Little gray bugs in the garden may or may not be cause for alarm, depending on the numbers and the damage to plants. They are probably a soft-bodied insect, such as an aphid, or a hard-shelled beetle. Most caterpillars in the garden are green, although a few are white or gray.
Identify the gray bugs in your garden. Numerous gray-to-brown beetles, such as stink beetles, squash beetles and blister beetles, may live in the vegetable garden, as do aphids and spider mites. Beetles have a characteristic hard shell that may be shield shaped, while aphids and mites are soft-bodied. Beetles usually eat the leaves, while aphids and mites suck the juices from plants, causing yellowing and wilting. Aphids and mites are usually green, red or brown, although they may occasionally be gray.
Organic several strategies ward off insect infestations. Rotate crops so they don't grow in the same location year after year. Gray bugs in the garden are usually attracted to a specific crop. Moving the crops may foil the pests. Tilling the soil in the fall or early spring destroys overwintering insects. Plant crops at the appropriate time. For example, squash vine borers usually appear in early summer. Wait two or three weeks, and they may be gone when you plant pumpkins, squash and melons. Lay floating row covers over young seedlings and seeds after planting. Floating row covers protect young plants from insect infestations, as well as cold temperatures. They will not deter insects overwintering in the soil.
Assess the damage. Beetles often chew holes in bean leaves, broccoli or other crops. Unless damage is severe, the plants usually survive and the crops are not affected. Removing weeds and debris reduces hiding places for insects. Lay a flat board on the soil. It attracts squash bugs that crawl under the board in search of moisture. Shake the bugs off the board into a bucket of soapy water or pick them off the plants and dispose of them. Plant certain flowering herbs, such as dill and borage, which attract beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, lacewings and predatory wasps. These insects feed on aphids and insect eggs and larva.
If the damage is severe, consider pesticides. Insecticidal soap is a relatively safe for aphids. Use a product labeled for the specific insect pest and follow all package directions carefully. Carbaryl is a common pesticide that kills most beetles. Most pesticides, including carbaryl, kill beneficial insects such as honeybees, as well as the pests.
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