Three Utah Pests and How to Control Them

By Clifton Smith

One of the benefits of urban landscapes is bringing a bit of nature into otherwise artificial settings. Yet the nature we create isn’t natural – it’s the domesticated version of nature. Preventing wild nature from destroying domesticated nature can take a lot of time and effort. Here are a few of the agents of the wild that cause problems at Conservation Garden Park:

Deer

I’m certain that these cute critters were excited when we moved in and placed within their easy reach a buffet of new and exotic foods for them to sample and destroy. Deer sighted at Conservation Garden Park are often met with the waving arms and wild yells of gardeners trying to protect vulnerable plants. For the record, this isn’t an effective control method, but it sure feels good.

It is difficult to predict which plants deer will attack, which makes exclusion the only effective control method. High-value plants that can’t handle a little beating and eating are caged in early fall. Plants that deer prefer are abandoned for plants that are more aromatic, prickly, and generally less tasty. Still, since deer are so unpredictable, if you live in an area with a high population you can plan on occasionally spilling some tears.

Billbugs and Grubs

These beetle larvae are lovingly tucked into the roots of your lawn by their parents when they’re still just eggs. Once hatched, they sate their voracious appetites on the roots of your perfectly manicured lawn, leaving patchy dead spots in their wake.

Though chemical treatment options are popular, a major cause of damage from billbugs and grubs is pampering lawns. Overwatering, overfertilizing and mowing low weakens lawn, making it easier for billbugs and grubs to invade. At Conservation Garden Park, we fertilize about two times each year (spring and fall), mow lawn at three inches, and apply the appropriate amount of water to encourage robust lawn that’s bulletproof against pests. It helps our lawn stay greener too.

Aphids

The key to success for these soft bodied and defenseless insects is their ability to reproduce rapidly. A single female aphid can give birth to thousands of offspring clones within its lifetime.

This is great news to lady bugs whose favorite meals include aphids, but it’s bad news for gardeners. The “honeydew” aphids excrete can coat anything it falls on with a sticky film. Aphids suck the juices out of plant leaves, curling the leaves and weakening the plant.

While pesticides are effective against aphids, they can also hurt lady bugs and other natural predators that help keep the aphids at bay. The least harmful approach is to spray the leaves of infested plants with high pressure water, knocking the aphids off. Add some soap to the water to coat the aphids in a suffocating film.

For More Help

If you need more information or have other pests you’re battling, consult with the experts at Utah State University at UtahPests.usu.edu for informative fact sheets. You can also sign up for classes at ConservationGardenPark.org for specific information about pests of fruit trees and vegetable gardens.

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