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A Short List of North American Insects That Are a Threat to the Ecosystem and Your Garden

Updated on June 21, 2017
Damaged Grape Plants
Damaged Grape Plants | Source

A War Against Wildlife to Preserve Wildlife

I live on a decent-sized plot of land, about two or three acres, with my mom, dad, and brother. My mom comes from a home that was for a time located on a small farm where she and her sisters cared for livestock. She is not an expert in the field of botany, however, she does know a great deal about a variety of produce plants as well as flower garden plants. And her love for watching things grow has rubbed off on my brother and me.

In the many years we two have been assisting with the gardens and lawn maintenance, we have had many encounters with creatures trying to steal or ruin the fruits of our work as it were. And what I have learned is that it seems that diseases, animals, and practically every scum of the Earth want to get the plants or their fruit.

Some naturally-occurring ailments, such as molds, can be remote and be primarily confined to certain local areas or regions. Then there are the animals, like the raccoons, skunks, and deer, that enjoy tearing and uprooting many plants. If you look closely enough at the photo of the grapevines above you can see the sunlight streaming in through the holes in the leaves. These holes were cut out by hungry insects. Between all of the creatures out to get your plants, it is like fighting a constant battle with Nature. Insects are perhaps the most persistent and ever-growing population of garden pests. Here is a list of just a few of the most-damaging bugs you are likely to see in the garden.

Caterpillars

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These insects, which come in a wide variety of sizes, colors, and designs are notorious for their large appetites and extensive consumption (destruction) of leaves. They can be pests, but they can also be used to an agricultural advantage. Caterpillars are sometimes used to temper the growth of undesirable plants, like weeds.

God created most of these crawlers with body colors complimentary to the hues of the plants on which they feed, allowing them to be camouflaged from predators. So you might see your vegetable garden deteriorating by the day but not find the caterpillar culprits. Some predatory caterpillars feed on aphids or ant larvae. Most herbivorous caterpillars can only eat a single species of plant, but others have been known to consume a number of different flora.

Tomato Worm Caterpillar - A Rather Large Garden Pest
Tomato Worm Caterpillar - A Rather Large Garden Pest | Source

As if damaging plant life was not aggravating enough, some caterpillars also inflict painful wounds to humans if they come in contact with someone's bare skin or decide to bite someone.

Gypsy Moths

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As we all know, caterpillars grow and eventually transform into butterflies or moths through the process of metamorphosis. One of the most harmful plant-destroying species, both as a larva (caterpillar) as well as an adult, is the Gypsy Moth. These formidable little herbivores, accidentally first carried to the U.S. in 1869 to New England, have the capability to wipe out entire arborous populations. Gypsy Moths are known to feed on about 500 different species of trees and shrubs across North America, doing the most damage to foliage in the Spring.

Mexican Bean Beetles

There are more types of beetles than any other animal in the world. Somewhat resembling the Ladybug Beetle, the Mexican Bean Beetle is found in Mexico as well as in most of the states of the U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains. The northern limit of its distribution seems to be southern Canada and New England. These insects attack the leaves, flowers, and pods of bean plants, both as larvae as well as adults. In some cases, these bugs are responsible for the entire destruction of blossoms and bean pods.

Asian Longhorn Beetles

Also known as Starry Sky Beetle, the Asian Longhorn was first found breeding in the states in the mid-1990's. It has no natural predators here in the U.S. that scientists are aware of. The Asian Longhorn Beetle has been found in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Ohio. The boring insect is primarily a threat to various trees including maple, birch, elm, willow, horse chestnut, and Ohio buckeye.

Japanese Beetles

Japanese Beetles on a Raspberry Plant in My Backyard
Japanese Beetles on a Raspberry Plant in My Backyard | Source

Last but certainly not least on this list is the Japanese Beetle. This insect is definitely out to get your garden plants. The larvae are fond of grass roots in addition to other garden plant roots, and the adults love feeding on roses, shrubs, fruit, corn, soybeans, asparagus, apple trees, cherry trees, peach trees, several maple trees, and shade trees. That is quite a long list of common and plentiful food options for the Japanese Beetle. The good news is: there are actually a few plants which they shun and which can deter them; such specimens include ash trees, dogwood, boxwood, magnolia, red maple, northern red oak, potatoes, tomatoes, and turnips. Also, Japanese Beetles usually stay clear of germanium plants, since germaniums can be fatal to them.

Japanese Beetles on One of Their Victimized Leaves
Japanese Beetles on One of Their Victimized Leaves | Source
Leaves of an Oak Tree Damaged by Pests
Leaves of an Oak Tree Damaged by Pests | Source

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