Common garden pests and how to get rid of them

No gardener wants to see insects wreaking havoc on their flowers, plants, and beds full of ripening produce. Luckily, it’s possible to keep unwelcome visitors away. Here’s a look at 5 common garden pests—and how to get rid of them.


These 4mm pear-shaped creatures pierce plant tissues to suck out sap. Affected plants often form puckered leaves, show stunted growth, and can die without treatment. Moreover, the honeydew (a sweet, sticky substance secreted by aphids) promotes the growth of sooty mold and attracts ants, which protect the aphids because they want the honeydew.

In small outbreaks, a high-pressure spray from the garden hose can help remove aphids from plants. Follow up with two applications of Efekto Aphicide, Protek complete or neem oil, one week apart. Be sure to apply the soap spray or oil to leaf undersides and crevices. You can also introduce beneficial predatory insects that feed on aphids, such as lady beetles.

Red spider mites

These tiny pests, which are related to spiders, feed on plant juices. In large numbers, they zap a plant’s vitality by causing leaves to turn yellow, brown, or gray and drop off. Other telltale signs: fine silk webs on the undersides of leaves.

Clip off and compost heavily infested leaves, because they will not recover. Thoroughly spray the plants with a fine spray of water, taking care to rinse leaf undersides. If the mites persist, repeat the water spray and then cover plants with an old sheet or other lightweight cloth for a couple of days. Shade and moist, cool conditions will seriously set back spider mites. To save a prized plant, an oil-based fungicide such as neem oil, Efekto Kumulus or Rosecare Plus is the best intervention.

Top tip: spray the fungicide underneath the infected leaf as it is where the red spider most likely will be.


Thrips are tiny sucking insects that are best seen by shaking a few onto a white sheet of paper. Thrips look like miniature lobsters when viewed through a magnifying glass, but on plants they look like tiny dark slivers.

Use yellow or blue sticky traps to monitor thrips populations, especially in greenhouses. Outdoors, thrips have numerous natural enemies that are attracted by planting plenty of flowers. Avoid over-fertilizing your plants, because heavy feeding increases the risk of damage from thrips. Place a light-coloured cloth beneath infested plants and shake individual branches to dislodge many thrips. Insecticides like Efekto Malasol or Kombat Malathion can be used to control thrips, but spraying is seldom necessary in the open garden, where thrips face numerous natural enemies.


Whiteflies are tiny sucking insects that often appear in large numbers from midsummer to early fall, especially in warm, humid climates or greenhouses. When they are resting on plants, whiteflies look like small wedges of white, but the slightest disturbance will cause them to take flight.

Whiteflies have numerous natural enemies that usually keep them in check. Grow flowers near your garden to attract small wasps and other whitefly predators. Use yellow sticky traps to monitor for whiteflies in the greenhouse. Wash down infested plants with a strong spray of water, taking care to reach leaf undersides. Follow up with a dilute solution of contact insecticide like, Protek Kemprin or Efekto Cypermethrin. You can also use a systemic solution like Protek Complete or Kombat Aphids 


These are blackish-grey to brown smooth-skinned caterpillars that hide in the soil during the day and feed at night. Black cutworms have small black dots on their bodies, while variegated cutworms are mottled brown with a faint white stripe down their backs.

As soon as you suspect cutworm damage, use a fork and flashlight to find the culprit at night; one individual cutworm can do significant damage. Check at hourly intervals at night and you can catch them as they show themselves. Protek’s Cutworm Bait (a biological pesticide) solution can also be helpful in managing outbreaks.

Get a control on pests in your garden 

There are several best practices that you can do to reduce or eliminate the potential for pest infestation in the garden. They are by no means “no-fail” solutions, as many plant pests can easily go undetected by the eye but following the above tips for the control of certain pests on your plants will eliminate them most of the time. You could use Protek’s Knox Worm for the control of almost all of these garden pests. Visit your nearest branch for more expert advice.