After working so hard to make your yard and garden perfect, you deserve to enjoy it. Taking the time now to learn about the worst backyard pests in Tampa will pay off if you happen to run across any in your yard. Here are some of the most common garden pests and suggestions for getting rid of them.


    Cockroaches are generally about 1.5 inches long and love the humidity in Tampa. You’ll find them in your garden, trees, under your sink, in your bathroom, behind the dishwasher, and anywhere there’s moisture. The females will lay eggs anywhere they can find food and water. Avoid leaving pet food out and, to the extent possible, deprive them of the moist, shady outdoor areas in which they thrive, such as stacks of wood, piles of leaves or hollow tree stumps.

    There are many species of cockroaches in Florida. Some fly, some don’t. Some seek shelter in homes, others don’t. The giant of them all is the Florida woods cockroach, also known as the palmetto bug. One member of the species was plucked from the obscurity of a woodpile in Apopka, Fla., and won the World Cockroach Contest in 1986. Its length: 2.49 inches. Its name: Longfellow. Its one saving grace: Like other palmetto bugs, it prefers to live outdoors.

    Cockroaches rarely bite, but many carry bacteria such as salmonella which can contaminate food. Their waste and sheddings can trigger attacks in people with asthma. Boric acid dust and common insecticides help control them, but it’s best to call an exterminator for any substantial infestation. Even a professional won’t be able to totally rid your yard or house of these worst backyard pests in Tampa.

    Spider Mites

    The tiny mouths of these arthropods allow them to make holes in many of your plants. Getting rid of spider mites can be difficult. Try applying a half and half mixture of water and alcohol. Make sure the alcohol is isopropyl, which is toxic to insects but shouldn’t hurt your plants. If the mites are still making your garden and lawn into their home, you may have to research chemical products.

    Tropical Sod Webworm

    Tropical sod webworms can do a lot of damage. For such tiny creatures, they can have a big impact on your yard. These caterpillars may be hard to spot, as they can turn as green as the grass they eat. If one part of your lawn has brown patches and is shorter than the rest, bend down and inspect it closely to see whether your lawn is infested.

    The adults are annoying triangular-shaped moths that don’t do much damage. But they lay eggs in the lawn, and the hatching larvae feed on the grass blades. To get rid of these tiny troublemakers, try sprinkling soapy water on the lawn. This will usually draw the critters out, so you can remove them. But if you notice a large infestation, you’ll have to resort to an insecticide. Spinosad is an organic product that controls the tropical sod webworm, without hurting the grass or beneficial bugs.


    These gray oval bugs can destroy your plants quickly. Their dusty and grainy look is actually a waxy protective coat.  Since they may be hard to spot, keep an eye out for dirty or yellow patches on your plants. Your plants looking like they have fur or lint on them may be another sign mealybugs have taken up residence.

    To get rid of them, spray the plants with neem oil or insecticidal soap. Another approach is to deter them their natural predators. Tiny wasps, “mealybug destroyer” ladybugs and lacewings will make a quick meal of the mealy bugs.


    Opossums are prevalent in Florida. If they can get ahold of anything in your garden, they will. To keep them away, trim the fruit trees where the critters like to snack. You can also block off and cover individual plants and areas you want to protect. Chemical deterrents for opossums are also available if you ‘re at your wits end with these pests.

    While opossums are a nuisance, they can also be beneficial. Besides feasting on your citrus trees, they eat ticks, mice, roaches, rats and snakes. They’re actually immune to rattlesnake venom. Opossums are also the only marsupial in North America and one of the oldest critters on earth.

    Cats and Dogs

    You may not immediately think of housepets such as cats or dogs as garden pests, but they can ruin a lawn and garden faster than an opossum. Cats and dogs are naturally curious and like to chew on plants and grass. Cats like to lay and roll in the grass and newly seeded dirt. Dogs love to dig. The best way to keep your pets from chewing on your grass and garden plants is by training them to use a designated area of the yard. You can also try a homemade solution which has garlic, hot pepper or soapy water. Another tip is to water the area your yard where the dog goes potty. This will help dilute the urine, which can kill the grass.

    With the right knowledge and effort, you can protect your home from the worst backyard pests in Tampa. Once your garden is safe, you’ll have more time to enjoy relaxing in it, than working on it.

    Want to learn more about lawn care and gardening in Tampa? Visit our Tampa Lawn Care page.