As a bulb, garlic has a strong odor and pungent flavor. Due to this, it stands to reason that most pests will avoid it. It is also a common companion plant for roses, peppers, and tomatoes in gardens because it helps keep pests away.
But if we find it tasty, why shouldn’t the bugs? Some pests are resistant to the sulfuric pungent of garlic. This article will discuss the top 5 pests that can cause damage to this fragrant Allium species.
1. Bulb Mites
Dry bulb mites are one of the most serious and pervasive garlic pests.
Mature dry bulb mites look like tiny, coiled worms and measure 0.3 millimeters or less in length.
They complete their entire life cycle in about 2 weeks, so you can see them at any time of year in their various stages (egg, larva, nymph, and adult). But only if you have a good magnifying glass.
These mites hibernate underground or inside garlic cloves during the winter.
True to their name, dry bulb mites eat only on bulbs: garlic, tulip, onion, and lily.
They live between garlic clove layers or inside leaves and cause galls by feeding from within. Other indicators of dry bulb mite infestation include bent, stunted leaves and slow growth.
Rhizoglyphus bulb mites, especially R. echinopus, also feed on garlic. These bulb mites resemble squishy, moist pearls and are 0.5 to 1 mm long.
This mite, like the dry bulb mite, takes 2 weeks to complete its life cycle. It lays white, oval-shaped eggs.
Larvae have only three sets of legs when they hatch, while nymphs and adults have four.
Bulb mites cause stunting in plants, which may go unnoticed until the stored cloves rot.
Both types of bulb mites should be suspected if you find brown spots and decay on the packaging and cloves.
When the females of these pests lay their eggs on your plant’s leaves, dozens of ravenous larvae will hatch and feast on your crop.
How to Control Bulb Mites
Since bulb mites are immune to chemical pesticides, the best way to control them is through cultural, predatory, and organic methods.
You should rotate your crops and not plant alliums in the same area again for at least four years because mites can survive in the soil for multiple growing seasons.
Don’t use the same raised bed year after year to grow garlic. As an alternative, try growing garlic one year and carrots the next, and so on.
If you want to grow alliums again, wait at least four years before planting them in the same raised bed or other planting area, or even in the same soil.
It’s also not a good idea to plant Alliums there if you’ve recently grown mite-hosting crops like brassicas, corn, wheat, or grass.
In order to reduce the likelihood of an infestation, the Integrated Pest Management Program at the University of California suggests soaking seed cloves in hot water at 130°F for 10-20 minutes prior to planting.
They also mention that this can inhibit germination and that water temperatures above 132°F can damage clove tissue, so keep a cooking thermometer on hand.
To control pest populations, you can release predatory insects like the rove beetle (Dalotia coriaria) to eat unwanted pests. After removing and disposing of the diseased plant(s), you should release one or two live roving beetles per square foot of the affected area. These beetles will not harm your garden, they will only feed on bulb mites.