Horticulture News: Plenty of options to manage insects in your spring garden

By Amanda Sears/Madison County Horticulture Agent, Published:

Not only is it time to think about gardening again, but also the return of insects. But don’t worry: there are plenty of options when it comes to managing these pests.

Many insects become active when the average daily temperature reaches 45 degrees or greater. They tend to emerge first in the southwest part of the state and move northeast, reaching the northern most counties seven to 14 days after first emergence. 

 “I think when many people think of insect control, they think of insecticides first, and I don’t think that should always be the case,” said Ric Bessin, UK entomologist. “I think there are many situations where the home owner has additional options.”

One of the simplest, low cost forms of pest control that small home gardeners can do involves going out to the gardens in early morning with a bucket containing soapy water. Bessin said this is the time of the day when many of the insects are sluggish and have slow reaction times. This gives gardeners the opportunity to easily knock the insects off the plants and drop them into the bucket. The soapy water kills the insects almost immediately.

The cold weather and snow of this winter could reduce the number of insects that plague us this summer. Insects such as flea beetles that overwinter on top of the soil may be lower in numbers this year. Corn earworm, an insect that spends its winters in the soil, could be pushed farther south because of the cold temperatures.

Unfortunately, the cold weather will not affect all insects. The Colorado potato beetle and tomato hornworm will be sure to rear their ugly heads.

Don’t just wait for the insects to come to you; take preventive measures. 

Preventive control options for annual pests include looking for pest resistant varieties, selecting a planting date when pests are not as common, tilling the soil and crop rotation.

Remember, not every insect is bad; there are a lot of beneficial insects out there too.

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