9 Most Destructive Garden Insects

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The Top 9 Most Destructive (and Most Common) Garden Insect Pests

There’s nothing better than a freshly picked, vine ripened summer tomato straight out of your garden. That is, until you go to take a bite...and find a big, green, otherworldly-looking tomato hornworm that’s munching on your produce!


When it comes to controlling summer pests around our property, we usually think home pest control: ants, silverfish, roaches, and the like. But for gardeners, controlling the bugs outside your house is just as important.

Before you can control garden pests, though, you have to know what you’re dealing with. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to the top 9 most common -- and most destructive -- garden insect pests. Keep reading to learn more.




Have you ever turned over a leaf on a tomato plant, only to find the underside of it covered with tiny, light colored dots? Believe it or not, those little guys are aphids. And tiny though they may be, they’ll sap the strength right out of your tomato plant.

Aphids can range in appearance and color: some are white, others are pink, and others still are a greenish hue. They can impact virtually any plant in your garden. In fact, they’re commonly found on a wide range of vegetables, including: Asparagus, Beans, Peas, Melon, Green peach, Potato, Corn, and all other plants in the brassica family (cabbage, broccoli, turnips, arugula, and others).



Caterpillars are interesting looking insects. Their long, segmented bodies can show up in all sorts of colors. While you’re busy marvelling at the whirls and patterns on their backs, though, they’ll be chowing down on your garden plants.


Tomato Worms

tomato wormIf you’ve ever grown tomatoes, you’ve probably experienced some ups and downs: delicious, ripe, bright red tomatoes on the one hand, and the sad sight of a plant covered in bugs. Insects love tomatoes, and the fruitworm and pinworm are no exception. These little worms only grow to an inch or so in length, but they can wreak havoc on your plants.


Vegetable Leafminer

vegetable leafminer-453511-editedVegetable leafminers are confined to the warmer part of the U.S., which means we have than our share of them here in South Carolina. They’re capable of infesting more vegetables than you can count: squash, turnip, potato, tobacco, cotton, radish, okra, pea, tomato, bean, cabbage, spinach, watermelon, beet, and more.

In their adult form, leafminers are tiny black flies. It’s the maggot form of the insect that you have to worry about, though: these 3 mm long worms will tunnel through your veg, leaving your foliage looking brown and burned in severe cases.


Cabbage Moths

cabbage mothsEver see what looks like a white butterfly flitting around your garden? That’s no butterfly: it’s a cabbage moth! If you see them lighting on your cabbage or broccoli, you can bet that they’re laying eggs which will hatch into hungry little worms!

Cabbage moths can be of either the imported cabbage moth (coming to the United States from Europe) and the cabbage looper variety. In both cases, their caterpillar form can eat huge holes in your vegetables and leave green droppings behind.


Western Flower Thrips

western flower thrips-253500-editedUp until a few decades ago, “western” flower thrips were confined to the western part of the United States. Nowadays, they’ve started showing up throughout the southeast.

These tiny (1 mm long) bugs literally suck the life out of your plants. They prefer to feed on flowering vegetables, such as tomatoes and peppers. Keep an eye out for them: they’re yellowish in color, and they can be incredibly destructive.


Stink Bugs

stink bug-477304-editedIt’s not uncommon to end up with a stink bug infestation inside your home, but they’re just as problematic (if not more so) in the garden.

Stink bugs (green, brown, and leaf-footed) arrived in Pennsylvania from Asia in 1996. They’ve spread quickly, and they can be incredibly destructive to vegetable crops. Watch out for them on your tomatoes!



cutwormCutworms in South Carolina tend to cause the biggest problems in the Coastal Plain area. That said, they do show up in other parts of the state as well.

These long, caterpillar-like insects are mottled brown in color. They’ve earned their name thanks to their favorite means of attacking vegetables: they’ll go through a garden at night literally cut vegetable seedlings off at their base, leaving a veritable veggie wasteland come morning.


Flea Beetles

flea beetle-493198-editedIf you’ve ever gone to grab an eggplant and noticed a bunch of tiny black specks hopping away from your approaching hand, you’ve got flea beetles. These tiny flea-like creatures are actually beetles (hence their name), and they’ll eat just about anything in your garden: eggplant, corn, sweet potato, potato, tobacco, and all plants in the brassica family (turnips, radishes, cabbage, broccoli, arugula).

You’ll need to intervene before flea beetles get out of control. Otherwise, the tiny holes that they eat in plant leaves -- producing a kind of “shotgun” effect -- can quickly kill an otherwise healthy plant.


Now that you know which summer pests are giving you garden trouble, it’s time to do something about it! Home Pest Control’s Home Shield Pest Prevention Program isn’t just designed for your home: it can help cut down on the pests in your garden, too. Click here for more info:

Sign up for our Home Shield Pest Prevention Service Today!

May 1, 2018

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