City Landscape and Urban Forestry Department: Pest Insects in the Pacific Northwest

City Landscape and Urban Forestry Department: Pest Insects in the Pacific Northwest

Prevention is the best method

It’s the beginning of the new year, and many of us are anxiously awaiting the return of that elusive Pacific Northwest summer so that we can once again reap the glorious bounties of our own humble backyard gardens. Visions of freshly turned earth and the fragile stalks of newly sprouted seedlings drive us to labor in the mud to prepare the soil for this year’s fragrant and tasty homegrown treats.

As we tend to our future entrees and side dishes, silent saboteurs watch us as we work in blissful ignorance. They exhibit almost as much patience as we do, waiting quietly while we break our backs and tear up the knees of our favorite jeans. They will bide their time. They will strike at the most inopportune moment. And when the attack comes, we may find ourselves screaming curses at them into the uncaring sky.

Pest insects can turn a delightful home garden into a scarred and torn field of broken dreams in almost no time at all. Slugs, aphids, weevils, beetles… The list goes on. But we are not defenseless against this many-legged (or in some cases, no-legged) menace. Through careful planning and a little foresight, we can emerge victorious.

The very best method for eliminating pests of all varieties is prevention. It is no different for garden pests. Keep garden and landscaped areas clear of all debris, prune away any dead material from all of your plants, and avoid excessive moisture (especially any puddles). These simple practices will help ensure that the environment in your garden won’t become attractive to critters that may decide to pack their bags and move in long term.

If these unwanted guests turn up in spite of your diligence (or maybe you just got caught up watching reruns of Bob Ross, we aren’t judging), you still have options for evicting them from your suburban paradise. Identify your pest, then find its weakness. Encourage natural predators, like birds or ladybugs, to visit your garden. Set up mechanical traps, e.g. beer traps for slugs, or newspaper traps for earwigs. A great resource for identifying your invertebrate invader is pwnhandbooks.org/insects/structural-health/nuisance-household.

When all else fails, you might decide that it’s time to bring out the heavy weapons. Assuming prevention and mechanical methods have failed, sometimes we might have to resort to pesticides. Shopping in the pesticide aisle at your local hardware store can be daunting. There are literally thousands of pesticide products available. Similar steps to mechanical removal methods will apply here. Identify your pest and your location. That information should be checked against the label to be sure that the product will do what it says in a safe way. It is important to remember that pesticide labels are the law. They must be followed to the letter. Detailed questions about specific products should be directed to the National Pesticide Information Center at npic@ace.orst.edu.

Once your garden can grow without the threat of hungry interlopers, you’ll be free to kick back and await that delicious payoff. Happy Gardening!

By Alexander Doby, City of Beaverton