November 7, 2015
How can I be sure there are no spiders on the plants that have been outside this summer when I bring them in for the winter.
Rinse them off well or put them in your shower stall and turn the water on and wash them off. Then monitor. I will say that since you have waited so late in the season to move the plants in, they will probably have a bit of transplant shock. Even though we have not had a killing frost, we have had some nippy nights. Moving them in when the inside and outside temperatures are similar makes for an easier transition.
September 19, 2015
Could you please comment on Army worms in Saturday's paper? Cabot seems to be seeing a lot of them.
(September 12, 2015)
I have two varieties of crab apple in my backyard. One of the trees is quite healthy but the other has had virtually of all of its leaves half chewed away. There no other visible signs of insects or borers. Will this affect the future growth? Is there anything that I should be looking for specifically?
Crabapples can be attacked by a number of diseases and insects, and some varieties are more resistant than others. If the feeding damage occurred recently, don’t be concerned, since we are nearing the end of the growing season anyway. If you have heavy damage early in the season and it occurs each year, that could weaken the tree and make it more susceptible to other problems. Rake up the leaves this fall and start clean next spring. You could also spray the tree with a dormant oil this fall after all the leaves fall off, if this is a common occurrence. Dormant oil smothers out anything that is overwintering on the tree if you get thorough coverage, which will help again with a clean start next year.
I am attaching a couple of photos of the nests of worms that we have in so many trees in our area. I live in Scott. The tree I am most concerned about is the pecan tree although I guess we need to control them everywhere. Is there something that we can spray on the trees? When should we spray? How often? Is it safe on pecan trees?
You have a nice case of fall webworms. In the spring we get tent caterpillars for a few weeks, but in mid to late summer we start with fall webworms, and we can have several generations per season. The webs are a tad unsightly, but there is very little damage that occurs to the trees. With webworms, they feed inside the web, making the web larger over time. They primarily eat the leaves, and this late in the year, that doesn’t hurt the trees—look at how many leaves are already falling. If you really dislike them, you can try to use a high powered spray at the end of your hose and spray with BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) and organic spray. The key is to spray around the web and into it, getting the spray on the leaves. The caterpillars have to eat the foliage to ingest the BT for it to work. If you have small trees with webs close to the ground, you can use a rake and pull the webs out of the tree and dispose of them, but don’t hurt yourself trying to climb up into the tree to remove them, and don’t use the old-fashioned method of burning them out of the trees, of you can damage your trees. The insects (or the BT) will not affect the safety of the pecans themselves. While webworms can attack a wide range of tree species, pecans are one of their favorites. But look on the bright side, Halloween is just around the corner, and you could pretend they are Halloween decorations—they look a bit spooky!
We are planning our summer garden and always have problems with squash vine borers or beetles destroying our otherwise healthy, productive summer squash and zucchini plants. Our only recourse seems to be replanting and hope they don't attack the new plants. Is there a way to prevent them from attacking the plants in the first place?
While some squash vine borers may be overwintering in your garden to come back and attack, the adults seem to find even new squash plantings. Two things you can do to help prevent injury. One monitor for the adults—they look somewhat like a wasp with orange bodies. You can try trapping them—they are attracted to the color yellow. You can buy traps or make your own using a shallow pan of water painted yellow—an old plastic yellow butter tub works well. They fly in and drown. When you see the adults you can use an insecticide at the soil line, but it needs replenishing when it gets washed off and you need to be careful not to hurt your pollinators. If you plant using transplants, you can wrap the stems lightly that go into the ground with aluminum foil to act as a barrier for the boring larvae or if grown from seed, once established, pull back the soil and lightly wrap the exposed trunk with foil.
I need to reread a piece you did a couple of weeks back on a disease, fungus, or blight you did on crape myrtles. I am reasonably certain I have that problem. I need to know how to deal with it please. I live in Nashville, Arkansas and got the tree from a nursery in Texarkana. I noticed the problem last summer. Should I cut the tree to the ground and retrain it?
