Harlequin bugs are orangeish-red and black mottled insects that can do a lot of damage on cole crops, tomatoes and potatoes when in high numbers. They feed on the plant sap, causing stippling of leaves and distortions in the heads of cabbage and brussels sprouts. Their eggs are very interesting. They lay a group of 6 barrel shaped black and white eggs on the underside of leaves. Here are some links from University of Maryland Extension and K-State Research and Extension.
Aphids attack a multitude of plants in all stages of plant growth. They are small, pear shaped and come in a variety of colors. They are recognized by the 2 tubelike structures at the end of their body called cornicles. Aphids feed by using their mouthparts to suck plant juices out of leaves and fruit. They secrete a sticky substance called honeydew that ants love. Sometimes ants farm aphids, moving them around. Generally, natural enemies of aphids keep them in check. However, if you have sprayed an indiscriminate insecticide, the lady beetles, syrphid fly larvae, aphid lions and small wasp parasites known as braconids will also be killed and an aphid population can increase exponentially. A strong stream of water will knock most aphids off the plant and in doing so break off the mouthparts so they can’t eat anymore. For more information on aphids, here is a link from K-State Research and Extension.
The Colorado potato beetle is generally found on potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant and other solanaceous family plants. Adults become active in May and lay eggs on the underneath side of leaves. Damage to crops when populations are high, especially in the 2 week time frame of potato flowering, can be significant. If you have a few plants, the best thing to do is scout them closely and handpick any eggs or insects. For more information about Colorado Potato Beetles, here are links from K-State Research and Extension and University of Minnesota Extension.
If you grow any cole crops—cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower or kale—you know that little green worms can wreak havoc on your plants. Early scouting and control are key to managing the pest. If you see the brown or white butterly flying around your plants, they are looking for places to lay eggs and you will have worms eating your cruciferous vegetables soon. Here are links from K-State Research and Extension with detailed information about the cabbage looper and imported cabbageworm.
White clover is generally considered more of a turf weed than a garden weed. However, you may have some if your garden area was once a low maintenance turf area. White clover is a legume which means that it along with other bean family members fix nitrogen into the soil that the plant can use from the air. It is an early spring flowering weed that will benefit the early pollinators. Leave it around your garden area. If it is too much, here are some resources to help deal with clover.
Chickweed is another very common winter annual weed. They germinate in the fall and overwinter. In the spring they become noticeable with excess growth. There are two chickweed species in our area, common chickweed and mouse ear chickweed. Both grow low to the ground and have small, oval leaves with tiny hairs that are oppositely arranged around the stem. The mouse ear chickweed has more hairs on the leaves and really look like mouse ears. Chickweed is best controlled in the fall. It has a shallow root system that is easy to pull in the spring.
Henbit is a winter annual weed that you may be noticing right now. They are rapidly growing in your garden area and have little purple flowers. When you pass a green space with a patch of purple, that’s likely henbit. Henbit’s purple flowers and a square stem make it easily identifiable. Plants germinate in the fall and overwinter. The fall is the best time to control the plants. Consider leaving them until you’re ready to plant. They have shallow root systems, so they are easy to pull. Early pollinators benefit from their flowers as there are just a few blooming plants now. Soon everything will be in bloom and you can pull before it goes to seed.
Dandelions are a perennial plant. They have lots of growth and flowers in the springtime. During the summer, they bide their time waiting until the cool fall weather arrives. They will start growing again and making food reserves to be stored in their taproot for the upcoming winter and spring. Fall is the best time to control dandelions due to the movement of food to the root. Dandelions are one of the earliest flowers and pollen sources in the spring for honeybees and solitary bees. Leave a few around to help our pollinator friends. More information on dandelion control can be found at this link from K-State Research and Extension.