Organic Gardening
Insect Glossary M-P

Organic gardening Insectipedia insect glossary M-P is a free resource of garden insects, insect terms, and helpful information.


A maggot is a soft-bodied grub that is the larva
of a dipterous insect, such as a housefly.

Magnesium (Mg)

The importance of magnesium is understood when we realize that, without it, photosynthesis could not take place, and thus life on earth as we know it could not exist. Magnesium is the only metallic component of chlorophyll. Magnesium is essential in virtually every plant process requiring phosphorus, which functions as the energy currency for plant cell growth and development.


These are the insect's jaws and are responsible for chewing the food into small fragments.

Manganese (Mn)

This micronutrient is necessary to the process of photosynthesis and the formation of chlorophyll. It is likely to be unavailable in soils with a pH above 6.8. It is required in sufficient quantity by most all vegetable crops and grains. Manganese deficiencies are primarily noted in the spring under cool soil temperatures when plant availability is greatly reduced. A high soil pH can also create or compound deficiency symptoms. If your soil pH is high, it is recommended that foliar application of manganese chelate to your transplants in the spring, particularly if your soil temperatures are relatively cool.


Manure is refuse from stables and barnyards consisting of livestock excreta.


One of a pair of mouthparts behind the mandibles and before the labium. The maxillae (plural) directs the food to the mouth, holds it in place while the mandibles chew the food into small fragments.


A mealybug is a scale insect that has a white powdery covering and is destructive pests to fruit trees.

See: Citrus Mealybug, Comstock Mealybug, Longtailed Mealybug, Mealybug Destroyer


The middle of the thorax segments.

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The last of the thorax segments.


To migrate is to move from one region or climate to another for feeding and/or breeding.

Milky Spore Disease

Much like Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), Milky Spore Disease (Bacillus popilliae) is a bacterium and is used to control the Japanese Beetle grub.

Unlike Bt, one application of Milky Spore Disease should continue to provide protection for at least three years. Milky Spore Disease is good for controlling grubs in lawns.

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mineral oil

Oil from a mineral origin. A mineral is an inorganic substance, such as stone, coal, salt, sulfur, sand, petroleum, water, or natural gas. It is neither animal nor vegetable.


Mites are very small to minute arachnids that infest plants and animals, and are capable of transmitting disease. They vary in color from yellow, orange, cream, greenish, or red. some are so small, 1/100 of an inch; they can only be seen under a microscope. Their feeding can also cause plant galls or blisters.

Mites produce several generations each year and a single female can lay from 100 to 300 eggs in her one-month life span.

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Modification of planting time

Some insects are active (larva stage) or abundant for a relatively brief period of the growing season. Learning the insect's life cycle allows you to plant or harvest so that the crop is not available to the pest. In addition, you can use this knowledge to disrupt the insect pest's life cycle, whereby significantly controlling populations in your organic garden.

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Molting is to shed hair, feathers, shell, horns, or an outer layer periodically.

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Mosaic is a virus disease of plants characterized by a mottled yellow or streaked appearance of the foliage.

The disease can be spread by Aphids or Leafhoppers, as well as, gardening tools, hands and clothing.

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mosquito netting

A net or screen with a weave tight enough to keep out mosquitoes.

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most vital organs

The most vital organs are organs that are necessary to sustain life.

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Mottling is to mark with spots or blotches of different color or shades of color as if stained.

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Mulch is a straw material or any other material, such as leaves, spread on the surface of the ground to protect roots, moderate soil temperature, prevent water loss, and control weeds and in some instances control insect pests.

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A plain woven sheer to coarse cotton fabric.

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Mycoplasma is minute microorganisms that have no cell walls and are intermediate in some respects between viruses and bacteria.

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Nasturtiums are herbs with showy spurred flowers and pungent seeds. Some organic gardeners have had great success repelling aphids by planting nasturtiums between vegetable rows or around fruit trees.

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nectar and honeydew

Nectar is a sweet liquid that is secreted by the nectaries of a plant and is the chief raw material of honey.

Honeydew is a saccharine deposit secreted on the leaves by aphids, scale insects, or sometimes by a fungus.

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Nectar is a sweet liquid that is secreted by the nectaries of a plant and is the chief raw material of honey.

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Nocturnal means to be active at night.

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A nodule is a small abnormal knobby bodily mass of rounded or irregular shape. Nodules are common on the roots of leguminous plants.

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Nosema locustae

Nosema locustae is a naturally occurring disease of grasshoppers. Commercial products containing the spores of this disease are available.

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nuclear polyhedrosis virus

A virus that dissolves the tissues of the insect larva.

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Almond Pecan

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nylon netting

Insect pests can't penetrate the covers of nylon netting. Nylon netting can be placed directly on the plant, because of its lightweight. Made of soft polypropylene fibers, it transmits 85% to 95% of sunlight. This netting can be obtained from garden centers or garden catalogs. Do not use if temperatures are consistently over 80 degrees.

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view picture of nymphs

a nymph is an immature insect, such as a larva, that has not completed metamorphosis or development.

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In most adults and immature insects, a small set of visual organs, the ocelli are present. There may be as many as three ocelli, which do not perceive images but are sensitive to small changes in light intensity.

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Open-pollinated (heirloom) plants are varieties that have constant characteristics from generation to generation. Open pollinated plants are similar to one another but may not be as uniform as hybrids.

The advantage of Open-pollinated varieties is seed collection from year to year and you can be assured of constant variety traits.

Hybrid varieties on the other hand will not provide the same constant variety traits if grown the following year.

