Rachel H Kay Blog

Major Pests Identified & How To Deal With Them

Ever since I first started gardening three years ago I have come across a lot of different bugs. Some beneficial to my garden, and some which destroy, or try to destroy, my fruits and vegetables. It seems each year I deal with a new pest, but also still have to deal with some of the previous ones as well. This is the most frustrating part of gardening. I get so excited when I begin to see my plants getting bigger and growing flowers ready to begin producing fruits and vegetables. But soon after I have to become proactive in keeping the pests away to ensure I have fruits and vegetables to harvest.


If your not new to gardening then you know of one pest, the aphid, which is harmful to various vegetables and fruits. I mostly find a white aphid that looks like it has little white hairs, like this one below. It seems to really like my cantaloupe plants. I don't find a large mass of them luckily, just a few crawling around on different areas of the shoots and vines.

I'm thinking it is most related to the wooly aphid, which when in groups will look like white fuzzy stuff moving around on your plant leaves. I've seen different images of them when doing my research, such as this one below.

Of course there are different types of aphids. I've found some that are green, and look like little green specs all over the underside of my cucumber plants. They also cover up and destroy the flowers, and if I don't get to them soon enough I will have tons of female cucumber flowers and next to no male cucumber flowers to pollinate them with. Very frustrating!

In the image below you can see an example of what they look like. This is of course a very up close and personal image, so if you are looking at them on your plant leaves they will look like little green specs. But this gives you an idea at least, of what to look for. Just keep in mind that these are larva, so they will get bigger if allowed to continue to thrive.

Squash Bugs

Last year I discovered another pest that I have come to loathe more than the aphid, the squash bug. These guys are such a pain! Every morning I would go out to check on my melons and find groups of them in different areas of my plants. I would spray hot pepper spray on them, it would burn them, kill them, and later that day they would be back in large groups once again.

The worst part about these pests in particular is that their saliva that is left behind on the leaves can cause disease. My watermelon plants suffered the most. Their leaves slowly turned black and after a while I lost every watermelon plant I had. My cantaloupes weren’t affected as bad, but my watermelons, oh my poor watermelons. Can you tell I really hate squash bugs?

Look out for these pests. They are a dark orange color, with six long black legs. There are many other varieties and colors of these little pains, but this guy in the image below is what I get. Plus, they get bigger, and grow wings. So I try to kill them the best I can while they are small.

Beware of these pests! While the hot pepper spray will burn them and kill them it won’t keep new guys from coming. I did find a new recipe for another spray, but what I don’t like about it is that it has to be kept in the fridge because two of the ingredients are peppers and onions, so refrigerating this mixture will keep it from going off. But since another ingredient is soap, it thickens up a bit in the fridge. So I have to warm it up before I can put it in a spray bottle and use it or it will just clog up the spray bottle. But I've made up a batch and am going to give it a try, see how it works, and if it does work I’ll share this new pest spray recipe in a blog post.

Hot Pepper Spray

The hot pepper spray does kill them, but it doesn’t keep them away for good, you have to be proactive and check on your plants daily. For this option I use hot sauce, and the hotter the better. For a really cheap option, if you have a Joe V's Smart Shop near you, they have a 32 ounce bottle for $1.33. You also need a spray bottle, I prefer to use a 32 ounce, which you can get at Walmart for around $2.97 each. Fill the spray bottle with water, add 2 to 3 tablespoons of hot sauce, shake the bottle to mix the hot sauce with the water, label it, and go spray those pests!

Garlic Water

Another option is garlic water. It does smell quite strong, so don't accidentally spray yourself with it lol, but it does work. You need a bottle with a lid, I used an old 1 quart vinegar bottle, and some fresh garlic, not the jared stuff, the actual garlic that you have to peel yourself. Peel away a few cloves, try to get as much of the garlic peel off as you can, put a few cloves in the bottle, maybe 6-8 depending on how strong you want the water to be, then fill the bottle up with water and let it sit for a few days. Just set it to the back of your counter. After about 3 days pour the water, without the garlic cloves, into a spray bottle. I recommend doing this outside because the smell is quite strong, and it can linger if you pour the water into the spray bottle inside. After you've filled the spray bottle with the garlic water, label it, store in a cool dark place, but handy enough to get to when you start to see those pests on your plants.

