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The Worst Garden Pests & Problems Nationwide

Title graphic for the worst gardening pests report

From veteran planters with years spent putting up chicken wire to the fledgling gardener attempting to describe a weed's identifying features in an internet search bar, we've all experienced annoying pests that keep our gardens from looking beautiful.

At Gardens Alive, we've heard more than our fair share of these garden horror stories, but we're always looking to hear more so that we can provide our customers with the pest-control tools and garden-defense tips they need. Looking to understand which pests are especially irksome for gardeners across America, we decided to conduct a study around the biggest pests and pet peeves that gardeners face.

Our study consisted of an analysis of nationwide Google Trends data for top-searched pests and diseases, as well as a brief survey that included questions detailing gardeners' perceived annoyance among pests and peeves. We combined our findings to see which pests annoyed gardeners both regionally and nationally. Altogether, the data we collected presented an interesting look into the factors that gardeners face while cultivating their plants nationwide.

First, we looked at the Google Search trends for the top-searched garden pests across the country.

Map of the worst garden pests in each state
Map of the worst garden pests in each state

Across the U.S., birds were the biggest pest gardeners have to deal with, as they were the most-searched pest in seven states from Delaware to Oregon. Birds can cause all sorts of gardening problems: they peck through greens in search of bugs and as a result, they spread small mites, bugs and diseases into gardens. Protections like netting or other plant covers can help protect all sorts of gardens from flying pests.

Other trends in the top-searched animal pests were varied. Americans were searching for everything from tiny Japanese beetles to snakes and rabbits, as well as pests specific to their region. Arizona, famous for its desert-wandering coyotes, saw gardeners searching for these predators the most, while Southern states like Mississippi, Alabama and North Carolina searched for snakes the most.

Map of the worst garden pests in US
Map of the worst garden pests in US

Understanding that some of these searches may have come from non-gardening residents, we wanted to make sure that we understood gardeners' attitudes towards pests specifically. So, we conducted a study of 800 gardeners to ask them about the most annoying pests they experience.

Map displaying the most annoying garden pests by state
Map displaying the most annoying garden pests by state

According to gardeners, the most annoying pests across the country are small mammals, like chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits and gophers. Little nibbles mark the leaves in gardens from Connecticut to Montana.

Interestingly, at-or-below-ground pests were especially annoying in neighboring state pairs of Washington and Oregon and Oklahoma and Texas. Who knows? Maybe the same moles are burrowing across state lines.

Additionally, from North Carolina all the way down to Florida, gardeners were especially annoyed by small insects in the southeastern United States. Reading up on regional insect guides, like this one from Southern Forests, might help Southern gardeners better understand the insects plaguing their gardens.

Knowing that some of the most annoying garden pests are the ones we can't see until it's almost too late, we also wanted to look at the top-searched plant diseases in different parts of the country.

Map depicting the worst plant diseases in every state
Map depicting the worst plant diseases in every state

By far, the most-searched plant disease was white mold, an invasive disease that rots plant stems. In 16 states, residents searched for information about white mold more than any other garden disease, perhaps due to how the white, flaky mold can fly underneath gardeners' radar until considerable plant damage is done.

Airflow-related diseases, including mold, mildew and rot, were among the top-searched diseases in the U.S. For example, in Georgia, gardeners are turning to Google to help treat downy mildew, whereas in Iowa, cedar apple rust troubled the most gardeners. This shows the importance of open-air design in successful garden spaces. Reading tips about aerated solutions like greenhouses can help gardeners tackle diseases.

Chart denoting the worst plant diseases in the U.S.
Chart denoting the worst plant diseases in the U.S.

Altogether, the information we collected about the most annoying garden pests and diseases show that the issues gardeners face nationwide are as unique and variant as the gardens themselves. While there are definitely regional trends, factors like garden aeration can affect your individual garden more vulnerable to certain pests. At Gardens Alive, we have lots of solutions for understanding and addressing your specific pest problems.

Despite all of these findings, don't let these pests prevent you from getting out and working on your green thumb. Here's to a pest-free season from our garden to yours.

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