't know where I would dispose of the mixture if it has Sevin in it.) I'm going to keep trying, though.

I have started using duct tape to catch the cuke beetles and squash bugs, and to remove SVB eggs. I am really liking my new garden "tool"!

For SVBs, I don't know if there's anything other than hand-picking/hand removal of borers and eggs. Especially organic. Those are some evil, evil creatures.

With the blight, as Booberry said, I've just been pulling off diseased leaves/stems as I have time (but I can't pull them all off, on some plants, as there would be little foliage left -- on some, most leaves have at least a tiny spot of blight) and I used the Gardens Alive! Soap-Shield once and am about to do a second application. Don't think it's organic but it is one of the least toxic types of copper fungicides (I think).

Has anyone tried the milk solution for blight?

Luckily, the blight seems to ignore my peppers, which are right next to the tomatoes in some cases. (Although they are not setting fruit -- perhaps I should hand-pollinate. The bees don't seem to like the peppers much.)

I've got flea beetle damage on my eggplants, but not enough that it seems to really hinder them, so they are in my "to be dealt with next year" category [g]. I did spray a garlic/cayenne pepper mixture on a regular basis earlier this year and it did seem to slow the damage (and keep other critters away, except slugs).

I did try companion planting but it didn't seem to deter many of the pests. But it was beneficial in that I have pretty nasturtiums and marigolds, and loads of basil and onions. And I have re-discovered that I do not like the taste of radishes ;-).

Don't know if any of this is helpful but thought I'd share --

:-) Mel

    Bookmark   July 27, 2006 at 10:57AM
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This is purely anecdotal, but I see tons of birds in my vegie garden each morning, and very few bugs on my plants. I have a few birdseed feeders ~30-50 ft away from the garden. I think the activity of the seed-eaters draws the insect-eaters to my yard and garden. I have a few bugs, but nothing that overwhelms the plants. They dont do anything for the wasps tho! Everything gets pollinated, so they arent affecting that population of insects too badly. However, I should add that I line on 8 acres 1/2 woods 1/2 meadow, so alot of the birds and insects would be there no matter what I do.

Hope this helps!

    Bookmark   July 27, 2006 at 12:28PM
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I saw in a diffent thread, a lady uses this mixture. First make a gallon of tabacco tea, then in a sprayer also add some original Listereen and a very small squirt of dawn or any lemon scented dish washing liquid. Fill sprayer with about 1/4 tabacco tea, an ounce or two of listereen, the dash of soap and the rest water.

Spray 3 times a week. Says it works wonders.

How to make the tea.

Buy some chewing tobacco, get a good sized pinch between your thumb and first to fingers, make a tea bag from old panty hose. Put the tea bag in the water over night. Tea is ready the next morning

    Bookmark   July 27, 2006 at 1:56PM
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Said she wants to kill all her BUGS, not all her plants.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2006 at 2:53PM
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I didn't say to water them with the stuff. Only spray the leaves or the bugs directly. The tobacco will kill aphids and such, the mouth wash acts as a repelent for others and the soap makes the hard bodies of other soft so that they dry out.

So what was it that makes you think this will kill the plants? I spray and know people who spray with this all the time with no ill effects to the plant.


    Bookmark   July 27, 2006 at 4:15PM
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my advice is to not do anything. most things will be fine. only grow the stuff that works. then over time learn how to do the ones that have problems. most veggies will grow with no bugs. or very very few.

if you want a perfect garden with no bugs then I suggest you pull them all up. compost them. go buy a fishing pole and go fishing.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2006 at 5:54PM
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suze9(z8b Bastrop Co., TX)

Be nice, organic_nut.


    Bookmark   July 27, 2006 at 6:16PM
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byron(4a/5b NH)

I've used tobacco tea for over 20 years, Spraying 3 times a week w/o rinsing will kill your plants, not the tobacco but the surtaficants in the soap.

You have a bad formula mix also...

In a 20 gal hose end sprayer add 1 cup of tobacco tea, 1 cup of dishsoap (option 1 cup of listerine) and 1 cup of water (2 cups of water w/o the listerine.

The tobacco soaked in water, this mix gets added to 1 gal of water.

