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RHS Names Top Ten Pests of 2013
by RHS
March 2, 2014

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has announced its ‘Top Ten’ garden pests for 2013 based on enquiries received by the charity’s entomologists. As in 2012, slugs and snails topped the list with enquiries remaining at their highest since 2002.

Exceptional levels of rainfall in 2012 that produced one of the wettest summers on record created the perfect mild, damp conditions for slugs and snails to thrive; this appears to have ensured their traditional dominance of the list continued into 2013.

Damage from slugs and snails mainly occurs during spring to autumn, affecting seedlings and many ornamental plants and vegetables, especially potato tubers, hosta leaves and narcissus flowers.

While slugs and snails continued to frustrate gardeners, perhaps the biggest surprise of the 2013 list was the appearance of plum moths (8th) which had never before featured among the top ten garden pests. The small, pink caterpillars of the plum moth feed inside the ripening fruits of plums, damsons and greengages.

Mice and voles (4th) also saw a sharp increase in enquiries with numbers hitting a 24-year high. These small rodents pose a number of challenges to gardeners, for while the tunnelling activities of voles can disturb the roots of plants and disfigure lawns, they also gnaw the bark from the roots and stems of tree and shrubs. Mice can be a problem in storage areas, and in the garden they take fruit and chew off seedlings. Peaks and troughs in mice and vole populations are thought to be due to changing food supplies and the prevalence of predation and diseases.

Vine weevil is a top five enquiry in most years and 2013 was no exception, with the pest occupying the number two spot. Vine weevil is one of the few garden pests capable of killing plants; while the adults cause superficial damage by eating notches in the leaf margins of a wide range of herbaceous plants, it is the larvae feeding on plant roots, especially those grown in pots or containers, that prove terminal for plants.

Others pests which increased in the number of enquiries were capsid bugs (3rd) – in 2013 enquiries reached the highest level for 25 years. Capsid bugs are highly destructive pests that suck sap from the shoot tips and flower buds of a wide range of herbaceous plants including hydrangea, fuchsia and rosa.

Other top ten pests included cushion scale (5th), glasshouse red (two spotted) spider mite (6th), mealybug (7th), ants (=9th) and lily beetle (=9th).

RHS Senior Entomologist Andrew Salisbury said, “By identifying and understanding the pests that are damaging garden plants the RHS can really focus its scientific expertise to deliver relevant, world-leading advice to all garden lovers.” Further information on controlling garden pests is available on the RHS website www.rhs.org.uk

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