Pests, Root Disease and Fungi Recap: The good, the bad and, well, mostly the bad


Bugs, disease and fungi are the bane of any gardener, a never ending threat to plants’ health and destructive force of nature. It’s no use preachingcleanliness, because even in the most sterile environment, these buggers can creep in and create havoc.


There are plenty of “bad” bugs, so many it’s a task just listing them. On the flip side, there are “good” bugs to keep the “bad” ones in check. Then there’s fungi and diseases that can take hold and potentially devastate crops given the right circumstances and environment. So we spent the month of June focusing on such problems in hopes of alleviating some of the pains of growing. Here’s a recap:


Fungus Gnats, Spider Mites, Aphids and Thrips: Some of the most common pests, they can eat plant roots, suck plant juice, leave behind their excrement and destroy lives (plants’, that is).
Snails, Slugs and Caterpillars: Slimy, crunchy and crawly, they eat leaves and vegetation. The caterpillars leave behind feces and the snails and slugs leave behind trails.

Nematodes and Whiteflies: These root destroyers (nematodes) are so tiny they’re nearly impossible to see with the naked eye. But the whiteflies are easily detectable by simply shaking the branches — if they’re present, they’ll fly or fall off.

Leaf Miners and Mealybugs: Leaf miners make their homes inside leaves and “€œmine”€ out nutrients in a white, outlined path. Mealybugs live in colonies on stem joints, suck juice from plants and are distinguished by fuzzy, white buildup around the stems and leaf nodes.


Ladybugs and Pirate Bugs: These good critters are cute and helpful. Ladybugs love eating bad bugs like aphids, mealybugs, scale bugs and mites. Pirate bugs’ sharp, needle-like beaks are known for sucking prey dry, especially spider mites, aphids, thrips, whiteflies, small caterpillars and insect eggs.


Stingless Wasps and Praying Mantis Eggs: The “stingless wasp” is a natural parasite that can kill more than 200 types of caterpillars. Praying mantis are best for killing aphids and other small insects; they are patience creatures that will wait for hours at at time for an insect to wander by.


Root Rot and Blight: Usually caused by overwatering, oxygen deprivation or fungus-infected soil, severe cases of root rot can wipe out a plant. But if detected early on, recovery is possible. Blight is a general term to describe a variety of diseases caused by fungus.


Powdery Mildew and Gray Mold: One of the oldest plant diseases on record, powdery mildew creates patches of white to gray powder on plant leaves, stems, flowers or fruit. Gray mold is one of the worst fungal diseases, as it destroys all matter it comes in contact with and can invade nearly every plant part.