How to Fight Pests Without Chemicals

Reader Contribution by James White
article image

Using natural enemies to combat the pest population is one of the best ways to gain control over your garden. The best part is that you don’t need any insecticides or chemicals. All you need is knowledge of your enemies and their predators.

The Problem

The three bad guys listed below will ruin your crop in no time. Using insecticide to get rid of them is more likely to kill beneficial insects than your intended target. Identifying pest damage early is important because it can drastically reduce the damage done to your garden.


These small, soft-bodied, pear-shaped insects infect both gardens and landscape. Aphids will leave a sugary waste called honeydew on plants, causing leaves and stems to become sticky. Discovering sticky plants is a sure sign that you have an infestation.

Consider the following facts:

• Aphids will attack houseplants if brought inside.
• They have a proboscis that functions like a straw, allowing them to suck the fluids from plants or flowers, robbing them of their nutrients.
• Aphids can vary in color. They can be green, orange, yellow, pink, gray, black or white.
• Adult aphids are usually wingless, but they can grow wings to move to a new location when the population grows crowded and food availability suffers.
• Aphids may spread diseases to plants.


Thrips present a major threat to agricultural communities because they multiply quickly and will swarm a crop in no time. Consider the following facts:

• Thrips will leave plants discolored and scarred by sucking from them and scraping their leaves, flowers and fruits.
• Not only will thrips ruin a crop in record time, but they also spread diseases to plants like spotted tomato wilt and necrotic spot virus.
• Some species of thrips have been known to bite humans.
• To control thrips in your garden, remove grass and weeds that can provide a host for these pests.


I’m going to be honest: telling people how to get rid of hornworms makes me really happy. I hate these pests with a fiery passion because they manage to infiltrate my garden every year. Here is some useful information about hornworms:

• They are green caterpillars that love to munch on your fresh tomatoes.
• Their color allows them to blend into the foliage of plants where they eat non-stop, so spotting them requires checking under your leaves at least once a day.
• Tilling the soil at the beginning and end of each growing season can destroy overwintering larvae with a mortality rate up to 90 percent.>

The Solution

The good news is that there’s something you can do to keep these bugs from ruining your garden. Attracting beneficial insects to your garden will help drastically reduce the number of pests that you have to deal with.

To help you tell the difference between beneficial insects and harmful ones, here’s a chart from Safer Brand.


Ladybugs love to eat aphids, mealybugs and mites. Here is more information about ladybugs:

• Ladybug larvae actually do more damage than the adults; they have a voracious appetite for soft-bodied pests, especially aphids.
• You can attract ladybugs to your garden by planting things they can’t resist such as fennel, angelica, dill or yarrow.
• You can purchase ladybugs and make them stay in their new home by releasing them at night. They won’t fly at night, so water your garden before releasing them. Your wet plants provide moisture for thirsty bugs and their larvae.


Once again, the babies are the champion eaters in the lacewing family. Adult lacewings mostly feed on flower nectar. Consider the following information:

• Angelica planted for ladybugs will also attract lacewings to your garden.
• Lacewing larvae have a varied diet. They’ll destroy any aphids they find, but they’re also content to eat thrips, mites, small caterpillars, moth eggs and even hornworms.

Parasitic Wasps

I never imagined that a wasp would be my friend, but braconid wasps proved me wrong. Here is some helpful information about them:

• Braconid wasps lay their eggs on hornworms, where the larvae eat the hornworms from the inside out as they grow.
• The eggs looks like tiny white clusters of rice on a hornworm’s back. If you see these eggs, leave the hornworm alone. The wasps are taking care of the problem for you!
• The larvae cause the hornworm to stop eating, so not only are they killing the pest, they’re also preventing it from doing further damage.

Using biological control to deal with your pest population will keep your garden organic and free from unnecessary toxic chemicals. Utilize the natural predators of bad bugs and you can manage your garden naturally! This will result in healthy crops and protect your soil quality from chemical degradation.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page. 

Need Help? Call 1-800-234-3368