Thursday, May 26, 2016

Trap Plants

Leaf-footed bug on giant sunflower
We discovered more bugs in the garden on Wednesday and learned something  about trap plants.  Extension agents Trevor Hylton, Mark Tancig and Horticultural Assistant Kelly Thomas joined us in the garden.  We identified and removed a few Army Worms and Leaf Footed Bugs from various vegetables.  The infestation was light for this time of year, particularly after the mild winter we experienced.  One reason may be trap plants.

Laurie has planted giant sunflowers around the garden, and we have left some other plants that appeared attractive to bugs as evidenced by their leaves.  We have a Pokeweed in the perennial area that looks like lace.  No other plant in the garden has been so well-liked by munching pests.  We haven't identified the culprits yet, but we are happy to furnish them an alternate menu.

Bug-eaten pokeweed
We removed army worms from several plants including one that was feasting on a young eggplant.  Army worms are the larvae of a grayish brown moth which sometimes has distinctive spots on it's wings.  The most common are the Fall Army Worm (which is evident in all seasons), and the Southern Army Worm.  They eat plant leaves and bore into fruit.  The greenish or light-colored eggs are laid in clusters on the underside of leaves.  A layer of scales is deposited among and over the eggs giving them a fuzzy or moldy appearance.  Bt, Horticultural oil sprays and Neem oil are somewhat effective as well as hand picking where practical.    Natural predators are birds and other insects, including a number of wasps.  See more about army worms at

Army worm on eggplant
Hole where Army worm was removed
Our best discovery was multiple leaf-footed bugs and their nymphs on our first giant sunflower bloom.  We only found a few of the adults on our other plants, but the sunflower was bug city.  We thought about killing them with insecticide, but not many work on leaf-footed bugs, and there was concern about the bees which frequent our garden.  Then Mark asked if we had tried shaking them off.  Well that was just too simple.
We added a couple of tablespoons of dishwashing liquid to a few inches of water in a bucket, held the flower head over the bucket, tapped it vigorously, and bugs and nymphs fell into the soapy water, never to plague us again.  We're sure there are plenty others lurking in the vegetable plants, but we interrupted the life cycle of those we found.  See more about leaf-footed bugs in our previous post. 

Nymphs of leaf-footed bugs on Giant Sunflower


  1. Thanks so much for the pest posts (ha, try saying that three times!). Very informative and now I know what to look for in my garden. I'm getting some great ideas for plantings next year and making notes in my journal. This is the only blog I've been able to find for North Florida gardening. Would love to see more photographs of the gardens to compare with my own. Thanks again for the information!

  2. Glad the 'Pest Posts' are helpful. Will try to remember to post more good pix, not just problems.

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  4. So glad you like it. Thanks for letting us know.