Most common garden pests

Posted: Friday 13 January 2012
by James Alexander-Sinclair

You know the Interpol 'Most Wanted' list [...] Well, every year the RHS produces something very similar: the 'Least Wanted' list of garden pests.

Lily beetle on stone

You know the Interpol 'Most Wanted' list, featuring international gun runners, armed robbers and other similar blisters on polite society? Well, every year the RHS produces something very similar: the 'Least Wanted' list of garden pests.

It is a Top 10 of the garden pests most commonly reported to the RHS over the last year, which is compiled by the entomologists based in the society’s garden at Wisley. They are part of the Horticultural Science department, one of their jobs being to investigate any strange insects or diseases brought in by members for identification.

If I were a bookmaker, the number one pest on the list would be on very short odds. I have only ever been to one garden that did not have slug and snail problems: Hever Castle in Kent. They had a collection of magnificent hostas without a single nibble or blemish on any of them and I was assured by the head gardener that he had only seen a few snails in the past decade. Quite why, I have no idea. Maybe they have extraordinarily hungry hedgehogs.

Others on the list are a bit more unusual, including two new entries. In at number six (with a bullet) is the fuchsia gall mite, which was unknown in this country before 2007. It is a particularly nasty one as it feeds on both the flower buds and growing tips, so reduces prize fuchsias to a contorted shadow of their former selves. At the moment there are no effective controls, whether chemical or organic, which is a bit of a blow.

At number eight (its first time ever in the Top 10) is the leek moth, which is found mainly in the south of England and South Wales, but is slowly spreading northwards. It produces two broods of caterpillars that feed not only on leeks, but also on onions and shallots.

The whole chart consists of…

1. Slugs and snails
2. Cushion scale
3. Vine weevil
4. Ants
5. Viburnum beetle
6. Fuchsia gall mite
7. Cypress aphid
8. Leek moth
9. Chafer grubs
10. Mealy bug

Not a very cheery list I’m afraid, but we gardeners are a stalwart lot and will not be made downhearted. Oh no: we will remain smiling, conjuring up the spirit of the blitz and fighting them in the borders, on the allotment and even in the hanging baskets

P.S. The picture is of a lily beetle: one of the prettier pests.

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Richard Jones 17/01/2012 at 12:07

Wot? No berberis sawfly?
I await, with great anticipation, to see what effect the mild winter will have on all these 'pests'.

Aaron Abbott 17/01/2012 at 18:36

I am very shocked to see that Gnats (fungus flies) has not made it on to the top ten. Once you have these they are a pain to get rid of, If you can get rid of them that is, these also will feed of the roots of your plants. I have now been battling my problem for 2 years with no luck. :-(

Charm Dreier 14/10/2014 at 01:06

I'm surprised that no mammals made the list-- some of my top garden pests are gophers, deer, raccoons, and rats.

And as far as insects are concerned, where are thrips on that list? Not only do they eat plants, but they also spread diseases that they carry, specifically tomato wilt & impatiens wilt. Also, the Japanese bark beetle wiped out half the Monterey Pine trees in California.

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