Rupsa is a professional content writer, an entrepreneur, and a gardening enthusiast.
Gardening, a hobby that saved me during the prolonged lockdown in 2020. It improved the quality of my life significantly and increased my body fitness. I started growing vegetables and flowers on the roof-top which filled my mind with a sense of achievement and meaningfulness. Gardening reduced my stress level which had been being built up since the onset of Covid19. I got to do simple things that we generally don’t even think of doing; for example, touching a leaf or a delicate flower petal with your fingertips, closely watching a butterfly flying around your garden, and preparing the soil for your saplings with your hands. All these simple activities allow your mind to feel happy and relaxed for some time. Eventually, the plants become a part of your life and you probably would not like a predator to prey on your loved ones. When it comes to gardening, predators are really very small and hard to catch. Yes, you are right, I am talking about the small insects that feast on your plants and their tender leaves. They rightfully do so as this is how the ecosystem works; nevertheless, when it comes to our personal space, we tend to be protective. In this article, therefore, I will be talking about the tricks that I rely on to protect my plants from harmful bugs and other types of insects.
Role of Insects in Gardening
We all know that not all garden insects should be considered garden pests; garden pests are only those insects that harm your plants and sometimes humans too. The rest of them play a crucial role in maintaining the ecosystem. Pollination is probably the most important contribution of insects to the bio-network. Insects such as bees, butterflies, beetles, etc. are known as pollinators; they fly from one flower to another to consume nectar (a sugary fluid produced by flowers), and meanwhile, pollens get stuck to their bodies which they transfer to the stigma of another flower of the same species. Earthworms on the other hand is an important terrestrial invertebrate that moves through soil and loosens it. They should be considered as natural plows that aerate the soil and facilitate water drainage. We cannot forget the hunters too; insects such as ladybugs, praying mantis, ground beetle, green lacewings (or aphid lions), assassin bugs, syrphid flies, and damsel bugs protect your plants from voracious pests such as aphids, slugs, thrips, mites, leafhoppers, caterpillars and ants. Therefore, having these insects in the garden is truly a boon for a gardener. However, what about the harmful ones?
What Insects Are Bad for the Garden
Well, not all insects are as helpful as the ones I mentioned above. What about plant-eating pests such as aphids, mites, slugs, leafhoppers, and thrips? How to keep these bugs from eating plant leaves?
When it comes to harmful insects the most taken name is aphids. Aphids are tiny insects that increase their population rapidly. They take out nutrients forms fruits, leaves, and flowers. Saplings sometimes even die when aphids consume a large amount of sap from their bodies. They also encourage sooty mold formation that changes the natural color of leaves and stems to black. Mites, another name that frightens gardeners. Mites not only steal plants’ vitality but also spreads fatal viruses and diseases. The spider mite is another species that cover the leaves with fine nets. Thrips are lethal for both outdoor and house plants. They suck plant sap and damage flowers, leaves, and fruits. Thrips attack can turn leaves silvery and pale. Slugs, on the other hand, are most interested in tender seedlings, leaves, and stems; they vigorously eat all kinds of foliage. Caterpillars damage plants in a similar way. On the contrary, leafhoppers, mainly puncture the bottom side of leaves. Their saliva can have severe impacts on plant health, for example, curled leaves, frequent spots, plat distortion, etc. Ants are not generally considered harmless insects; however, they disturb the root system of plants by creating their colonies under the soil. All these small-size and big impact insects should be handled properly to avoid excessive harm.
How to Get Rid of Bugs Eating Leaves on Plants
If you want to use synthetic pesticides then you can definitely do that. However, most of them are extremely powerful and harmful to humans. Since I grow a lot of vegetables for self-consumption, I generally avoid synthetic pesticides and go for those that are least toxic. Besides I try to use traps to control pests without harming my plants in any way.
Neem Oil, a Natural Pesticide
Neem oil is an organic solution that is one of the safest pesticides available in the market. It is not considered a toxic pesticide; however, it can irritate your eyes and skin. Using neem oil to control pest attacks is generally safe for your pets too. If you grow vegetables, herbs, or fruits for self-consumption and for your herbivorous pets (such as rabbits), then you should always avoid synthetic and highly toxic pesticides (even if they are organic). Mix twenty drops of neem oil with one liter of water and spray it well on affected plants every third or fourth day. Neem oil is also environment-friendly, it is completely biodegradable. Therefore, neem oil should definitely be in your cart.
Sticky Traps, Catches a Wide Range of Small Size Insects
If you want to avoid any kind of pesticide, then you can consider sticky traps or sticky cards. Sticky cards work in a simple yet effective manner. It is nothing but cardboard; the surface of the cardboard is covered with a layer of glue. Generally, the sticky trap glue doesn’t contain pesticides. Any insect, especially the small ones that are hard to catch, gets trapped in the cardboard as soon as they get in touch with the glue. I generally place sticky traps in the most affected areas of my terrace garden and it successfully traps flying insects. It works for crawling insects too. Just make sure you don’t touch the glue either, it’s really sticky.
Pheromone Traps, Attracts Insects to Get Rid of Them
Pheromone trap is another important tool that we can use to attract and trap insects. Pheromone is nothing but a chemical that helps insects to communicate with one another through signals. In this way, they pass important information concerning foods or dangers. They also attract others for mating using this aromatic chemical. We also can use pheromones to lure insects and then trap them. It not only kills insects but also prevents them from mating. I know it’s a bit unethical, but we are helpless. Also, make sure you wash your hands properly after installing the pheromone traps; otherwise, you can get followed by bugs.
It is a misconception that everything natural is beneficial to us or everything chemical is harmful. In reality, we find harmful chemicals from nature itself. Here, I suggested going for the simpler ones or less toxic ones so that you can consume vegetables grown by you without any worries.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Rupsa Chakraborty