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A Guide to Controlling 4 Common Garden Pests in Utah

By • Aug 4th 2022

If you're a gardener in Utah, you know that dealing with pests comes with the territory.

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Utah is home to a variety of common garden pests including:

  • Aphids
  • Earwigs
  • Slugs and snails
  • Pillbugs and sowbugs

Some of garden pests can cause serious damage to your plants and others are generally harmless. Learn to tell which pests are a threat to your vegetable garden and take simple precautions to keep the eco-system in your garden healthy, balanced and thriving.

How to Keep Bugs Out of Garden Soil

Finding bug activity in your garden soil can be alarming. Oftentimes the first instinct is, "how do I kill these bugs in my soil immediately?!"

While you may want to keep bugs out of your garden, there are many benefits to having them throughout your garden soil. For example, beetles, earwigs and other insects help break down organic matter, making it easier for plants to access vital nutrients. In addition, many insects also prey on harmful pests that can damage crops.

A healthy population of insects play an important role in keeping your garden healthy and productive, so next time you see a beetle crawling around your Utah veggie garden, resist the urge to squish it - it's likely helping your plants more than you realize!

If pests are damaging your plants, however, that's a different story. While some minimal plant damage is expected, there are certain pests that can decimate specific plants, so you'll want to know what activity to look for as well as what control methods should be utilized against them.

Aphids: A Real Pain for Utah Vegetable Gardens

Ranging in size from 1-4mm long, aphids are small, plant-sucking insects that can cause extensive damage to crops throughout Utah. Some have wings and others do not, and they range in color from pale to dark depending on the species.

While aphids pose no health risks to humans, aphids are a major problem for small-scale veggie gardeners as well as large-scale farming operations, as they reproduce quickly and can destroy plants with disease .

Aphids use their piercing, sucking mouthparts to feed off the sap inside the plants in your garden. In turn, they secrete a sweet, sticky substance called honeydew' that attracts ants and other pests looking for a sweet treat. This depletes plants over time.

Aphids overwinter as eggs on plants and debris with woody stems such as berries, roses and other dead or dormant growth. They hatch as nymphs (baby aphids) in early spring and will remain active until the end of the growing season. If visible aphid damage is present, it will be most easily spotted in the late spring through early fall months.

To reduce aphid activity come spring, be sure to remove dead growth from your garden at the end of the season to reduce overwintering spots.

Species of aphids in Utah include:

  • Melon/Cotton Aphid
  • Cabbage aphid
  • Potato Aphid
  • Green Peach Aphid
  • Corn Leaf Aphid

Earwigs: Are They Popping Up in Your Utah Garden?

The European earwig is a very common garden pest in Utah. Earwigs enjoy feeding on flowers, seedlings, fruit, leaves and other plants. They lay their eggs in the soil by the dozens and you'll see their numbers peak in the mid to late summer months.

While not a major threat to your vegetable garden, adult European earwigs are most likely to cause issues in areas that are frequently mulched or watered. It is best to leave earwigs alone unless they are causing substantial damage to crops.

SOME QUICK ADVICE FROM THORN:

If you're noticing earwigs in your soil, scale back watering when possible. Watering can flush them out of the soil. You can also try to discourage their presence by removing nesting spots.

Monitor which areas of your garden have the most earwig activity by using a small empty can or container (like an empty yogurt container) and putting some bacon grease inside. Place these traps around your garden in early spring, at the start of the gardening season. Check and replenish them weekly to keep track of where the earwigs are most active as well draw them away from high traffic areas.

Slug and Snail Damage in Your Utah Vegetable Garden

Slugs and snails are not picky when it comes to eating through your garden. They will happily munch on a variety of plants, and not just fruit, vegetable and lettuce plants, either. They'll munch flowers and ornamental plants as well!

You may not see the slugs or snails themselves, but you might be noticing their glistening slime trails on your garden pathways or raised beds. This is a telltale sign that they've been around during the night.

Unfortunately, snails and slugs can cause damage throughout the entire Utah growing season but are most damaging during wet weather. These nasty creepy-crawlies make their first garden appearances in the spring. They will avoid conditions that are too dry, hot and sunny and on hot days, they'll opt for hiding out in sheltered areas of soil or debris until night comes.

If you have a severe slug or snail issue, consider trying the following control DIY methods:

  • Avoid overwatering your soil
  • Don't let your fruits or veggies touch the dirt as they finish growing
  • Remove areas of harborage (debris, stones, woodpiles, boards)
  • Lure them in with a homemade trap using produce scraps, then sprinkle with salt
  • Handpick them out of your garden and drop in a bucket of soapy water
  • Reduce ground cover to allow for more sunlight to reach your garden soil and plants

With some diligence and planning, you can keep your Utah vegetable garden free from extensive slug and snail damage!

Are Pillbugs and Sowbugs Chewing Holes in Your Utah Vegetable Garden?

Pillbugs and sowbugs (sometimes called potato bugs or rollie-polies) aren't actually insects, they're crustaceans. They prefer vegetable crops to munch on and cause damage very similar to slug and snail damage.

The presence of these pests is indicative of healthy soil and they don't generally cause problems, but in larger numbers, they can start to cause serious issues, not only for the vegetable crops they eat through but the frustrated Utah gardener trying to keep them away!

Pillbug and sowbug damage are of greatest threat when your fruits or vegetables come in contact with the damp soil. Think dense strawberry patches and overgrown tomato plants that hang low to the ground. Allowing parts of your harvest to touch the soil is an open invitation to all hungry garden pests in the area: dinner is served!

You'll find pillbugs and sowbugs most active at night and in areas that have high moisture and ample decaying organic matter like compost or manure. Your main defense will be reducing soil moisture whenever possible and eliminating debris like trash and wood from the areas where you're seeing them.

SOME QUICK ADVICE FROM THORN:

To prevent pillbugs, sowbugs, snails and slugs, consider vertical gardening. This may sound fancy, but all basic vertical gardening simply involves things like installing trellises for your vining plants to climb. This will allow for air circulation under the plants and will prevent the soil below from becoming a moist oasis for all those nasty, garden chewing pests.

Thorn Pest Solutions: Utah Vegetable Garden Defenders

Here at Thorn, we're your friendly neighborhood pest consultants !

While many garden pests are considered ornamental pests that don't require chemical treatment, we can still help you troubleshoot challenging pest scenarios that pop up in your garden or yard.

Let's work together and come up with a multi-step plan to keep pests away from your Utah garden (and home). We're here to help. Contact us today.

About Thorn

Thorn is a Utah local pest management company. We are a QualityPro certified company which is a prestigious accreditation awarded too less than 3% of the pest management companies in the US.

Contact Us Today

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About Thorn

Thorn is a Utah local pest management company. We are a QualityPro certified company which is a prestigious accreditation awarded too less than 3% of the pest management companies in the US.

Contact Us Today