Tell Me About Harmful Insects in Phx

MissionGardens(8)March 25, 2011

I'm still new to gardening in this area, and am wondering about what insects to watch out for in the desert. I'm somewhat familiar with the general list of harmful insects, but clueless as to which ones survive in the desert.


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Harmful to ...? There's bees and wasps but they aren't harmful to plants. There's aphids, thrips and leafrollers which aren't welcome in my roses. Ants aren't welcome anywhere. All of them are food for beneficial insects and birds, though, so most of them are allowed in my gardens but not the house.

I don't like cicadas. They're noisy and the cats like to drag them in late at night and play with them.... in the dark, sometimes when I'm alone. Some folks have Palo Verde beetles which sound scary but I've lived down here for 25+ years and still haven't seen one. Of course, I don't have any Palo Verde trees so maybe that's why. I don't have scorpions, black widows, tarantulas, rattlesnakes or any of the other notorious desert dwellers but none of them are, technically, insects.
What kind of insect are you expecting to find?

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 8:45PM
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White flies, stink bugs, horn worms, aphids, squash bugs, cut worms. I've actually had less bad bugs since I stopped using any type of bug spray or killer. I don't even use organic stuff except maybe soapy water. Mostly just IPM. And BT if indicated.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2011 at 12:27AM
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mangledmind(AZ 9B)

Black Widows, Scorpions, Brown Recluse

    Bookmark   March 27, 2011 at 9:54AM
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Do you mean for gardening or for pets and humans?

    Bookmark   March 27, 2011 at 1:58PM
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Sorry, i meant specifically to plants (i assumed that went unsaid on a gardening forum).

tracydr, can you elaborate on what IPM and BT are? I'm not familiar with these acronyms.


    Bookmark   March 27, 2011 at 9:35PM
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BT - bacilus turigensis - it's a bacteria not a chemical. It is harmless to humans and pets, but it gives a fatal tummy ache to caterpillars. You can buy it at real nurseries(not the pretend ones). I wouldn't be without it especially in the spring when the hornwoms can make your little seedlings dissapear overnight.

let's just say that the valley is like the Mecca of pests and nasty insects. I has been pretty bad for me since I've moved here.

Here's a partial list of some of the ones I've battled with:
grapeleaf skeletonizers - BT is the cure.
Whiteflies - These are a royal pain to deal with. I use Bayer Advanced insect control (imidacloprid)
Cucumber beetle - nasty PITA pest, pick yer poison
Aphids - tiny, but they can do a number on your garden. I've had some success with DE (Diatomaceous Earth) Last year I had a major infestation on my okra and roses)
Leaffooted bug - attacks fruits
grasshoppers - they come late in the season I haven't had much trouble from them.
Palo verde beetle - gigantic scary looking beetle. they're only harmless to the roots of palo verde trees. (June-July)
June Beetle - I haven't had much problem with these, I think they're beautiful, but they can cause damage on fruit.
Tomato hornwom - big huge caterpilar from hell. BT will fix that one.
Fire ants - They generally don't do a whole lot of damage in the garden but I hate them. painful sting.

I'm sure I forgot several, but I can't think at the moment.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2011 at 3:18PM
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I was thinking I should also mention the good guys:

Praying Mantis. Every once in a while I see one. they're my friends, and they're hillarious characters.

Lacewing - I think they also prey on aphids

Ladybugs - I buy these at Baker's nursery in the spring (1500 of them in a little mesh bag)

Carpenter bees - these are awesome pollinators. They're the big (gigantic) black bumblebee looking things you see flying around in May. They can cause harm to wooden structures, they make holes in wood. I still like them.

Other bees - pollinators are welcome at my place.

I might have missed some....

there's another new bad guy: Glassy Winged Sharpshooter
it's a carrier for several plant diseases that can wipe out oleanders, grapevines and citrus.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2011 at 3:31PM
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In the garden, as long as you don't poison the predators, there aren't many to worry about. For example: my neighbor used to panic at the sight of aphids and spray insecticide on them ALL summer. She never saw any predators.

