Year of the Pest

When it comes to gardening, one thing is inevitable - no matter what size space you have, be it a balcony or an acreage, you will inevitably encounter a pest or critter that makes you go "ARGH!!"

It's only mid-June and I've already had more than my fair share of "ARGH!" moments - in fact, I've had more pest issues in the past two months than in any full year in the past.

So here's a rundown of what's been plaguing my garden, starting with those critters and pests that I've already spoken about in previous posts.

(1)  Rabbits

The bunnies have been finding gaps in my fencing and feasting in my I know how Mr. McGregor felt.

Bunny #1

Initially I thought there was only one rogue baby bunny running around and then I realized that there were at least two when I saw one at the top of the hill and, a minute later, another one in the main garden.

Bunny #2

On the hilltop, they have decimated 3 pepper plants, all the Swiss chard and the mache.

One of the three pepper plants with no hope of recovery

Many of the other pepper plants were also chewed, but not to the same extent.  Although they were obviously set back, there is new leaf growth and even a few flowers, so I'm hopeful that we will be harvesting at least some peppers this year.

It's large leaves were chewed off, but otherwise
this pepper plant looks to be on the road to recovery

All of the lettuce was also snacked on, which is why it's mid June and I have yet to harvest any:

I only have a couple of Sierra MI lettuce left

Freckles is a bit closer to being harvestable - perhaps in another week or so

As for the main garden, the bunnies ate all of the monarda and strawflowers and out of 20 or so zinnias, I only have 3 or 4 left.  A few calendulas were also snacked on but the bunnies don't seem to appreciate them quite as much.

The tomatoes went unscathed (my neighbour, unfortunately, wasn't as lucky) but there was some chewing damage to the eggplants which were right beside them:

Each time I saw some damage I scoured the fencing for a gap which I then closed up.  I haven't seen any further damage in the last week so I'm hoping my bunny saga for the year is over.

(2)  Sowbugs

These normally innocent garden helpers consumed approximately 50% of the turnips seedlings.

I spoke about these in my last post

With our recent dry/hot weather, however, they have been much less bothersome.

(3)  Cutworms/Birds

One or the other (or both) decapitated and uprooted a number of allium seedlings in early spring.

What's left of an onion seedling

Once I sprinkled the bed with eggshells & diatomaceous earth and covered it with netting, there was no further damage.

(4) Aphids

The aphids....they are insane this year!

Black Aphids on Fava Beans

I have never seen such an infestation before.  Black aphids are not only rampant on the fava (broad) beans but also the tips of the cherry branches:

All of the tips of the cherry tree branches are infested

Then I examined the plum tree and aphids are going wild on that one:

Green Aphids on Plum Tree

And I found an entire army of winged aphids on one leaf, ready to take flight and find some other innocent plant to colonize.

Winged Aphids on Plum Leaf

There are also aphids on a few of the Granny Smith apple tree tips, but oddly, nothing on the other two apple trees.

Ants farming the aphids on the Granny Smith apple tree

But it's not all doom and gloom.  There are a few baby apples on both the Granny Smith and the Haralson tree.  This will potentially be our first harvest from these trees, so fingers crossed that we are able to pick them before an apple swiping/infesting critter beats us to it:

Haralson apple

I also saw a TON of ladybug larva on the plum tree - hurray for the good guys!

Enjoy the all-you-can-eat buffet, my friend :)

(5) Plum Curculio

Our late spring frost did a number on the five-in-one plum tree and the two varieties that bloomed earlier have, as expected, only set a few plums.  The other part of the tree that bloomed later, however, is loaded with plums...and that is where our pest story continues.  Many of the plums are showing evidence of being infested with the plum curculio:

A crescent shaped mark - I think of it as a mushroom -
means that this plum is infested with plum curculio larva

Last year there was also evidence of them, but the year before (after a super cold winter), we had zero issues.  There are a couple of organic controls that I'm hoping to try next spring, including using Surround which is basically kaolin clay sprayed on to form a protective barrier.

