Insect Pests

Gardens & Landscapes January 02, 2008 Print Friendly and PDF

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Insect Pests and IPM

When insects cause harm to humans or their interests they are often labeled insect pests. Humans often desire to control insect pests to reduce their harmful or unwanted effects. Effective control of insect pests may demand using different strategies, depending on factors such as the type of insect, their growth stage, amount of damage caused, and host affected. You can learn more about strategies of controlling insect pests in the following article.

Controlling Insect Pests through IPM

Insect Characteristics

Learn how certain characteristics of insects help us classify them into recognizable categories or divisions. The following site was developed for master gardeners to understand and identify insects that commonly cause damage. Read the sections: Introduction, Mouthparts, and Development.

Review:

Identification and Diagnostic Guides

Cypress aphid, Cinara cupressivora, caused damage on Mexican Cypress, Cupressus lusitanica (William M. Ciesla, Forest Health Management International, Bugwood.org).
Cypress aphid, Cinara cupressivora, caused damage on Mexican Cypress, Cupressus lusitanica (William M. Ciesla, Forest Health Management International, Bugwood.org).

Identification by Damage

Often times, the insect pest is not present on the host at the same time we notice the damage. In cases such as these, we cannot identify the insect through the use of an insect key. We must narrow down the possible insect pests by the type of damage they cause the host.

Use the following guides to identify pests by type of plant damage:


Identification by Insect Key

In cases where you are certain you have the insect responsible for causing the damage an insect key may be helpful.


Local Diagnostic Laboratories

If all else fails, and you can not identify your pest problem, you may be able to submit information to your state diagnostic plant laboratory using:

-User hint: Scroll down to "Diagnostic Laboratories by State" to find a diagnostic service in your state for identification and control information.

Control & Management by Specific Hosts

Information regarding insect pests can be found at the following two websites and in more detail under the following headings.

-User hint: Click on the "Pest Control/Insect Related Creatures" in the left navigation bar.


Trees, Shrubs, Flowers (Ornamental Plants)

Trees, shrubs, and flowers, also known collectively as ornamental plants, are those we value mainly for their aesthetic value. The following guides to insect identification and management of insect pests on ornamentals are particularly helpful.

  • Landscape IPM Diagnostic Website. Click on the type of tree and parts affected to identify a pest. Center for Urban Ecology and Sustainability. University of Minnesota.
  • Focus on Plant Problems looks at insects, diseases, and animal problems of some common ornamental plants. University of Illinois.
  • Insect and Disease Problems of Trees and Shrubs by Region. A listing of resources divided into regions.

Fruits and Vegetables

Cabbage looper, Trichoplusia ni, on cabbage(photo credit:R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company Slide Set, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, Bugwood.org).
Cabbage looper, Trichoplusia ni, on cabbage(photo credit:R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company Slide Set, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, Bugwood.org).


  • Insects of Fruit

Lawns

Choose the resource that most closely reflects your growing conditions.

Cool Season Grasses


Warm-Season Grass

Household

While homes are not living hosts. When insects become pests indoors, the following insect key and list of fact sheets are helpful for control.

Invasive Species

One of the best ways to reduce problems from invasive species is to identify and handle them properly. Certain insect pests are listed as invasive.

First it is helpful to know: What is an invasive species? According to the National Invasive Species Information Center:

An "invasive species" is defined as a species that is

1) non-native (or alien) to the ecosystem under consideration and

2) whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health. (Executive Order 13112).

Human actions are the primary means of invasive species introductions.

Invasive Species Listings

Find lists of invasive insects at the following sites:

Insecticide Use and Products

Insecticides and their use vary by state. Always check the pesticide label or your state laws and regulations before using the chemicals found in the following publications.

Many of the publications listed under the control and management portion of this page listed insecticides for treating insect pests. You may also want to try the following resources for more information:

The first two resources listed below offer alternative products for treating some insect pests. Extoxnet can help you find information on insecticides you may consider using.



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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.