If you use chewing, pipe, or cigar tobacco, you can do the sun tea method, if you use cigarettes, simmer the tobacco in water for about 10 min, also use the listerine. (A double whammy in case of TMV)

    Bookmark   July 27, 2006 at 6:55PM
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Without knowing the size of the sprayer and what a "dash" of soap means exactly, there's no telling how much listerine and soap you and the other lady use with no ill effects, and too much of either could be quite hazardous.

And, besides, the poster wanted something organic; I don't think your recipe qualifies, and it's not safe for beneficials.

I would suggest focusing on pests that are doing serious damage, and keep an eye on the rest.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2006 at 7:54PM
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Sherri, pyrethrin/rotenone may be your best bet for an organic spray. Organic or not, there are significant risks. Check out the sensible information from the University of Illinois on these and other organic insecticides - the link is below.

Here is what they say about pyrethrin/rotenone:
"Pyrethrin has activity on a wide range of insects and mites, including flies, fleas, aphids, thrips, mosquitoes, whiteflies, leafhoppers, caterpillars, mealybugs, beetles, lice, and spider mites."

"Rotenone is active on many insect and mite pests, including leaf-feeding beetles (that is, Mexican bean beetle and Colorado potato beetle), caterpillars (that is, European corn borer and corn earworm), thrips, lice, mosquitoes, aphids, spider mites, ticks, fleas, flies, and fire ants."

Bonide makes this combo spray. I'm not sure if it will work for the vine borers.

There has been a similar conversation on the Rocky Mountain Gardening forum, recently. Please realize that you aren't likely to get advice from pesticide experts here in the GW forums. Look to your extension service for that - much of the information (like the UofI link) is online.


Here is a link that might be useful: Natural Insecticides

    Bookmark   July 27, 2006 at 9:05PM
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rosebush(z7 NC)

If you find that magic organic spray, please let me know - I'll buy a ton of it! :) I've been organic gardening for about 20 years, the last 3 1/2 in NC. Who knew there were SO many bugs here?! Squash bugs (hideous creatures!)are driving me crazy at the moment. Last week I was ready to take a flame-thrower to them. . .
On a positive note, I have seen more beneficials this year than in the past, so I guess there's a balance of sorts. Many praying mantids, lady bugs, and just this week I saw a tomato hornworm with the little rice-looking eggs on its back from the beneficial wasps. Still, it is frustrating to lose squash or pumpkins when they were growing and producing so well. I've used diatomaceous earth, soap spray (no tobacco!), and companion plantings with herbs and flowers. All in all, if I am able to enjoy some of the fruits of my labor I'm satisfied. In the process, I'm enjoying the birds (hummingbirds this year!), butterflies, and other wildlife now taking up residence in my garden. Not a bad tradeoff, IMO. Good luck!

    Bookmark   July 27, 2006 at 9:07PM
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Yeah,I don't like that feeling of all your work being destroyed by critters(not only insects,here).
If you can persist,you'll find that a balance does come into being,at least with beneficials,and you'll know what has to go behind a fence,Remay etc.I avoid most pesticides,most of the time,not knowing what happens long term.
Lots of helpful tips to be had reading this forum.
It helps to plant enough for everyone,too.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2006 at 6:39AM
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granite(z6 NC)

I gave up on all of the sprays, they either didn't work or they were nasty in a multitude of ways (provoked my asthma, sustained unnatural smell, killed beneficial insects, etc).

Now I look the garden every day I can (I'm currently not very able due to a sinus infection) and I squish the mexican bean beetles and squash beetles, and knock in the Japanese beetles into a vinegar solution, and dunk any aphid area into soapy water or vinegar water. Its not perfect, but it doesn't irritate my allergies or my environment.

Healthier plants are more resistant. I am noticing less troubles as my garden gains in compost. Soaker hoses have also been a big improvement in the garden quality and I absolutely adore being able to work in the garden WHILE WATERING. Awesome.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2006 at 6:21PM
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marciaz3 Tropical 3 Northwestern Ontario

I came here looking for advice on what to do about aphids infesting our potato plants. Granite, i see you say you "dunk any aphid area into soapy water or vinegar water". I have a soap solution i use on aphids in my flower beds - should we spray all the plants with that? Could we spray with a vinegar solution too?