The problem is not a disease but an insect—a new scale on crape myrtles. First found this fall in west Little Rock we are now getting reports from other areas of the state as well. From the pictures you sent in, you do have the felt scale. Your tree is small enough that the outer bark hasn’t started peeling yet, so you should get thorough coverage with dormant oil. I don’t think cutting it back is the answer. Try using the dormant oil and monitor this season. Before you spray, use a soft brush and soapy warm water and clean off the stems. When dry, spray with dormant oil all over the tree and the surrounding ground underneath, since some of the scales will surely have fallen there. Systemic insecticides applied this growing season may also help. Here is a link to our new fact sheet on the problem: http://www.uaex.edu/publications/pdf/fsa-7086.pdf
I have several mature azaleas on the north side of my house. They look healthy except for a few vertical sections where the leaves have turned pale, almost yellow, and slightly dry to the touch. They were well watered during the dry summer. What do I need to do?
Many plants have struggled in our horribly hot and dry summer, and azaleas probably top the list. That being said, we have been on warp speed all growing season with no winter, an early spring and a hot, dry summer. Many spring flowering plants set their flower buds early and have gone into fall early. Evergreen shrubs do shed old leaves from time to time. Some species shed a few all the time—think southern magnolia, while other can shed all their old leaves all at once. Many azaleas and gardenias fall into the latter category and shed old leaves en masse. White or light pink flowering varieties are most dramatic with the old leaves turning a bright yellow before they fall. Often this occurs in November or December, but I have begun to see it already this early. Inspect your plants—if the yellow leaves are further down the stem, then don’t worry. If the yellow leaves extend to the tip of the branch, then something else is happening. Check drainage, insect damage, etc.
I have a ten year old ficus tree indoors that is oozing and dripping a sticky substance on my floors. I suspect that it is caused by some sort of insect or parasite. It looks like it is very healthy and still putting out new leaves but the sticky stuff is quite a nuisance. Some leaves have small dark scale type things on them. If this is the cause is there anything I can do to rid my plant of them. I've tried spraying with insecticidal soap and removing what I see with rubbing alcohol . Maybe something systemic would work better?
Your ficus tree could have scale, just like the azaleas in the previous question, but ficus trees are also notorious for a process called guttation—where they basically sweat—they have built up too much moisture in their leaves and it has to come out somewhere. It typically occurs when there has been a major change in the plants environment-often when they are moved back indoors in the fall. They ooze excess moisture typically out of the leaf where it is attached on the stem. It is very sticky and it can stain, just like the honeydew that comes from sucking insects. If you determine that insects or scale is the culprit, there is systemic houseplant insecticide that comes in a pellet form of imidacloprid. You put the pellet into the soil and it slowly releases the insecticide and fertilizer into the soil to be absorbed by the root system. They are safe to use indoors.
Our azaleas have scale. We cannot get rid of them with regular sprays. I started spraying in early spring, and no matter what, it got no better. What can we do?
One thing to be aware of is that once you kill scale insects, the dead scale don’t go away on the leaves they were feeding on, they are simply dead. You should see increased vigor in the plant and no new signs of scale on other foliage. Scale insects are called “scale” because they form an outer coating that acts as a shield or protection from contact insecticides and other predators. Typically we have to use a systemic insecticide that works from the inside out to control them. Orthene is one that is common, another is Imidacloprid, commonly called Merit or Bayer Advanced tree and shrub insecticide. An older formulation is dormant oil. It really doesn’t contain any chemicals, but it coats the stems and leaves and smothers out the scale. A downside is that you must get thorough coverage, which is difficult with an evergreen shrub.
My oak tree has some round ball things attached to the underside of some leaves. Do you have any idea of what this is and how I should control it? Will it kill the tree?
The problem is a gall. Galls can be caused by insects or diseases, but more commonly on oaks they are insects. They can be very showy—some even have red polka dots. They come in all colors and sizes and if only on the leaves I would not worry about them. There is an oak gall that can attack some trees that can cause damage, but it gets on small stems and twigs, not on the leaves.
I am growing my first hollyhock flower bed and my plants are afflicted with a light green serpentine leaf ailment. My next door neighbor (one-quarter mile away) has the same problem but with brown crusties on the underside of the leaf. Can you give us a name or a treatment?
