Who Are The Bad Bugs?

Ilona Erwin

What Makes A Bug “Bad”?

There are oh-so-many bad insects that invade our gardens, I couldn’t begin to name them all, even if I tried. There is, however, a top villains list to collate, and a few tips to save our gardens from them.

Ohio’s really “bad bugs” are usually invaders, and that is primarily the definition of a really bad bug.

Insects which have no natural enemies and who decimate trees and gardens have been introduced from outside the environment. Sadly, we have a history of loss to many of these unwelcome guests. This is the motivating factor to many of the custom’s laws which prohibit entry of plants and animals.

Native insects can be also be a problem if they somehow destroy important plants or crops, so when we think of an insect as “bad”, it has more to do with how it impacts our garden plans, or the environment.

We spray and drench, cut, and sometimes discard entire plants to rid ourselves of pests, but one of the best ways to control a bad bug is by introducing and encouraging good bugs.

Let’s look at that process.

My Short List of Bad Bugs and Insects

Identify Ash Tree Borer

What These Bad Bugs Do

Travel through the Eastern states and many of the dead trees in a hardwood forest are Ash trees that have succumbed to the Emerald Ash Tree Borer. Although many homeowners valiantly try to save their trees, it is often a losing battle. Sadly I lost all of mine.


Beauty in Death

Borer Damage photo by jhritz on Flickr

Here is a picture of the damage left behind by the Emerald Ash Borer.

If you want to protect your trees, the present method is to use strong systemic insecticides. If you wish to learn more of this insect, its spread, and the treatment, a factual website can help you. For me, my trees are lost and I have foresworn using such remedies as systemic pesticides. All the info is present on the site below.

Emerald Ash Borer Info

Bad Nematodes

One of the really bad insect problems gardeners face are the bad nematodes. There are beneficial nematodes and introducing them into the garden is one way to utilize organic garden control of bad bugs, but there are the destructive types of nematodes too.

Planting marigolds (Tagetes, not calendulas) will help rid a soil of these troublesome insects, and if you are serious about it, planting particular types of marigolds is the remedy for some of them.

Nematodes and their control PDF | Marigolds for control of Nematodes
Single Gold Marigolds

Deal with Bad Bugs

Eliminating the villains completely is unlikely on a home garden scale, but control is quite possible.

Get Rid of Bad Nemotodes

Japanese Beetle Invasion

I recalled these pest from my Grandparents garden in Akron, Ohio during the late 50s, but they did not invade here, in western Central Ohio, until the past decade.

When they did the air was filled with them and they covered the cherry trees, resulting in the death of one, some years subsequent.

During that time we took steps including use beetle bags. This method uses attractant to draw them to their death within bags. At the height of the plague we emptied bags and bags of them, stinking from decay of their Biblical proportions. I live in a rural area and burnt the carcasses.

Once the initial numbers arrived, later years saw them reduced to more “normal” presence in the garden. They regularly show up on the rose blooms.
Besides the bag traps, which work by drawing them into your yard, there is another method based on a natural control, Milky Spore ‘Paenibacillus popilliae‘. It is a soil-dwelling, Gram-positive, rod-shaped bacterium (2) which infects the grubs of the beetle in the ground.

Milky Spore Powder for your garden.

Our Newest Garden Troublemaker, Stinkbugs

I hate them. They love to come indoors to winter over, so vigilant watch must be kept. And it isn’t possible to just squash them, or vacuum them up… their nauseous smell requires that I carefully scoop them onto a paper and transport them outside.

stinkbug By Alex Lozupone – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0


It is important to try to deter them from getting a foothold in the house.

Where Did Stinkbugs Come From?

Accidentally introduced  from China or Japan, it now has spread to 34 U.S. states with numbers on the rise. The USA is apparently ideal for its explosive population spread.

What Damage Do They Do?

This insect eats all sorts of fruits and vegetables. They are very damaging. and hard to control.


To get rid of them, the long term view is to encourage predators. It is known that woodlice eat the eggs, and scientists hope for birds to begin eating them, but for now, their greatest deterrent is the Wheel Bug. The characteristic of this predator is its viciousness. It also preys on ladybugs and honeybees, and if it bites a human, it is quite painful.

The Wheel Bug in Action


I can attest to the destructiveness of these pests. Even though I picked off hundreds of them from a thriving Arborvitae tree, it could not be saved. By the time I noticed the infestation, the tree was too far gone, and died.

My story, pictures, and research.

These caterpillars are of the Psychidae moth family. They are damaging (as my woeful tale illustrates) and difficult to treat. Handpick the bags in late fall to early spring. I burn them, but they can be disposed of in a bucket with soapy water.

Predators include mice and birds, and some parasitic wasps.

Additional Information Resources:

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Ilona Erwin, author

Meet the Author

Ilona Erwin

I started working on this website beginning in 1998, when it was part of Ilona's Reflecting Pool. Since then I've branched out into a number of online endeavors and work at writing lots of content for my sites. "Ilona's Garden" remains my primary site and is dedicated to home gardener's success.