top of page

Garden Insects: Identifying the Bad Bugs


Scientists estimate that 97% of the world’s insects are either beneficial or harmless. Does it seem as though your garden attracts only the remaining 3%, the ones that are destructive? There are lots of bugs in your yard, both “good” and “bad”.  There is a constant battle taking place to maintain the balance between these two groups.  Conventional wisdom holds that having a few bad bugs around is okay; they provide food for both the beneficial insects and other welcome visitors, like songbirds.


Here are the three types of troublesome bugs typically found in gardens:

  1. Soil Insects: These pests feed on the seed in the ground or on tender young vegetation. These critters also attack larger, more established root crops, such as potatoes and carrots. Examples of soil insects include cutworms, white grubs, mole crickets and some types of nematodes.

  2. Sucking Insects: These insects have mouths designed to pierce the skin and suck sap from plants. Sometimes holes made by these bugs are so small that they can only be seen with a magnifying glass. While the holes tend to be small, sucking insects often invade in huge numbers. Plants victimized by these bad bugs become yellowed, wilted, stunted or deformed. Aphids, leafhoppers, stinkbugs, spider mites and squash bugs are examples of sucking insects commonly found in gardens.​

  3. Chewing Insects: This group causes the greatest amount of damage to gardens and yards. They chew off all parts of the plant including leaves, fruits, vegetables and flowers. Chewing insects include Colorado potato beetles, tomato hornworm, cabbage loopers, webworms, leaf miners and various caterpillars.


To further pin down what pest is targeting your plants, a Google search is the most effective way to go. Observe and record as many symptoms on the plant as possible, as well any significant traits to the insect if you are able to lay eyes on them. The more specific you can get, the more accurate the result of your search. You can also reach out to your local cooperative extension for help. Find your local extension office here

List of Harmful Insects and their Effect

Soil Insects

Feed on seed in the ground or tender vegetation; attack established
root crops


White grubs

Mole crickets

Some nematodes

Pierce the skin and suck sap from plants, leaving microscopic holes; invade in huge numbers; plants appear yellowed, wilted, deformed or stunted

Sucking Insects




Spider mites

Squash bugs

Chew off plant parts- including leaves, fruits, vegetables and flowers

Chewing Insects

Colorado potato beetles

Tomato hornworm

Cabbage loopers


Leaf miners

Various caterpillars

identifying bugs- spider mites.jpg
bottom of page