(6) Colorado Potato Beetle

I found my first every potato beetle on a volunteer potato plant on the hilltop.  No photo op there, however - I didn't want to chance losing it while I got the camera, so it was a quick squish.  Good thing I only found one as I don't really have the stomach for the squishing method of pest control.

(7) Leek Moth

The garlic scapes are just coming up and there is evidence of leek moth* damage on them:

Leek moth* damage

This also happened last year but I was still able to harvest a good quantity of scapes as the damage was usually confined to the top bit which was easily cut off.  The larva didn't affect the garlic bulbs at all and the onion beds are covered with netting for this very reason - to minimize leek moth* damage.

(8)  Ticks

And lastly, not a plant pest but a human one, this is turning out to be a very bad tick year.  In the past, I may find one or two the entire season, but this year I've already found a few in the house, likely hitchhikers on our clothes, and one on me (yuck!).

Considering how early it is in the season, I'm sure that I'll be finding a few more pests to complain about in the months to come.  I'm convinced that our mild winters in the past couple of years have contributed to the pest fest and I'm only hoping that it doesn't get worse.  Would I prefer going back to -40C/F winters so that some of these pests don't make it to spring?  Yes, please - bring it on!

*I originally thought that the alliums were being attacked by onion maggots but have subsequently realized that, in fact, I was dealing with leek moths so have adjusted this post accordingly.


  1. Wow, you are really getting hit hard by insect pests this year. I raise rabbits for meat and am surprised that they would eat the pepper plants since any solanacae does not agree with them. Maybe it will give them indigestion and they will leave it alone in the future. Now the strawberries I would be worried about. . . The wild rabbits around here rarely go into the beds except to eat beet greens. The thought of beets must overcome all fears.

    My apple trees got an aphid infestation several years ago. I sprayed them twice with pyrethins and it finally went away. Killing the ants was the key. Since then I've sprayed every March with horticultural oil, just when the first buds go silver, and haven't had them since. Good luck.

    1. Well, if they did get indigestion, that didn't stop them from coming back for more! I really wish our wild bunnies were more like yours - it would be wonderful not to have chicken wire all over the place. It's not only unattractive but inconvenient as you have to use an "entrance" to access the garden instead of just walking up to a bed.

      That's a good bit of advice on the horticultural oil - I've made a note of that and will give it a go next year.

  2. Crikey you really do have armies of pests out to get your plants. No mention of slugs and snails our number one pest.

    1. We do have slugs, but they are not that bad yet. I have a feeling they got to a few of my tatsoi and komatsuna seedlings but I'm not 100% sure. **Usually** slugs don't do much damage in the spring/early summer but they can be bad later in the season - NOT looking forward to that!

  3. It looks like the rabbits and insects are terrible this year. It's very early in the season for all this. With your plants behind from the very late spring, it's probably doing more damage than it normally would.

    I've had a rabbit before in the garden, but the plants were already big and it was just eating fruits rather than the plants. Aphids are terrible this year, I have to wonder if they spread diseases as well.

    1. Agreed - it is MUCH too early to be dealing with all these issues! And I think you are right in that most things were small to start. My peppers and eggplant, however, were the best transplants I had ever grown, so it was doubly disappointing when they got to them.

  4. If I didn't know better I would say that you were right next door. Rabbits, sowbugs, birds, and aphids (and rodents) are the top troublemakers in my garden. Dance for joy if you don't have rats and mice munching on your veggies. I hope you got all the gaps in your fence, those damn rabbits are so destructive and persistent. The rest of the pests can be dealt with fairly effectively. Good luck!

    1. Thanks Michelle. Oy, rats and mice...I would probably give up at that point! Funny how one of the reasons I didn't put corn in was so that I didn't have to deal with the added stress of something getting to it and here I am having that very issue with ton of other crops.

  5. The 'pests' do seem worse this year. In my area it is the perfect storm of a pretty wet spring followed by heat and humidity. The ticks, mosquitoes and chiggers are especially bad this year. I'm thankful for lady beetles and all the other beneficial insects that keep it all in check. But those bunnies, ugh!

