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Lawn & Garden

Insects of landscape plants and trees

It is not difficult to keep our landscape plants pest free. Proper plant selection is the first step for keeping a healthy landscape. Select plants that are less prone insects and plant plants that require sun in a nice sunny area. Keep islands and flower beds with a fresh thick layer of mulch to prevent competing weeds and to supply plants with ample water. Maintain and trim bushes regularly to give plants growing room and good air circulation to prevent diseases that attract unwanted insects. Insects found on landscape trees and shrubs are typically chewers, suckers or borers.

Chewing Insects

Chewers are usually the easiest to spot, as they can really do quite a number to the leaves of your ornamentals in a short period. Chewers are typically easy to kill with topical insecticides and do not typically do as much long-term damage to plants like the sucking and boring insects.



Image result for bagworms home depot
Bagworm Caterpillars can be found occasionally on different varieties of arborvitaes, junipers, cedar, pine and spruce. Liquid Sevin, Bug B Gon and Neem Oil will work well for killing these.

Japanese Beetles

Japanese beetles come out of the ground in June and can wreak havoc on our landscape plants, ornamental trees and vegetable gardens. Japanese beetles are the adult stage of grub worms. Japanese beetles will chew holes in the leaves of your garden and do a lot of damage quickly. Sevin  Dust or Liquid (Carbaryl) is the best inorganic option for your garden and Milky Spore Powder is the best Organic option for a garden long term, as it is a bacteria that attacks the larva stage of Japanese beetles for up to 10 years.

Tent Caterpillars


Tent caterpillars start out in the trees and eventually work their way into the yard. These caterpillars are active in early spring and you can spot their nests easily, as they will make a large tent or nest up in trees. This nest will be large and made from thick webbing, up in the forks of tree branches. These caterpillars can defoliate trees and shrubs in record breaking time, depending on the size of the nest.

Liquid Sevin is the most effective product for tent caterpillars but Bug B Gon works well also. If you want organic options then inviting birds into the yard will create a feeding frenzy, as many birds will eat tent caterpillars. If you spot the nest early then you can prune off the branch and destroy the nest.

Sucking Insects

Sucking insects are typically much smaller than chewers are. Suckers are not only harder to spot because of their size but also because many of them hide on the bottom sides of leaves where sucking the sap and life out of the plant is easier. This often makes it more difficult to make contact with insecticides, often requiring multiple applications. When spraying for sucking insects, spray up into the plant, being sure to get the tops and bottoms of leaves. Sucking insects often excrete fluids that attract ants and these excretions often invite a dark grey powdery fungus on the leaves called sooty mold.



Although this insect is quite small, this sap sucking pest is fairly easy to identify. This greenish, almost translucent insect will leave a sticky residue on your plants leaves called honeydew. This honeydew residue attracts black sooty mold and ants to your plant. Where there are ants, you will likely find Aphids.

There are not many vegetables that this insect wont eat and you can also commonly find this insect in other colors like yellow, red, brown and black. Ladybugs are a natural solution to fighting Aphids. Other inorganic options for killing Aphids on your vegetables include Bug B Gon (Bifenthrin), Sevin  Dust and Liquid (Carbaryl) or Malathion. For safer organic options look for Insecticidal Soap or Neem Oil.


Lace bugs

This microscopic bug is hard to see with the naked eye if you are not looking for it. Its body looks like lace and this sucker hangs out on the bottom sides of leaves where it will suck the sap from the leaves, making it hard for the plant to produce food for itself. Although this insect can be found on a number of plants, it is most commonly found on azaleas and rhododendrons that are planted in too much sun. While sucking the life from your plant it will lay its eggs under the leaves and cover it with a secreted substance that hardens over the eggs to protect them. This is why it is important to put shade loving plants in the shade and sun loving plants in the sun.

Spray the tops and bottoms of the leaves with an Insecticidal Soap, Neem Oil or horticultural oil to control Lace bugs. Apply three applications every 10 to 14 days to control future generations from infestations. Using a systemic like Bayer Tree and Shrub Systemic Insecticide with imidacloprid will make your plant toxic to any bug trying to eat it. Never use a systemic insecticide on edibles.


Leafminers are exactly what they sound like. They are not found on the tops or bottoms of the leaves. They are maggot-like larva that is found between the layers of the leaf and mine or feed on the tissue of the leaves. They will leave a worm like tunnel in the leaves where it will feed for 3 weeks and then fall to the ground.

Although leaf miners are unlikely to kill your plant they can certainly make it look bad. Leafminers can be found in the garden, on your cabbage or spinach or on your ornamental plants. Leafminers are very common in Oaks and other trees. Spraying three times every 10 to 14 days with Neem Oil will stop the leafminers life cycle.


