Identifying Vegetable Garden Insects


In order to maintain healthy vegetable plants in your garden you must learn how to combat the pests that live in the garden. The first line of defense is know your enemy; learning how to identify vegetable garden insects is an important step toward keeping a balance between harmful and productive insects. Some beneficial insects pollinate plants, which leads to bigger vegetables. Unfortunately, there are many harmful bugs that can kill plants and infest the whole garden.

Step 1

Observe that sucking insects have mouth parts that puncture the skin of plants and enable the sucking insect to suck the sap out of it. Search for them to leave behind minuscule holes in the plants; these are invisible to the naked eye and must be viewed with a magnifying glass. Sucking insects are highly harmful and result in the death of plants if left untreated. Look for these insects to leave behind a sticky liquid defecation that coats the plant leaves, making them shiny in appearance. Watch for infested plants that turn yellow and brown, becoming malformed and wilted, and have stunted growth. Common sucking insects are aphids, leafhoppers, stinkbugs, spider mites, thrips, mites and squash bugs.

Step 2

Realize that chewing insects are the worst pests in the garden. They have cutting mouths that tear plant parts off and chew it; they will eat all parts of a plant, eventually killing it off. Chewing insects leave behind holes in the leaves of the plants. They also leave behind defecation that is usually brown, black or green in color; it is similar to pieces of lint. Common chewing insects are Colorado potato beetles, tomato hornworm, cabbage looper, webworms, leaf miners, grasshoppers and various caterpillars.

Step 3

Know that most of the insects in the garden provide a service that helps keep up the maintenance of the garden. Some bugs fertilize the soil, some improve soil conditions by moving through the dirt, and others eat dead plants and animals, keeping the garden clean. Some insects help control the population of harmful bugs by preying upon pests. Common helpful insects include bees, butterflies, ladybugs, praying mantis, lacewings, minute pirate bugs, earthworms, wasps, flies and moths.

Things You'll Need

  • Magnifying glass


  • Oklahoma State University Extension: Home Vegetable Garden Insect Pest Control
  • Texas A&M University Extension: Vegetable Insect Pest Index
  • Penn State University Extension: Identifying Vegetable Insect Pests in Pennsylvania
  • University of Rhode Island: Beneficial Insects in the Garden
Keywords: identifying garden pests, helpful garden insects, harmful garden bugs

About this Author

Since May 2009, Christina Delegans-Bunch has been pursuing her career as a professional writer. Her work has been published on eHow and GardenGuides. She holds a certification in floral designing and wedding consultation from Harcourt Extended Learning.