Cut Worms, Pill Bugs and Squash Vine Borers Invade My Space

My little garden has been growing like mad, but now the cut worms and other creatures are making a mess of it.

Cut Worms

I’ve seen black worms eating leaves, and they are not picky which plant they attack. These are the cutworms – pictures below. Cutworms can also nip a new seedling at the base and kill the entire plant, but these are concentrating on the leaves.

Cutworm eating fennel
Cutworm eating fennel
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Black spots are tiny worms
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Small worms huddled together
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Tiny cutworms living underneath a cucumber leaf

It turns out getting rid of the cutworm is easier than getting rid of the other pest, the pill bug. I can pick the worms off the plants. The large ones are fairly easy to spot, and my garden is small. I plopped them into my tray bird feeder and the cardinals came and had a meal!

Pill Bugs

My other problem is all the tiny bugs, which I believe are Pill Bugs. They are everywhere from huddled along the wooden sides of the raised bed, to deep down under the soil. And I’ve found them munching on my cucumbers too.

At first I thought these were a form of the cutworm. These bugs range from tiny to fingernail size. I thought they were harmless, but have found them eating the vegetables, so they need to go.

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Along the inside edge of the raised bed

As I was inspecting the garden, I found colonies of the pill bug along the edges of the garden. Too many to pick off. And as I dig, I find more underground!

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Single pill bug

I’m always looking for organic, natural ways to deter destructive bugs because I don’t use harmful sprays in my yard.

I read that the cutworm will eat corn meal and that will kill it. I’m hesitant to use cornmeal because of the raccoons that visit my yard each night.  I don’t want them digging through my garden because they smell corn!

One site suggested using Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth. I just happened to have some of that!  It’s made of crushed fossils which cut open bug that crawl across it which causes them to die.  I sprinkled it over the dirt in my garden paying attention to the edges.

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Pill bugs roll into a ball when disturbed
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Bug on the cuke – hard to see, but he’s there a little left of center.

Besides these two destructive pests, I’ve got worms boring into my cucumbers and summer squash. While I was outside dealing with these bugs, an orange wasp (it’s really a moth, but looks like a big bee) was buzzing around my garden. Come to find out it is a squash vine borer moth looking to lay it’s eggs in my garden!  The link has a photo of what those eggs look like.

The link above will give you lots of info about how to prevent the borer moth from laying it’s eggs all over the vegetables.

One idea is to use a Floating row cover.  If the moth can’t get to the crops, it can’t lay the eggs.

Another suggestion which I found to be a simple try is to place a yellow bowl of water in the garden to attract the moth and drown it.

Pepper Plant Beasts Among the Greenery

One of my favorite garden plants is the bell pepper I planted over a year ago. Apparently here in Florida vegetable plants just go on and on. The pepper survived some pretty cold nights (below freezing temps) over the winter, and has come back stronger than ever.

Besides giving me some nice juicy peppers to eat, it is home to some special “beasts” that are common to this area.

I see lizards all the time scampering around my garden. Skittle the cat catches them, but seldom kills them. She simply likes to play with them. Often I see them without tails (which grow back) and figure they lost it when Skittle pounced.

This one is a brown anole, and I see them much more often than the green anole. After reading the Wikipedia article, I guess I know why.  The brown one is an invasive species and eats the green one!!  This thing really is a beast.  It used to be that all I ever saw were the green lizards, but come to think of it, I don’t see them any more.  I don’t see many green tree frogs either, so what has happened to those?

Florida is always changing, and usually NOT for the better.

lizard on the green pepper leaf
lizard on the green pepper leaf

There is a tree frog that seems to change sleeping spots from the garden to the umbrella to the hose holder. Is it the same frog? I only ever seem to see one at a time. Usually he sits on the bars beneath my table umbrella. The other day he spent the whole day tucked between the hose rolls on the garden hose holder. Each time I watered I was careful not to squish him.

As I was checking out my peppers the other day, there he was. Tucked in under a leaf and sitting on top of a big pepper.  I think he is a Pine Woods Tree Frog.  But it could be the Cuban Tree Frog… hope not.  I’ll have to get a better look at him.

tree frog pepper plant
Tree frog napping on my pepper

Skittle the Cat is not hanging out on the pepper plant, but she has always loved snooping through the greenery of a garden. Her happy place these days is sleeping beneath the big leaves of the eggplant. It’s where she takes her cat naps between hunting lizards and getting into other mischief.

Skittle the Cat
Skittle the Cat

Giant Whiteflies Leave Long White Fur on Hibiscus Leaves

After writing a recent post about finding aphids on my pepper plant, I realized that I need to be vigilant about accidentally removing ladybug larvae and eggs.  One plant that is sure to have aphids in the hibiscus.  It is not unusual to find them all over the buds and new growth.

I haven’t paid much attention to my orange hibiscus plant over the winter, and imagine my surprise (and disgust) to find not only aphids, but long, white fur on the leaves! I don’t know what else to call it, but fur. It’s long enough to blow in the breeze and is attached to the underside of some of the leaves.

Beneath all that “fur” is a colony whitefly eggs and nymphs. How do I know this? I finally found a super helpful page at Hidden Valley Hibiscus, which talks about this exact type of manifestation, which comes from a southern whitefly called the “Giant Whitefly“. Here is how they describe the fur, “After hatching, the nymphs produce long, hairlike filaments of wax up to 2 inches long that give a bearded appearance to affected leaves.” Exactly, little white beards attached to sticky leaves.
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It was not easy to get these photos. Any time I touched a leaf with white, little moths or something flew off. Also the leaves were very sticky. It was pretty gross.

This will never happen to your hibiscus if you are vigilant about checking for unwanted bugs. Whiteflies can be sprayed off with water, just like aphids.

The majority of the white fur was on the stems at the back of the plant.  A secluded, less windy spot seems to be the preference for this type of infestation.

I plan to cut off the nasty stems from the back of the plant, and maybe spray off the rest. But I will keep an eye on all that ladybug larvae because I don’t want to disturb them. Most gardeners would kill for ladybugs in their yard!
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The underside of the leaves have white spiraling lines, which is from the adult whiteflies.

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I found lady bug larvae on the same leaf as the white fuzz. I had to trim up the hibiscus plant and spray it a few times with the hose to reduce the white fly population. I’m still being lots of ladybugs (in many forms) on the plant.

Fuzzy white aphids and lady bug larvae
Fuzzy white aphids and lady bug larvae

Life Stages of the Ladybug With Photos

Ladybugs will eat aphids, but ladybugs appear in various forms. Know the larvae stage and let it live to eat those aphids.

Not only are ladybugs cute, but they are beneficial to gardeners.   Often gardeners wonder how to bring ladybugs to the yard?  The simple answer is to hope for garden problems in the form of pests that feel ladybugs.

Ladybugs, or lady beetles as they are sometimes called, are helpful in vegetable and flower gardens mainly because they love to eat aphids and other garden pests. Aphids are one of the worst pests gardeners deal with. When aphids begin to show up on leaves, flowers and buds, they ring the dinner bell for ladybugs.

Unfortunately as gardeners, we have to have unwanted bugs in order to get these beneficials to the yard. It makes sense. Ladybugs (and other beneficial insects) go where the food is.
Continue reading “Life Stages of the Ladybug With Photos”