Would the aphids have any effect on the quality of the potatoes themselves? Like, could we ignore them and hope they go away? :)

We'd be grateful for any advice!

    Bookmark   July 29, 2006 at 11:40PM
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Your soap solution is probably good. Spraying with vinegar, too, would probably be overkill.

I wouldn't spray all the plants unless it looks like the aphids are doing unacceptable damage (or it's clear that they're about to). They might make the blossoms fall off, but I'm not sure potatoes need to be pollinated, so that might not be a big deal (anyone know?). They do spread some potato viruses, but if you already have them, anything they might be carrying has probably already been transmitted--though you might still stop them from spreading to other plants.

Many people will say, and I'm inclined to agree, that washing aphids off with a spray of water works as well as anything. Using your fingers to help wash them off helps.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2006 at 12:35AM
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laceyvail(6A, WV)

Sherri, the most important thing in an organic veggie garden is to get the ecology balanced between good and bad bugs, and it takes a while. Organic Gardening magazine once ran an article on what annuals and perennials attracted beneficial insects. I can't remember all of them, but I know that one type were flat head flowers like dill and fennel. I have large perennial beds on two sides of my gardens, and the paths between the veggie garden and those beds are groundcover thymes. Dill grows throughout my veggie garden and I just thin it when it gets in the way of plantings.

It took me at least six years to build my very poor, nutrient deficient soil into the rich permanent, no till, permanent mulch beds I have now, and at least that long before the insect population began to level out. I had terrible infestations before that--bean beetles, potato bugs, aphids, clouds of cuke beetles.

The only pests I have now, after 10 years, are cabbage butterflies, for which I use remay (row covers); squash bugs (not the same as borers), which I hand pick and which are very few compared to the past; and aphids sometimes in late fall on kale long after the ladybugs have gone for the year. I also still have some flea beetles, but I use remay for highly susceptible crops and don't worry about the others.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2006 at 6:51AM
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granite(z6 NC)

As I noted above, I use soapy water OR a vinegar solution...not both at the same time. I tend to alternate which one I carry out with me to the garden.

Hand picking bugs helps quite a bit, but as Laceyvail noted; creating a healthy garden to begin with is the ultimate cure. Be prepared for the battle of the bugs for the first few years with a new garden. I've found that when I can "look" my garden every day I really don't find much, but if I've been away from my garden a few days due to illness, weather, or schedule the bugs have developed a foothold and I have a really nasty "lets squish 'em" afternoon.

Oh well. I'm a bug murderer.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2006 at 9:21AM
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marciaz3 Tropical 3 Northwestern Ontario

I sprayed all the plants - their leaves were all yellowing. Guess we'll see how it works. I think they've finished blooming anyway.

It seems that bug problems vary from year to year. We've never had aphids on potato plants before. They've usually been a problem inside on impatiens cuttings or other plants that i've tried to overwinter indoors. I've never noticed a lot of ladybugs around here, or not many at one time. I do have some marigolds interspersed in my vegetables but none are blooming - i wonder if they have to be blooming in order to do their job?

    Bookmark   August 1, 2006 at 11:15PM
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Could we spray with a vinegar solution too?
No. You'll kill your plants. Only dunk the pest in the vinegar, don't spray your plants.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2007 at 12:56PM
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My approach is row covers where practical, then soap sprays for limited problems, then neem oil to keep plants safe that I know from past years will be attacked.

In the event the neem isn't enough or I don't apply it early enough, pyrethrin sprays nuke everything and become inert in a short period of time.

Works for me and my garden has plenty of bugs.

I am trying the bait+sevin route for cuke beetles this year too since they are the worst problem I have given their carrying the bacteria that results in wilt for cucurbits.

As with anything gardening related your mileage may vary, but the above is the best solution I have found to date, for my garden.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2007 at 2:25PM
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The best thing to do is start with healthy soil so that you grow healthy plants in the first place. The healthier the plants are, the more resistant to pests and disease they are. Also keep up with debris maintenance: pinch off dead, dying, browning, yellowing leaves, use mulch, keep them clean so things don't spread. Provide a diverse ecosystem so the good guys come eat the bad guys.

