Different Types of Garden Pests and Their Behavior

Different Types of Garden Pests and Their Behavior

Garden pests are a common challenge for gardeners, as they can damage plants and reduce yields. To effectively manage and control these pests, it is important to understand their characteristics, behavior, and life cycle. This article will explore common garden pests and help gardeners identify and manage these unwelcome visitors with this comprehensive guide.

Insect Pests


Aphids are small, pear-shaped insects, and there are more than 4,000 species worldwide. It causes leaf curling and deformation by feeding on the sap of plant stems, leaves, and flowers. They reproduce rapidly and can quickly infest gardens. Aphids excrete a sticky substance called honeydew, which attracts other insects and encourages fungal infections.

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Whiteflies are tiny white moth-like insects that feed on plant sap and cause leaves to yellow, curl, and fall off. Like aphids, they excrete nectar and can transmit plant viruses. Whiteflies are often found on the back of leaves and can be difficult to control due to their rapid reproduction.

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Spider Mites

Spider mites are tiny arachnids that also feed on plant sap and can cause a spotted or bronzed appearance to the leaves. Severe infestations can even lead to leaf loss and plant death.

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Caterpillars are the larval stages of various moths and butterflies. They feed on the leaves of plants, often causing severe defoliation and damage to leaves, flowers, and fruit. Some common caterpillar infestations include cabbage loopers, tomato hornworms, and cutworms.

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Japanese Beetle

The Japanese beetle can be identified by its green head, copper back, and white spots on its back. Its larvae feed primarily on plant roots, while adults feed on stems, leaves, flowers, and fruit. They skeletonize the leaves, leaving lace-like veins that, left unchecked, can cause the plant to grow slowly until it dries out and dies.

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Mollusk Pests


Slugs are soft-bodied, legless mollusks that feed on a variety of plant materials, including leaves, flowers, and fruit. They prefer moisture and generally hide in dark, damp places during the day and travel at night, leaving a sticky secretion when they move. They mainly nibble on young seedlings or young leaves, causing plant death. At the same time, the secretions left behind by their movement can also cause plant rot.


The snail's habit is similar to that of the slug, but it has a shell as a figurative distinction. It mainly feeds on young seedlings or soft parts of plants.

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Vertebrate Pests


Rodents, such as mice, can feed on seeds, seedlings, fruits, and vegetables in the garden. They can also cause long-term damage to plants by gnawing on bark and roots, or even digging up bulbs or chewing through irrigation pipes. They can also carry disease which can be dangerous to pets and children.


Rabbits are herbivores and will nibble on crops such as vegetables, flowers, bark, etc. This not only hinders the growth of plants but can also mortally damage the plant.


Deer are large herbivores that will nibble and trample on most things you plant, including flowers, vegetables, shrubs, trees, etc. This can be very destructive to plant growth and garden landscaping.

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How to manage pests

Identifying Pests

Different types of pests have different feeding habits, life cycles and environmental preferences. Identifying the pests that infest your garden will help you choose the most effective control methods.

  • Aphids—You can flush regularly to repel, or you can spray plants with insecticidal soap or neem oil to repel and kill pests. If you want an eco-friendly alternative, you can always purchase ladybugs at your local nursery and release them in your garden. Ladybugs LOVE to munch on aphids and they are a pretty bug to have around.
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  • Whiteflies/spider mites—Yellow sticky traps can be used to trap adult whiteflies, and hanging traps near infected plants can attract and capture whiteflies. Soapy water and neem oil are effective against both whiteflies and spider mites.
  • Caterpillar—Bacillus thuringiensis (BT) is a naturally occurring bacterium that targets the digestive system of caterpillars, causing them to stop feeding and eventually die. A solution of BT is sprayed on the leaves and stems of plants to control caterpillar populations. Using a barrier net will also help prevent caterpillars from coming into contact with plants.
  • Japanese beetles—If the pest population is small, you can resort to hand-picking and throwing them out of the garden. You can also use pheromone traps to attract and trap adult Japanese beetles. Its important to note that the traps are placed away from the plants, otherwise large numbers of beetles will likely damage the surrounding plants.
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  • Slug/Snail - Beer traps are an effective and natural way to control slugs and snails. Place shallow containers filled with beer in the garden and they will be attracted and drown. Sprinkling diatomaceous earth around plants or flower beds will encourage slugs/snails to dehydrate and cause them to die.

Monitor Regularly

Checking your garden regularly for signs of pests is essential for early detection and identification. If you find any signs, take immediate action to prevent further damage.

Good Cultivation Practices

Keeping plants healthy through good gardening practices such as proper tilling, fertilization, watering, and pruning can increase resistance to pests. For example, adopting crop rotations and practicing companion planting can disrupt the life cycle of pests and achieve a reduction in pest populations. For example, mixing vegetables with garlic can deter Japanese beetles, aphids and spider mites; cucumbers planted with marigolds can remove nematodes.

Mechanical Control

Set up physical barriers and traps to manage garden pests. For example, installing netting and fencing can discourage vertebrate pests and other insect infestations. Traps can reduce the number of mollusks.

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Biological Control

The introduction of natural enemies of pests such as predatory or parasitic insects can control pests. For example, ladybugs feed on aphids and various soft-bodied pests, and lyric dragonflies and their larvae are happy to devour aphids, caterpillars, whiteflies, and other pests.

Chemical Control

Use insecticides with caution as they can accidentally injure beneficial insects or other non-target organisms. Choose organic or less toxic insecticides and use them strictly according to label instructions.


Understanding the different types of garden pests and their behavior is crucial to successful pest management and maintaining a healthy garden. By taking proactive steps to prevent pests, you can protect your plants from harm and enjoy a healthy, thriving garden.

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