Garden Pest Identification

Updated February 21, 2017

At one time or another, all gardeners have fought garden pests, either in the flower or vegetable garden. Unless you know what you're looking for, it is hard to determine which pest causes the most damage. The ability to identify the most common garden pests will aid you in taking the appropriate steps to keep your garden free of pests.


Aphids are a very common garden pest. Also called plant lice, aphids look like tiny, black dots on leaves. They are soft bodied and appear not to move since they are very sluggish. Adult aphids are winged or wingless, and the babies do not have wings. They are born live and multiply rapidly if not controlled. Aphids damage plants by sucking sap from it. This causes leaf curling and the possible stunting of plant growth. Aphids will leave wet droplets on the leaves, which is the first indication that they are present in the garden.

Squash Bugs

Squash bugs attack pumpkins, varieties of squash, okra and cucumbers. Squash bugs are less than 1 inch long and are the same colour as the leaves when they are young. As they mature, they are grey in colour with black legs and long antenna. If left untreated, squash bugs will kill the plant. The stems will wither and quit producing vegetables.

Horned Tomato Worm

Tomato and pepper plants will quickly die if infested with the horned tomato worm. Tomato worms are bright green in colour with a horn on the rear end and eight light coloured diagonal stripes down the side of the body.


Leafhoppers are so named because they love leaves of any sort and will jump from leaf to leaf, causing stunted growth, curled leaves or a yellowing of the leaves. Barely ΒΌ inch long, they are bright green in colour and wedge shaped with six small spots on the top of the head.


Cutworms are brown in colour and look knobby. Cutworms can cause the most damage to plants because they live in the soil and are difficult to control. They eat the stalks at or just below ground level and also eat the roots of plants.


Webworms are the colourful worms found in gardens. They are yellow in colour with a lighter coloured stripe down the back and three dark spots in each segment down the sides. They are the most active at night; however, they are attracted to light. Cutworms spin webs as spiders do and draw several leaves into the web for feeding. They chew the leaves in their entirety, leaving the skeleton of the leaf intact. If left untreated for a long period of time, they will kill the plant.

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About the Author

Cathy Conrad has more than five years of newsprint experience as an assistant editor and is a professional writer. She has worked as a virtual assistant and email support specialist, and has more than 20 years of experience working in the medical field. Conrad is currently licensed as a Texas insurance representative and has many years in home improvement and gardening.