Orchard crop

Almond Pecan

Apple Apricot
Avocado Banana
Cherry Citrus
Date Fig
Peach/Nectarine Pear
Plum Quince

Berries and Grapes
Blackberry Blueberry
Boysenberry Currant
Gooseberry Grape
Raspberry Strawberry

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organic fertilizer

organic matter


Overwinter pertains to something that occurs during the period spanning the winter, such as hibernation.

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The ovipositor is the egg-laying organ of the female - the external genitalia.

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Oxidation is the process of removing electrons from a molecule and the combining of the molecule with oxygen.

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Organisms that complete their development on or in another organism, but may not necessarily kill it.

Of the parasites that are commercially available, one of many beneficial insects, the Trichogramma Wasp is the most prominent. They are used to attack eggs of pest in orchards, fields, and gardens.

They are used to attack the eggs of pests in orchards, fields, and gardens. Good organic gardening practices should be used to beneficial insects of this sort.

Good organic gardening practices should be used to beneficial insects of this sort.

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The process by which an insect parasite has deposited its eggs on or in the bodies of host insects.

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parasitic wasps

Harmless to humans and animals. Parasitic wasps deposit their eggs on the bodies of host insects. Because these insects have a high reproductive rate and destroy many garden pests, they are extremely valuable beneficial insects. Potter Wasp, Braconid Wasp, Ichneumon Wasp, Trichogramma Wasp, Encarsia formosa, and Digger Wasp are important members of this group.

The adults feed on the nectar from the flowers of weeds and flowers of the daisy (Chrysanthemum) and carrot (Umbellifers)
families. Plant these in your organic gardens and orchards and you will encourage these mighty insects to stay.

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Peat is a carbonaceous substance formed by partial decomposition in water of various humus materials and plants, especially sphagnum. It is used as mulch or soil amendments. Peat is high in Acid (low pH)

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The second, usually small, segment of the antenna. This is the narrow 'waist' at the front of the abdomen of the ant.

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The acidity or alkalinity of a soil is measured in terms of pH. A scale is used with 1.0 to 6.9 being acid in increasing amounts; 7.0 is neither acid or alkaline but neutral; and 7.1 to 9 is alkaline in increasing amounts.

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Common plant: Pennyroyal Scientific name: Mentha pulegium

Creeping plant that grows 2" - 3" tall, with 1" circular 1" leaves. The lavender flowers are bloom in tight, short whorls.

Strong mint flavor and fragrance. This plant can poisonous in large quantities, but may used as a flavoring. Plant in cool moist area, with shade in the hot areas.

Pennyroyal repels ants. Fresh Pennyroyal leaves rubbed on the skin repels mosquitoes. The American pennyroyal (Hedeoma pulegioides) yields commercial oil that is used in medicines and soaps repels gnats and mosquitoes. Fresh or dried Pennyroyal has long been used as a flea repellent.

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(those plants that grow back year after year for three or more years)

Asparagus Artichoke
Horseradish Mint

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A rapidly vaporizing, glandular substance released by an insect that causes a specific response in others of the same species such as sex attractants, alarm substances, and territorial markings.

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In botany, the petiole is the small stalk attaching the leaf blade to the stem. The petiole usually has the same internal structure as the stem. Outgrowths appearing on each side of the petiole are called stipules.

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Plant away from ground cover

Plant your organic vegetable garden away from beds of ivy and other dense ground cover from which these pests can be expected to migrate.

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Potato Leaf Roll


Leaf roll is a virus disease that attacks potato plants when transmitted by Aphids (or seed borne) and is characterized by an upward rolling of the leaf margins. The leaves may also be red or purplish on the underside and thick and leathery. Plants are stunted and production of tubers is very low.

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Predator (adj. predaceous) Insect: An insect that kills and feeds on another, the prey, and is usually larger and/or stronger than the prey.

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Predatory Mites

See Predatory Mite

Predatory Mites can be obtained commercial.

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A fleshy, unjointed "false leg," occurring on the underside of the abdomen of Caterpillars and other insect larvae.

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The top surface of the prothorax, that acts as a shield or cover (see body segments).

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The top surface of the prothorax, that acts as a shield or cover.

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The front of the thorax segments.

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Predaceous, mainly in debris and crevices. No major importance to the organic gardener.

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pulverized wormwood

This is a tea made out of wormwood. A plant long known for its insect repelling qualities.

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view picture of pupae

pupa (pl. pupae) is the nonfeeding and usually inactive stage between the larval and adult stage in holometebolous insects.)

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To enter upon or undergo the pupal condition.

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Pyrethrum is a well know natural insecticide. It is made from the pyrethrum flower (Chrysanthemum cinerariaefolium). Pyrethrum is harmless to warm-blooded animals, but is quite lethal to many insects, including Caterpillars, Beetles, Aphids, Mites, Leafhoppers, Thrips, Moths, and others. Fortunately, pyrethrum is relatively nontoxic to Honey Bees and Lady Beetles, but they can be affected at higher rates of application. Pyrethrum should only be used with caution and as a last resort, because it will kill both the pests and beneficial insects.

Pyrethrum has a very short residual action, breaking down rapidly in sunlight. It should be stored in closed containers and should retain it s effectiveness up to three years. Pyrethrum is most effective as a spray, and is more useful in controlling adult pests. Intercropping with pyrethrum is ineffective. To make your own pyrethrum spray, grind up a few flower heads of the plant Chrysanthemum cinerariaefolium and mix with water.

Pyrethrum can be obtained commercially, but make sure it does not contain the chemical piperonyl butoxide that manufactures mix in to increase it s effectiveness. Piperonyl butoxide is toxic to warm-blooded animal's liver.

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