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Photo: Whitefly - courtesy of Peter Nitzsche. Photo: Parsleyworm - courtesy of Peter Nitzsche. Photo: Cucumber beetle - courtesy of Peter Nitzsche.

Cooperative Extension Fact Sheet FS1123

Vegetable Insect Control Recommendations for Home Gardens

  • Peter Nitzsche, Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent, Morris County
  • Gerald Ghidiu, Extension Specialist in Vegetable Entomology, Retired

Insect Pest Management

Home vegetable gardeners will find more than two dozen major insect and mite pests that attack various vegetable crops and damage them by feeding directly on the foliage and fruit or by transmitting plant diseases. Some insect pests are serious problems every year, while others rarely appear in the garden. There are also many insects which are beneficial and, in several instances, essential to vegetable production in the home garden. Rutgers NJAES Fact Sheet FS295, "Beneficial Insects of the Home Garden," may be of help in identification of these beneficial organisms.

Frequent monitoring of the garden to detect problems at an early stage will allow you to prevent or reduce insect damage. However, for effective monitoring, the homeowner must know where and when to look for insect pests and be able to identify those that are found. Without proper identification, pest management is impossible.

Keys to Effective Management

  1. Thoroughly inspect plants at regular and frequent intervals to monitor any potential pest buildup. It is suggested to scout the garden at least twice weekly. Inspect plants from the bud to the soil, including both upper and lower leaf surfaces.
  2. Rotate the garden plot as often as possible. If the same plot is used more than one season, rotate the crops within the garden. Garden rotation is highly effective in reducing soil insect and disease problems.
  3. Plow or turn the soil well in advance of planting. The garden should be well plowed and free of weeds, grass, etc., at least 30 days before planting.
  4. Transplants should be purchased from a reputable dealer and should be free of insect pests and disease at time of planting.
  5. A healthy plant is often able to outgrow insect and disease attack. Use proper fertility and watering programs to maintain plant health and vigor.
  6. Learn to identify garden pests and beneficial organisms and consider chemicals only when a pest problem exists. Seek alternatives to chemical insecticides when possible.
  7. Harvest fruit, seed, pods, etc., as soon as they are ripe. Allowing overripe fruit to remain on the plants often invites additional pest problems.
  8. Once a plant is no longer productive, destroy it, plow it under, or remove it from the garden. DO NOT just pull it up and leave it in the garden area.
  9. If you use garden vegetable plants in any form to add to a mulch bed or compost bin, ensure that the material does not harbor insects, disease organisms or nematodes that will easily survive organic decomposition and cause future problems if that mulch is used in the garden.
Common Vegetable Insect Pests and Recommended Controls
Insect Pest Fact Sheet # Synthetic Pesticide Control Organic Pesticide Control Cultural Control
Asparagus beetle FS221 Carbaryl, malathion Neem, pyrethrin Hand picking
Aphids FS230, 248 Malathion, pyrethroids Beauvaria bassiana, canola oil, neem, pyrethrin Row covers, high pressure water wash
Beetles FS242, 222, 292, 241, 242, 249, 243 Pyrethroids Beauvaria bassiana, B. tenebrionis, pyrethrins, spinosad Hand picking (wear gloves)
Cabbage looper FS231 Carbaryl, malathion, pyrethroids B. thuringiensis, neem, spinosad, pyrethrin Row covers, early planting, hand picking
Carrot weevil FS250 Pyrethroids None None
