Inspect Plants for Insects
First of all, I encourage you to go out and walk through your garden almost every day. Look the plants over to make sure that they look healthy. When you’re looking for insect problems, you’ll want to get in close and look at the leaves. Check to see if there are any holes in the leaves, either small or large. If part of the leaf seems to be eaten away, you’ll want to turn the leaves over and look at both sides of the leaves. Oftentimes, insects will live on the undersides of the leaves, and you may not see them until it’s too late.
The small holes on this leaf were likely caused by an insect called a flea beetle. The large holes may have been caused by a grasshopper, or some sort of marauding caterpillar. Remember to get down and look at the bottom of the plant, because insects may start near the bottom and work their way up. These are some black aphids that have been growing happily, and multiplying rapidly since no one has been paying attention.
One of the things to look for when you’re turning over the leaves is to look for insect eggs. Often, insects will lay their eggs on the undersides of the leaves. What you’re looking at here is what we call frass. It’s another word for insect excrement. The caterpillar has been eating on the leaves, and then leaving its droppings behind.
What we’re seeing here is a ladybug larva. It’s the immature version of your common ladybug. So, not all insects that you might find in your garden are bad insects. This insect likes to feast on aphids that are on this plant.
This is a swallowtail butterfly caterpillar. Sometimes, you may plant things in your garden that will actually attract insects – and, this is an example of that. This fennel plant was planted here specifically to feed the swallowtail butterfly caterpillars.
This feature story prepared with Rebecca McMahon, Kansas State University Research and Extension Horticulture Agent, Sedgwick County. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at KansasGreenYards.org.