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What’s Eating My Fall Plants?

Timely tips and tricks on ways to recognize and get rid of these pests trying to take over your home and garden!

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 that decimate your cabbage plants to bugs that prefer to stay indoors with you, keep your eye out for these multi-legged characters and try these strategies to send them packing!

Cabbage Looper

Cabbage Looper - Geometer moths

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 them with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) to eliminate the insects.

Yellowjackets

Bees - Wasp

With their bright yellow and black coloration that screams, “Stay away from me!” yellowjackets 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 yellowjackets are slow.

Box Elder Bugs

Boxelder bug - Boxelder maple
Box Elder bugs. Scientific name: Boisea trivittata

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 in 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.

Stinkbugs

Beetles - Yellow spotted stink bug
The brown marmorated stinkbug, Scientific name: Halyomorpha halys

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. 

Amy Grisak is a freelance writer, blogger, and photographer specializing in gardening, local food, and stories about her home state of Montana. She enjoys sharing her experiences with self-reliant living and outdoor recreation. Her article on the "hugelkultur" gardening technique appears in the 2021 Farmers' Almanac. You can follow her topics on her site, AmyGrisak.com.

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Butch Berkley

Bite for

Sarah Sizemore

How do I get rid of fruit flies?

Opal Morgan

cabbage beetles are eating the leaves of my cabbage plants. Is there a homemade solution to get rid of these pests?

Susan Higgins
Ann Iskenderian

My grapevines are about 4 years old. I planted them mainly to pick the young leaves to can. The plants have white tiny bugs and little blackish round bugs and spiders. What can I do to get rid of these pests? Also the grapes never seem to grow. I get plenty of clusters but they never grow so we can reap the harvest. We are in the Southern CA area. Also how to prune vines and when. Cherry tomatoes also have little worms. What to do?

Susan Higgins

Hi Ann,

Pruning should be done during the full moon in the signs of Leo, Scorpio, Sagittarius, or Taurus. You can keep track of those days here. This information is on page 92 of the 2017 Almanac.

Additionally, these articles from our archives will be very helpful:
Pruning the Vineyard with the Pros
And
Late Winter (March) Pruning

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