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Top garden pests of 2018

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) have recently released the results of their regular annual survey (the 23rd) of the most asked-about pests and diseases of the year. The warm summer of 2018 saw the southern green shield bug enter the top 10 for the first time, but gardeners should be aware that this is very similar in appearance to our own harmless native green shield bug (which has a brown marking at the rear).

The top 10 pests:

  • 1. Box tree caterpillar
  • 2. Slugs & snails
  • 3. Viburnum beetle
  • 4. Vine weevil
  • 5. Woolly aphid
  • 6. Southern green shield bug
  • 7. Fuchsia gall mite
  • 8= Capsid bug
  • 8= Cushion scale
  • 10. Ants
Box tree caterpillar topped the list for the third time, as it spread to Wales and Northern Ireland. The southern green shield bug is a sap-feeder with a liking for vegetables, especially beans. It is thought to have come to Britain in the early 2000s from mainland Europe. The immature nymphs are distinctively black with white or pink markings. Ants have a preference for drier conditions and will always thrive in a hot, dry summer. Controls There are controls available for all of these pests, whether you prefer to garden with or without chemicals. Unfortunately, reduced use of controls means that the pests are spreading unchecked and may ultimately cause more of a problem.

Organic controls: There are two types of organic gardener; those who will not use anything at all on their plants and prefer to let nature take its course, and those who will use natural products. Many products available at the garden centre for pest control are approved for use by organic growers as they are based on natural products, such as fish oil, mineral oils and plant extracts. Some products sold for this purpose are non-specific and may harm beneficial insects as well as unwanted ones.

Inorganic controls: These products are based on natural or man-made chemicals and are specific to one pest or type of pest, such as sap-sucking insects. In the case of Fuchsia gall mite (no. 7 on the list), your choice is between a systemic insecticide, a natural predator or the loss of your plants.

Natural predators: some of these are in your garden anyway, in the form of birds and spiders. Nematodes (microscopic eelworms) and predatory or parasitic insects are available to introduce into your plants to eliminate specific problems. The insects work best in a closed environment like a greenhouse or conservatory, where you will always need some pests remaining as a food source for the predator.

It's important to realise that using a form of control is not bad, it is your choice. Used accurately, at the right time and in the right way, you do not need to use much to reduce or eliminate the problem pest. Look for a logo to say the product is approved for Organic Growers, if you wish, and be assured that the UK has some of the tightest regulations in the world when it comes to garden use. The Common Sense Gardening website ( ) offers advice on how to use products safely.

Please note: Washing up liquid is NOT approved for use on plants and it has not been tested or certified for this purpose. As a product, it is designed to remove grease from dirty dishes and on plants it has the same effect by stripping the protective outer wax from the leaves. This leaves them vulnerable to sun or wind scorch and further attack. Washing up liquid is not a viable alternative to horticultural (or “soft”) soap for controlling aphids or other insects.

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This story was published on: 16/03/2019

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