Gardening Columnist Maggie L. Moor-Orth helps you identify those pests on your plants and tells you how to get rid of them.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have had several calls from residents with pests in their vegetable and/or flower gardens, so I thought there must be other folks with these same pests in their gardens, too. The following guide may help you identify and control these pests:

Squash Vine Borer (Melittia satyriniformis) is one pest that visits my squash plants every year and they did not miss visiting this summer either. The adult is a 1- to 1.5-inch long, orange and black clearwing moth with coppery fore wings and black stripes around the abdomen. It’s the one-inch long, wrinkled, white caterpillar (borer) with a brown head that enters at the base near the soil level of the stem of squash, cucumbers, pumpkins, gourds and melon plants in early summer. The borer damage causes the plants to wilt and then die. The eggs are brown, flat and oval and are laid one by one along the plants’ stems. Once the plant has wilted and starts to die, it is too late to control this pest. If you notice the plant soon enough, some sources suggest covering the damaged stem with soil, watering it and hoping for root growth before it dies.
  Spittlebugs (Cercopidae), also known as froghoppers, are found on many garden vegetables, small fruits, grassy weeds and assorted flowers. The one-quarter to one-third inch long, triangle-shaped adults are green or a brownish color and often have band or stripe markings on their wings. The young nymphs are green and surrounded by froth (this looks just like spit). The eggs are laid between the stems and main stems on tall grasses. These pests may occasionally feed on some plants but are harmless and shouldn’t be a concern.


Leafminers’ (Liriomyza sp.) larvae (maggots) are plump, pale yellow colored worms that tunnel between leaf surfaces. The squiggly lines made by the maggots are found on holly, columbine, beans, blackberry, cabbage, pepper and potato leaves. Sometimes there are so many, it looks like a blotch on the leaf. The adult is a one-10th inch long fly, black-colored with yellow stripes. In vegetable crops, leafminers are usually kept under control by natural enemies. Another control suggests removing plant leaves that are infested and destroy them.


Spider mites are the reddish-brown or light-colored spider-like pests which are 1/150 to 1/50 inch long. These tiny pests are hard to see without a magnifying hand lens. They have eight legs and webbing is visible on infested plants. They are found on many evergreen trees and shrubs, vegetables, flowers, brambles and tree fruits. Adults and their young feed on leaves/needles and fruits of many plants. Infested leaves become silvery, yellow then bronzy-colored. Leaves and branches may curl and be covered with fine webbing. Leaves/needles dry up and drop prematurely. In hot weather, they reproduce very quickly. Lacewings, ladybugs and predatory mites are natural enemies of spider mites.

To control this pest with chemicals, use Kethane. Read and follow all label directions and high temperature precautions.

I hope these pests are not found on plants in your gardens, but if they are, this article may help you identify and control them.