Common Southern California Yard Pests and Pest Control

Written by David S.

You spend a ton of work putting in a vegetable garden, creating beautiful landscaping and flower gardens, and then suddenly yard pests strike. The voracious appetite of small insects is impressive, and their presence can mean destruction for your gardens. In this blog, we look at common pests for yard and garden, some products that help control them, and along the way, we give you some proactive advice on preventing pest populations from blooming in your yard.  

An Ounce of Prevention 

The relationship between plant and pest is ancient. Flowering plants appeared 256 million years ago, and anthropologic evidence shows pollinating beetles encased in amber 90 million years ago. The point is that plants and insects have a long history, and that’s important to realize when you are dealing with pest insects. Nature has a balance, and as a gardener, you want to focus on that balance. When plants are healthy, they have fewer pest control issues. Healthy plants start with healthy soil. So, one of the best ways to prevent overwhelming pest issues in your garden or yard is to make sure that you start with good soil, and especially compost. The reason for this is that soil biota helps maintain a balance within the insect world. There will still be pests, but the populations are generally much smaller and more easily controlled.

We carry a wide variety of soil brands and bagged soil amendments. FoxFarm, Black Gold, EB Stone are just a few of the many options you have for soil amendments. 

The Worst Pests in the Yard and Garden

Besides the massive swarm of locusts, which are rare, the following pests are not pleasant, and they can destroy flowers and vegetables in little time. 

1 Red Spider Mites — Tetranychus urticae — is one of the worst pests to deal with when their population blooms. Most plants must be destroyed, or the use of pesticides becomes a last-ditch effort. Predatory spider mites are the beneficial arachnid (mites are related to spiders) that prey on red spider mites. We make a habit of releasing predatory mites periodically in the garden because trying to use them when red spider mite populations are huge is difficult. The process of killing off red spider mites is slow at best. So, the idea is to keep their populations very small so that the predators can eat them.

Red spider mites damage plants by sucking plant sap. The continual loss of fluid causes the plant to wither and wilt until other diseases take over and the plant dies. They also spin these eerie red/orange webs that can prevent the plant from getting enough sunlight. 

A product that can help sap sucking insects and pests is Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew, which is organic and has a short activation period. It breaks down in about 24 hours into harmless chemicals. It is rated to be safe for use on vegetables and fruits after 24-hours. We carry many organic and non-organic chemicals that work on sap-sucking insects and arthropods. Seasonally, we have live predatory insects that we sell. Ladybugs and mantis are two examples. 

2 Aphids — Aphidoidea — Aphids are one of the many members of the true bug order hemipteran, and like red spider mites, they are sap-sucking insects. One way to reduce the presence of aphids in the garden is to control the populations of ants. Ants can “farm” aphids much like a rancher raises cattle. The Aphids provide honeydew, which is a sweet nectar substance that ants love. Ants will carefully place aphids on plants and then guard them against predators. Aphids will appear in your garden and on plants naturally. One of the best ways to eliminate existing populations of aphids is with a garden hose with a strong jet nozzle. Other products that help control aphids include Neems oil, an organic topical, or Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew. There are about 5,000 species of aphids, and they are not all generalists. Some prefer only one type of plant, like the monarch butterfly and milkweed. Others are happy to suck plant sap wherever they land. 

3 Whiteflies — Aleyrodidae — Oddly, whiteflies are not flies at all. They are part of the order of insects known as true bugs or hemipterans and are another common pests that also plant sap-suckers. You can use Neems oil or a systemic pesticide. Systemics are liquids that you water into the ground, and then the plant uptakes them as it draws in water. The systemic is fed to plant sap suckers as they feed on the plant. Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew is an example of a systemic organic pesticide that is vegetable and fruit safe. Not all systemic pesticides are safe to use on vegetables and fruit. Ladybugs, which are not bugs either — they are beetles — are a natural predator of whiteflies. 

These three widespread pests are joined by other sap-sucking insects, such as leaf miners and stink bugs. Plant sap suckers are best handled by manually removing them while their populations are small. Be sure to look under the leaves of vegetables for eggs. By paying attention to your garden and flowers, you can spot pests before their populations become overwhelming. 

To Recap:

Start with good garden soil because healthy soil produces healthy plants. Make it a habit to check your garden and flowers often. Be sure to look for damage and deal with the pest before the population becomes next to impossible to handle. Introduce beneficial insects into your garden periodically. Ladybugs and mantis are available in the spring, and you can purchase predatory mites and nematodes almost year-round. Reach for organic and safe pesticides approved for use on fruit and vegetables. If needed, remove the infested plant before the pests spread. If you are unsure what type of pest is damaging your plants, take a few sections of the plant, put them in a Ziploc bag, and bring them into the nursery. Be sure that the bag is sealed, and our plant experts can help you identify pests by looking at the damage. They can also recommend a variety of products to deal with yard pests.

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