Popular Pandemic Pest Notes

UC IPM Pest Notes
Pest Notes
are UC IPM publications written for people who want information about pests in homes, office buildings, schools, gardens, urban landscapes, and more. We have more than 170 peer-reviewed Pest Notes on topics ranging from ants to the Zoropsis spider, all available on our website.

We took a look at which titles were of greatest interest during the first five months of the COVID-19 pandemic when many Californians were staying home. These are the top ten most viewed Pest Notes from March to August 2020.

#10 Pocket Gophers

Pocket gophers are active all year round but, in the springtime, young gophers are on the move so people might see more damage then. A single gopher can quickly ruin a garden but you probably won't see it. You'll need to watch out for their mounds to clue you in.

Got gophers? You can control these pesky rodents with traps. See our videos for instructions on how to find gopher tunnels, where to place gopher traps, and how to set Macabee and Gophinator traps.

Get more details at Pest Notes: Pocket Gophers.

#9 Whiteflies

9 Whiteflies
Whiteflies are tiny, sap-sucking insects that can become abundant in vegetable and ornamental plantings, especially during warm weather.

Signs of a whitefly infestation can include:

  • Tiny nymphs on the underside of leaves.
  • Sticky honeydew on leaves, fruit, or beneath plants, or a covering of black sooty mold.
  • Yellowing, silvering, or drying leaves that have whitefly nymphs on them.
  • Deposits of white wax (with certain whiteflies).

For more information and management tips, see Pest Notes: Whiteflies.

#8 Scales

8 Scales
Scales are immobile insects that suck plant juices from many types of trees, shrubs, and houseplants.

What does scale damage look like?

Damage resembles that of aphids and whiteflies. There is abundant sticky honeydew (excreted by soft scales and certain other species). Black sooty mold may be growing on the honeydew. Discolored, distorted, or dying leaves, twigs, or branches (especially with armored scales) may be present.

Need to know more? See Pest Notes: Scales.

#7 Carpet Beetles

7 Carpet Beetles
Carpet beetles can be found in homes, warehouses, museums, or anywhere else fabric, furs, and feathers are present.

How did carpet beetles get in my house?

  • Carpet beetle adults are pollen feeders and are found on flowers with abundant pollen like crape myrtle, spiraea, and buckwheat.
  • People often bring carpet beetles into their homes on cut flowers from the garden.
  • Adults can fly in through open windows or doors without screens.

If you think you've got carpet beetles and need to know how to get rid of them safely and effectively, read Pest Notes: Carpet Beetles.

#6 Ground Squirrels

6 Ground Squirrels
Ground squirrels may be cute and furry but they can injure many types of plants, harbor diseases harmful to humans, and damage landscapes with their burrowing.

Ground squirrels cause damage by, eating food-bearing and ornamental plants, gnawing on plastic sprinklers and irrigation lines, girdling young trees, and burrowing, which causes trip hazards and damages landscapes and structures.

Learn more at Pest Notes: Ground Squirrel.

#5 Thrips

5 Thrips
Thrips are tiny, slender insects but you're more likely to see the damage they cause than the insects themselves. When thrips feed, they distort or scar leaves, flowers, or fruit. 

You often won't see damage  until tissue grows and expands. Look for:

  • Scabby, silvery to dark brown discoloration on fruit, leaves, or petals
  • Dark specks of excrement on fruit or leaves
  • Distorted, curled, galled, or dead shoot tips and leaves

Thrips are difficult to control. You'll need to combine methods for best results. For more information, see Pest Notes: Thrips.

#4 Mealybugs

4 Mealybugs
Mealybugs are small, soft, wax-covered insects that are common problems on houseplants and on outdoor plants in areas with mild winters.

What do mealybugs look like?

Most adult mealybugs are wingless females with oval, segmented bodies covered with wax. Males have wings but are rarely seen. Newly hatched mealybug immatures move around plants but soon settle down and produce a waxy covering. Different mealybug species can be distinguished by the length of the waxy filaments around their bodies. They may be confused with other insects that produce wax and honeydew like cottony cushion scale, woolly aphids, soft scales, and whiteflies. Mealybugs are sometimes hard to see. They often live in protected areas of plants such as in the crown of a plant, in branch crotches, or on stems near the soil.

Mealybugs suck sap, weakening plants. High populations can slow plant growth and cause leaf drop. For help managing mealybugs, read Pest Notes: Mealybugs.

#3 Aphids

3 Aphids
Almost every plant has one or more aphid species that occasionally feed on it, so it's no wonder that so many people viewed this publication. Although aphids can curl leaves and produce sticky honeydew, they rarely kill plants, and can usually be washed off with water.

How can you reduce aphids?

  • Prune infested leaves and stems.
  • Knock aphid populations off plants by shaking the plant or spraying it with a strong stream of water.
  • Protect seedlings with covers or aluminum foil mulches.
  • Wait for hot weather; some aphids are heat-intolerant and will be gone by mid-summer.

Still have questions? Find out more about aphids in Pest Notes: Aphids.

#2 Fungus Gnats

2 fungus Gnats
Fungus gnats are small flies that infest soil, potting mix, other container media, and other sources of organic decomposition. Because adult fungus gnats are attracted to light, you first might notice these pests flying near windows indoors. If you spot fungus gnats flying around, check your plant pots. If the soil in the pots is overly moist, fungus gnat larvae could be feeding on the plant roots.

What can you do about fungus gnats?

Avoid overwatering and provide good drainage. Allow the surface of container soil to dry between waterings. Clean up standing water, and  eliminate any plumbing or irrigation system leaks. Avoid using incompletely-composted organic  matter in potting media unless it is pasteurized first, because it will  often be infested with fungus gnats. Screen and caulk leaky windows and doors to help prevent pests like fungus gnats from coming indoors.

For more management tips, read Pest Notes: Fungus Gnats.

#1 Peach Leaf Curl

1 Peach Leaf Curl
Our top viewed Pest Notes was peach leaf curl, a fungal disease that affects only peach and nectarine trees. Distorted, reddened foliage in spring is a distinctive symptom of peach leaf curl. Unfortunately by the time you see symptoms, it's too late to do anything this year. In order to manage this disease, treat trees with a fungicide in late fall and winter.

How do you effectively manage peach leaf curl?

  • The fungal spores that cause the disease spend the winter on twigs and buds and germinate in the spring.
  • For effective control, treat trees just after leaves have fallen, usually late November or December.
  • Consider a second application in late winter before buds swell, especially in areas with high rainfall or during wet winters.
  • Don't apply fungicides during the growing season because they won't be effective.

For more information see Pest Notes: Peach Leaf Curl.