As the golden sun sinks below the horizon, casting its last rays across the lush Florida landscape, a subtle rustling stirs within the garden. Unseen eyes gleam in the shadows as the inhabitants of the night awaken. But these are not the creatures of fantasy or folklore; they are the very real, often underestimated pests that plague Florida gardeners.

So what should you be looking out for? Let’s go through the most common Florida garden pests.

1. Aphids

Aphids are typically small, ranging from 1 to 10 millimeters in length. Their size can range depending on the species. They have pear-shaped bodies with long antennae and often come in various colors, including green, yellow, brown, black, and pink.

Aphids are known to cling to lots of different host plants, including ornamental flowers, vegetables, fruits, trees, and shrubs. Certain aphid species may be more specialized and prefer specific plant species.

There are options for you when it comes to getting rid of aphids. Think about bringing in natural predators of aphids, such as ladybugs, lacewings, and parasitic wasps, into your garden. These beneficial insects eat the aphids and help keep their populations in check.

Trim and remove heavily infested plant parts, such as leaves and stems with dense aphid colonies. Dispose of the pruned material to prevent aphids from spreading to healthy plants.

2. Caterpillars

Caterpillars are the larval stage of butterflies and moths, and they can be significant pests in Florida gardens.

Some common caterpillar pests in Florida include the tomato hornworm (Manduca quinquemaculata), cabbage looper (Trichoplusia ni), armyworms (various species), and various caterpillars from the moth family Noctuidae.

You can physically remove caterpillars from plants and dispose of them by dropping them into a prepped bucket of soapy water or squishing them. Use specific physical barriers like different covers to protect vulnerable plants from caterpillar infestations, especially during peak moth or butterfly activity periods.

Some plants, such as marigolds, dill, and fennel, can attract beneficial insects that prey on caterpillars. Incorporate these companion plants into your garden design.

3. Spider Mites

Spider mites are very small, often barely visible to the naked eye. They have eight legs and are typically found in clusters on the undersides of leaves. Spider mites can vary in color from red and brown to yellow and green, based on the spider mite species and life stage.

Use different horticultural oils, such as neem oil or summer oils, to suffocate and kill spider mites. Follow the oil instructions to the letter and avoid applying oils during hot weather to prevent plant damage.

Don’t be afraid to look into organic garden pest control services if you’re having trouble getting rid of your fire ants.

4. White Flies

The silverleaf whitefly (Bemisia tabaci) and the greenhouse whitefly (Trialeurodes vaporariorum) are among the common whitefly species found in Florida gardens.

Whiteflies can cause direct damage through feeding, but they can also transmit plant viruses and fungal diseases as they move from plant to plant. Heavy infestations can weaken plants and lead to yield losses in vegetable crops.

Use reflective mulches or aluminum foil around plants to deter whiteflies. The reflected light can confuse and repel whiteflies, reducing their attraction to host plants.

In severe infestations, consider using miticides specifically formulated to target spider mites. Follow the product label instructions carefully and avoid overusing chemical treatments to prevent resistance buildup.

5. Mealybugs

Mealybugs are small, oval-shaped insects covered with a white, powdery wax that gives them a cottony appearance. They may also have a pinkish or yellowish tint, especially when feeding on plant sap.

Mealybugs are often found in groups on your Florida plant stems, leaves, and undersides of leaves.

You can try and use a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol or a mix of water and any dish soap to manually remove mealybugs from plant surfaces. Alternatively, prune and dispose of heavily infested plant parts.

6. Thrips

Thrips are small, slender insects belonging to the Thysanoptera order. Thrips are tiny insects, usually less than 1/16 inch long, with elongated bodies and fringed wings. They come in various colors, including black, brown, yellow, and white. Thrips can be challenging to see due to their small size and rapid movements.

Some common thrips species found in Florida gardens include western flower thrips (Frankliniella occidentalis), onion thrips (Thrips tabaci), and citrus thrips (Scirtothrips citri).

7. Chinch Bugs

Chinch bugs are particularly common in warmer, sunny parts of Florida. 

Chinch bug damage is often seen as irregular patches of yellow or brown grass, especially in sunny areas. As they feed, chinch bugs inject toxins into the grass, causing it to wilt, wither, and die. The southern chinch bug (Blissus insularis) is the most common chinch bug species affecting lawns and gardens in Florida.

Maintain a healthy lawn by proper watering, mowing at the correct height, and fertilizing appropriately. A healthy lawn is more resistant to chinch bug infestations. 

Reduce thatch buildup in your lawn, as chinch bugs often thrive in thick thatch layers. Aerating and dethatching can help improve lawn health and reduce chinch bug habitat.

8. Fire Ants

Fire ants are particularly aggressive ants known for their painful stings. They’re reddish-brown ants with a darker abdomen. They build large, dome-shaped mounds in soil, often located in sunny areas such as lawns, gardens, and open spaces.

You have a few options when it comes to getting rid of fire ants. If you’re interested in natural garden pest control, pouring boiling water directly into fire ant mounds can kill ants and destroy the colony. However, this method may not be practical for large or numerous mounds and can also harm surrounding vegetation.

Use physical methods such as disturbing mounds with a shovel, rake, or vibrating equipment to encourage ants to relocate. Be cautious when using mechanical methods, as they can trigger aggressive responses from fire ants.

Protect Yourself From Florida Garden Pests Today

Now that you know the most common Florida garden pests, it’s time to start protecting your home. Start taking preventative measures, or look into options to solve your current infestation. 

Are you searching for garden pest control services? Check out Prodigy Pest Solutions. We’ve been helping homeowners and businesses with their pest issues since 2018.

Contact us today.