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Scouting for Bugs; They are not all Thugs

Healthy plants are happy plants! For a plant to be happy, first it needs to be planted at the right place where it will get all its requirements in the right proportion. Different plants have different amounts of requirements. Plants needs soil, moisture, air, nutrients and sunlight. Plants are often stressed by many environmental factors such as too little or too much water, lack of or too much sunlight, disease and insect pests. It is a known fact that is easier for insects to attack plants under stress than healthy ones.

Monitor Landscape-It is important to monitor your landscape by scouting for insects on a frequent basis. Scouting is the inspection of the landscape for insects and diseases and their damages. To be a successful scout, you must be able to recognize good guys from bad guys. This is not always easy because there are insect pests that are imposters who look and act like the good guys. Please be mindful that more than 99 percent of the insects in our landscapes are beneficial insects and not pests.

Insect Control- When considering insect control, it is always good to keep a threshold in mind. Ask yourself the question, is the pest causing enough damage to apply a pesticide? Sometimes the cost of the pesticide could be more than the amount of harm that the pest will cause. Seeing a few insects in the landscape does not mean that there is an outbreak and a pesticide application is needed. In addition, always use the least toxic method of control before considering a broad-spectrum chemical.

How to scout for insects – perform weekly inspections during the growing season. You can do the white paper test by holding a piece of white paper under the branches while shaking. If thrips are present, they will fall on the paper. You can also use the sticky trap for aphids, thrips, and whiteflies. Stick tapes are effective for scale crawlers and spider mites. When scouting, it is important to pay close attention to the underside of leaves. Aphids, scale insects, lacebugs, whiteflies, spider mites, and other pests tend to be located under the leaves. When all else fails- you can use a garden hose to beat off aphids, lace bugs, and spider mites. You can pick off by hand or prune out branches with larger pests such as bagworms, tent caterpillars, and webworms. Finally, you can play it safe by using biorational insecticides such as soaps, oils, botanicals, and Bacillus thurengiensis (BT).

Some common signs of insect damage- are yellowing, chlorotic spots, curled, distorted leaves, wilting, and black sooty mold on the upper surface of leaves. The importance of accurate identification of a pest cannot be overemphasized before administering any form of treatment.

The following are examples of bad guys; whiteflies, aphids, scale insects, Lace Bugs, spider mites, thrips, and Japanese beetles. On the list of good guys are; lacewings, praying mantids, syrphid flies, ground beetles, lady beetles, assassin bugs, and big-eyed bugs.

For more information on scouting and insect control or any related horticulture topics, contact Grantly Ricketts with the UF/IFAS Extension at 321-697-3000 or email at gricketts@ufl.edu.

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