Insects and other pests can do more than nibble on our plants or invade our homes. Some carry diseases that will harm plants or people, and they are known as vectors. A vector is an organism that can introduce a disease-causing agent like bacteria or a virus to another plant or animal. While you may not be able to prevent these vectors from passing on their disease, you can control the outbreak with different steps. First, though, it’s important to know what vectors to keep an eye out for, and what they might be carrying with them.
Insect vectors of plant diseases are numerous, and can carry a very wide array of different plant diseases. Most insect vectors are insects belonging to the homoptera or hemiptera family. They have piercing, sucking mouthparts that extract juices from the plants, while injecting their own saliva, which is how plants get infected. Aphids, leafhoppers, thrips, planthoppers, whiteflies, some beetles, and other insects are common disease vectors. Often, a virus will be transmitted, but there are many and what is more important than identifying the virus is identifying what might cause it, and how to reduce those populations. Here’s a small sampling of what these vectors might be spreading:
There is no way of knowing if the aphids or leafhoppers you see on your prized plants are infected with a virus or not, until you see signs of it on your plants. Plant diseases can be passed from vector to plant in a matter of seconds, so your best bet to protect your vegetables, ornamentals, and trees is to control the pest populations first, before any sign of disease. Here are some steps to follow when dealing with insect vectors:
Plants aren’t the only ones affected by vectors. There are insects and animals that can pass on diseases through bites to humans. These diseases are treatable on an individual basis. Below is a brief list of examples of vectors and the diseases they can pass on to humans:
As with plant diseases, you will most likely be unable to determine if the pest is infected with any diseases before someone is infected. Controlling these pests and potential vectors will help to eliminate the risk of any infection.