Identify common garden pests using the creature's size, markings, color, body structure and the types of plants on which it is active. Using a field guide helps when identifying strange or uncommon garden pests.
Some of the most common and most destructive garden pests are aphids, whiteflies and similar insects. These are tiny bugs that use their sharp mouth parts to pierce a plant's skin and suck out nutrients. Aphids look like tiny flecks of black pepper, while whiteflies appear similar to tiny pieces of cotton. These groups of insects feed on all kinds of plants, and they are typically found under leaves or where stems branch.
Many beetles are easily identifiable garden pests. Beetles have an armored covering over each of their wings, a trait which they do not share with other insects. Adult beetles as well as their larvae are destructive pests. Generally, a species of beetle prefers a single type of plant, as seen in asparagus and squash beetles, but some species eat virtually anything. Learn to distinguish beneficial species, such as the soldier beetles and ladybugs, from these destructive species.
Caterpillars are hard to mistake for other creatures because of their long, segmented bodies, which are often furry or spiny. While adult butterflies and moths are often attractive pollinators in the garden, their larvae are far from beneficial. Regardless of species, all caterpillars are pests in the garden and require removal.