Prevention is the real key to controlling indoor garden pests. When that fails, it is the accurate identification of the pest that can make or break your indoor gardening efforts. Believe me I know, just check out my bug woes. When you grow a small garden indoors, you leave most of your insect problems outside. For the most part, there are 3 different insects that commonly become a problem for indoor gardens. They are...
Look closely at this picture... mites are very small, but
they often hang out together in small groups. Mites are the worst indoor garden pests. If the
conditions are right, 10 mites can become 10,000 mites in only 30 days!
Mites are sap suckers. They bite into veins, usually on the undersides
of leaves where they are more protected. They are so small that they are
easily overlooked until there is an obvious problem.
Damaged leaves have many tiny dots on them, but you must look close. A 30X magnifying scope comes in handy for this type of close inspection. If you suspect you have mites, make sure to check the undersides of the leaves well. Mite and thrip damage often looks like heat damage or over-fertilization.
The spotted mite is one of the most common. It has big black spots, one on each side. It starts out a yellowish color, and as it matures and reproduces in fall it turns a red color. This gives them their other name, red spider mites.
Black mites are also pretty common, and there are many
other types that all look very similar. The important thing is that all of these pests are dealt with in basically the same way. Pruning, insecticidal soap, pepper spray, and in very bad situations you may need to shut down the garden area completely for two or three months.
Thrips are also very, very small and go easily unnoticed. Thrips are also sap suckers. One clue that you have them is the spots of shiny residue they leave on your leaves after feeding on sap. Unlike mites, which are basically round, thrips are oval...the shape of a very tiny grain of rice. They do not tend to gather together in the numbers that spider mites achieve.
Outdoors, thrips are only a problem for about 6 weeks, around August and September. This is the time you are most likely to get them. Again, a 30x magnifying scope is very handy for taking a good look. Their appearance changes a little as they develop, so here they all are. They are usually a tan, or white, or yellowish color. Finally, thrips spend part of their life in the soil, so you will notice some kind of jumping or flying activity at the soil level if you have these indoor garden pests.
This insect is more obvious, despite its small size. You can't help but notice them flying around here and there. Flying through the air, they appear completely black. The fungus gnat also spends the first part of its life in the soil.
The gnat larvae feed on your plants roots, and other organic matter. Fungus gnats are much more of a problem with hydroponics than with gardening in soil. Once they are flying adults, it's just a matter of time before they lay more eggs in your soil, keeping the problem going.
Once you have identified your indoor garden pests, it is time to do battle with them. For vegetables and other garden items you plan to consume, I recommend natural pest control methods.