The problem is called a leaf miner. Think about how small the insect has to be to get between the layers of the leaves and make a tunnel. While it isn’t the most attractive part of the plant, it tends to be more of a cosmetic problem, since the plant continues to grow and bloom. If only a few leaves are affected, simply remove them and destroy them—don’t throw them on the ground, the larvae of the insect may still be inside. If the damage gets worse, you can use insecticides, but once the insects are firmly established, they are more difficult to control, and control is often unnecessary. Do a good job of cleanup in the fall to start next year clean.
We plant corn in our garden every year, but the worms get it before we do. How can we keep the worms out of the ears of the corn? They just ruin all of our corn every year.
Corn earworms are destructive to an ear of corn. When you see the silks beginning to form, that is when you need to take action. You can sprinkle a little Sevin dust on the silks every few days, or what I think is easier (and safer for our bees), is to put a drop or two of mineral oil right on the silk once a week until the silks turn brown. The oil acts as a physical barrier and keeps the worms out. Don’t get heavy handed and pour a bunch of oil in, or it can affect kernel set. Typically there is only one earworm per ear of corn, since these caterpillars are cannibalistic, and eat each other as well as the corn. Occasionally you will have two—one on each side—they just don’t know the other one is there!
To do in the garden for April.
We can begin to plant summer bedding plants, from Angelonia to zinnias. If your winter annuals are still spectacular, wait a bit, or start interspersing the new with the old. You can safely plant warm season vegetables, including tomatoes and peppers mid month. Keep an eye on the weather forecast, just in case you do need to cover them. Corn and green beans can be planted now as well. We are harvesting winter vegetables, including greens, lettuce, English and sugar snap peas, broccoli and spinach. If you didn’t plant an early garden, the farmers markets are all about to get started later this month. When your lawn has totally greened up (with grass, not weeds) then that is the time to fertilize for the first time. A slow release, high nitrogen fertilizer is best. Houseplants and tropical plants can start their trek outdoors. Remember to gradually expose them to sunlight, so they don’t sunburn if they have been inside your house all winter. Cut back the tropical flowering plants by at least 1/3; repot and begin fertilizing. By now, all plants should have started growing in your garden. Assess the damage that last summer took. If you need to replant, there are plenty of options at garden centers now. If you need to replace some azaleas, or simply want to add to your collection, and you want a specific color, buy them in bloom so you are guaranteed the color you are looking for. Start watching for insects and diseases. The mild winter has everything getting started early. The sooner you can catch a problem, and properly identify it, the sooner you can get it under control.
Our family moved into a new house in January. We have a tree in our landscaping near the house, and I'm not sure what it is. The parts that are blooming and leafed out look healthy and pretty. However, there are several branches with nothing on them. I'm not sure if I should go ahead and cut those branches out now, or if I should wait until after it's done blooming. If I cut them all out, there may not be much left. Also, do you know what could have caused this? There doesn't seem to be any fungus or pest on it anywhere that I can see.
The tree in question is a flowering cherry. They are one of the most beautiful spring flowering trees, but not the longest lived in our area. The trees are susceptible to a host of insects and diseases, with borers being quite common. The fact that your house was for sale probably during last summer, could also have played a factor. If it wasn’t watered as well as it could have been, that would have stressed it even more. I would go ahead and cut out all the dead wood, enjoy what few blooms it has and then shape those branches to see if you can restructure the tree. Once it is bad as yours is, probably an easier alternative would be to plant another tree nearby and remove this one eventually.
I saw this in the forest this morning: It has a bunch of caterpillars in it (you can see one near the top of the second picture). Should I be worried about this?
The culprit is the Eastern tent caterpillar. They are earlier than normal this year, as is everything else. They usually begin their feeding as the trees begin to grow in the spring, and build these webs or tents to protect them from predators and insecticides. These insects leave their web to feed, but if you can reach the webs on a cloudy day or in the evening when they return to it, you can pull out the web and destroy it. These hit early in the year, while the fall webworms appear later in the season and typically have multiple generations. Luckily for us, the eastern tent caterpillar doesn’t last a long time, but it can defoliate young trees before it leaves.
