Common Farm Pests and How to Deal With Them

Farmers have been dealing with bugs, rodents, and other pests for centuries. No matter the season or the location, an outbreak of these creatures can wreak havoc on a farm’s crops and livestock. They are constantly battling against these unwanted animals that damage their livelihoods by destroying valuable goods like animal feed and seeds as well as damaging infrastructure like fences.

To protect themselves from this onslaught of destructive forces, farmers employ numerous methods to keep them at bay. One of the most effective methods is pesticides which kill or repel insects such as aphids or moths. We’ll deal with common farm pests and how you can keep them at bay so your plants can be productive.

Whiteflies

Whiteflies are tiny white insects with wings that can parasitize plants by sucking out their juices. They are attracted to yellowing leaves, wilted stalks, or anything that signals a weakened plant. These are especially prevalent in wet, humid climates where the bugs flock to plants that are already struggling to keep themselves alive. Some common crops they target are chard, beets, potatoes, and tomatoes.

Whiteflies can be battled by hiring parasitic wasps that parasitize whitefly eggs or spraying plants with insecticides containing BTK (Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki) which kills the young larvae developing inside the plant tissue.  Another way to deal with whiteflies is to take preemptive action by keeping your plants healthy and well-nourished so they have a solid foundation from which they can defend themselves against pests.

Solutions: Insecticidal soaps, neem oil, ladybugs, and other biological controls.

Crows and seagulls

Large birds like crows and seagulls are a problem because they can eat an entire field of crops in one day. They’re attracted to fields that have already been damaged by pests like mice or rabbits, but once they’ve discovered your farm, it’s likely that you’ll see them descending on your plants soon. If you’re seeing crows out in force, be sure you’re planting crows seed corn and monitor your fields closely.

These birds will only stay long enough to eat what they want before taking off, so there’s a chance that if you don’t see any damage after a few days, they won’t come back again. However, it’s best to take precautions just in case.

Solutions: Scarecrows, reflective objects, and noises from a radio or handheld noisemaker may scare them away. They also have been known to be repelled by noise from radios tuned to static. Some farmers like to set up fake owls around their fields as well which can be effective if done properly.

Cabbage Loopers

Cabbage looper adults are light green moths with black dots on their wings that lay eggs on the undersides of affected plants’ leaves. These eggs hatch into cabbage loopers, a type of moth larvae that have three pairs of prolegs and a brown head with black eyes. This allows them to make their way across affected plants by using the back pair of legs while holding on to the front two with their mouths.

Cabbage loopers eat holes in leaves and cabbage heads making them unfit for human or animal consumption. You can fight these pests by keeping your crops healthy and strong, applying pesticides like Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) to kill the larvae, and taking preemptive action by placing pheromone traps near affected plants in order to catch adult moths before they lay more eggs.

Solutions: Pheromone traps, Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), and other biological controls.

Black Fly

Black flies are tiny bugs that can reduce livestock to skin and bones in no time. They are most active during the daylight hours but often come out at night as well. Their bites can cause pain, itching, and sores that are easily infected.

To fight black flies you can use pesticides designed to kill them or fence off your livestock with mesh screening. If the infestation isn’t too bad you may be able to just cover their noses with Vaseline or another thick petroleum jelly which will prevent them from breathing properly and make it harder for the black flies to find them. Keep it from being attracted in the first place by applying insecticides or wearing long-sleeved clothing that covers exposed skin.

Solutions: Insecticides and fencing with mesh screening.

Boxelder Bugs

Boxelder bugs are blackish-red in color with three white stripes on their backs and triangular yellow-orange markings behind their head. They feed by sucking juices from boxelder trees, Manitoba maple trees, and other seed-bearing plants.

They are most active as the weather starts to turn cool in the fall so their numbers can increase quickly during this time. Boxelder bugs don’t generally cause direct damage to crops but they do leave a mess by dripping a nasty fluid from their bodies which can stain car paint or ruin other items. They also emit a foul-smelling odor when crushed which can be very unpleasant to deal with.

To get rid of boxelder bugs you can vacuum them up, apply pesticides, and place pheromone traps near areas where the bugs are common in order to catch adult males before they mate and reproduce.

Solutions: Pesticides, vacuum, and pheromone traps.

Beetles

There are many types of beetles that can fit into this category but they all have a few things in common. They have hard outer shells, chewing mouthparts, and six legs. Beetles lay their eggs on plants so those who feed on leaves will chew holes through them as the larvae develop. These adults also eat shoots and stems which can weaken plants and cause them to become more susceptible to disease.

You can fight beetles by treating affected areas with insecticides like Pyrethrin, Bacillus thuringiensis, or Spinosad which will kill the larvae. You may also want to cover your crops with netting or floating row covers if they are small enough. Pheromone traps can also be used to catch adult males before they breed.

Solutions: Insecticides, nets/row covers, pheromone traps.

Whiteflies

Whiteflies are tiny, white-winged insects that resemble small moths. They lay their eggs under leaves where they will hatch into wormlike larvae that feed on plant juices. As these larvae grow they produce honeydew which attracts ants and encourages the growth of sooty mold. Ants protect this pest from predators so it can reproduce quickly.

If you see whiteflies on your plants the leaves will also be sticky from honeydew and may appear shiny as a result. You can treat them with pesticides like pyrethrin or Spinosad which kill the larvae, wipe the leaves down with soapy water to wash them off, and place yellow sticky traps near vulnerable plants. Spraying the leaves with kaolin clay will also help prevent whiteflies from landing on them in the first place.

Solutions: Insecticides, soapy water, sticky traps, and kaolin clay.

It’s not easy to keep pesky pests away from crops and livestock. However, alongside identifying some of them, we’ve provided some of the most common farm pest control methods that you can use today.

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