    1. It's so discouraging to plant those little seedlings full of promise only to have them munched to the ground. It figures, doesn't it, that they don't do the same to the weeds - I definitely wouldn't mind a bindweed munching rabbit!

      I was so happy when I saw the lady beetle larva, especially in those numbers. Hopefully they grow quickly, spread their wings and start feasting on the aphids in the other parts of the garden.

  6. Yes, the garden pests are so challenging! I wouldn't take the -40F/C temps, but a few days of -20F/-29C in January, followed by milder, snowy weather would be fine. I just walked out to the garden today and saw a huge, developing colony of ants. A few ants are awesome, but when they stream through the garden beds... Argh, is right!

    1. Ha...I know you don't like those super cold temps! Oh, a colony of ants are certainly an "argh!" moment, especially when they are the biting kind :(

  7. I think between them they've got your whole crop covered, fingers crossed that you win the war. There's a problem if there's more than one rabbit around, they breed like, well, rabbits!

    1. It certainly seems that most every crop is being affected in one way or another - so frustrating! In our area, there is an inverse relationship between the number of rabbits and the number of coyotes. Bunnies are cute but with the damage they've done to the garden this year, I don't feel too bad in saying that what we need now is an uptick in the coyote population.

  8. I agree wholeheartedly with you. I just have the small courtyard but the aphids keep at my beans or at least I think that is what it is unless I keep putting Neem on them. Hubby put a board across the bottom of our gate and so far the bunnies don't seem to have gotten in! Good luck to you! Nancy

    1. Thanks Nancy - I need all the luck I can get this year! If the pests on your beans are tiny and black, they may very well be aphids...I think they are even called "Black Bean Aphids!". Oddly enough, they only seem to go to the fava beans around here and not the other beans we grow, which I find rather strange.

  9. The constant aggravation for the gardener...those darn pests!! We have had a family of both coons and possums in the garden and they just about had all my strawberries. Those critters climb! Also the turtles. I remove them and walk them down the road and then speak to them sharply!! It takes a while but here they are back at it! Argh! is right!

    1. Oh no! I can't even imagine the aggravation with possums and raccoons - you would need a sturdy and tall barrier to keep those guys out! Turtles is a new one - They seem like such timid creatures, I'm surprised they are back after the stern chastising ;)

  10. Oh my, you certainly have some challenges this year. I am not sure if I am just delayed or have not noticed, but none of those will be a surprise for me ... except the potato bug as I've not seen that around here at all.

    I have a rabbit that I see very often these days but it seems to enjoy non-veggie plants so far (keeping my fingers crossed).

    And I have a 5 in 1 plum tree that I planted last year and no signs at all of any fruit so maybe it needs another year to mature. My previous plum trees were all destroyed by Japanese beetles and I fear the same demise for this latest tree.

    1. Yes, the Japanese beetles do a number on the plum trees, don't they. Each year I vow that I'll get out there and pick them off early in the season but end up procrastinating and then the tree is covered.

      I think my tree took at least a couple of years to start producing, so I'm not surprised that yours didn't fruit this year. In fact, the middle section of the tree is fruiting for the first time this year. I lost the tag long ago so it will be interesting to see what type of plum it is.

  11. Oh dear, sounds like you could write the gardener's version of the Book of Job. Very aggravating! I hope that your excess of pests will bring lots of predators in their wake.

    1. Let's hope that's the case - we need a few coyotes and LOTS of hungry ladybugs!

  12. Oh, that is too bad about the rabbits munching. They can do a lot of damage for sure. Before I replaced the fencing around our main garden I had one trapped INSIDE the garden. I couldn't get it to leave - why should it? It ate countless plants before it finally left. Aphids and sowbugs are no strangers around here either. And ticks, I've had one on me already too, a deer tick at that.

    1. A deer tick - yikes! Yes, the rabbits are, by far, the biggest issue this year - I have since discovered a few more holes in my fencing (where are they coming from - rabbits can't chew through chicken wire, can they???) that I've had to plug up and many of my bean plants are leafless now. And the bunny count keeps going up too - the other day I counted 3 in my the same time! Ugh!!


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