Q: Every year a lot of bugs appear in my garden in late summer. How do I identify them, and better yet, how do I get rid of them? — Casey, Santa Margarita
A: Late summer is that wonderful time of the year when lots of the bugs and pests of the world want to gather in our yards to feast on our garden and most prized plants. The typical bothersome bugs that may be causing you problems now, or in the coming weeks, include ants, aphids, beetles, caterpillars, grasshoppers, snails, slugs and whiteflies.
The first step, before you do anything else, is to accurately identify your bothersome bug. Accurate identification begins by looking carefully at the pest and at any damage it is doing. What does it look like? Is the bothersome bug eating your plants, or destroying flowers or fruit? Or is it a transient visitor, here today but perhaps gone tomorrow?
Once you have assessed the bug and the situation, a great resource is the integrated pest management website of the University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources: www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/menu.invertebrate.html.
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Here you will find detailed information and photographs of the most common pests, as well as Pest Notes you can download. Pest Notes are handy guides to the most common pests and what to do about them.
Once you’ve identified your bothersome bug, you’ll want to determine its propensity to cause damage and decide if treatment is necessary. A small population of plantfeeding insects may not warrant any action.
For some things, like aphids, treatment may be as simple as a strong jet of water from a garden hose. For others, you may consider a change in your cultural practices to discourage the popula tion from getting too comfortable in your garden. If cultural practices are not enough, look to the Pest Notes for other research-based solutions for your situation.
GOT A GARDENING QUESTION?
Contact the University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners: at 781-5939 from 1 to 5 p.m. on Monday and Thursday; at 473-7190 from 10 a.m. to noon on Wednesday in Arroyo Grande; and at 434-4105 from 9 a.m. to noon on Wednesday in Templeton. Visit the UCCE Master Gardeners website at http://ucanr.org/sites/mgslo or email email@example.com .