The beautiful warm Oklahoma months coax most of us outside. We just love it, but so do our lawn and garden insects and pests.

Fending off these unwanted critters can cause even the most seasoned gardener much frustration and potential expense.

One of the keys to successful gardening involves early inspection and identification of garden pests. If you can, walk around your garden daily and look for “signs” (e.g., a silky liquid known as honeydew, excrement known as frass, webbing, cast skin) or “symptoms” (e.g., discoloration/distortion of leaves/blossoms/twigs, chewing damage, cracked bark, plant dieback), then take quick action as briefly described below.

Some of the most common pests for our area are:


Aphids: 1/8-inch long; winged and wingless; several colors; high reproduction when warm

Control: Spray top and bottom of leaves several times with water from hose


Lace Bugs: 1/8-inch long; clear wings; quite common on azaleas

Control: Insecticidal soap or horticultural oil


White Flies: 1/16-inch long; produces honeydew that leads to sooty mold; particularly problematic in greenhouses

Control: Insecticidal soap or horticultural oil


Squash Bugs: 5/8-inch long; can be found on all cucurbits (cucumber, squash, pumpkin); early signs are black eggs laid on undersides of leaves

Control: Sevin, neem oil, pyrethins pesticides


Spider Mites: Too small to see; prefers dry/dusty/hot weather; loves tomatoes and marigolds; early inspection method: hold a white sheet of paper under the leaf and sharply tap the leaf. If present, red spider mites will drop off and can then be seen as tiny red dots crawling on the white paper.

Control: Frequent insecticidal soap or horticultural oil


Hornworm: Quite common pest on tomato vines; very destructive even in small numbers (1-2); complete defoliation can occur almost overnight

Control: Susceptible to natural enemies (braconid wasps), hand picking, insecticides like Bacillus thuringiensis (a biological pesticide commonly known as Bt)


Fall Webworms: Prefers pecans and other nut trees; might impair pecan production but will not kill trees

Control: Ranges from doing nothing to mechanical removal to insecticides, such as Bt, Orthene, Sevin or Malathion


bag worm

Bagworms: Prefers junipers, arborvitae, cedar, spruce, and pines; female builds bag while feeding; very resistant to insecticides once bag is closed

Control: Treat with Bt in late May to early June before bag closure or can hand pick after bag closure.


Borers: Damage hard to detect early; look for holes, sawdust, and oozing sap

Control is preventative — keep trees healthy, avoid injury to trunks, remove any parts of plants that are infested


Other effective methods for control of common pests include:

  • Select plants that are resistant to pests (and disease).
  • Pests may over-winter or lay eggs in trash from the previous year. Dispose of debris and leaf clutter.
  • Some pests (aphids, white flies, spider mites) can be removed with a jet of water from the hose. 
  • If a limited number of pests are present, hand removal of insects can be effective.

Gardener’s note: A growing number of gardeners are becoming increasingly concerned about the environmental and health effects of using chemical pesticides in the landscape. Therefore, while chemical insecticides have been cited here, they should be the last resort, as application of such will kill the good predators right along with the bad pests. Consider Integrated Pest Management (IPM) as a more environmentally friendly biological control methodology. Both your plants as well as your environment will love you for 

Thank you to Tulsa County Master Gardeners for their expertise in this subject matter. Allen Robinson has been a Master Gardener since 2010.

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