I would see aphids and leave them alone. Within a couple of weeks, I still had aphids but I also had a healthy population of aphid eating bugs.

What do you plan on growing? We can discuss specific pests and control strategies.

My WORST garden pest: Callipepla gambelii
They can strip a lettuce bed to the nubbins in a couple of days.

Here is a link that might be useful: Callipepla gambelii

    Bookmark   March 28, 2011 at 9:27PM
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MaryMcP Zone 8b - Phx AZ

Ahhh, cute little quail birds. Didn't realize they are lettuce lovers. My small dogs love to bury their heads in my greens. Broccoli, lettuce, name the green, they'll munch on it.

My WORST garden pest are grasshoppers. grrrrrrr

    Bookmark   March 29, 2011 at 8:48AM
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More good guys....
Syrphid flies and their larvae - larvae eat aphids
Assassin bugs - predators on other insects
Robber flies - predators on other insects
Big Eyed Bug - eats aphids and whiteflies
Parasitic wasps - VERY tiny and non-stinging, they lay their eggs on aphids and whiteflies

To keep ants under control try Amdro. Its a bait that the ants take back to the colony where its shared by all. Voila - no more ants. Ants will protect aphids because they harvest the sugary 'honeydew', a kind word for aphid poop.

Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) is great because its a bacteria and only targets caterpillars. There is also a Bt for mosquitoes which can be tossed into standing water to prevent the larvae from maturing. It's safe for fish and other animals.

If you use insecticides, you'll never see the good bugs.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2011 at 12:02PM
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I panicked on Monday when i found that aphids had come in over the weekend and were coating my broccoli and my roses. So i went up to the nursery nearby and she's ordering me some ladybugs, and in the meantime she gave me some Natural Guard (the soap mixture). It seems to be working.

Let me back up a little - i'm a gardening teacher in a school. Yes, they were well aware that i knew nothing about gardening when they offered me the job, I've been learning as i go and have enjoyed the experience (which is why i was thrilled to stumble across this forum).

I have a handful of small beds. Two are flowers, one of herbs, one of "tea" herbs, and one of veggies. The veggie garden has broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, beets, corn.

I've had to fence everything off and put up bird netting, because my biggest problems at the start of the year were the quail and a very ambitious rabbit who even lopped the heads off my marigolds and ate the greens to the ground. I hated to do that because now the kids can't access anything in those beds. I do have one open bed where the roses are along with some supposedly rabbit-resistant things (so far they've been untouched). Echinacea, plumbago, living stone, agastache, an artichoke plus some seedlings that are cropping up from long-forgotten seed scatterings. I recognize the beginnings of cosmos and zinnias. The others will be surprises.

I'm reluctant to use BT now that i hear what it is, because i want Gulf Fritillaries on my passion flowers. Perfect experience for my preschoolers and kindergarteners to see the life cycle of butterflies in nature rather than in a cage in the classroom.

Hopefully the ladybugs will be in soon, and i did find a praying mantis sunning itself on a wall over my empty bed. I trapped it, spent a day showing it to the kids and explaining why we want them in our garden, and then rereleased it in the vegetable bed.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2011 at 1:23PM
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Don't kill the aphids! If there aren't enough aphids on your plants, the ladybugs will not stay there. They will not lay eggs unless the plants have enough aphids to feed their babies.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2011 at 1:49PM
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agility_mom(z9 AZ)

Dave Owens, the Garden Guy has book that came out in October about this topic. I don't have the book but maybe you could check it out at the library.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2011 at 2:05PM
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Just spray the roses off with water, IMO. My aphids were only here for a short period this year and hosing them off when I used Miracle-Gro was all I had to do. Odd weather must've taken care of them. I quit using garden pesticides a few years ago when I started getting hand tremors and prolonged respiratory problems. It took patience and I had to change some gardening practices but I win a few awards in rose shows and grow some herbs, fruit and veggies to harvest.

