Attack vegetable pests early, often

Vegetable garden pests have already started to annoy me and many other vegetable gardeners.

My nemesis, the cabbage moth caterpillar, is already chewing away on my brussels sprouts and cabbage.

I have had pretty good luck in the past few years by spraying Bacillus thuringiensis or “Bt” on the plants as soon as I see the white moths flying around.

There are actually three different species of caterpillars that damage plants in the Cruciferae family. Plants in this family include kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, mustard and others.

Some of these caterpillars have more than one generation per summer, so these pests are a problem all season long. Therefore, I keep up with the sprays on a weekly basis.

Bt, a pesticide, is very safe to use right up to harvest. It’s very safe to use but it’s only effective on the caterpillars in their young stages, which is why I keep spraying on a regular basis.

Once caterpillars get a little larger, they can be killed with most garden insecticides that are labeled for caterpillars. Make sure that the crop is listed on the label.

These critters are really good at laying their eggs in the deepest regions of the plant (in the growing tips and buds). The caterpillars are good at hiding down under foliage and also feeding on the underside.

When spraying, make sure you soak the crevices of cabbage and similar plants as well as the underside of the leaves.

Another common pest that recently appeared is the Japanese beetle. I found one on a shrub in a landscape last week so the rest are sure to be on their way.

Japanese beetle populations were quite spotty around the Miami Valley last year, with most of the reports indicating very mild populations.

Don’t let the recent winter temperatures fool you into thinking that these insects were killed by cold temperatures. They are capable of surviving our winters and we won’t know until later this summer the extent of the population.

If you have the plants that they feed on, now is the time to start scouting for them. If you find one or two of the early ones, hand pick and drop in a bucket of soapy water (or squash!).

Research indicates that these early arrivers are the scouts and are looking for a food source; once found, they send out the “y’all come.”

If populations get out of control in your landscape, there are sprays that are effective, but you have to keep up with them as long as the population is present. I have seen Japanese beetles feed up until late August in some years.

Favorite plants for Japanese beetles include roses, hibiscus, linden trees, grapes, raspberries, and many more landscape plants.

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