Whether you have a large homestead or just starting out, nothing can be more devastating to your livestock and crops than finding them infested with pests. Knowing how to identify pests common to plants and livestock will help keep your farm, big or small, in top form and you happy.
Aphids are a pretty common pest and survive in any regional zone. They can come in several different colors and even appear wooly. Since they feed on plant juices, the leaves will look misshapen, curling, and/or yellowing. They will leave behind a sugary liquid called “honeydew” that attracts other pests such as ants. It can also encourage fungal growth called sooty mold.
It is easy to get rid of them. Wiping or spraying plants with soapy water 2–3 times a week for two weeks will get rid of them. Add in cayenne pepper for an extra boost.
Ants, particularly carpenter ants and fire ants, can be a blessing and a curse. A blessing, because their mounds allow moisture and air into the soil, eat any other pests, and are an effective sign that aphids are munching somewhere nearby. They’re a curse because they could be doing some plant-munching too and some species can cause allergic reactions in both humans and livestock when bitten.
This might be a pest to consider keeping around as they can be a beneficial part of your garden. But if they are popping up everywhere or your livestock’s reacting to them, sprinkling DE on the beds is an effective way to kill the entire colony.
Japanese beetles are typically found in the Eastern and Midwest regions. They are 1/2 inch long and have pretty, metallic-green shells with blackheads. They’re not picky with what they munch on, dining on over 200 species of plants. They lay eggs in the soil, the larvae hatch and emerge as adults after 40 days. Then they start devouring leaves in small groups.
If you start noticing your leaves being “skeletonized,” there is a good chance you have Japanese beetles. They are harder to get rid of; the easiest but most time-consuming is to hand-pick them off and drop them in a bucket of soapy solution. Neem oil or another natural insecticide can get rid of them as well.
Squash bugs look – and smell – similar to stink bugs, but they are a lot more destructive. Over a 1/2-inch long with a gray or brown body and flat back, they will inject a toxin into the squash plant and suck out the juice. An infestation will cause the leaves to turn yellow or brown and look wilted. Some leaves may even have holes in them.
The key to getting rid of them is early detection. Picking the egg masses off and dropping them in water is one way to get rid of them. Another is to use an insecticide before the eggs hatch. Any way you slice it, make sure you identify and kill squash bugs before they hatch from eggs.
Wherever you live, you probably have mosquitoes. These blood-suckers not only cause severe itchiness to whoever happens to be their victim, but they have the ability to carry diseases. Diseases that aren’t transferable through other means can be transferred by blood from animal to animal and even animal to human.
Keeping your livestock vaccinated in fall and spring, prime time for mosquitoes, can help eliminate any fear of disease being introduced into your herds. Cleaning water tanks regularly will also keep mosquitoes from being able to lay and hatch eggs.
Fleas aren’t just a problem for dogs and cats; they can be a significant problem for livestock. According to Natura Pest Control, “Fleas usually make their way onto our properties on the backs of our animals, where their eggs drop onto our floors, waiting for the right time to hatch and find a new host. Not only do flea bites itch and bleed, they carry many different pathogens with them.” All animals are potential hosts for flea infestation. Large amounts of bites can cause severe skin allergies, anemia, worms, and even death for livestock such as goats, lambs, and calves.
Regular grooming and cleaning routines are recommended for keeping down flea populations. Natural predators such as ants, wasps, and mites will keep down the numbers as well.
Last on our list are ticks. Ticks are not only another annoying blood-sucking pest, but they can carry and transfer diseases through their bites. Lymes disease, Babesiosis, and tick paralysis are just a few of the diseases that can transfer and kill livestock.
Regular grooming and clean-up are recommended. Fly sprays for cattle and horses can help further repel them.
Having a pest infestation can be devastating for any homesteader that finds themselves victimized by one. Insects can eat away and destroy gardens and orchards while ticks and mosquitoes can transmit diseases and kill precious livestock. Whether you have a small farm or stepping up, knowing how to identify and eradicate pests will keep your farm healthy for years to come.