In the height of summer the vegetable garden is buzzing with all types of critters. To stay on top of organic pest prevention frequent monitoring is key. It's also important to keep your eye for the "good guys" when looking for pests to see if the natural systems have already started to fight back.
Here are few things to have on your radar...
Tomato hornworms: These caterpillars (like the name suggests) are commonly found on tomato plants. The good news is if you find with small white cocoons you can leave them. They have been parasitized by a beneficial wasp that lays its eggs under the caterpillar's skin. The larvae eat their way out and make the visible white cocoons that you see. When the wasps emerge from the cocoons they will hopefully take care of any other tomato hornworms.
Japanese beetles: These are brown and green metallic beetles often chomp away at summer plant leaves. You can go out early in the morning when they are slower moving and manually remove them from plants and drop them in a bucket of soapy water. (Photo credit: UK Organic Farming Unit)
Tomato Blight: Not an insect but incredibly important fungal disease to be on the lookout for. There are two types to keep in mind. Early blight causes yellowing and curling of the lower leaves and decreases production but tomato plants still produce fruit. Late blight can be devastating. It is commonly spotted as a grey-green spot on a older leaf. When you see it you want to immediately pull the entire plant. The best ways to prevent blight is to avoid handling plants while they are wet and ensure plants are getting proper airflow and bottom leaves are trimmed and not touching the soil.
Red squash bug eggs: If you see metallic red eggs on summer or winter squash plants (generally where the leaf meets the stem or on the underside of the leaf) remove them right away. These are squash bug eggs and once they emerge their grey larvae can cause a lot of damage to the fruits so it's best to get them early.
Harlequin beetles: These are black and orange beetles that are in the stink bug family and mainly an issue for plants in the Brassica family like cabbage, broccoli, and kale. Try to spot them early by looking for their very distinct black and white barrel-shaped eggs. If detected ahead of time they can be picked off before you are overrun with them. (Photo credit: High Five Farm)
Ladybug larvae: Most everyone knows what a ladybug (or rather a lady beetle) looks like, but be on the lookout for their larvae. They are purple and orange with a bumpy texture. Keep these guys around the more ladybug larvae the better to help with any aphid problems in the garden.
(Photo credit: UK Organic Farming Unit)