Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Best use of ant baits and ant traps in homes.

ants feeding at liquid bait trap
As spring arrives the warmer temperatures will activate ant nests both inside and outside homes. You are likely to see increased ant activity as nests resume nest building and production of young worker ants. All this activity requires food so ants will be out foraging for new food sources.

Control of the common nuisance ants that are found indoors is best done with baits and traps. And the simplest and least expensive is a drop of sugary liquid food that has been laced with boric acid (borate).

At this time of the year ants are most attracted to sugary foods (carbohydrate) because of the high energy demand of nest building. If a scout worker finds a bit of sugary food she (all worker ants are female) will recruit her nestmates to the source.

bait station on pad of wax paper
Borate (a salt of boric acid) is toxic to insects when consumed. So a simple bait made from borate and a sugary liquid such as corn syrup is very effective. Baits can be homemade (keep the borate concentration to less than 5%) but several commercial products are so inexpensive that most people opt to go that route. Terro (tm) is one such product that is available in home centers and even grocery stores.

Place your bait stations where you see ant activity and give it a few days to start working. If after a few days you don't see ants actively feeding on the bait you can move them to a new location. You should see a noticeable reduction in ant activity within a week of starting your control program.


Monday, March 18, 2019

What are these notches on rhododendron leaves?

notches on rhody leaves
Many landscape plants will show leaf notching as new leaves start to grow in spring and early summer. Rhododendron is particularly susceptible but a number of other popular landscape and garden plants may show the same type of damage. Often you will not find any obvious cause or culprit.

The cause and culprit in this case are adult root weevils (snout beetles). There are many species of root weevil (Curculionidae) but all exhibit the same general life cycle. Worm-like larvae feed on plant roots for most of the year, adult beetles (weevils) emerge from the soil in spring or summer, feed (notch) on leaves of the host plant, lay eggs then die. The real damage therefore is to the root system of affected plants but it is the leaf notching that catches the attention of gardeners.

black vine weevil adult
The best way to protect your landscape and garden plants from root weevil damage is to control adult weevils in the spring and early summer before they have a chance to lay eggs for the next generation of root-feeding larvae. So, timing is critical.

Fortunately leaf notches are a perfect way to time when adult weevils are starting to emerge and feed. As soon as you see new notches appear in spring/early summer start your control program!

Leaves can be treated with a variety of garden insecticides to stop weevils from feeding. Neem oil insecticide is a low toxicity choice that works well.


Monday, February 12, 2018

Using Insecticidal Soap in Home Gardens

Home gardeners are always on the lookout for ways to control garden pests like spider mites and aphids that are both inexpensive and non-toxic – the “holy grail” of garden pest control. Often, folks turn to home brew recipes that either don’t work or in some cases actually injure the very plants they are trying to treat.

The good news is that there are a few commercial products that satisfy the criteria of inexpensive and non-toxic, AND, actually work, for these important garden pests. The very first tool in this category (cheap & non-toxic) that every gardener should have is a fresh container of Insecticidal Soap concentrate. The “fresh” part is very important as we’ll see below.

Insecticidal Soap is a highly refined liquid soap that is generally diluted to 1-2% just prior to use. It should be applied with a small hand-pump sprayer. It is very effective against a variety of garden pests (see the product label for a complete list) but especially soft-bodied, early-season pests like aphids and spider mites.

Insecticidal Soap is NOT the same as dish soap! Dish or laundry soap can kill delicate garden plants. Also be warned that stale, old Insecticidal Soap can be toxic to garden plants so be sure to use only fresh concentrate to mix up your solution. To ensure fresh concentrate I generally purchase a new container every spring and discard unused concentrate in the fall. Leftover concentrate can be used as a regular soap to clean the greenhouse, outdoor furniture, and so forth.

Insecticidal Soap is no more toxic than ordinary liquid soap, is relatively inexpensive, at least compared to other garden insecticides, and works. Just be sure to follow label instructions and DON’T use old concentrate!

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