Common Spring Insect Problems in North Florida
Having a healthy landscape is a combination of locating plants where they grow best, applying best cultural practices, planting natives and cultivars that have proven to have few pest problems, and regular observation and inspection for insects and disease. Inspecting your garden for insects is the first step in learning how to identify them; it is as important to recognize the beneficial insects as it is the ones harmful to your landscape. Check at different times of day, in different weather, on different places on the plant (under leaves can be especially revealing), and for different types of plant damage.
Your county’s Extension Office can help with identification, as can the staff at Rockaway, if you bring in a sample of the insect and a description or sample of the plant damage. Once you identify a pest in your garden, learn its life cycle so you can eliminate it efficiently and with the least damage to the environment. Although insect control may be needed almost year-round in north Florida, insects most notably become a problem in the spring. Here are the more common ones you may run into this spring:
Imported Fire Ants
Treat when observed. Controls include Dr. Earths Final Stop and Bug Blaster.
Found in St. Augustine grass and Zoysia grass. Use best plant management practices (no known chemical control).
Occurs on Zoysia grass and to a lesser extent on St. Augustine grass and Bahia grass. Use beneficial nematodes and best management practices. Over-seed with an endophytic ryegrass in the fall. Marathon is a harsher product.
These occur mostly on Bahia grass in N. Florida. Best controlled by applying baits on warm days and after watering the yard thoroughly. Apply insecticides late in the day when mole crickets are closer to the surface.
Southern Chinch Bug
This is the most important pest of St. Augustine grass. All stages are present year-round in most of the state. Again, use best management practices. Big-eyed Bugs are natural predators. Some chinch bug populations have become resistant to several insecticide classes, including pyrethroids. Combination products may help to reduce resistant populations. Chinch Bug Killer with Arena and Bug Blaster are products Indicated to rid chinch bugs.
Two lined Spittlebugs
St. Augustine grass and Bahia grass. This insect is also a problem for many crops and ornamental plants. Cultural controls include removing thatch and avoiding over fertilization.
Tropical Sod Webworm
Webworms occur in most warm season turf grasses including Bahia grass, Zoysia grass and St. Augustine grass. They are active in the summer beginning about April. Treat at the first sign of damage. Bacillus thuringiensis can be used, or the chemical controls Sevin, Arena or Pyrethroids.
ORNAMENTAL AND VEGETABLE PESTS
Aphids will infest almost any type of plant. The largest numbers occur in early spring on new growth and seem to be more prevalent in the shade. A forceful stream of water or weekly applications of insecticidal soap may be all that’s needed to control. Inspect some for pin point holes in the body indicative of attack by a parasitic wasp. Avoid insecticides in this case so the parasitic wasp population can grow and control the aphids. Other controls include Dr. Earth’s Final Stop, Neem oil, and Ortho Rose Pride Insecticide.
These are prevalent on azalea, hawthorn, pyracantha, and sycamore. Use insecticidal soap, Neem oil, or Dr. Earth’s Final Stop if you don’t want to use harsher chemicals.
Azaleas, bougainvillea, ixora, holly, chrysanthemum, lantana, boxwood, saw palmetto, sabal palm, phoenix palm and coconut palm will often show signs. Damage can be noticeable but is usually not serious. If necessary, Spinosad can be used.
Common host plants are azalea, croton, coleus, cactus, rose, annuals and many foliage plants. Their life cycle requires approximately 30 days of 80-degree temperature. This is another soft bodied insect that can sometimes be controlled with insecticidal soap or Neem oil. Dr. Earth’s Final Stop or Ortho Rose Pride are other alternatives.
Scales, armored and soft
These are the most serious pests of many ornamental plants. A natural enemy is the parasitic wasp. Scales are often very persistent since their armor protects them from controls and stages of their offspring are protected underneath too. Neem oil or pyrethrins may control.
Frequently found on azalea, camellia, chrysanthemum, ligustrum, citrus, orchid, pyracantha, rose, viburnum, annuals and houseplants. They proliferate in hot, dry weather. But they have many natural enemies such as lady beetles, assassin bugs, praying mantids, predatory mites, and parasitic wasps. It is sometimes possible to purchase some of these. Use more natural controls and insecticidal soap to protect their natural enemies. If harsher controls are used, treat only the affected plants.
At their peak in spring, these eat mainly young foliage and flowers. A predator mite may be available to purchase. Use directed water sprays, insecticidal soaps, spinosad, Ortho Rose Pride, Neem Oil or a similar product.
Common on many ornamental plants such as allamanda, citrus, crapemyrtle, fern, Gerbera daisy, gardenia, hibiscus, ligustrum, viburnum, annuals, tomato, squash, cucumber, eggplant, okra, and beans. Another candidate for insecticidal soap, Neem oil or pyrethrin’s. Horticultural oil, used repeatedly over several days, is often effective.
Your landscape will benefit if you first try using less harsh controls. Beneficial insects are as susceptible to pesticides as those insects harmful to your plants. Avoid using chemicals toxic to bees and other pollinators when they are active on your plants. In general, insecticidal soaps can be effective on soft bodied insects, Neem oil is useful for pests that damage by chewing or sucking, use horticultural oil for eggs and small larvae and BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) for caterpillars.
For help with identifying your pest problems or advice about products, the staff at Rockaway will be glad to help. Give us a call at (904) 853-6572 or Send a Message Online today!