Most pests are simple to kill. Mosquito siphoning your corpuscles? A quick slap dispatches it. Whiteflies on your tomato plant? Kill a dozen just by clapping your hands. Japanese beetles munching on your crapemyrtles? A quick spray sends hundreds to the afterlife.
The individual pests are ridiculously easy to exterminate. It is more complicated, though, when you attempt to eradicate an entire ^population^ of the critters. Though you massacre thousands of bothersome bugs, a few always seem to survive. These few are equipped to quickly reproduce and repopulate your garden, seemingly overnight.
When you deal with a numerous pest, it’s better to make your goal ^population reduction^ rather than ^elimination^.
WHITEFLIES are a good example. An infested gardenia or tomato can have thousands of the sap-sucking insects on its leaves. You can kill ninety percent of them with a single spray. A week later, a cloud of bugs arises each time you brush by the plant. The ones who avoided the poisonous blast laid eggs, made babies and bounced back from obliteration.
Whiteflies can be managed with a variety of strategies but it is almost impossible to eliminate them. Scientists have discovered that the color yellow, to a whitefly, is like the sight of neon to a compulsive gambler. They fly directly toward the yellow object, hoping it is attached to a plant they can infest. Crafty gardeners have taken this information and devised whitefly traps that lure them to a sticky death.
My favorite trap is simplicity itself. Drive two, four-foot long wooden stakes into the ground on either side of a plant where you’ve seen whiteflies. Upend a yellow plastic cup ( Solo ™ brand works great) onto each stake and nail or staple it in place. Paint the outside of the cup with thick automotive oil treatment (STP ™ is an example).
Whiteflies cruising in the vicinity land on the yellow cup, hoping for a good meal. Instead, it is the last landing they ever accomplish, for the sticky oil treatment holds them in a gooey grip of death. It won’t eliminate ^all^ of your whiteflies but you will be amazed at the number of insects caught on the cup in just a few days.
EULALIA GRASS is a weed I have been battling for years. Gardeners report that they can easily pull huge baskets of the pest from amongst shade-loving flowers and shrubbery. A few weeks later, though, the grass returns, undaunted by our efforts to eliminate it.
Eulalia is native to the Orient. It was first identified in Tennessee in 1919. It has spread throughout the East Coast in subsequent years. It can be found along any creek in Georgia and in shady landscapes where the soil stays slightly moist. My guess is that it once grew in the shade of kudzu and they learned their invasive natures from each other.
Since it has no natural enemies, eulalia can only be managed by pulling it by hand or spraying with herbicides. The non-selective weed killers like Roundup, Finale or Next Day dispatch the weed easily. If one sprig of the stuff is left untouched however, the pest will be crowding your hosta and ferns within a few weeks.
MANAGE, NOT ELIMINATE We expect, these days, that there is an instant solution for everything. Are you hungry in the morning? You can enjoy(?) instant coffee, instant grits and Instant Breakfast(tm)! We assume that there is, somewhere, a way to overpower every weed, insect and disease. Bright letters on pesticide packages promise a rapid resolution to any pest problem.
Those who have just a little experience with violets, fleas, eulalia or whiteflies chuckle when asked how to eradicate these aggravations. Nature has equipped them to survive deadly cold, howling hurricanes and nuclear blasts. Individually, all pests are vulnerable. En masse, though, they are likely to be victorious.