When you begin your journey as an off-time botanist (or full!), you should not be afraid to confront the beings that call the soil and dirt home. Encounters with insects and various other microorganisms are simply inevitable, Whether you maintain a large field of corn or a single tomato sprout in a pot. Out of those entities, certain critters will want a wee bite of your crops without asking, suck the living life out of them, chew off roots and in general mess with your plants, which isn’t all that great. Today we learn about the pests and beneficial insects of your garden.

Pests, defined as ‘a destructive insect or other animal that attacks food, crops, livestock, etc’ by google are a pain in the you-know-where when they start waltzing into your garden. Most pests are considered as pests due to their diet of human crops- their preferences can be pretty specific such as the tobacco hornworm, feeding off tobacco leaves and the cabbage worm, the larval stage of the cabbage butterfly, feeding off well, cabbage! Or they may be very opportunistic, devouring any type of vegetable matter provided such as slugs and snails. Those are just the ones that munch. Aphids, those tiny green or black specks you see under the leaves are responsible for slurping plant sap out of the stem of plants like a group of vampire peas. Mealybugs, leafhoppers, and stink bugs are also responsible for the crime. Insects such as root weevil larvae and root aphids feed off the roots of plants, making them even peskier to deal with.

There are a million and more remedies for pests out there, some proved by science and some makeshift concoctions with no real proof on pest control. Some may simply reach out for chemical warfare – pesticides. Most commercial pesticides are very effective on the removal of said buggers, just because they are so potent. The chemicals within the liquid are toxic in excess, and will remain in the soil, water and air for a prolonged period. This leads to a chain of contamination and deaths of other neutral or beneficial organisms. That’s why organic approaches are important. There are plenty of natural methods on deterring pests. Garlic and members of the allium family bear toxins that deter sap sucking insects, strong scented herbs such as lavender and rosemaries fend off garden molluscs. A little bit of soapy water works great with any pests currently present on your plant. And if all else fails, you may try out diatomaceous earth. Most commonly available in the form of a stick of chalk, diatomaceous earth are the fossilised remains of phytoplankton. Under a microscope, they reveal to have jagged, sharp edges. Harmless to large beings like dogs and humans, but even the slightest amount of exposure can kill small insects and invertebrates, as the sharp edges easily pierce through the chitinous exoskeletons.

In the end, remedies and care for pest infested plants vary from species to species. That is why It is important to tend to your plants daily, watering them plenty and letting them receive enough sunlight needed. It’s better and easier for you to prevent pests from showing up in the first place.

Brandon Yoon
Brandon Yoon

Student of NLCS Jeju
Member of NLCS Jeju Botanist Society

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