Apparently someone not too far away from my home keeps bees. They descend on my hummingbird feeders and take over until the feeders are empty. Is there anything that I can do to discourage the honeybees? I used to keep bees before I moved to Arkansas, and I still love them, so would not do anything to hurt them, but they are a nuisance!
When the weather is dry and hot, the flowers produce little or no nectar, and honey bees become desperate for food sources. They are especially attracted to hummingbird feeders, which are essentially artificial flowers with an endless nectar supply. Some feeders have bee guards, or you can add them. These little plastic grids restrict the bees from feeding because their tongues cannot reach the nectar, unlike the hummingbirds which have long beaks and longer tongues. Older feeders may have cracks, or may leak where the jar attaches to the base. If this is the case, then the bees can still feed at the drips. Unlike hummingbirds, bees cannot drink while flying, and must land to feed. Dabbing a little bit of vegetable oil around the feeding ports may discourage bees from walking up to the spot where they can reach the syrup. Anecdotal evidence also suggests that the small of almond oil is repellant to bees, and dabbing a little of that on the feeder may discourage honey bees from hanging around in the first place--but I don't know that for sure, and can't really say if it works.
I always repot my plants in the fall to bring around 4 in my house. I repot because my brother brought 11 baby copperheads in the house one fall. Anyway, I always get gnats, several hundreds of them come out of my plants so therefore I have to move them to the garage and cannot enjoy my plants in winter. Do you know what I can do to avoid the gnats? I always buy good soil.
Wow! And I thought the snake story was an urban legend! If you have gnats every year, I would say you are overwatering. Fungus gnats multiply more rapidly in moist soils. Especially during the cooler, winter months, houseplants would benefit from being on the dry side—usually no more than once every two weeks for most plants. Timing of course will vary by plant, plant and container size and how hot you keep your house. Top-dressing the soil with sand, using a mild insecticidal soap drench when you move them inside can also help.
I have several 'Otto Luyken’ laurels in my front yard that look like they have taken a beating. They face east and get early morning sun, which was pretty brutal this year, although I watered pretty regularly. It also looks like some kind of insect has been eating them. One of the bushes has dead branches on one side, so I've been trimming that one. I guess my question is, are they goners, or will they perk up in the spring? They are a significant part of my front landscaping, so I sure would hate to lose them.
A lot of plants took a beating this summer, but for now, leave them be and see what happens next spring. As they begin to grow in the spring, assess how much damage was done, and if they are greening up, consider corrective pruning then. There is a disease known as shot hole fungus that causes tissue to fall out and leaves perfect holes in the leaves. Don’t spray now, let’s just see what happens in the spring.
We have been having problems with our "Sweet Ones" tomatoes since early summer. The leaves are covered in tiny spots. We sprayed with Sevin several times to no avail. We are hoping that you have an answer for us as to what it is and how we can stop it. This is the first time in all the years that we have planted tomatoes that this has happened. It seems to start at the bottom of the plant and work its way up to the top of the plant and go from plant to plant. Thankfully our plants have continued to flower and yield tomatoes up until this week when either the disease and/or the weather got them.
What you have is a disease, not an insect problem, so the Sevin was totally ineffective, since it is an insecticide. There are several leaf spotting diseases. The most common is septoria leaf spot, but there are others as well including early and late blight. Many tomato diseases are soil-borne, so rotating where you plant your tomatoes is important. There are preventative fungicide sprays for tomato diseases, including Daconil and Bravo. Make sure you read and follow the label directions for the waiting period between applications and harvest. Many of these diseases hit annually, so I think you are lucky you haven't seen them before. Often you can harvest enough fruit not to worry about spraying. Treating once you have the problem is often ineffective, it can slow the disease down, but it doesn’t get rid of it.
Please help! I have lost three large pine trees since the spring and my neighbor has simply given in and had all his pines cut down. The man at the tree service said the culprit is pine beetles--what can be done to stop them and save the remaining trees?
