Scouting for Pests

Home gardeners have several resources they may use to help them learn how to scout for pests.

Scouting for pests is important because you may be able to treat problems if you find them early.

Pest control is also linked to an insect’s life cycle, so some strategies may be more effective if used during certain periods of an insect’s development. And scouting and identification can help you tell the difference between beneficial insects and pests.

The first thing you want to do is get out in your garden.

Check for what’s normal and not normal.

Look around; scout for insects and signs or symptoms of disease.

Be a leaf-flipper.

Here are some resources to get you started:

  • Perform a soap flush to find lawn pests. Here is a short video (1:59) from the UF/IFAS Entomology and Nematology department about how to do an inexpensive and quick soap flush. Link to YouTube video:
  • For vegetable and some examples of ornamental plant diseases, use the U-Scout website. This website, created by the UF/IFAS Extension North Florida Research and Education Center and the Plant Pathology Department, has information on:
    • Tomato
    • Cucurbit
    • Pepper
    • Bean
    • Carrot
    • Rose
    • Hydrangea
    • Crapemyrtle
    • Magnolia
  • Click on a plant to view photos and examples of disease. You may compare the online photos with what you see in your landscape.
  • The UF/IFAS Extension Featured Creatures website lists many insects and provides information about their life cycle, significance, distribution and host plants.
  • Insects on citrus may be identified by using the UF/IFAS Citrus and Research Education Center’s insect identification website. This site lists citrus pests such as the Asian citrus psyllid, mites and scale insects.
  • Use the CREC’s plant pathology webpage to ID citrus diseases such as citrus greening and greasy spot.
  • Looking for products to manage pests? Check out this EDIS document called Natural Products for Managing Landscape and Garden Pests in Florida. It’s a good starting point for less toxic pest control and it includes information about products such as neem extracts, insecticidal soap and diatomaceous earth.
  • Learn to ID and appreciate beneficial insects. They help control garden pests by being predators that feed on other insects. Insects may look very different at different stages of their life cycle. The Featured Creatures website listed above often has photos of insects as eggs, nymphs, larvae and adults. The Natural Enemies and Biological Control EDIS publication is a great reference for good bugs and bad bugs.

If you need assistance with scouting for pests, contact your local county Extension office.


Posted: December 31, 2020


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