Insect Pests and how I deal with them at

Azalea House Flowering Shrub Farm. I insert pictures from the newsletter as they are taken.

Last edited Tuesday, June 23, 2015. Links at bottom. If the pictures don't open click here.

What insecticide products are carried by us (I hope) during the plant sale?

I walk among our plantings each day checking to see that the drip lines are properly alligned so that everything is being watered and fertilized. While I'm out there I look for damaged parts on plants which I usually prune off and place them in a large plastic garbage bag for burning in a burn can we keep for that purpose. In our sales area I peer nearsightedly at new growth, flower buds and the undersides of leaves. I have a small handheld pumpsprayer I carry with me filled with insecticidal soap to spray around new growth when mashing with my fingers might damage the new growth.

Aphids (click this picture for a larger version). I spray them off the foliage with a hard blast of water (blasting) or sometimes I mash the new growth where they congregate between my fingers (mashing aphids too). Usually I dont see aphids much because they are such a good source of vitamins for my beneficial insects (just call them Ben). In our sales area I spray with insecticidal soap ( we sell it to in large concentrated containers only) using a hose end sprayer.

Thrips. Ben takes care of these for me too (lacewings). Otherwise I remove affected blossoms and drop them into a nice hot fire.

Spider mites. Blasting works though I dont see them much. In a worst case scenario I might resort to spraying with neem oil (havn't yet). In the sales area I use Neem 3 in 1 (check the link above on what insecticides we sell).

Scale. I scrape them off with a stick and drop them in the fire.

Cane borers. Find their holes and stick a pin in mashing them. You can also prune the affected stem back to healthy pith, then stick a thumbtack in (the brightly colored head attracts me back for another look but the metal head does a good job of keeping the borers out.

Caterpillars. Hand pick and drop them in a fire. Mashing works well too. Some people use BT (Bacillus thuriengensis) but I think its used to readily. Keep things like that for when nothing else works or your likely to develop a resistant population (resistant populations check below) that nothing works against. In our sales area I spray with insecticidal soap ( we only sell it in large containers of concentrate ).

Rose midges. New growth shrivels and blackens, remove affected plant parts and burn them. Remove litter and other material from around the plant (and burn it). Because this insect pupates in the soil the laying down of black plastic on that soil can disrupt their lifecycle.

Japanese Beetles ( Beatles ). Mash em. Or hold a can of soapy water under where they are and tap the branch, theyll usually fall in and drown. Later I screen them out and burn em. Then I reuse the soapy water. Lots of people just leave these cans filled with dead japanese beetles lying around for someone else to clean up. In the sales area I use Neem 3 in 1 (check the link above on what insecticides we sell) sprayed with a hose end sprayer.

Methods used at the farm:

Blasting-removal with a hard jet of water from your hose.

Mashing-smashing them between your fingers.

Ben-beneficial insects.

Scraping-Scrape them off with a stick.

Suffocation-Often an insect somewhere in its lifecycle will return to the soil and dig in. The application of a plastic barrier on the surface of the soil at certain times of the year can make life difficult for them.

Burning-always be sure that there are no flamable materials around your burn can. Next, never leave it unattended (this is only to burn affected plant parts and the insects themselves) one of those nice outside fireplaces works great and you can hang around and have a cup of java.


Japanese Beatles: I remove flowers from plants I am growing on (it promotes further growth, cuts back on beatles, and is least invasive. Plants will often flower again within 4 weeks when beatles are no longer evident.). I apply milky spore disease to the ground in order to keep my local population under control (milky spore works in any climate where the soil temperatures go above 70 degrees F during summer). Neam Oil can encourage beatles not to stay long and often when they fly away they act as though they are drunk (Beatles should not drink and fly) they fly into walls, fall out of the air etc. You can put a small amount of keroseen (safer to use soapy water ) into a cofee can, then go around knocking the beatles in. Later I pour the mixture into prunings which I burn in our chiminea. Dont pour onto already burning fires or you may self-immolate (not fun). Japanese beetles have been siad to have a fatal attraction to larkspur.


Lilac borers tunnel under the bark and into the wood, girdling stems and causing leaves to wilt. The white caterpiller is about 3/4 of an inch long. A clear winged moth emerging in spring lays its eggs on wounded places in the bark. At Azalea House, I examine the stems of my lilacs in March and April before leaves emerge. Stems that are larger than 2 inches in diameter are removed (to the ground) and burned. I look for sawdust throughout the year at the base and upon finding the holes they have drilled I insert a straightened paper clip, mashing them in the tunnel. I am careful not to damage stems which would give the worm access.

Lilac Leafminer mines and rolls the leaves. Bushes may apear as if they are scorched. Remove rolled leaves and burn them.

We keep a chimenea on our patio and its perfect for burning the cut up prunings. A larger fireplace may be necessary when you have larger plantings.

Leafminers hatch from their eggs in september, dropping to the ground in order to make cells in the ground to overwinter in. A plastic mat at this time can make life difficult for the little buggers.

Oystershell scale is called that because the shell that covers the insect look like miniature oysters about 1/8 of an inch long colored black to ash gray. The scales overwinter in the eggstage (white to yellow in color) attached to twigs. One generation per year devitalizes the plant by sucking its juices. I scrape the scale off the stems with a stick and burn them. A dormant oil can be aplied before the plants bud, smothering the scale.


Wireworms are the larvae of a family of beetles called variously click-beetles or skip jacks. They grow up to 1.5 inches and feed underground on roots and stems. Damage is more prevalent where the soil has been recently covered with grass or in areas of poor drainage. Often you can remove much of the problem by tilling every week for 5 or 6 weeks thus regularly turning the soil over and exposing the wireworms to be fed upon by birds and other insects. Otherwise these critters have been known to take 3 years to go from the egg to the beetle stage, feeding voraciously all that time. Set traps for the wire worms by cutting potatoes in half, cutting out eyes so they dont grow, push a stick through and then bury the potato about one inch under ground with the sticks sticking up in the air, then pull them out after a few days (This is for Pete) and burn-em.

Resistant Populations are what happens when you try to totally erradicate a particular insect. What you end up with is a group of insects that survived whatever poisons you used and now will breed together to produce a super insect that nothing can control. One of the ways to keep this from happening is plant a wild green space on the property line using wild grape, Queen Anns Lace and other weeds that insects like to eat. Bird houses can be added too. Dont spray this area with insecticide! If a resistant population of Super insects forms elsewhere they will interbreed with the more mundane insects in your hedgrow (the greenspace) and their children will be born without their super powers. The hedgerow also acts as a buffer between you and other properties and as a trap for japanese beetles (use milky spore within the greenspace).

Home Email me