Pests in the home garden, whether insects or weeds, are potentially dangerous to the health of your plants. Identification of insects and weeds is difficult. According to the University of Texas A & M Extension, there are over 25,000 different insect species in Texas alone. Weed varieties are as diverse as the rest of the plant kingdom.
Find the insect order of the pest you are observing to best determine what kind of insect it is. Insects are part of the Class Hexapoda or Insecta. Hexapoda has a body divided into three sections, has three pairs of legs, usually a pair of antennae and a pair of compound eyes. An insect will also have a pair of wings. Insects are further broken down into 30 different orders. There is also a larger class for spiders, ticks, mites, scorpions and others called Arachnida, Diplopoda for millipedes, and Chilopoda for centipedes.
Insect Field Guides
Obtain an insect field guide for your area from your local university extension service. Field guides detail what insects are common and native to the area, and help narrow down what you're looking at by using a series of troubleshooting questions. Body shape, wing pairs, feeding habits and other characteristics are questioned. Photos are often included in the description to help identification.
Weeds are plants that do not belong in an area, or are not cultivated by the gardener and appear anyway. Weeds have two life cycles, perennial or annual. Perennial weeds persist for more than one year, going dormant in the winter or summer depending on whether they are a cool season or warm season variety, says the University of Illinois Extension. Annual weeds die off every year after setting seed that will germinate in the next growing season.
Determine if your weed is grassy or broadleaf to identify it. Grassy weeds have long, slender leaves that are tender and do not contain wood. Broadleaf plants have a wider leaf and are often herbaceous. The shape of the leaf, how it grows and whether it flowers will further narrow down the species. Weed identification keys with pictures are available from university extension services.
Use pesticides to remove insects and weeds once identified. Pests must be identified before choosing the pesticide. Pesticides often work only against specific weeds and insects. Improperly applying pesticides may put plants in danger and kill local, beneficial insects.