How to Rid Yourself of Corn Pests

Published: 25th June 2010
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Every day I inspect my garden, only to find pests are enjoying it more than me. One especially sore spot for me is my corn. They have not grown well and I believe the lack of proper fertilizing was on my part. But what remains is being attacked by these nasty bugs. I shiver just thinking about them. Today I pulled off two good ears of corn in my meager garden and tossed them in the nearby creek. They were infested. I do not know how many but one was enough for me to see and become horrified!

It seems there are many types of insects that love the corn plant. From the grubs in the soil eating on the newly planted seedlings, to the corn earworm that feeds directly on the sweet corn, to the rootworm and Japanese beetles that feed on the corn silks - these are just a few of the enemy that awaits the corn gardener. I can understand their love, for who can pass up a delicious sweet tasting corn?

With the growing fears of insecticides containing harmful chemicals, what is a small gardener to do? One suggestion is to use insecticidal soap. It penetrates the cell membranes of the insect, which in turn kill the pest, but the unfortunate part is you must apply this to the bug itself. It also does not affect bugs with hard shells. I find the part of actually having to apply the soap to the bug horrifying and continue to search for other answers.

If you have corn borers, the suggestion is to peel back the entrance hole and pick out the worm by hand. Again, I shudder at the thought. A corn borer has several stages; it is an adult moth, a larva, back to an adult moth to laying more eggs on the corn leaf. It is the larva stage of the corn borer or other pests that do the most damage to the plant. Know this; corn borers will survive the winter in old corn stalks. You must get rid of those old stalks.

A corn earworm is dangerous because it can lay over 2000 eggs! One suggestion is to apply several drops of mineral oil with a dropper into the silk once it turns brown. Another suggestion is to close the ear tips with clothes pins to block passageway of the worm.
Flea beetles and sap beetles can also be a nuisance and hard to control. Pyola is made from canola oil and pyrethins, can be an effective way to rid yourself of those beetles.

Two other suggestions are to use moth crystals and cornmeal. Sprinkle the moth crystals and cornmeal around the base of the corn. The cornmeal is favored by pests, but it swells inside thus not allowing the insect to digest the meal which will cause the insect to die. Moth crystals may help to rid of slugs as well as the moths.

Neem can control both the ground grub and the Japanese beetle. It acts as both a feeding repellant and effect the growth of the pest. Neem is a plant-derived insecticide. It comes from the natural chemicals the plant parts use to defend itself from insect attacks.

If Blue Jays are an issue of stealing the tantalizing corn, then try placing flat old bicycle tubes around the base of the corn to discourage them. They think they are snakes and leave your wonderful corn alone.

Lastly, if you have ground grubs getting rid of them can be difficult in the spring because they are too large for feeding. Rains can also wash away the treatments. Late summer or early fall is the best time to treat them because this is when you will find them closer to the surface. Warmer climates will find the grubs closer to the surface. Oddly, applying nematodes, a parasite that infects grubs, will eventually kill the grub.

Beware if you use pesticides! Each state has different laws concerning pest control. Be sure to check with your state and local agriculture department for rules and regulations.
About the Author
LA Hays is a contributing writer for Mike the Gardener Enterprises, LLC the exclusive home for the Seeds of the Month Club.

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