Managing Yard Pests

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Manage gardens and landscapes by using cultural and mechanical methods that enhance natural enemy effectiveness. Grow diverse plant species and tolerate low populations of plant-feeding insects and mites so that some food is always available to retain predators and parasites. Plant a variety of sequentially flowering species to provide natural enemies with nectar, pollen, and shelter throughout the growing season.


Sometimes tolerance is the key – this grasshopper has eaten a little of the flower, but there are plenty more for us to enjoy.

Interest in exploring alternative pest control measures has increased due to environmental and food safety concerns. A variety of "organic" pest control methods are available for many plants commonly grown in Kansas. These methods require regular observations, familiarity with the life cycle of the different pests, and timely, appropriate, and sometimes tedious action.

Remember, pesticides are just one of the many options available to effectively manage pests. Before resorting to use of any pesticide or control measure, consult the checklist of good gardening practices. By first adopting these practices, you can greatly reduce or eliminate the need for pesticide and control measures.

Use resistant varieties.

Become familiar with plants adapted to Kansas growing conditions that have few pest problems. If you have a plant that is afflicted with the same insect or disease every year, consider replacing it with another variety or type of plant. Some recommended plants for Kansas can be found in the Right Plant, Right Place section.

Check your plants.

Check the undersides of leaves. Discover any symptoms when they first develop so that they can be more easily controlled.

Identify the problem.

Learn the weaknesses in the pests' life cycle, their habits, and at which stages they are most easily controlled. Refrain from using any pesticide until you have correctly identified a pest. Often a forceful water spray will provide some control. Thoroughly spray infested plant parts with sufficient pressure to knock pests off host, but not injure the host plant.

Use non-chemical approaches.

Spider mites and aphids are two common insects that can often be controlled with a strong spray of water. Sometimes insects and disease are localized to one branch or portion of a plant, too, so simply pruning the affected area can control the problem.

Try soaps and oils.

Horticultural oil, insecticidal soap, and other environmentally friendly pesticides generally have less residual and are less broad spectrum.

Read the label.

Under "Directions for Use" on all labels, there is a statement that says "It is a violation of Federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling." The label contains specific use requirements, rates, pests controlled, personal protective equipment, environmental hazards, etc.

Disposal of products and containers.

All labels have a general statement, "Do not contaminate water, food, or feed by storage or disposal." Each product has specific container disposal recommendations.

Spider Mites

The white speckling of the leaves is a good indication of spider mites. Shake the leaves over a blank sheet of white paper and watch for moving specks, or check with a small magnifying lens.

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