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GardenSMART :: Protecting Late Season Veggies From Insect Pests

Protecting Late Season Veggies From Insect Pests

By Jolene Hansen for GardenTech
Photographs courtesy of GardenTech

Late-season vegetable gardens can be visions of abundance, but sometimes vegetables aren't the only things in big supply. Many insect pests strike hardest right before harvest, when veggies are at their succulent peak. New generations of pests build through summer and put the pressure on in fall. Know what to expect from late-season pests, so you can meet their threat — and still enjoy your harvest on time.

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Beneficial insects, such as lady beetles and lacewings, can help manage aphids, but populations can soar in late summer, when conditions are right. These small, pear-shaped, soft-bodied insects pierce plant parts and suck out the fluids inside, creating honeydew and causing sooty mold in the process. Aphids give birth to live, hungry young. These newborns can reproduce seven to 10 days after birth.1 Aphid damage peaks as temperatures cool. By fall, their staggering numbers can impact every vegetable in your garden.

Cabbage Loopers

These leaf-feeding caterpillars relish chewing on leaves of plants such as cabbage, kale and bok choy, but they don't limit themselves to cole crops. They're equal opportunity destroyers, attacking tomatoes, cucumbers and potatoes, too. From white- to pale-green with whitish stripes, cabbage loopers arch like inchworms as they eat their way through your vegetables. They leave ragged holes in leaves and bore into cabbage heads. With several generations per season, looper populations peak in fall.2 In moderate climates, reproduction continues year-round.

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Colorado Potato Beetle

Potatoes and related crops, such as tomatoes and eggplants, bear the brunt of damage from the Colorado potato beetle, a serious pest to fall vegetable gardens. Red larvae with black spots and black-striped yellow adults defoliate plants and keep potato tubers from growing. Female beetles emerge from soil and lay up to 350 eggs.3 With multiple generations possible, late-season gardens face all stages of this pest at once, from eggs and larvae to voracious adults.

Corn Earworm (Aka Tomato Fruitworm)

The worm that wiggles its way into your sweet corn is the same pest that burrows into homegrown tomatoes. Corn earworm and tomato fruitworm are two common names inspired by this single pest's favorite targets. Known by its alternating stripes of dark and light tan, this pest builds over summer months as new generations come every 28 to 35 days.4 Late-season corn crops and the year's final bounty of tomatoes are at risk.

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Cucumber Beetles

Whether spotted or striped, cucumber beetles do heavy damage in the larval and adult stages, attacking melons, cucumbers, eggplants, beans and other crops. These pests overwinter in weedy areas, then lay their eggs in soil near plants. Hatching larvae feed on garden crops' roots for up to six weeks. As larvae mature, adult beetles inflict damage above ground, and produce several generations through each growing season.5 Cucumber beetles harm roots, stems, leaves, flowers and skins. They also spread bacterial and viral plant disease. Weed cleanup helps prevent future problems.


Wilted veggies and partially or completely cut stems are the cutworm's calling cards. Late-season seedlings and transplants meant for fall harvests are especially vulnerable. These elusive pests spend their days in soil and come out at night and on cloudy days. Cabbage, carrots, lettuces and peppers are just a few of the plants they harm. One adult can lay hundreds of eggs per season. In northern climates, two generations per year is normal, but in southern gardens, six generations are possible.6 Cutworms overwinter as larvae in the soil, so tilling your garden in fall and spring helps reduce carryover.


Gardeners and homeowners dread the arrival of this pest's odorous autumn onslaught. Numerous species trouble late-season crops, from cabbage, tomatoes and peas to beans and okra. Young bugs change appearance repeatedly as they go through several stages before maturing to brown or green. Regardless of color, they share the same shield-like shape and offensive odor. Stinkbugs hang out in weedy garden perimeters, so good garden sanitation is key to control. These pests can have several generations, and are known to invade homes come winter.7

With late-season vegetable gardens, there's no time to replace lost crops. Effective fall control means killing the pests, but keeping your harvest edible. With natural protection from botanical-based pesticides such as GardenTech® Worry Free® Brand insecticide and miticide products, you can protect your vegetables and eat them, too. Based on pyrethrins extracted from chrysanthemum flowers, GardenTech® Worry Free® Brand Insecticide and Miticide Ready-to-Use Dust and GardenTech® Worry Free® Brand Insecticide and Miticide Ready-to-Use liquid spray kill pests and then break down fast, without lasting residue. You can use these potent pesticides right up to the day of harvest.

When late-season pests threaten to steal your harvest, put an end to their plans with help from GardenTech® Worry Free® Brand insecticides and miticides. Control late-season vegetable pests, enjoy your sun-ripened vegetables right on schedule, and rest easy knowing your garden's naturally protected.

Always read the product label and follow the instructions carefully.

GardenTech is a registered trademark of Gulfstream Home and Garden, Inc. Worry Free is a registered trademark of Central Garden & Pet Company.


  1. Barbercheck, Dr. Mary E., “Biology and Management of Aphids in Organic Cucurbit Production Systems," Penn State University, July 2014
  2. Natwick, E.T., “Cole Crops - Cabbage Looper," University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program, October 2010.
  3. Dave Ragsdale, Edward B. Radcliffe, Suzanne Burkness and Jeffrey Hahn, “Colorado Potato Beetles in Home Gardens," University of Minnesota, 2007
  4. Missouri Botanical Garden, “Tomato Fruitworm/Corn Earworm"
  5. University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program, “Seasonal Development and Life Cycle – Cucumber Beetles"
  6. North Carolina State University Integrated Pest Management, “Cutworms"
  7. University of Maryland Extension, Stink Bugs - Vegetables
  8. Topics: Pest Identification and Prevention, How - To Guides

Author’s Bio: Jolene Hansen is a lifelong gardening enthusiast and former certified horticulture professional. She is passionate about reshaping the way people experience gardens and gardening.


All articles are copyrighted and remain the property of the author.

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