Give both sprays a try and see which works best for you, but those are two of my DIY options, which are within budget, and don’t cost a lot. There are other organic options I've found in the gardening center at Walmart, but one of those options, which is an insect killing soap for around $10 for a small bottle, can get costly. Even though that small bottle can make quite a few batches because you dilute it with water, if you get a lot of pests and use it daily, you'll end up spending more money than you'd like just to keep the pests away, and you also have to be proactive and spray your plants regularly. Take your pick, but I recommend the DIY options compared to the more expensive options.

Using Essential Oils To Kill Pests

Another option that is supposed to kill pests, I say supposed to because I haven't tried it yet, but I do plan on giving it a try, is using a blend of essential oils, which will dehydrate them. Basically, they dry out. You can safely spray it on your plants to help deter and kill those nasty little buggers, by mixing liquid Castile soap with orange essential oil and cedarwood essential oil. The two essential oils mixed together will kill pretty much all pests, and the Castile soap, which is a natural soap, will stick to the plant leaves, and the bugs, so the essential oils can do their thing. Also, on the plus side, if you have an issue with roaches, this mixture will kill them as well so you don’t have to keep using more poisonous options such as Raid.

To make this mixture you use ¼ cup of Castile soap, such as lavender, peppermint, citrus, tea tree, or eucalyptus and pour it into a spray bottle. I found some inexpensive Castile soap at Walmart made by Equate. It's a 16 fl. oz. bottle, so you'll get a few uses out of that one bottle. This is pure Castile soap, and only costs $7.48. Compared to other more expensive options, this is a great deal.

After you've added the Castile soap to your spray bottle you then add 1 teaspoon of each of the essential oils. I found good deals on essential oils on Amazon, Sweet Orange (Large 4 ounce) Best Essential Oil, and Cedarwood (2 fl oz) Best Essential Oil - 2 ounces (59ml) for pretty cheap, and not in those under 1 ounce bottles either. If you'd like to save some money and be able to make a lot of batches of this spray at half the cost I recommend you click those links. Plus if you have an Amazon Prime account you get free two day shipping.

Now all you have to do is fill the bottle with filtered water to the 32 ounce marker. Shake up the bottle to mix, and there you go! Label it, store the bottle in a cool, dark cabinet when not in use. Most of my bottles are under my kitchen sink. Then when you begin to see pests in your garden, spray those suckers!

UPDATE: I finally got the essential oils I needed and gave this spray a try, and I must say it works brilliantly! It killed the aphids and squash bugs within seconds. The smaller the bug the faster they dehydrate. It does take some time and a few sprays on larger bugs, such as stink bugs, which I had to spray twice, and they took a couple minutes to finally dry out. I also tried it on roaches, which we seem to get in the summer, and well, it took even longer the bigger they were, and a few sprays that were more scary to get the guts to do. They creep me out lol. But this spray works. Just keep in mind the bigger the bug, the longer it will take to dehydrate them.

If you've tried any of the Do It Yourself ideas mentioned in this article, or have any other ideas you'd like to share, let me know in the comments below.

Update - Assassin Bugs

If you see these guys in your garden don't kill them. They are assassin bugs, which are beneficial and should be encouraged in your garden. They prey upon aphids, leafhoppers, insect eggs, larvae, boll weevils and many others. In the image above this assassin bug isn't full grown yet. In my area, zone 9, as adults they are still orange with black legs, sometimes with black on the edges of their bodies. Also, a lot of the adults I've seen have wings as well. I usually see the small bugs in large groups on my cucumber and cantaloupe plants. I have trouble with aphids on those plants, so I assume the baby assassin bugs are attracted because of the aphids. There are around 150 species, which does make it difficult to identify which one is in your region, but if you do a Google search for "assassin bug" you'll be able to see images of a lot of the different species, as well as read different articles about them. For more information about assassin bugs see this article.

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About Me

Hi there. I'm Rachel Kay, a Web Developer, Illustrator, & Designer, whose hobby is to be creative and artistic, while freelancing as a Web Developer building creative, modern websites.