Explore Plants

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 

Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Monday - April 21, 2008

From: Georgetown, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pests, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Insect infestation, identification and treatment
Answered by: Barbara Medford and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

help! I have an infestation of small flies in my flower/vegetable beds. They seem to be eating the leaves of just about everything. I've tried to find out exactly what they are, but haven't had any luck. They're not white flies, they look like common house flies, only much smaller. I can't see anything else that might be munching on the plants. They especially like my okra, eggplant and celosia leaves. I've tried spraying with insecticidal soap and dusting with sevin...no luck getting rid of them. Please help before they eat everything!

ANSWER:

Since Mr. Smarty Plants is pretty much a gardener, and not an entomologist, he may be the wrong person to ask this question. We attacked the problem by trying to discover what insect pests can cause problems to all three of the plants you mentioned: eggplants, okra and celosia. Eggplant originated in southern and eastern Asia, okra in the Ethiopian highlands, and celosia in Africa and India; so, since the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center specializes in plants native to North America, we might use that as an excuse to beg off this question, but we are made of sturdier stuff. The three plants you listed have in common a possibility of being invaded by thrips, mites and aphids. We have found websites of pictures of the little monsters and of descriptions of their life cycles and possible causes of their demise. Follow the links and see if you can figure out which you have visiting your garden. Unfortunately, we are of the opinion that these insects, whatever they are, are a symptom and not a cause. The flies are not actually eating your plants, but rather they are either attracted to what IS eating them or to some by-product of the predation, such as honeydew. We would strongly recommend that you contact your county extension agent (see below) to find out what is going on. You may have a serious problem that is just getting started.

Images of thrips. Discussion of thrips, from the University of California Integrated Pest Management Program.

Images of mites. Discussion of mites, from the Tree of Life Acari project.

Images of aphids. Discussion of aphids, also from the University of California Integrated Pest Management Program.

And, just in case....

Images of whiteflies. Discussion of whiteflies, again from the University of California Integrated Pest Management Program.

For more information, contact the Williamson County Extension Service. You are probably not the only one being annoyed by these insects, and the Extension Service should have some publications or information on what to do next.

 

More Pests Questions

Possible freeze damage in Wax Myrtle from last winter in Bastrop, TX
July 25, 2011 - Our Wax Myrtle is about 7 yrs old and in good shape until this past winter when we had several very hard freezes. Now several of the large branches are dead and more are dying each month. We have not ...
view the full question and answer

Problems with mountain laurel from Sunrise Beach TX
August 29, 2012 - In Llano Co., TX near lake LBJ, crushed granite type soil - my 4 - 5 year old TX Mtn. Laurels (2), about the size of large wheel barrows, are turning very pale, dropping leaves and on 1 the seed pods ...
view the full question and answer

Worms on blackeyed susans and daisies in Tuckerton NJ
July 30, 2009 - I have black eyed susans and white daisies planted together. Not sure if this makes a difference. Today I noticed that there are tiny worms on both the plants they are almost the size of silk worms. ...
view the full question and answer

Landscaping for slope in Kansas City
October 08, 2008 - We have a down sloping back yard and patio on the lower area. We need some water absorbing plants near the foundation and some in the front of the house, where water isn't a problem. We are allergic ...
view the full question and answer

Weeds in Buffalograss from Edmond OK
September 20, 2012 - We have a patch of buffalograss surrounded by patio/flower garden/vegetable garden. We like B-grass, but are getting a lot of weeds despite preemergents, and some bermuda had appeared. Are there h...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.