24 Bad Bugs: America's Most Wanted

Find out which of these pests do the most damage in the garden and how to identify them.

Related To:

Photo By: Julie Martens Forney

Photo By: Image courtesy of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company Slide Set, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, Bugwood.org

© National Gardening Association

© National Gardening Association

© National Gardening Association

© National Gardening Association

Photo By: Julie A. Martens

Photo By: Image courtesy of Joseph Berger, Bugwood.org

© National Gardening Association

© National Gardening Association

Photo By: Julie Martens Forney

© National Gardening Association

Photo By: Image courtesy of Clemson University - USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series, Bugwood.org

© National Gardening Association

© National Gardening Association

© National Gardening Association

© National Gardening Association

Photo By: Image courtesy of USDA ARS Photo Unit, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Bugwood.org

© National Gardening Association

Photo By: Courtesy Public Health Image Library

Photo By: Image courtesy of Bob Hammon

Photo By: Image courtesy of Mick Telkamp

© National Gardening Association

Photo By: Courtesy of P. Allen Smith and Donna Evans

Japanese Beetles

Japanese beetles aren’t picky about what flowers they chew and even attack the otherwise pest-proof purple coneflower.

Cabbage Looper Caterpillar

This pest is very destructive due to its voracious consumption of plants in the cabbage family. Hand picking is one way to fight the cabbage looper. Find out more coping strategies here.

Aphids

Aphids leave a sticky substance called honeydew on plants, which can allow black fungus to grow.

Cucumber Beetle

Striped or spotted cucumber beetles like to eat melons, squash and cucumbers and can spread disease; the bacterial wilt of cucurbits.

Mealybugs

Like scale, mealybugs are members of the Homoptera order (along with aphids). Mealybugs are found in cottony clusters in the nooks and crevices of plants and feed on plant juices and can spread plant diseases.

Tomato Hornworm

Tomato hornworms (Manduca quinquemaculata) feed on tomato plants.

Slugs

Small holes in tomatoes are usually caused by slugs. The problem is, once slugs open a hole, the tomato weeps juice, and soon other critters join the party, like pill bugs, fruit flies and wasps. The wound in the fruit also invites early decay and mold. Slugs attack low-hanging fruit first, but they also slime their way up tomato vines and supports. Research slug treatments and adopt several strategies to deal with them. When tomato season is done, before frost, continue to use slug treatments to kill adult slugs before they lay eggs.

Snail

Snails like this European brown garden snail can wreak havoc on plants.

Flea Beetle

Flea beetles eat edibles like brassicas but can also attack ornamental plants in the garden.

Colorado Potato Beetle

The Colorado potato beetle, also known as the Colorado beetle, is a major pest of potato crops.

Mexican Bean Beetle Larvae

It’s vital to destroy spent vegetable crops, especially those that hosted problem pests, like Mexican bean beetles. Don’t toss these plants into a compost pile unless you know it heats enough to destroy pests and eggs. It’s safer to dispose of infested plants and fallen leaves in bags you put at the curb for garbage pick up.

Tarnished Plant Bug

This large and very diverse family of insects prefers to feed on a large number of plants including herbaceous plants, fruit trees, vegetables and flowers.

Whiteflies

Control whiteflies with one of these methods.

Earwig

Earwigs love to munch on the pretty flower petals of dahlias, clematis and chrysanthemums, among others.

Cutworm

Cutworms are the larvae of several varieties of moths and are named because they tend to feed on the stems of young plants, cutting them down.

Wireworms

Germinating seeds, roots, bulbs and tubers are the wireworm's favorite meals.

Asparagus Beetle

One of the most destructive asparagus pests the asparagus beetle destroys garden and wild asparagus plants.

RIFA--Red Imported Fire Ant

RIFA colonies develop quickly; a new colony can grow by as many as 10,000 ants in a single year.

European Corn Borer

The European corn borer has been a pest of crops in the Midwest since the Twenties and destroys a variety of crops and weeds beyond corn, including cotton, apples, soybeans, peppers and ragweed.

Yellow Dog Tick

Ticks are human pests and carry a multitude of diseases, so are best kept out of the garden.

Squash Bug

Squash bugs are among the most common and destructive pests affecting pumpkins and squash.

Carpenter Ant

Carpenter ants damage wooden structures to nest within.

Corn Earworm

Found throughout North America, the corn earworm is a moth larva and a serious agricultural pest.

Leaf Roller on Canna

Leaf roller caterpillars often pupate inside canna leaves, damaging them as they begin to eat. Other leaf rollers attack fruits, ornamentals, and shrubs. If the infestation is light, squish the caterpillars inside the leaves, or unroll the leaves, remove the pests, and destroy them.