How to Identify 10 Common Garden Pests

One of my favorite benefits of Tower Garden is that there are fewer pests to worry about compared to soil gardening. Still, a good offense is the best defense, as they say. Here are 10 critters you should periodically check for.

Tower Tip: if you do discover pests, try these 3 ways to control them without pesticides.

Typically green, yellow or black in color, aphids are small, sap-sucking, soft-bodied insects. If you have aphids, you’ll likely find them on plant stems and leaf undersides. There they feed on tender, young growth, causing plants to appear puckered or deformed. You can also detect aphids by the presence of honeydew, a sugar-rich, sticky liquid they secrete.

Spotted, striped and banded, orange, yellow and brown—bad beetles come in many forms. Common species include the cucumber beetle, flea beetle, Mexican bean beetle and Japanese beetle. They all typically feed on plant leaves and flowers. One good beetle you want to have around, however, is the ladybug.

Caterpillars are the soft-bodied, segmented larvae of moths and butterflies. Their color varies by species (common species include cabbage loopers and tomato fruitworms). Generally, caterpillars feed on either plant leaves or fruit. In addition to holes in foliage and fruit, black specks (fecal matter) on your Tower Garden reservoir lid are signs of a caterpillar infestation.

Leafhoppers are wedge-shaped and often light green in color. You can detect them by stippling on the top of plant leaves, which looks like white or pale yellow spots. In addition to eating plant leaves, leafhoppers are known to transmit viral plant diseases.

Leaf Miners
Leaf miners are small gray flies whose pale, tiny larvae feed between plant leaf surfaces, causing winding trails throughout the leaf tissue. These trails often merge together to form light-colored, dead areas on the leaves. Leaf miners can damage fruit-bearing plants. But they render greens inedible since the larvae are inside plant leaves.

Spider Mites
As sap-sucking insects, spider mites stunt plant growth and sometimes even kill plants. Spider mite damage appears as pale yellow spots ranging in size from specks to large areas on the tops of the leaves.

Scales vary in color and appearance, but they generally look like small bumps on plant stems, leaves and fruit. Scales feed on plant sap, weakening plants and often causing leaves to yellow and die. They also secrete honeydew, like aphids.

Shield Bugs
Commonly known as stink bugs, these sap-sucking insects have shield-shaped bodies and come in many different colors. Most are bad for your garden, as they feed on plant foliage and fruit, damaging crop production. But one shield bug—the spined soldier bug, which has very distinct and pointy “shoulders”—can actually help control pest populations.

Adult thrips are tiny, pale-yellow, sap-sucking insects with elongated bodies and fringed wings. They tend to hide in the centers of flowers and scatter when the bloom is disturbed. Thrip damage appears as coarse stippling on the leaf surface. Large populations of thrips cause serious plant injury, which results in a silvery or scratchy appearance on leaf surfaces.

The whitefly is a voracious sap-sucking insect that causes stunted plant growth, leaf yellowing and reduced yields. With slender white bodies and wings, whiteflies tend to congregate in great numbers on the undersides of leaves to feed, taking flight when disturbed. Whiteflies also secrete honeydew, which encourages mold growth.

Not All Bugs Are Bad

If you see something crawling around on your Tower Garden, don’t panic. There are a number of bugs you want to see in your garden, including pollinators like bees and pest predators like ladybugs. Read more about beneficial bugs »

Do you have any questions about these or other pests? Leave a comment below.

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