Once you have SVB, you must remove the plant debris entirely from the premises or you're allowing them to live rent free until next year. Plant resistant varieties.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2007 at 4:56PM
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To reiterate that point: if you want a magic spray that kills all bugs, you're not going to be running an effective organic garden. Organic gardening relies on building up an ecosystem. Predators are easier to kill off than pests.

For organic gardening, A) leave some "jungle" (dense growth) for predators to hide in. B) use "trap" crops to lure them away from your important crops (esp. reseeding ("weed") trap crops -- mustard greens work well for me) C) use companion planting D) keep a wide variety of plants (esp. flowering plants), and don't leave large areas barren.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2007 at 5:13PM
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jennijenjen(z9b FL)

I rarely need to buy food for my daughter's leopard gecko anymore. Today I fed it a few cabbage worms from my canteloupe vines and tossed some to our Oscars too!

I agree with the opinion to be patient and let nature take it's course with a little help. It's really awesome when you see the food chain work.

I make sure to keep some 'dense growth' around the garden for the little lizards we have here in Florida. As long as I can keep the cats away, those and the birds do a lot of the work for me.


    Bookmark   May 23, 2007 at 9:33PM
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kubotabx2200(Zone 5b NH)

There is a natural insect control called Orange Guard that is reputed to work against rollie pollies by suffocating them. It contains orange oil. I have no direct experience with it but I thought I would pass this along.

Here is a link that might be useful: Orange Guard

    Bookmark   May 23, 2007 at 10:10PM
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I agree with Violet that it starts with the soil. If you have as many pests as you say this early in the season, I'd bet that your soil is missing something useful for plants.

Also, for SVB, you can inject BT into the squash stems which are hollow anyway. Just find a likely spot, and mix some up with water and inject with a plastic syringe, no needle needed (a neighbor who is the medical field got me the plastic syringe thing - apparently we common folk aren't suppost to have them)

    Bookmark   May 23, 2007 at 10:21PM
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I would be afraid to use orange oil, if it smothers the rolly pollies won't it smother other things too? I use Neem, it is listed as certified organic. It is also listed as a fungicide, miticide, and insecticide and safe for everything up to the day of harvest. I am waiting to see what it does for white flies as they seem to be my biggest problem now. It did not seem to kill the grandaddy long legs spiders that are everywhere in my tomatoes and beans and it won't kill bees unless you spray the bee with the stuff. I have read though that you really need to use this from day one and continue spraying it every two weeks unless you have a problem then once a week.

I have heard of the nicotine and soap mixture but did not know it would kill my plants. thought that was a Jerry Baker mix, but with the stuff they put in tobacco these days I would be afraid to use it!

Any ideas on a trap plant for white flies?


    Bookmark   June 24, 2007 at 8:31AM
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Pest management is complex, if you want to learn, a good place to start is here:

Integrated Pest Management
This lecture is presented in two parts. Each part is 90-minutes in length. Recorded in Sacramento County in California's Sacramento Valley, this lecture is by Mary Louise Flint, Ph.D., Director, IPM Education and Publications, UC Statewide IPM Project and Extension Entomologist & Cooperative Extension Specialist.

B.S. Plant Science, University of California, Davis
Ph.D. Entomology, University of California, Berkeley

100% Cooperative Extension

Research Interests:
Integrated pest management of landscape, agricultural and garden pests; biological control of arthropod pests; alternatives to pesticides; adoption of alternative practices by practitioners; innovative delivery of pest management information.

Topics discussed in the Integrated Pest Management Lecture:

* IPM references and resources
* Preventing pest problems
* Natural common enemies
* Making less toxic pesticide choices
* Controlling aphids, scales, caterpillars, coddling moths, tree borers, snails and slugs, and lawn insects.

You can watch the programs now online:

Just make sure you have Real Player installed or download it free.

Integrated Pest Management Part1 90 minutes

Integrated Pest Management Part 2 90 minutes

You'll want to bookmark the following link to Professor Flint's Lab Research on:
Controlling Pests in Gardens and Landscapes: Vegetables and Melons

I promise you'll learn one or two things to put in your gardening bag of pest management arsenals.


    Bookmark   June 24, 2007 at 11:18PM
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