Does Your Garden Need Winter Pest Control?

Most pests indeed thrive during warm and hot weather. Thankfully, the most common problematic pests in your garden will hibernate or die out before winter begins, but some pests can survive during the cold winter months and feed on your garden foliage in the process. With these factors in play, does your garden need winter pest control?

Most gardens do not need winter pest control. If a garden is located in a tropical or subtropical climate, pest control is necessary since the temperatures are not consistently freezing. Pests that shelter in winter gardens include:

  • aphids
  • slugs
  • cabbage worms
  • boxelder bugs
  • grubs 

Late autumn and winter is the time of year when gardeners can take a break, so cold-blooded insects begin to become less of a worry, and you can focus on winterizing your garden. If you are experiencing issues with insects in your garden and curious about why this is happening in the cold, this guide will give some insight into winter pests. Read on to discover more about common garden pests in winter and how you can address the problem.

What Garden Pests Can Survive During the Winter?

Pests, in general, can be confusing to understand. You have likely wondered at one point where pests go during the colder months. Most of the pests that bother humans, like flies or mosquitoes, typically die or find warmer locations to wait out the winter months. However, this is not always true for pests that live off foliage; these insects frequently hibernate during winter to decay flower or vegetable matter left in gardens. 

Have a look at this video that analyzes insect behavior during winter:

Furthermore, winter pests can hibernate in the soil surrounding plants and continue to feed on the foliage. But the problem can also be spread across your yard and even inside your home. Boxelder bugs, centipedes and millipedes, and many types of worms can find shelter from the cold under structures, near firewood, and behind house siding. Many of these pests will still need food to survive, and a nearby garden provides that. 

When it comes to your garden, here are the most common pests you need to look out for when winter sets in. 

Aphids

Aphids are a group of small insects that commonly infest plants of all varieties. Aphids use their small beaks to extract plant sap that deteriorates the health of a plant over time. This group of pests is difficult to control due to the insect’s small size and rapid reproduction. Aphids are a gardener’s worst nightmare, and there are very few ways to control this pest without insecticides. 

Aphids lay their eggs in mid to late autumn, and if you live in a region where winter weather is mild, the pests can continue to eat garden foliage. You can usually see these insects on the leaves of plants, which makes inspection a bit easier. 

Slugs

Slugs are another type of garden pest that you may see lurking around during the cold months of the year. Slugs are unusual because the insects generally do not mind tolerable winter temperatures; as long as it is not freezing out, slugs will continue their daily routine. During winter periods where the temperatures fall below freezing, slugs will burrow under the soil to stay warm. 

Since not every day is typically freezing during winter in most regions, this means that you may still need to treat for slugs during winter. 

Cabbage Worms

Like aphids, cabbage worms represent the most active garden pests during the winter season. Cabbage worms resemble common caterpillars, yet you can easily identify the insects by their bright green color. These pests are most problematic during winter as pupae, which occasionally emerge from garden debris to feed on any garden foliage, whether winterized or not. 

Adults can hide throughout the garden; therefore, common inspections of your garden during winter are recommended. 

If you live in temperate climates, crossed striped moth caterpillars are no less dangerous. Here is an example of what I found in my garden during the first week of December.

If you do not act promptly, these fearsome caterpillars can make an entire plant disappear within a few hours!

Luckily, I brought with me the spray bottle with homemade insecticide that I have made especially for the occasion. The recipe for an organic insecticide can be found here.

Boxelder Bugs

The boxelder bug is known for its distinctive black and red color and its behavior of moving indoors during the winter months. Some boxelder bugs will seek warm shelter outside, which will leave the pests close to gardens. If you have fruit trees or any garden plants with sweet nectar, these insects can feed on these plants during winter. 

When the temperatures are not quite as cold, these insects will emerge and happily eat their preferred garden plants, which can be a problem if you are in an area where these insects are common. 

Grubs

Grubs are problems for gardeners no matter the time of year. These insects primarily live underneath the soil and feed on plant roots. Suppose you live in a region with consistent freezing temperatures during winter. In that case, the grubs will typically burrow deep into the soil and hibernate, but like most of these insects, the milder the temperatures, the more likely the pests will continue feeding on your garden. 

Is Winter Pest Control Worth It?

There are two essential key points to remember with winter pest control: overall temperatures in your region and frequent inspections. Most insects are cold-blooded and dislike the cold, so it is already assured that you will see fewer pests than what you see during spring and summer. But it usually takes freezing temperatures to kill insects, so if your region typically only sees winter lows in the 50s or 40s, pests may be more active. 

If this is the case, you will likely need to continue your common pest control treatments during the winter months. But there are some options for making your garden less attractive or convenient for winter pests. Hiring a pest control technician is the most popular step, or you could take the task on yourself with DIY methods. 

Should I Hire an Exterminator or Use DIY Methods?

Since pest control will not likely be needed on the same scale as spring or summer treatments, it is entirely possible you could do the task yourself. Hiring a pest control company takes a lot of work out of the problem for you; exterminators can implement all of the necessary treatments with powerful pesticides. The choice of which method is entirely up to you based on how severe the problem is. 

But DIY methods for winter garden pest control are simple. Pesticides can easily deter aphids, boxelder bugs, cabbage worms, and slugs in dust or powder form. You can even regularly spray your garden with an insecticide of your choice. Be sure to check that the chemical will kill these specific winter pests. 

Finally, it is also helpful to ensure that all dead leaves or plant matter are removed from the garden since this debris is a common hibernation spot for pests. For grubs, soil treatments will be necessary to eradicate these pests.

One of the most effective methods to eradicate grubs is the use of beneficial nematodes (and it’s totally organic!). To learn more about the benefits of using beneficial nematodes and their methods of application, read here.

Conclusion

Does your garden need winter pest control? The best practice is always to inspect your garden during the winter months. Check for signs of leaf damage or plant discoloration. You may even see aphids, slugs, boxelder bugs, or cabbage worms actively feeding on your plants. If you frequently see this kind of evidence may need winter pest control. You may also need to inspect the soil as well to check for active grubs.

This problem is more common in areas with mild winter temperatures. If you are ever in doubt, have an exterminator inspect your garden. 

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Anat Goldberg

Hi! My name is Anat and I have lived all my life in the countryside. I grew on a farm in Northern Italy and from an early age, I took care of the animals on the farm and the family garden. Over the years I have developed a growing passion for organic cultivation and pest control.

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