Food Gardening Network

Growing Good Food at Home

What to Do About Pests that Can Harm Your Quinoa Plants

Close up of a Lygus Bug

Close up of a Lygus Bug

The saponin coating on quinoa seeds makes them unattractive to most pests. Nevertheless, there are some pests to watch out for. Pests in your quinoa garden, left unchecked, can damage and destroy your precious plants. Keeping a close watch on your plants during regular daily inspections will help you spot any pests before they can do irreparable harm.

Spot the symptoms of quinoa plant pests

Check leaves, stems, and fruit for these symptoms that come from pests on the prowl!

On Quinoa Leaves and Stems

Symptom Pest Treatment
Curling leaves Aphids Wash off with strong jet of water; spray with insecticidal soap or neem oil
Defoliation Cabbage loopers (inch worms) Pick off by hand; encourage beneficial predators (insects, birds)
Holes in plant leaves Flea beetles For large infestations, use a floating row cover and garlic spray
Flower and seed damage Lygus bugs Pick off and introduce beneficial predators, like parasitoid wasps and crab spiders
Holes in leaf edges; seed damage Slugs and snails Remove hiding places like weedy areas or ground cover; pick off; use slug and snail traps
Wilting, dying plants Wireworms Prevent by planting seeds or seedlings at the correct depth and space evenly

How to treat pests on quinoa plants

Wireworm larvae

Wireworm larvae

Here are some proven ways to get rid of pests on your quinoa plants. Choose the best treatment for the type of pests invading your plants (see chart above).

  • Pick off the pests. Use your garden gloves to remove the pests by hand. After removal, destroy pests by drowning them in a bucket of soapy water or crushing them with your foot. Handpicking isn’t efficient or practical for very small pests, but works well with larger pests such as slugs and snails.
  • Apply insecticidal soap. Insecticidal soap is organic. The potassium salts in insecticidal soap help remove an insect’s protective waxes, causing destruction of insect membranes and killing them. Insecticidal soaps are particularly effective on smaller pests such as aphids, psyllids, and spider mites. Mix the soap with water to create your solution, and apply directly to insects on any plants. While insecticidal soap is less apt to affect other organisms, certain plants might be sensitive to the soap and can suffer leaf burn.
  • Apply horticultural oils. Combine plant- or petroleum-based oils with water to produce horticultural sprays. Neem oil, for instance, is derived from seed extracts of the neem plant. Oil-based sprays block an insect’s air holes, interfere with an insect’s metabolism, disrupt insect feeding, and inhibit insect growth. Like insecticidal soaps, horticultural oils can cause plant injury if not properly diluted.
  • Make your own pest spray. As noted elsewhere in this collection, you can make your own pest spray with benign materials. Mix one tablespoon of baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon of a mild dish detergent, and 2 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil in a gallon of water to make a solution that will repel all kinds of bugs, as well as a fungicide for blight and mildew on the quinoa plant leaves. Shake it well in your bottle before spraying and repeat every week for it to be continuously effective.

Do pests attack your quinoa plants every year? How do you handle removing them—and even preventing them in the first place? Please tell us how you treat your quinoa plants to avoid pests.


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