Four Questions to Test Your Organic Gardening IQ

1. You see a small round reddish bug with black spots on your squash plants. What should you do?

a)Drop it in a bucket of soapy water.

b)Leave it; ladybugs are beneficial garden bugs.

c)Get more information.

Correct Answer: C 

Although ladybugs are beneficial garden bugs, the dreaded squash bug is very similar in appearance. It can be difficult to

photo by megan_shaub

distinguish the adult form of these two bugs.  Squash bug adults and larvae are often found on the same plants. Tiny black and orange inchworms are a clue that the adult is a squash bug. Use online sites, such as to researchfor more information, or ask your local nursery.

2. You find a large green caterpillar with many little white larvae attached, crawling along your tomato plant. What should you do?

a) Pick it off and drop it in a bucket of soapy water with all of its little caterpillar eggs.

b) Leave it there; it’s too gross to touch.

c) Get more information.

Correct Answer: B

Photo by gwen

Yes, it is a hornworm, one of tomatoes’ most infamous pests. However, he is not carrying hornworm eggs; he is carrying the agent of his own demise! The larvae are wasp pupae that will literally devour the caterpillar from the inside out. The damage the hornworm can do in the limited time he has left is greatly outweighed by benefit of the wasps he is incubating while he dies—good stuff, but still gross.

3. You see straight angled cuts on the plants in your vegetable garden. What should you do?

a) Spray your plants with a mixture of hot sauce and baby shampoo.

b) Spray your plants with a mixture of water and rubbing alcohol.

c) Get more information.

Correct Answer: A

Straight angled cuts usually indicate rabbit damage rather than insect damage.  Alcohol and water will usually deter aphids and other small insect pests, but it will have little, if any, effect on rabbits.  Baby shampoo creates a film that holds the hot sauce on the leaves, making them unappealing to rabbits and other mammals. However, be careful to avoid saturating the soil with the mixture, as it will be drawn up systemically and affect the flavor of your plants.

4.   What is the best way to attract ladybugs to your garden?

a) Leave a few aphids and other pests that they like to eat.

b) Plant fragrant flowers among your vegetables to lure the ladybugs.

c) Get more information.

Correct Answer: Trick question! 

 There really is no reliable way to attract the number of ladybugs you need to most effectively protect your vegetable garden. Kick start the process by finding a garden shop or online garden stores, such as Pink Red Kelly, that sell beneficial bugs.


No matter how many questions you got right or wrong, your openness to organic solutions earns you high marks. You don’t need to memorize all the organic gardening pests and every solution; there are many online and print references that you can use. As your garden grows, so will your knowledge. The most important thing is that you remember that you and your family will be eating those vegetables. Think about that the next time you feel the urge to spray them with the poisonous bug killer!

Jessica writes about a wide variety of topics.  She especially enjoys writing about home and garden. You can learn more about beneficial bugs at

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