A small number of insect pests in Maine are well known for inflicting damage to homes, particularly structural and cosmetic wood damage. For example, the black carpenter ant excavates tunnels within a home’s structural lumber, which may require costly repairs. Carpenter bees often inflict cosmetic damage to a home’s exterior, namely wood siding. Several wood-boring beetle species may also excavate nests within a home’s cosmetic and structural wood sources. The eastern subterranean termite is the most destructive pest of structural woods in North America, but this is the only termite found in Maine, and its habitat in the state is limited to the south. Infestations of wood-destroying insects are not as common in Maine as they are in most other states, but numerous yard and garden pests in Maine frequently inflict damage to lawn-grass, garden flowers, ornamental plants, trees, and backyard vegetable and fruit crops.

The most common insect pests of yards and gardens in Maine include Japanese beetle adults and larvae, thrips, aphids, and especially, flea beetles. Maine is home to several species of flea beetle that defoliate plants and trees on residential properties. Flea beetles are small and hard to see but they can be recognized for their tendency to jump when approached. During their larval stage, flea beetles consume plant roots, and some species tunnel into plant stems. After lying down row covers in a garden, the covers should be tightly sealed. Using bags of dirt or loose soil to weigh down the edges of row covers will prevent flea beetles from accessing seeds, roots and stems. Japanese beetles are the most destructive insect pests to lawn grass and yard plants in the northeast. Japenese beetle grubs damage and kill areas of lawn grass, and adults damage and kill more than 400 plant species. It is hard to prevent Japanese beetles from invading yards without professional help, as grubs often eat grass and plant roots below the ground where they cannot be seen. Professional pest controllers can apply lawn treatments to eradicate grubs, and perimeter treatments can prevent infestations from occurring. Insect pest damage to gardens can also be avoided by rotating plants each year, as insect pests gather and overwinter around their preferred plant species. Physical barriers can be used to protect individual plants, entire gardens and trees from insect pest damage.

Have you ever found significant insect pest damage to your yard plants?