Insects & Pests' Effects on Plants

How Can Pests Affect Plants?

Destructive pests often equal destroyed plants. This is especially unfortunate if you're an avid gardener who takes delight in your flower garden, have a vegetable garden that you depend on to provide you with fresh vegetables throughout the season or even just have landscaping that you put a lot of time, effort and money into. Whatever your outdoor situation is, finding damaged or dead plants, trees and shrubs that have been the target of damaging pests can range from a minor annoyance to downright devastating.

How Do Pests Cause Damage?

Pests can cause damage by several different methods - these methods include chewing, piercing and sucking, boring and oviposition damage. This damage can occur either above or below the ground. Although the above-ground damage is sometimes the most visible at first, damage to the roots below the ground can result in dead plants.

There are Holes and Ragged Edges on my Shrubs. What Could be Causing This?

Chewing insects are herbivore insects that consume a plant directly. They have strong mouthparts and mandibles. This includes insects such as caterpillars, some beetles and Easter lubber grasshoppers. They leave gaping holes, ragged edges and other missing tissues from leaves, flowers and shrubs. They can cause leaf skeletonizing, leaf defoliation, can cut plants off at the soil's surface or consume roots.

I Have Yellowing Leaves and Misshapen Fruits on my Trees. What Could be Causing This?

Insects with piercing or sucking mouthparts feed by sucking sap or other tasty liquids from the plant's tissues. They stab their feeding stylets into plant cells, inject enzymes to help digest the contents through liquefying and suck out the food. This type of feeding causes spotting or stippling of foliage, leaf curling, wilting, yellowing or browning and stunted or misshapen fruits. Aphids fall into this category, as do scales, spider mites and whiteflies.

What is a Boring Insect?

Some insects are borers, which means that they tunnel into plant tissue and cause damage to the plant. Almost an entire population of ash trees have been lost in North America due to the emerald ash borer, a jewel-colored beetle that made its way into the forests, cities and towns of North America. These beetles, which were native to Asia, made their way to the U.S. by way of lumber shipments and quickly got to work, boring their way into ash trees. Leaf-mining insects fit into the borer category; their creative tunnel patterns are visible as translucent blotches and lines on leaves. Boring damage can be spotted first by branch and crown dieback; infestation sites are often marked by cankers, calluses or cracked bark.

What are Gall-Making Insects?

Finally, some insects cause what is known as "oviposition damage." Also called "gall-making" insects, these insects damage plants, trees and flowers by laying eggs either on or inside the "host" plant's tissues. This can cause death and stem and branch dieback, often called flagging. Oviposition in fruits can result in misshapen fruits.

Insects have been finding ways to destroy and devour plants, grasses, shrubs and trees for millions of years; however, when it comes to your landscaping, decorative or essential trees and plants, you don't have to take this damage lying down. Various insecticides and treatments are now available to help slow, minimize or stop the damage. Contact MosquitoNix if you feel that your plants or trees may be the victims of destructive insects, and check out our robust guide to pests here. We can help diagnose the problem and intervene.