Common garden pests and how to get rid of them humanely

Gardens can be a natural habitat for many species of animals, but some can be a nuisance, causing damage to plants, flowers, home-grown vegetables and lawns
Gardens can be a natural habitat for many species of animals, but some can be a nuisance, causing damage to plants, flowers, home-grown vegetables and lawns
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Gardens can be a natural habitat for many species of animals, but some can be a nuisance, causing damage to plants, flowers, home-grown vegetables and lawns.

Here are some of the most common garden pests and how to stop them damaging your garden in a humane manner.

Aphids are common sap-sucking insects, which can cause distorted growth in plants

Aphids are common sap-sucking insects, which can cause distorted growth in plants

Grey squirrels

Grey squirrels can often enter gardens from adjacent woodlands or areas with trees and shrubs.

According to the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), they can cause damage to your garden by:

- Eating fruits, nuts, seeds, flower buds and vegetables

Snails are familiar common insects that can cause damage in gardens by eating holes in leaves, stems and flowers

Snails are familiar common insects that can cause damage in gardens by eating holes in leaves, stems and flowers

- Digging up and eating bulbs and corms

- Raiding bird feeders and taking eggs from birds’ nests

- Damage lawns by burying or digging up winter food stores

- Strip bark off trees, especially sycamore, maples, ash and beech

- Gnaw on plastic, such as hose pipes and plastic netting

How to deal with grey squirrels

The RHS explains that “It is not possible to stop squirrels from entering a garden. Although there are steps that can be taken to reduce the damage they cause.”

This includes using wire netting to give protection to fruits and shrubs when squirrels are showing interest in them. Wire netting is best used for permanent structures as squirrels can easily bite through plastic.

This netting can be placed over areas where bulbs have been planted, to deter squirrels from digging them up.

Squirrel-proof bird feeders and tables are also available from most garden centres.

Aphids

Aphids are common sap-sucking insects, which can cause distorted growth in plants. They also often leave honeydew on foliage, which enables the growth of sooty moulds.

Aphids can also carry plant viruses, which can cause problems with strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, tulips and other plants.

How to deal with aphids

Aphids have various natural enemies, including ladybirds, hoverfly larvae, lacewing larvae and parasitic wasps.

Some of these natural enemies are available for biological control of aphids in greenhouses.

Outdoors, aphid infestations can often build up in spring before the natural enemies are in a sufficient number to gain control, but by mid-summer aphid infestations are often kept in check.

“Pest control products based on natural compounds or with a physical mode of action are less likely to have serious effect on natural predators,” advises the RHS.

Snails

Snails are familiar common insects that can cause damage in gardens by eating holes in leaves, stems and flowers.

Most damage is done by snails in spring when they feed on seedlings, new shoots and plant crowns.

How to deal with snails and slugs

There are many preventive measures that have been used by gardeners to minimise snail and slug damage.

According to the RHS, “raking over soil and removing fallen leaves during winter can allow birds to eat slug eggs that have been exposed.

Barriers, thought to repel snails, include rough or sharp textured mulches and substances thought to be distasteful or strong smelling.

“Copper-base barriers have been shown to repel slugs in some studies.”

Moles

The presence of moles can be identified by the molehills they create as they dig out a system of tunnels and chambers underground.

How to deal with moles

Netting is available to prevent moles from coming to the lawn surface and creating molehills. However, this must be installed before turf is laid.

Electronic devices are also available from some garden centres, with their buzzing noise said to drive moles away.

Rats

Rats can cause damage to growing and stored fruits and vegetables. They can also spread potentially serious diseases.

How to deal with rats

You can discourage rats by removing any accessible food sources. Seal any bins and, when feeding wildlife such as birds, do not let access food build up. This can also help to reduce the risk of spreading wildlife diseases.

Removing any clutter can also prevent rats from hiding or nesting in unwanted places.