It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, there are always insects that decide to make a meal out of our favorite plants and a home under our roof. From garden pests who decimate your cabbage plants, to bugs that prefer to stay indoors with us, keep your eye out for these multi-legged characters:
These classic-looking green inchworms earned their title because when they move, they bring their back legs almost completely underneath them in a loop. But that is where the cuteness ends. Throughout the entire season, they eat and defecate on cole crops (the word “cole” means stem), such as cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. You can reduce their numbers if you use a barrier, like a floating row cover, but if the cabbage looper finds your plants first, you’ll have to handpick the pests from your crops or treat with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) to eliminate the insects.
With their bright yellow and black coloration that screams, “Stay away from me!” yellow jackets have a reputation for being the bad characters on the block. They crash picnics and parties all summer, and are notorious for monopolizing fallen apples and any other ripening fruit in the fall. The best you can do at this time of the year is to be vigilant. Be careful in the garden because they will sting seemingly without provocation, and try to harvest when the mornings are cool and the yellow jackets are slow.
Box Elder Bugs
Named after their favorite snack, box elder bugs prefer the box elder tree, although they will also feed upon other ash varieties and maples. While they don’t do a lot of damage to the trees themselves, they become a pest when they try to move in with you in the fall. Some people have thousands on their homes, as the box elder bugs enter in an attempt to find a good place to spend the winter. Seal every crack and crevice in your home before the weather chills to prevent them from finding their way indoors. And, if they do congregate inside, use a vacuum to evict them.
The brown marmorated stinkbug, or simply stinkbug for short, is a prehistoric-looking, slow moving bug that when crushed or threatened, emits a foul-smelling odor. They are becoming an increasingly problematic agricultural pest — the herbivorous insects inject their sharp, pointy mouths into fruit and other crops, leaving behind rotted areas that make them unviable for sale as fresh produce. As the weather turns colder, these bugs start invading homes in search of a warm place to spend the winter.
To keep stinkbugs from devouring your garden, you can sprinkle food-grade diatomaceous earth beneath growing watermelon, cantaloupe, squash and all fruits and vegetables resting on the ground, as well as on plant leaves. While the above remedies are deterrents, you can also make a solution of mild soapy water with dish soap, and spray directly on the stink bugs to kill them. Read more about stink bugs and how to get rid of them here.