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Proper Pest ID

Posted by Candice Hart - Gardening

Are pests and diseases reeking havoc on your plants indoors or outside? It's bound to happen every once in awhile, but before you start to treat the problem, it's important to figure out what the exact problem is.

The definition of a pest is an annoying or troublesome person, animal, or thing, a nuisance. For a plant, this could mean that a pest is an insect that is feeding on it's leaves, or a pathogen that is preventing the plant from uptaking enough water, or even a weed that is competing with the plant for resources. If any of these pests become serious enough to cause an important or valued plant to possibly die, then control of that pest may be warranted

The first step in controlling that pest is to properly ID it. You can't develop a management strategy without knowing what the pest is, what it's life cycle is, it's typical behavior, and it's preferred habitats and food sources. All of these characteristics affect the methods used for management. Don't risk treatments on a misidentified pest.

See below a few strategies of what to do if you need help identifying a pest:

Call Your Local Extension office

  • The local Extension office is your connection to experts from all across the state. Take several good close up and distance photographs of your pest problem or bring in a live sample in a closed container, and we have staff and volunteers that can help you identify pests. We'll also then help you get recommendations on what to do to manage that pest.

Use Online Resources

  • Our University of Illinois Extension website page has numerous resources that can help you identify your pest problem, like this factsheet on the Top 12 Lawn and Garden Pests. Just type into the search bar on our website what your plant is and describe some of the symptoms, and see what resources are available.
  • Google searches can get you some initial information, but be sure the information is from a reputable source. We recommend to searching .edu, .org, .gov type websites.

Use Reference Books

  • If you're a frequent gardener, then you likely have a library of gardening books that may be able to help you identify a problem. Flip through a book with great photos to see if you can find an initial diagnosis. Can't find it? Don't be afraid to give us a call to see how we can help.

Learn more by watching our Youtube series on Pesticide Use!



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