How to Recognize the Problem
Use the charts below to help identify which pests might be causing problems for you, and how to best deal with your individual situation. Note that pesticides often are not the best first choice!
Best Treatment Practices
Enlightened Pest Management
The most convincing argument against a chemical approach to controlling ground and garden pests is that it kills non-target organisms. That’s because most chemical controls can’t discriminate between pests and the much larger community of blameless and beneficial creatures. Human exposure to toxic materials is another risk that comes with pesticide use.
Good Planning Helps Gardens Grow and Reduces Pests
When planning your garden choose disease and pest resistant plants suited to our climate and be sure to plant them in their preferred locations. Rotate locations of vegetables and annuals every year to maximize the health of your garden.
Get to Know Your Pests
Most of them are helpful, not harmful. The Washington State University Extension Office can help with identification and has informative bulletins on a variety of ground and garden pests. Depending on the kind of pest you have, you may be able to use non-toxic controls rather than a chemical product. If you must use a chemical pesticide, read and follow the instructions on the label.
There are many ways to keep pests under control while protecting your health and the environment. Consider using these mechanical or natural methods first:
Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) – a bacterial agent used to control caterpillars when they’re young and actively feeding. It’s essentially non-toxic to humans, pets, birds, bees and other life.
Floating Row Cover – fine mesh fabric draped over plants or a frame and anchored in the soil to prevent access to insect pests.
Neem – a recently developed botanical insecticide that has some fungicidal action not very toxic to humans or persistent in the environment. It reportedly controls caterpillars, leaf miners, aphids, whiteflies, mosquito larvae, and mites.
Nematodes – tiny, predatory worms that attack the larvae of pest insects such as root weevils and crane flies.
Oil Sprays – destroy aphids, scales, mites and their eggs mechanically by smothering them. Use dormant oils before woody plants leaf out. More highly refined summer oils may be used during the growing season on many plants.
Pyrethrum – a botanical insecticide derived from chrysanthemum flowers. It provides a quick knockdown of many insect pests without long residual activity.
Pyrethrin – one of several chemicals that comprise pyrethrum. Separated from the parent material and concentrated, the resulting product is still natural but more toxic.
Red Sphere Traps – found at many nurseries, these apple-sized balls are coated with Tanglefoot (a sticky material also available from nurseries) and hung in apple trees to trap apple maggot adults. Scent lures make these traps more effective.
Slug Hotels – made from plastic bottles (directions available from Kitsap County Public Works). A great way to keep slugs from munching your flowers and vegetables.
Spiked Shoes—not golf shoes, but shoes with long spikes available at local feed stores. Might provide control of crane larvae on small lawns.
Tanglefoot – the most common brand of sticky material used in making traps to catch insects, including apple maggot flies and root weevil adults.