The Absolute Worst Insect Pests to Find in Your Yard


Whether you are growing food for your home — or whether you are merely trying to keep your landscaping alive and thriving — you don’t want to contend with insect pests. There are plenty of bugs that are harmless or even beneficial to the growth of your plants, but there certainly are a handful that will wreak devastation on your yard. This guide will help you identify the worst of the worst when it comes to garden insect pests, and it could help you fend them off with little damage to your plants.


Aphids are some of the first pests you learn about as a gardener. Little and green, aphids are only about one-tenth of an inch, but they suck out a plant’s sap and spread diseases fasts. The best remedy for aphids is the introduction of their nemeses, like ladybugs or lacewings.

Chinch Bugs

Because a healthy lawn helps make a garden shine, you want to avoid a chinch bug infestation, too. Like aphids, chinch bugs are terribly small, but during the late summer, you can easily recognize a swarm if patches of grass in full-sun are turning yellow and red. A smart preventative is planting a turfgrass that isn’t susceptible to chinch attacks; otherwise, you can spray nearly any insecticide to kill the creatures.


Scale might look like a fungus, but it’s actually one of a large variety of insects hiding behind a tough outer shell. It’s best to catch scale early, before the infestation is extreme; when you do, you can merely prune off any infected leaves and branches. However, if scale spreads, you can try applying a dormant oil, like neem oil, or else bringing in “good” bugs, like parasitic wasps and soldier beetles.


Cutworms get their name for their tendency to slice down seedlings, usually at the soil surface. They look like caterpillars — because they are — and they’ll only be active during springtime; by summer, they will have pupated into adult moths. You can till your soil before spring to disturb the cutworm larvae, and you can install collars around your seedlings to prevent the slicing and dicing.

Fire Ants

Most ants are beneficial or neutral, but fire ants eat germinating seeds and tunnel into fruits and veggies. Worst of all, they’ll bite and sting you if you get too close. There are a few ways to get rid of fire ants, but the most effective is pouring insecticide down their mounds to drown them.

Potato Beetles

Potato beetles are small, yellow-and-black-lined beetles that lay eggs on various crops — not just potatoes. All nightshade crops are affected, to include eggplants, peppers, tomatoes and potatoes. Every generation of the beetle, from larvae to adult, feeds on every part of the crops where they hatched. It’s possible to crush eggs by hand, but again, installing ladybugs and similar predators is a good way to decimate unwanted insect populations.

Tomato Hornworms

Hornworms also target nightshades, but they look like bright green caterpillars. You can kill larvae by tilling the soil before and after the season, and you can introduce wasps to your garden, which love to feed on hornworms.

Bean Leaf Beetles

As potato beetle to potatoes, so bean leaf beetles to beans. Bean leaf beetles range in color and markings, but their damage is unmistakable: any legume will have round holes in the foliage and dishearteningly stunted growth. You can catch adult beetles feeding in the afternoon and kill them in soapy water. In the future, try to plant peas and beans later in the season to avoid the beetles at their hungriest, in early spring.

Cucumber Beetles

As you might now expect, cucumber beetles prefer to feed on cucumbers, as well as all other cucurbits, like melons, squash and gourds. These beetles come in both striped and spotted varieties typically with yellowish bodies. Unfortunately, the damage caused by the feeding pales in comparison to the vine wilt spread by these menaces. You should strive to keep your crops as healthy as possible to resist disease — or better yet, you should plant resistant varieties, like Gemini cucumbers and Blue Hubbard squash.

Squash Bugs

Squash bugs suck the sap out of cucurbits, creating yellowing, dead spots on foliage as well as withering vines. These bugs are black or dark brown and flat with wings; if you look close, you might see yellow or orange stripes. Keeping your garden beds clean of leaf litter throughout fall and winter is a good way to discourage infestations. You can also catch unwary squash bugs underneath trap boards.

Cabbage Worms

Another caterpillar, these worms damage cabbage crops (to include kale, cauliflower and broccoli) during seedling and early head growth stages, damaging proper formation of the crop. You should protect the plants with row coverings and spray BTK (a caterpillar pesticide) twice per season.

There are uncountable legions of garden pests eager to enjoy the fruits of your labor — but you can keep them all at by with proper preparation and diligent administration.

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