Most Common North Texas Garden Pests

This page will explain how to control common pests of the garden in the north Texas area. If you are unsure about your insect or how to control it, please e-mail us: and we'll do our best to help you. The best way for us to help you is for you to bring a sample into the nursery.

Caterpillars

Caterpillars are baby insects of moths or butterflies. As soon as a caterpillar can, it will feed from plants until it is ready to change into a pupa, if it is to be a moth, or a chrysalis, if it will be a butterfly.

Now remember many of you come into Rohde’s or other nurseries to buy plants for butterfly attractants. So, before you go out and kill these caterpillars, do some research. Find out if they are going to be a desired butterfly or just a nuisance moth. Check websites for information, starting with The Dallas County Lepidopterist Society. It's a great website and has lots of photos, information and links to other sites.

At home I planted two Passion Vines to grow up the columns in front of our porch. My wife loved the beautiful flowers and wanted me to plant more in other areas of the garden, until the Gulf Fritillary caterpillars arrived and started devouring the beautiful plant and its flowers. Now she wanted them gone and the plant too. I started to hand pick hundreds of the caterpillars, especially the one that were near the buds of the plant. With this control method, I was able to enjoy butterflies and please my wife.

Less desirable caterpillars can be very destructive and just make plants look ugly. These include leaf rollers that can take every leaf off of a tree or shrub, and tent caterpillars and bag worms that can make a once beautiful tree scary to go under. Cabbage loopers and cutworms can cause a lot of damage to flowerbeds and vegetable gardens. There is no reason to be nice with these guys. I would definitely use Trichograma Wasp, Thuricde, BT or Dipel as a control method.

I want you to try to remember when the last time was that you saw or heard of someone who lost a tree or shrub to a caterpillar? Unless we mention junipers or vegetables and flowers like Begonias and Impatiens, I cannot recall any major losses. So do not panic. Do not use a product that will kill every insect around. Be patient and let the least toxic Bacillus Thuringiensis work or give time for predators to work.

Grasshoppers

Don't wait until you see mature grasshoppers to apply Nolo Bait. This biological insecticide, Nosema Locustae, is a naturally occurring disease that affects grasshoppers and crickets. As soon as you see the cute little babies, apply Nolo Bait.

This bacteria is so specific that if a bird were to eat a diseased grasshopper, it will not be harmed. Once a grasshopper dies, other grasshoppers will eat him, and yes they will get the disease.

If you spray the leaves of plants with Kaolin, a natural clay dust, grasshoppers seem to stay away. Kaolin also works to discourage birds from fruit and vegetables and can be washed off easily from any plant at harvest time.

Snails and Slugs

Snails and slugs are out in force and already seem to be larger than they were last year. You know that you have a problem with snails when you see the silvery slime trail left by this pest during the night when they feed. They mostly eat living plants and will chew holes in leaves and cut down soft-stemmed plants such as flowers.

It is really not that difficult to control these critters. Picking up and crushing can be satisfying, but time consuming. Go a more practical route and remember that since they seek shelter from the sun, remove all debris such as fallen roof shingles, paper or cardboard. But that does not mean you cannot trick them into finding some conveniently placed shelter that you can easily pick up and dispose of every morning. I use a piece of cardboard that I soak just enough so that the material turns a dark brown but still remains rigid, and place this in the area where I've seen problems. Try not to plant flowers near ground cover beds since the leaves and moisture there do make good resting spots for snails.

Sluggo is non-toxic bait that consists of naturally occurring iron phosphate and is safe to use around pets. Beer traps work, but can make you sick when you empty them, due to nausea from disgust! EEEUUU! Icky, but effective. Place beer taps in the soil and put an ounce or two of the cheapest or flattest beer you can find. Don’t use imported beer or expensive brew, you may see a neighbor sneaking over with his flashlight and long straws.

Whiteflies

I remember waaaaay back, when I used to trim Waxleaf Ligustrums, my nose and mouth would always fill up with these white insects that would swarm over me as I disturbed the plants. The nymphs are oval, flat insects with short, sucking beaks. These nymphs are usually found on lower leaf surfaces. White flies are very common to greenhouse vegetables and flowers, but in warmer climates, they attack many ornamentals as well.

To handle a whitefly infestation, use garlic spray, Organocide or, as a last resort, Pyrethrum. If possible, protect bees by spraying only in late afternoon or evening. Do not spray plants when flowers are present.

Mosquitoes

Now is the time to eliminate breeding areas for these disease-carrying insects. Clean gutters of debris, including small accumulations of mud in low spots caused by loose nails or branch damage. Check for low spots behind shrubs where water accumulates. Empty and properly discard of old tires, broken pots or any water holding object.

Start applying products that contain products that contain Bacillus Thurengensis Israelensis to standing water. These specific bacteria will kill larval stages of mosquitoes, black flies, and fungal gnats as they breed in moist soil conditions or standing water.. The sooner you get started the fewer offspring will be born from the first generation, then the next. On a monthly basis continue applying Mosquito Dunks or Mosquito Bits throughout the summer. CONTINUE TO CLEAN GUTTERS AND OTHER WATER HOLDING OBJECTS ON A REGULAR BASIS.

Rohde’s offers an application very effective, low toxic botanical insecticides named ECOPco CT that control small insects such as mosquitoes without harming geckos or many other beneficial insects. Remember beneficial insects mostly feed on other insects and not on plants that have been treated with.

Spider Mites

Spider mites are not insects, but are closely related to ticks and chiggers. They suck out juices from leaves and stems, causing plants to become deformed or to have a bronze or yellow appearance. Heavy infestations can cause leaf and flower bud drop and the death of the plant. Look for webs on the underside of leaves.

First try spraying Kelp or seaweed at a rate of three ounces to a gallon of water or use ladybugs or green lace wings. Spray with Neem Oil or Organocide to control the mites.

Pill Bugs

One of the easiest methods to control snails, slugs and pill bugs by using a new product called Sluggo Plus. More expensive then the above-mentioned Sluggo, Sluggo Plus it is very effective against Snails, Slugs and Pill Bugs. Because of economics I would purchase this product only if I were not able to control Pill Bugs by using traps.

Pill Bugs are in the shrimp family, therefore they reside in moist shady situations such as beds preferred by dark loving plants like hostas and ferns.

Beer traps ors trips of moist cardboard can be placed in trouble areas as long s you check the cardboard strips daily.

Aphids

When you see aphids on a plant, they are usually spotted in a large group and sometimes able to cover a whole leaf. We have also seen aphids living with ants. Ants feed on the honeydew, a sweet, sticky substance excreted by these insects. The ants are normally not the problem.

Even though lady bugs are a predator of the aphid they sometimes can be outnumbered. Recently I released some lady bugs on a Pinta that was covered with aphids. At first I watched in amazement as these mighty bugs walked over to the aphids and started to feast. After a while I got bored and went onto other things. Upon my return I noticed that the aphids had moved closer together. As they cowered in a large mass I noticed that the lady bug seemed to be asleep, it ate so much that it needed to rest before continuing the onslaught. Again I got bored and walked away. Early the next morning before I went to work I noticed that the leaf was covered with a sticky substance and the lady bug was trying to move . The substance was so thick and sticky that I thought that the lady bug would drown. After a few more minutes the lady bug freed itself and instead of eating more it flew away. The aphids won this war.

I like using the green lacewing. They seem to be more voracious and stronger then the lady bug. However, the green lacewing has to be ordered and the lady bug will help out until the lacewings arrive.

For large infestations use Neem Oils, Organocide or EcoPco Wp.