Use society garlic around your roses to repel aphids. I suppose garlic chives or other garlic-type edible will work, too. Rabbits don't cross mature sweet white alyssum in the church rose garden and they aren't crazy about lavender or rosemary but don't use invasive trailing rosemary near other plants, of course. A lot of flowering plants encourage bees and some of your students may be scared to get very close to the plants.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2011 at 6:17PM
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I had some aphids on my brussel sprouts(probably aphids, newbie here. they were like grayish stuff on the inside of folded up leaves.) I didn't have any Ivory soap, so I just squirted some dish detergent in some water and sprayed them with that. There were fewer today so I did it again.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2011 at 9:48PM
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I have a strange worm like trail coming up on my lima bean leaves. Does anyone know what that is? Is it bad??


    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 7:36PM
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I moved here from Calif.and I have to tell you there are more bugs here then I have ever seen and some are pretty strange looking. They are either eating every vegtable plant, grass, rose or tree or bitting and stinging you. I guess its the nice warm winters. There is always a trade off.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 7:22PM
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Can anyone tell me what the little green flying/hopping things are? They look like microscopic bright green grasshoppers. I can't tell if they're there to eat the aphids and whiteflies (which I do have) or if they're helping them! Either way, I'm losing some of my lettuce plants and want to stop the invasion if I can. But as I'm brushing off aphids and shaking off whiteflies, should I be squashing these green things, too, or are they helpers? I can't find a pic online...

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 11:09AM
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As agility mom stated Phoenix local Dave Owens, "The Garden Guy," has a 2010 book out on this very subject specifically for the southwest: "The Garden Guy's Southwest Bug Guide." I find it frequently in the garden section of HD, Lowes, Ace, Walmart, Target and local nurseries.

sales pitch: Organic gardening has been a lifetime passion for Dave Owens, The Garden Guy. He has written two best-selling books, "Extreme Gardening: How to Garden Organically in the Hostile Desert" and "The Garden Guy: A Seasonal Guide to Organic Gardening in the Desert Southwest."

Like the Garden Guy's previous books, the "Southwest Bug Guide" is written with the Desert Southwest's hostile environment in mind, but the information and remedies are effective in any locale. This is an everyday gardener's manual to help identify and control pests the natural (organic) way. Not only keeping Mother Earth safe, but our homes, families, pets and wildlife. Let's all stop using toxic poisons that destroy our environment.
FN: The truth is Phoenix has few bug or disease problems---it is too dry. What is present eats a bit and then gets eaten. Or the eater turns into a beneficial. Either way it seems to me not worth bothering with unless it dramatically effects yield or wholesomeness/appearance of fruit. If it just eats some leaves can't we all just get along?

Here is a link that might be useful: Amazon link to book

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 7:48PM
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Pagancat(Phoenix, AZ)

Campv, really? You oughta try on Tennessee for a summer - chiggers, ticks, fleas, velvet ants, mosquitoes, wasps ... and that's just the human attackers. The plants have much, much more to deal with. The one good thing is that the ants here don't bite.

Jeff - google "lacewings" and see if that's what you're talking about -?

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 9:06PM
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pagancat, yes, we do see lacewings too, but that's not what I was asking about. These bugs are the same color, but the wings are much smaller/barely visible and the body is shorter.

And the ants here DO bite -- those tiny ones are horrible. You may not have them in your yard, but they are at every park/playground I've been to here in Tucson. Painful.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 5:02PM
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haname(z9 AZ NE Phoenix)

BugGuide.Net can ID all sorts of things for you, if you can post a picture.

Here is a link that might be useful: BugGuide.Net

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 9:03PM
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The closest I could guess would be a type of leaf hopper. Do ladybugs take care of them too? I think they and the white flies are the worst offenders so far.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2012 at 11:54PM
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Jeff, maybe you have baby grasshoppers. They start out tiny.
We also have tiny ants, I think maybe desert fire ants? They bite horribly! I hate them! And some sort of any that farms aphids on my long beans and southern peas. Hate those, too!

    Bookmark   April 6, 2012 at 1:30PM
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