Here are the top 5 culprits in our hoophouses and plots for the 2020 season… and for those of you seeking to grow some of your own vegetables… what to look for so you can stop the damage.
5 Culprits In The Garden
Culprit #1: Flea Beetles
Flea beetles are small beetles that jump much like fleas and come in black, and also striped varieties. These little fellas are attracted to members of the brassica family, which includes a lot of what we grow. They like mizuna, cabbages, kale, turnips, radishes… and their favorite by far is arugula! You can see the evidence of their presence as little white dots and even holes in otherwise nice green leaves. When you get a lot of these in an area, they become easy to find… you can hear them scatter as you walk through the garden!
Flea beetles are the number one reason that many growers don’t bother growing Arugula!
Culprit #2: Cabbage Looper
Cabbage Loopers are small larval pest stage of a white butterfly. These maggots are green and blend in with the foliage.
If you find these on your plants, you can simply pick them off… but, it’s likely that you won’t even see most of them.
To get them out of broccoli and kale at harvest, a brief soak in ice water will do the trick. Just submerge all the greens for a few seconds, shake vigorously in the water and then shake them again as you lift them out. You may be surprised how many were riding along, since they blend in so well!
Cuprit #3: Cabbage Root Maggots
Cabbage root maggots are the larval stage of a small black fly. These flies lay eggs in the soil near the base of the plants, and find radishes, turnips and kales especially attractive. The damage to the roots of radishes and turnips is hidden until you begin to harvest… and can be very disappointing with a large percentage of the harvest being worthless. On kales, the presence of this pest is indicated by stunted and very slow growth…
If you’re kale doesn’t thrive….it’s a sign to pull up some plants and have a good look at the roots!
Culprit #4: Hornworms
Tomato and Tobacco Hornworms are also larval forms of two species of Hawk Moths. The moths lay white eggs on the underside of the leaves of tomato plants.
Once hatched into caterpillars the damage begins. These youngsters have voracious appetites as they need to eat a lot to support their tremendous growth rate.
One hornworm can strip a whole plant in just a few days… leaves and fruit! They go from inch long babies to 3 to 4 inches in short order, before they’re ready to move into their next stage of life… the cocoon. For that, they burrow into the ground and spin their cocoon to overwinter into the next season… to take wing as moths when the weather warms up.
Culprit #5: Potato Beetles
Potato beetles, the California type, start out as larva, orange with black dots once they hatch out. You’ll find these on potato plants and eggplant foliage, especially. They start out quite small, but if you see holes in leaves or even leaves stripped of all foliage so just the veins are left, you’d better take a close look around…. There’s a good chance you’ve got potato beetles.
In the photo at the top of this post, you can see what the adult Colorado Potato Beetle looks like… so if you find these on your plants, best to gather them up to keep them from laying eggs.
So now, what can we do to prevent these pests from wreaking havoc again?