Caterpillers (corn borer, celeryworm, armyworm, melon worms, earworms, cabbage worms) see also hornworms, cabbage looper, cabbage webworms FS284, 286, 238, 232, 285, 239, 281, 288, 282, 283, 287 Carbaryl, malathion, pyrethroids B. thuringiensis, neem, pyrethrin, spinosad Netting, row covers, hand picking
Colorado potato beetle FS224 Pyrethroids Beauvaria bassiana, B. tenebrionis, pyrethrins, spinosad Row covers, hand picking all stages
Cabbage webworm FS289 Carbaryl, malathion, pyrethroids B. thuringiensis, neem, pyrethrin, spinosad Hand picking
Cucumber beetles FS225 Carbaryl, malathion, pyrethroids Beauvaria bassiana, neem, pyrethrins Row covers, hand picking
Cutworms FS283 Carbaryl, pyrethroids Beneficial nematodes Barriers
Flea beetles FS233 Carbaryl, pyrethroids, hot pepper wax Beauvaria bassiana, insecticide soap, neem, pyrethrins Row covers
Hornworms FS226 Carbaryl, malathion, pyrethroids B. thuringiensis, neem, pyrethrin, spinosad Hand picking larvae
Leafhoppers, fleahoppers FS237, 236 Malathion, carbaryl pyrethroids Canola oil, pyrethrins Row covers
Leaf miners FS276 Pyrethroids Spinosad Row covers
Mexican bean beetle FS227 Carbaryl, malathion, pyrethroids Beauvaria bassiana, neem, pyrethrins Hand picking all stages
Onion maggot, seedcorn maggot, cabbage maggot FS278, 280, 277 None available None Row covers
Pepper maggot FS279 Pyrethroids None None
Spider mites FS235 Malathion Canola oil, insecticidal soap, pyrethrins Water spray
Squash bugs FS228, 246 Carbaryl, pyrethroids Neem Hand picking all stages
Stink bugs, plant bugs FS245, 244, 247 Carbaryl, pyrethroids, refined horticulture oil None Hand picking bugs and eggs, row covers
Squash vine borer FS229 Carbaryl, pyrethroids Spinosad Cut borer out of stem
Thrips FS291 Malathion, pyrethroids Insecticidal soap, pyrethrin, spinosad High pressure water spray
Whiteflies FS240 Malathion, pyrethroids Insecticide soap, canola oil, pyrethrins Row covers
Common and Trade Names of Home Vegetable Garden Insecticides
Common Name Trade Names Insecticide Class
Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki Thuricide, Dipel, Safer Caterpiller Killer Bacterial
Bacillus thuringiensis tenebrionis Novodor Bacterial
Beauvaria bassiana BotaniGard Fungus
Carbaryl Sevin, Ortho BugGeta Plus, Garden Tech Carbamate
Hot pepper wax Hot Pepper Wax, Bonide Hot Pepper Wax Botanical
Insecticidal soap Concern Multi-Purpose Concentrate, Concern Tomato and Vegetable Insect Killer, Safer 3-in-1, NATRIA Insecticidal Soap Potassium salts/fatty acids
Malathion Gordon's Malathion, Spectracide Malathion Organo-phosphate
Neem Tomato 3-in-1, Concern Multipurpose, Neem Ready to Use Botanical
Petroleum oil All Seasons Hort Spray, Bonide All Seasons Hydrocarbons
Plant oils Ecosmart Organic Flower and Vegetable, Ecosense, Garlic MiteX, Organocide, NATRIA Multi-Insect Control Botanical
Pyrethrins Garden Guard, Spectracide Garden Insect Killer, Bonide Garden Dust, Yard and Garden Insect Killer, NATRIA Insect, Disease and Mite Control Botanical
Pyrethroids Bayer PowerForce Multi-Insect Killer, Eight Garden & Home, Ortho, TOTAL Pest Control, Bug-No-More, Ortho Bug-B-Gon, Ortho MAX, Spectracide All Vegetables, Spectracide 3X Permethrin Synthetic pyrethroid; pyrethroids include esfenvalerate, cyfluthrin, permethrin, gamma-cyhalothrin, bifenthrin
Spinosad Jack's Deadbug Brew, Colorado Potato Beetle Beater Fermentation by-product

Pesticide products and formulations may change. Always follow label instructions. Check label for: number of applications allowed per season, interval between sprays, and the number of days between last spray and harvest.

Photo credits: Peter Nitzsche (l-r) whitefly, parsleyworm, cucumber beetle.

Mention or display of a trademark, proprietary product, or firm in text or figures does not constitute an endorsement by Rutgers Cooperative Extension and does not imply approval to the exclusion of other suitable products or firms.

March 2024