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Last Update 06/03/08

Common Florida Plant Pests, Symptoms, and Controls

What's bugging your plants? Common pests and what to do about them.


Pest Symptoms Controls
Aphids Curled or yellow leaves, sticky honeydew on twigs or leaves, general weakness in plant Spray plants with strong stream of water. Sticky yellow traps. Aluminum foil mulch. Predatory insects. Horticultural oil sprays. Most general purpose garden sprays or dusts, including pyrethrins, rotenone, and Malathion.
Borers Holes in trunks of dogwoods, roses and other shrubs (gummy sawdust (frass) usually visible by the holes or at the base of the trunk); brown mottled foliage on irises Remove and destroy infested parts or plants where possible. Poke a wire into borer holes in tree trunks to kill borers. Trap with Tanglefoot or burlap wraps around the trunks of trees. Cover squash vines with floating row covers except when flowers are blooming. For woody plants, squirt pesticide containing paste into holes, then plug holes. Malathion provides partial control of iris borer.
Caterpillars (cutworms, cabbage worms, Tomato Hornworms, etc.) Chewed leaves; cutworms fell young seedlings Handpick. Predators and parasites. Dust with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). Many general purpose insecticides including pyrethrins, rotenone, and Malathion.
Flea Beetles Small holes all over leaves, tiny insects jump off when you disturb leaves; vegetables (tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, spinach) are common targets Cover crops with floating row covers. Dust with diatomaceous earth. Introduce parasitic nematodes into soil. Insecticides, including neem, nicotine, pyrethrines, sabadilla, Malathion, Sevin.
Other Beetles Large holes in leaves or skeletonized leaves; beetles usually visible near damage Floating row covers. Handpick. Pheromone traps placed away from plants at risk. Insecticides including rotenone, ryania, carbaryl, Malathion.
Leafminers Tunnels in leaves Remove and destroy damaged leaves as soon as they appear. General-purpose gardening insecticides times to catch adult flies that lay the eggs. Systemic insecticides.
Mites, Spider Mites Speckled yellowish spots progressing to yellow, bronze, and/or curled leaves; fine webs between leaves and stems,; small specks visible on webs or on leaf undersides Keep plants well watered to prevent them. Remove chickweed and other host plants. Spray with strong stream of water. Predatory mites. Insecticidal soaps. Horticultural soil sprays. Insecticides including pyrethrins, rotenone, nicotine, phosphate insecticides, miticides
Slugs and snails Large portions of leaves and flowers chewed (damage generally done at night); shiny trails on soil and plants Surround beds with copper strips. Traps under boards and destroy. Sprinkle with salt. Hand pick and destroy. Slug and snail baits, methaldehyde (beer traps lure more slugs to the garden).
Whiteflies Clouds of tiny white insects fly up from foliage when disturbed; plants look generally unhealthy Sticky yellow traps. Insecticidal soap. Most general purpose insecticides, including neem, nicotine, pyrethrins, Malathion, Sevin.

Source:  Gardener's Desk Reference, Anne Halpin, 1996 ISBN 0-02-860397-4

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