Don’t Let Yard Pests Get You Down
Spring is just around the corner and many Texans enjoy spending more time working in their yards and gardens. Warmer weather also means more pests, which can be discouraging, even for seasoned gardeners. However, there are smart, environmentally responsible ways to avoid and get rid of pests so you can better enjoy your landscape.
Five Quick Tips to Avoid Pests
The best strategy for pest management is to avoid pests in the first place. By having a strong landscape, conditions will be more favorable for your plants than they are for pests.
1. Irrigate efficiently. Water infrequently, but thoroughly (generally one inch, once a week), and do so in the mornings. *
2. Use native and adapted plants, which are better suited to the local environment and are more resistant to pests.
3. Mow properly, taking off no more than one-third of the grass blade with each mowing.
4. Choose natural or organic fertilizers, avoid overusing fertilizers, and encourage beneficial predators such as ladybugs, certain beetles, and birds. Find out if the insects in your yard are good or bad.
5. Monitor for pests often to catch infestations early and determine if control is needed; many times natural predators may make treatment unnecessary.
*Always comply with your water system’s water-use restrictions.
Least-Toxic Solutions for Controlling Ten Common Pests
It is important to accurately identify pests so that you will be more successful with treatment. Check out the least-toxic treatments below. For additional treatment options, as well as information to help you identify pests, review our brief guide, Managing 10 Common Yard Pests.
Ten Common Yard Pests
It is important to accurately id pests as this makes management much easier. Once you have identified the pest, you can be more successful with treatment. Check out our guide, Managing 10 Common Yard Pests, for infestation solutions that are less-toxic than pesticides.
Only treat grubs when you find more than five to ten per square foot. It is most effective to treat these pests between mid-June and late July. Apply beneficial nematodes to the affected areas.
Make your yard a haven for birds and beneficial predator insects by avoiding the wide use of lawn chemicals. If there are signs of damage, spot treat only the infected areas with insecticidal soaps.
Talk to your neighbors about treating fire ants at the same time, to avoid driving the ants from yard to yard. Carefully pour about three gallons of boiling water on each mound. This works best after a rain. Introduce beneficial nematodes. Choose bait products over contact products.
Introduce beneficial insects to your landscape. For minor infestations, dislodge aphids by spraying the host plants with water at high pressure. Use insecticidal soaps and horticultural oils to help control the aphids.
In general, native trees do not require treatment, as caterpillar infestations rarely threaten the health of trees unless they are already weakened. Try releasing parasitic wasps when caterpillars first appear. Remove caterpillars by hand or prune them out of the tree and destroy them.
Keep your house well-vacuumed and immediately dispose of vacuum bags after use. Wash your pet’s bedding regularly in hot, soapy water. Shampoo your pet regularly with a gentle shampoo—any soapy water will kill fleas.
Eliminate breeding sites by reducing the amount of standing water in your yard and repair any leaky faucets or outdoor pipes. Use bacterial larvicide tablets to reduce mosquitoes in permanent standing water, such as rain barrels. Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing when outside.
Encourage beneficial insects. For minor infestations, spray the host plants weekly with high-pressure water, spraying upward from beneath the plant foliage. Apply insecticidal soaps or horticultural oils; spray upward from beneath the foliage.
Snails and Slugs
Remove snails and slugs at night when they are active and drop them in a jar of soapy water. Attract them to a shallow container filled with beer or apple cider. Eliminate their hiding places, such as under flowerpots.
Choose disease-resistant varieties of squash. Use trellises to get your plants off the ground and mulch heavily around plants. Remove dead plant materials and debris from your garden. Treat the soil with beneficial nematodes.
Controlling Pests with Beneficial Insects
Beneficial insects play important roles in our ecology. They control pest populations, pollinate flowers, fruits, and vegetables, produce food and useful products, and improve the environment. Some insects, such as lady beetles and praying mantises, are the natural enemies of common yard pests and some types of insects can be released into your yard to control pest populations. Learn more about beneficial insects.
Things to Consider When Using Pesticides
- Use your least-toxic pesticide first.
- Always read the label and follow the mixing and application instructions of any pesticide you choose.
- Avoid broad-spectrum pesticides as they destroy beneficial insects as well as pests.
- Avoid systemic pesticides as they can make edible plants and vegetables unsafe for consumption.
- Avoid the overuse of chemicals. Many pests have become resistant to certain pesticides.
- It is acceptable for households to dispose of leftover or unwanted pesticides in the regular trash. However, you can dispose of them in a more protective manner. The TCEQ maintains a list of household hazardous waste disposal options. If you can’t find a disposal option on the TCEQ list, check Earth911.