Summertime Vegetable Pests Emerging in Texas

Pest problems for vegetable producers and gardeners are popping up around the state, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.

Conditions have been good for vegetable production around much of the state following mild spring conditions and ample rains, but the weather is also setting the stage for pests, said Dr. Mike Merchant, AgriLife Extension entomologist, Dallas.

Merchant said it is the time for spider mite emergence in home gardens.

“My personal garden is showing signs of spider mites right now,” he said. “Although I choose to not spray my tomatoes, some gardeners will want to extend the life of their tomatoes with treatments such as insecticidal soap or horticultural oil.”

Merchant said he has not received reports or calls regarding stink bugs but that several varieties, including the Bagrada stink bug, a variety new to Texas and “generalist” feeders that usually prefer vegetables in the cole family can cause problems for vegetables.

“We expect to see Bagrada stink bug become common in mid- to late-summer,” he said.

Merchant said growers and gardeners alike should also be aware of squash vine borers, which lay eggs on plant stems. The emerging caterpillars bore into and hollow out the vines eventually killing the plant.

“The key to squash vine borer control is to treat early, before borers enter the stems and damage shows up,” he said. “Two applications of a labeled insecticide, seven days apart, should help control the newly hatching caterpillars before they enter the stem. Sprays must penetrate the canopy to reach the stems, where the borers lay their eggs.”

Merchant said gardeners with just a few plants may want to go to the trouble of treating vines individually. They can cut the vine or use a syringe to inject Bacillus thuringiensis, a naturally occurring bacteria that controls pests, inside the stem.

Squash bugs represent another tough pest that typically emerges mid-summer as temperatures rise, Merchant said.

“Squash bugs are challenging to control,” he said. “Some of the pyrethroid insecticides can be effective, but users should be aware of the pre-harvest interval on the label, that is how long they must wait before harvest after an application.”

Merchant said home gardeners should learn how to identify squash bug eggs and inspect their plants carefully for eggs, nymphs and adults.

“Then they can use an old-fashioned control technique that nearly always works,” he said. “Squish them.”

AgriLife Extension district summaries can be found here.

Source: Texas AgriLife Extension

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