This cottony looking insect is one of three types of scale insects. It is a common insect for houseplants in the north and a common outdoor plant pest in the south. This sap sucking pest is not visible to the naked eye but they tend to congregate together to form a visable white cottony patch on a plant. Their excretions known as honeydew attract ants and sooty mold. Repeated applications on the top and bottom of leaves with Neem Oil every 7 days for a month seems to work well on mealybugs. Insecticidal Soap is another great option if you do not have neem oil.



This small brown insect has a hard shell covering that is harder to kill than many other insects. You can find this sap-sucking insect on the bottom side of leaves and at the base of the leaf joint. Scale comes in soft bodied and armored. Scale can invite sooty mold that can cover leaves and hinder photosynthesis, which will cause yellowing and lead to leaf drop. Repeated applications on the top and bottom of leaves with Neem Oil every 7 days for a month seems to work well on mealybugs. Insecticidal Soap is another great option if you do not have neem oil.


Spider mites

 Image result for spider mites home depot

This microscopic insect is hard to see with the naked eye if you are not looking for it. It is usually spotted after it has put webbing on your plant. A few wont hurt a plant but if you spotted their webbing, chances are that they are well established by now. This little orange bug is not a mite or an insect but instead, it is a spider.

Insecticidal Soap is a good organic option for spider mites but requires more applications than Neem Oil which works well and does not wash off as easily.


Whiteflies are related to aphids and like aphids, whiteflies are sap sucking insects that are found on the bottom sides of leaves. They also produce the same sticky substance that so many other sucker insects produce, known as honeydew. This honeydew attracts ants and sooty mold.

Whiteflies are not only found on our landscape plants but also found in the garden on our tomatoes, eggplant, okra and peppers. Repeated applications on the top and bottom of leaves with Neem Oil every 7 days for a month seems to work well on mealybugs. Insecticidal Soap is another great option if you do not have neem oil.


Boring Insects

Boring insects are more common in trees but can also damage or kill bushes. Boring insects are not usually spotted until a tree or plant has gone into decline and a great deal of damage has been done to it. Boring insects will not usually attack a healthy plant, as they are opportunists that prefer plants that have other issues that have weakened it.

Borers are difficult to reach with topical insecticides because they usually live under the trees bark or inside the tree itself. Trees are also often too tall to reach with topical insecticides. This is where systemic insecticides often yield the best results for non-fruit bearing trees.

Inspect your plants and trees regularly and if you see protrusions that look like toothpicks sticking out of the trunk of your tree then you likely have some type of boring insect. If you find sawdust around the base of your tree or on tree branches then inspect the tree for small holes bored into it.


Ambrosia beetle

Ambrosia beetles are usually never seen because they spend most of their life inside of trees. You will only discover that you have them once you see the sawdust protrusions that look like a toothpick sticking out of the tree. If this is when you discover that your tree is infested with Ambrosia beetles then she has already carved out a compartment inside the tree to lay her eggs. From here, chances are that it is too late and the tree will likely die if there are several toothpick sites. An arborist would be able to give you a better assessment of the trees likeliness to survive and they have stronger chemicals to help your tree stand a fighting chance for life.

If you choose not to use an arborist then you will need to use an insecticide with bifenthrin (Bug B Gon) or permethrin on the trunk and use a systemic like Bayer Tree and Shrub Systemic Insecticide with imidacloprid around the tree for beetle borers. If the vascular system of the tree is damaged too badly then it cannot absorb the systemic and the tree will be lost.


Emerald Ash Borer

This insect is relatively new to the United states, where it was found in Michigan shortly after the turn of the century. This insect has spent the last 15 years working its way through the states, where it just arrived here in Georgia in 2013. The adult poses little threat directly to the Ash tree. It is after the adult lays its eggs in the crevices of the bark, that the larva lives and feeds beneath the bark where it damages the vascular system of the tree and makes the transport of nutrients nearly impossible, which leads to the trees death.

Systemic insecticides like Bayer Tree and Shrub Systemic Insecticide with imidacloprid are the best way to prevent Emerald Ash Borers. Adults begin eating the leaves of Ash trees as early as mid-April in the south and as early as June in Michigan. They feed on leaves for 14 days before laying their eggs. This is your best window for recognizing the threat and treating your tree with Bayer Tree and Shrub Systemic Insecticide. Early June to late August is when the larva hatches and when they really start killing ash trees. If there is an infestation within 15 to 20 miles from your ash trees then preventative treatments for your trees are recommended.



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Posted 2017-06-29T13:55:29+0000  by Ingar_HD_ATL Ingar_HD_ATL