I wish I had a better answer for you. Unfortunately, there are several common species of bark beetles that attack pines—the Southern pine beetle, the turpentine beetle and the IPS engraver beetle. Probably the most devastating is the Southern pine beetle. Some pine tree species are more susceptible than others as are weak or damaged trees. Trees damaged by lightning, ice, or drought and other natural events or construction are more likely to be infested. In the spring, beetles emerge and colonize new host trees. Infested trees decline rapidly especially during hot, dry summer months and infestations may spread from tree to tree as additional beetles are attracted to the site of infestation. Multiple generations may be completed within a year. If there are large populations they can attack healthy trees. While there are some sprays on the market, timing and repeated spraying would be needed, so they really are not all that effective—and they are for prevention, not cure. The best defense is a strong offense—keep your trees healthy and prune out any damage that occurs from weather. The turpentine beetle and the IPS engraver beetle often come in to finish off the trees that are too far gone to save anyways.
We have a twenty-five foot magnolia tree which is 10 years old, in our yard that became a victim of wood borers this spring. All the leaves on the tree started turning brown and now are crispy but a few actually fell off. The tree and especially the borer holes (1/8 to 1/4 inch very shallow holes horizontally across the trunk)that could be seen were sprayed multiple times in the spring - early summer. During the last thirty days or so the tree has produced several new green leaves. The first ones were seen around the base of the tree on new branches and now there are two old lower branch that have sprouted new leaves. The branches further up the tree still seem to be dried up and dead. I was about to cut the tree down last week when I noticed all this new growth and I just noticed that there is more new growth now then last week. Is there any hope that the tree can/will return to its old self in a relatively short period of time and is there anything I could/should be doing such as spraying, trimming or taking off the dead leaves to help the tree? Or should I face reality and go ahead with the execution. I hate to lose the tree and have to wait another ten years for a new one to reach its height.
If it is putting on new growth, then there is hope, but it doesn’t sound good. It sounds to me like the tree actually is dead at the top, but there is life in the base. This summer was tough on many plants, but do continue to water. I question whether you actually have borers or woodpeckers. Magnolias can be a favored host tree for woodpeckers. Are the holes in a circle around the tree or in rows up and down? If so, that is birds not borers. Something has stressed the tree, so continue to water and assess how well it starts growing next spring before removing it. If it kicks into high gear next spring it might be worth salvaging, but if it struggles, a new tree might be a better option.
Early in the evening, there is an insect (moth?) that comes to visit my night-blooming plant. It is about the size of a hummingbird and doesn't visit earlier in the day. Can you tell me what that is?
It is actually a type of sphinx moth. There are several species. The common names are Hummingbird moth or Hawkmoth. They do look almost like a hummingbird as they flit from flower to flower. Since they are a moth, they are out late in the day. Hawk moths have the world’s longest tongues of any other moth or butterfly and can be great pollinators. As interesting as the moth is to watch, the brown spotted hawkmoth’s larvae is the dreaded tomato hornworm!
Behind my house is a white oak tree. It is approximately 40 to 50 years old, stands well above our wood deck. It shades our deck and the pool below. Overall it appears very healthy. Every year, however, it starts losing leaves about July 1st. I have a major cleanup of fallen leaves almost daily. There is an almost identical oak, same age and variety about ten feet away with similar surroundings that loses no leaves at all until fall. I feel the tree is infested with something. At any rate, what can be done about the problem?
If the tree does this every year, obviously it is not causing any major damage, since the tree looks healthy and fully leafs out each spring. This year, there are numerous trees which are shedding large quantities of leaves due to lack of water. You can really tell which trees are getting supplemental water and which aren't. I would have had a hard sell with this theory last year because of all the rain. Are there any symptoms of disease or insect attack on the leaves that are falling? Keep in mind that trees have extensive root systems. It is possible that this tree has limited roots due to the pool, house, etc. You can take a sample of the leaves into your county extension office. Examine the trunk, make sure there are no wounds or growths there, but if it is full and healthy every spring, I am not too concerned.
