Often times our plants look sad in the garden. Perhaps they’re just into grunge music and this is who they really are, or perhaps they have an insect problem. First things first – before you even consider buying insecticide or bug poison, you need to calmly and rationally go through these 3 steps.
1. Determine if you actually have a problem. Is the plant looking fine, and you just got spooked by a bug you haven’t seen before? Did your neighbor swear to you that you’re bugs are getting into his hedges?! Perhaps your plants are drooping and flopping over? Are there holes on the leaves? Are there no leaves?
Plants can be affected by drought, too much shade, recent foot traffic, dog pee, a winter without snow cover, etc. So first rule out the other stuff, and confirm it’s about bugs.
2. Evaluate the issue. Now that we know it’s bugs, assess how extensive the damage that’s been done. If you haven’t already, identify the insect or pest that you’ve observed on your plant, using your local University Extension office as a resource if need be. Identifying the pest will often tell you something about their habits and common ways to mitigate or resolve the issue.
3. Choosing Treatment. After you’ve learned what the insect is, you’ll need to judge for yourself how bad the problem is to you personally and how much effort you’re willing to put in. There is always a trade-off when it comes to upkeep in the garden – your time and effort vs outcome and garden perfection. Maybe you can tolerate a few holes in your hostas? Maybe the problem should be solved by monthly professional insecticide treatments to save your Blue Ribbon Rose collection? Maybe you don’t want to put much effort in – just stop growing the plants that attract that pest. There are several ways to move forward after identifying the problem.
TLDR: Chill. If there’s only one or two bugs on your plant – just squish the bugs. Or ID the bugs by checking out your local University Extension Gardening department. The University of Minnesota has a good one if you’re not sure where to start. Once you know what the pest is, and how things could go if untreated – you get to choose what’s the right course of action for you personally.