Insects in the vegetable garden can make any gardener panic. Insects attack vegetable plants in two different ways: chewing and sucking. No matter how they attack, a colony of insects can kill a plant within a very short time. Home gardeners should arm themselves with knowledge of common garden bugs that attack vegetable plants.
Chewing bugs chew on crops. A home gardener can tell chewing bugs have invaded because the leaves of their plants will have holes in them. Chewing bugs include caterpillars, beetles, weevils and moths.
Sucking bugs are usually found on the stems of plants and feed on the sap inside. Destruction of the plant is through boring and sucking, which causes dehydration. Small plants succumb to suckers within days. Larger, established plants (such as a large tomato plant) can tolerate large infestations of sucking bugs with minor effects; sucking bugs stunt the growth and yield.
Some bugs live in the soil and do their damage to vegetable plants along the soil line. They attack the plants' stems and fruit, rarely venturing above the soil line. They prefer rooting vegetables, such as potatoes and carrots. Soil bugs include some weevils and cut worms.
Control both sucking and chewing bugs with a food-safe method of pest control. An inexpensive and effective manner of treating infestations is insecticidal soap (Resources 1). The safe ingredients kill bugs without harmful toxins.
Bug infestation on vegetable plants can be prevented by the use of barriers. Drape thin netting over delicate seedlings to keep chewing and sucking bugs off of their leaves. Cut the bottoms off of plastic party cups to create a collar around each seedling. This collar keeps bugs like cut worms from attacking.