I am currently experiencing a problem with some tiny gnats in my home. They appear to be coming from a cactus that lives in a flower pot outdoors during the summer. I bring it inside during the cold winter months. Lately, I've noticed many gnats in my window sills. I seemed to have tracked them to the plant. I changed the potting soil which seemed to have slowed them down. But I'm still seeing them in my window sills. What can I do to make them disappear for good?
I think you have fungus gnats which are more of a nuisance rather than a detriment to your plants. The small larvae are in the soil and are feeding on the fungi growing in the potting soil, along with some small roots. They are usually more common in soils that are kept too wet and in warm conditions. Fungus gnats are more abundant in old, moist potting soil. As they mature, they turn into small gnats that hang around on the surface of the soil or fly around the plants, especially when the plants are disturbed. Try cutting back on your watering, use yellow sticky traps to trap the adults and prevent them from laying eggs, and if they continue, you can drench the soil with an insecticidal soap or BT product.
We planted a flowering crab in our back yard here in Springdale, about 5-6 years ago. The Jan 2009 ice storm broke one of the large branches off, but the tree bloomed and seemed to be fine except when looking at it from a certain angle. This year has been a different story. The tree never bloomed and when it leafed out, the leaves are real small, about one fourth the size of the leaves in the past. What do you think is wrong? The tree has leafed out everywhere but just looks plain old BLAH. I would hope that it is not on its deathbed.
It doesn't sound good. Check the main trunk for signs of borers. Once a tree is damaged, that is often a calling card for boring insects to attack and finish it off. Obviously it is not getting enough energy up to the top of the tree to form flower buds and full sized leaves. You can try fertilizing and watering this season, but often once major decline starts on a tree there is little you can do to reverse it. Good luck.
We have several hibiscus plants in our yard and every year the leaves get little holes, almost like filigree. The flowers are not affected but the leaves look terrible and don’t offer the lush green look we wanted in combination with the large flowers. Any suggestions?
The insect in question is called a mallow sawfly. The females lay eggs in the upper surfaces of leaves, near the leaf margin, producing blister-like swellings. When the eggs hatch, the larvae move to the underside of the leaf and begin feeding. The larvae look like caterpillars, but they are actually more closely related to members of the bee family. They can be controlled with Sevin, Rotenone or Imidacloprid (Merit, Bayer Advance Tree and Shrub insecticide). If you don't control them they can turn the leaves into lace in a short period of time. While this really doesn't hurt the plants--they come back strong again next year, it is not the most attractive look. The species has up to six generations per year, and adults are active from mid spring until frost. Here is a link to pictures of what the insects look like: http://www.uark.edu/ua/arthmuse/hibsaw.html
We live in El Dorado and there seems to be more and more Mealybugs (I think that is what they are, white, and very good at hopping) and I wonder if you can tell me what product would be helpful in getting rid of them. Thanks for any help.
I don't think it is mealybugs, but possibly white flies or even aphids, which come in a wide range of colors. While mealybugs are white, you wouldn't see them moving. They are a soft bodied scale and only the tiny babies move by crawling. The adults form a white cottony growth around themselves to protect them from predators and insecticides. Whiteflies tend to "hop" or fly up when disturbed, and they aren't easy to control. Their two favorite hosts are often gardenia and hibiscus, but they attack a wide range of plants. Take your insects to your local county extension office for proper identification. Once you know what your insect is, they will give you some insecticide choices. If you are spraying both ornamentals and edibles at the same time, make sure the product is labeled for both, and pay attention to waiting periods from the last spray until harvest.
Can you tell me what the funny little bugs I see so many of are? They are black and orange, small and seem to be EVERYWHERE!!
It is quite possible you are seeing the Asian ladybug beetle. As cool weather approaches, they often try to congregate indoors or in a protected spot to over winter. They can build up huge colonies. They are a beneficial insect, but have become a bit of a nuisance in some areas. They can vary in color from tan to orange to red. They do have the requisite black spots like the typical ladybug. Indoors, if disturbed or threatened, they can give off a noxious odor and a yellow stain--which is how they ward off their predators. They do feed on a variety of insects during the growing season, but for now, they are looking for a winter vacation home.
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