From the employee-owners of Gardener's Supply

What’s Bugging Your Plants?

Online resources can help you find the best solutions for control of pests and diseases.
Praying mantis

Beneficial praying mantises eat insects that damage garden plants.

The azalea looked healthy and happy last week. The shrub was full of leafy new growth and loaded with flower buds. This morning, all that remains are the flower buds—every leaf has been stripped. What did this? The power of the internet makes my sleuth work easier than ever before.

University extension services offer some of the most extensive, thorough, and well-organized pest and disease identification guides. Their additional advantage is that most of them focus on the most common problems within their state.

If I lived in Florida, for example, I’d want to use a site about Florida pests. It so happens that the University of Florida and Florida Department of Agriculture teamed up to present an excellent site that features pests common to that state. It allows users to search for pests by affected plant or crop and common or scientific name.

A little further north, Clemson University is your site. The school offers homeowners an excellent and easy-to-navigate site called Home & Garden Information Center. Clicking on Insects, Diseases & Other Problems brings you a logically organized page that helps get answers and solutions quickly.

The Texas A&M University site also contains excellent photos, and pests are grouped by feeding method. In California, the University of California Integrated Pest Management Program maintains an extensive and thorough site.

Northerners, like me, might want to head over to the University of Wisconsin site. It’s sorted into categories, such as Beetle, Indoor Worms, Shrubs, and Fabric-Eating Insects. Each page features photographs of the insects and their damage, plus links to more detailed information.

In the Mid-Atlantic states, the web site at Virginia Tech is a good choice. The organization and photos make it easy to narrow the list of suspects. They also have a large, downloadable collection of excellent insect illustrations drawn by artist Kathy Borne.

Although not exhaustive by any means, these extension service and university web sites will help identify most insect pests. If not, Pest Control Canada has a terrific forum in which people can load photos of mystery insects and other users will identify them and add comments.

Some web sites focus on particular types of pests. For vegetable pests, Gardener’s Supply has a very helpful Pest & Disease Identifier with photos and earth-friendly control solutions, as does the National Gardening Association.

So what ate my azalea? The University of Minnesota had my answer—Azalea Sawfly larvae. Case closed.

-Ann Whitman, Horticulturist


  1. July 31, 2008    

    just north of clemson is another good site for gardening information North Carolina State University’s site –

  2. Anonymous
    August 1, 2008    

    I wish you had not used a picture of the Praying Mantis in the article….it points to this valuable insect-eater as a plant harmer rather than the plant protector that is really is!

  3. John Shepherd
    April 6, 2016    

    I live in Minnesota and I bought one of your Decorative Jellow Jacket traps last year and it worked famously. I bought an extra bag insert to use this year. It said to put out early to catch any wandering Queens, (Yellow Jacket). When should I first put it out this year to make this happen. Last year while working out in back in shorts, I stepped on an inground nest and at 72 years old I hadn’t moved that fast in probably 10 years:-)
    When should I put out the trap this year, to reap a real good catch? Thank you in advance, John Shepherd

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