Not all bugs are bad: Good bugs in the Garden. Parasitoid was and syrphid fly larva in an aphid colony

“I found this bug in my garden; what is it, and how do I kill it?” This is a common question that comes into extension offices. While it may seem like every insect out there is trying to eat your plants, not all the insects you see in your garden are pests. In fact, fewer than 1% of all insects are considered pests, meaning the vast majority are beneficial or, at the very least benign.

Person holding pruners getting ready to prune branch off a fruit tree

It’s that time of year - time to start thinking about pruning your deciduous trees. Most deciduous trees are best pruned while they are in full dormancy. This happens to be January to early March for this part of the country.

picture of a European hornet on a leaf, a cicada killer on a leaf, and a baldfaced hornet on flowers

Wasps have an undeserved bad reputation. While some species can be a tad on the aggressive side, they are, as a whole, rather beneficial. Admittedly they can be intimidating insects, particularly large ones.

This year we have received more reports about large wasps than usual. Perhaps it’s because we’re spending more time at home and out in our landscapes. Maybe it’s because of the excitement over "murder hornets" - which are not in Illinois.

Interveinal chlorosis on soybean leaves

We’re at a point in the growing season where it is still a little early for soybeans to start senescing and turn yellow (dependent on maturity group, planting date, and growing conditions), so it makes you question why are yellow soybeans appearing in fields? There are several factors that can cause soybean leaves to turn yellow and drop.

a large tobacco hornworm feeding on a tomato leaf

Several different types of caterpillars will feed on tomatoes. The most well-known, and probably most dreaded, are the tomato (Manduca quinquemaculata) and tobacco (Manduca sexta) hornworms. These large (up to 4 inches long) green caterpillars have a prominent “horn” on their rear end (thus their name) and can do quite a bit of damage to tomato plants.

squash bug nymphs feeding on pumpkin vines

Cucumbers, melons, squash, and pumpkins are collectively known as cucurbits. Because these crops are related, they are afflicted with many of the same pests and diseases. Here are some of the most commonly encountered pests and diseases in cucurbits.

a green tobacco hornworm on a tomato stem

Tomatoes are the most commonly grown plant in the home vegetable garden. Tomatoes are relatively easy to grow, and there is a wide variety of different types. If you’re growing tomatoes, you’ll more than likely encounter a few pests and diseases along the way. So, let’s take a moment and talk about some common issues we encounter when growing tomatoes.

squash vine borer larva inside of the stem of a zucchini plant

As the saying goes, the only things guaranteed in life are death and taxes. If you’re a gardener, you can also include pests to the list of life’s guarantees. Now that it's started to warm up enough to get out and plant the garden, it also means it’s warm enough for weeds, insects, and diseases to become active too. So, get outside and start scouting your gardens.

Blog title

In 2015, I was interviewed for an article in an Associated Press story. The topic was on biodiversity in the home landscape. While a few snippets of my interview made it into the article, I provided over 1,500 words worth of answers to the journalist’s questions. Now after five years, this interview transcript floated back up from the depths of my computer and I thought, “Hey! This is some pretty good stuff here!” For your reading pleasure, here are portions of my interview with AP writer Dean Fosdick from 2015.

 

Blossom end rot is the scourge of many tomato growers. In addition to tomatoes, it can also be found in peppers, eggplant as well as squash and watermelons. When it comes to tomatoes, it is most commonly seen on larger fruited varieties, with long-fruited varieties (Roma type) being more susceptible than round varieties. Blossom end rot starts as a light tan water-soaked lesion (spot) at the end of the fruit where the blossom was (opposite end from the stem). The lesion will continue to grow and eventually turn black and leathery.

tomato plant

Tomatoes are one of the most commonly grown vegetables in home gardens. While tomatoes are relatively easy to grow there are a few diseases you should keep your eye out for. Two of the most common diseases people encounter are early blight and Septoria leaf spot. Both of these diseases are caused by fungi. Consistently wet conditions are required for both of these diseases to develop, which we've had plenty of.

As summer kicks into high gear, we often start to see more pest problems. An important and often overlooked part of pest management is scouting. It can help you figure out what is going on in your garden/landscape and help you determine if you need to take any action to manage any pests that are present (particularly if you are going to be using pesticides).

japanese beetle

It's about that time of year, time for Japanese beetles...

squash bugs

If you've ever grown squash or pumpkins (or other cucurbits, like cucumbers) then you've likely encountered squash bugs. Squash bug (Asasa tristis) adults are brownish-black and about 5/8 of an inch long. The adults will overwinter in protected areas (under plant debris, around buildings, etc.) and emerge in the spring. When they emerge they will seek out cucurbit plants to feed on as well as mate. Females will lay clusters of about 20 bronze colored eggs on the undersides of leaves, commonly where two veins meet to form a V, or on stems.

mosquito on a human arm

I've been seeing mosquitoes and ticks for several weeks already, and as the weather gets warmer they'll get more numerous. Not only are these critters annoying, many are also capable of transmitting a variety of diseases.