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 Physical Removal of Insect Pests

When you see an insect or mite pest problem in your trees and it’s localized, there isn’t a need to purchase an insecticide or miticide and spray it.  The fastest way and easiest thing to do is to physically remove the portion where the insects or mites are feeding and dispose it. 
Once you have the plant parts, put them in a plastic bag and throw them away.  You can put them in your compost pile, far away, because the heat will kill the insects or mite pests.  The compost pile has to be treated so that it’s turned over and that it’s generating a 170 – 180 degree temperature in order to kill all the organisms you put in there.
Another example of the physical removal of the plant is bagworms.  Each one of those bags contains over 500 to 1,000 eggs.  If you physically remove them and put them in soapy water, you’ve killed the next generation of crawlers. 
This is a fall webworm, which is a pest of certain trees such as conifers and birch.  They create nests in trees, and many times, they’re just localized.  This is another example of when you see nests in a tree, just prune it off, put it in a container and get rid of it.  Or, you can put it in your compost pile, as long as it’s an active compost pile, and that should kill them.  Another way to kill them is to take a rake or a hard spray of water, knock the nest off, and the birds will come in and eat the caterpillars.
Another is the tobacco or tomato hornworm on your tomato.  When they get to be bit, just grab them and remove them.  That’s the best way to physically deal with them.  There’s no need to spray with an insecticide at that point.  It’s not going to work very well anyway.  So physical removal is one of the easiest, simplest ways to alleviate problems with insect pest.
For spider mites and other insect pests, physical removal is not practical.  Go underneath the foliage and blast them off.  Forceful water sprays are very effective in physically removing all the life stages of insects and mite pests.
So physical removal is very fast, effective, and you don’t have to worry about residues or any impact on natural enemies.
This feature story prepared with Raymond Cloyd, Kansas State University Research and Extension Professor of Entomology. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at KansasGreenYards.org.