When damaging insects attack a tree or shrub, pest control by an ISA Certified Arborist may be required. It’s important for homeowners to know the signs of some of the most destructive insects in the Philadelphia area. The experts at Giroud Tree & Lawn share the Top 5 Damaging Insects that homeowners need to look for right now on trees & shrubs.
Eastern Tent Caterpillars There’s no mistaking these creepy crawlies by the signature tent-like webs, which are constructed in the crotches of tree branches. Eastern Tent Caterpillars have a taste for a wide variety of trees, so homeowners need to be on the lookout in spring time for signs of an infestation. Not only are the webs unsightly, Eastern Tent Caterpillars can severely defoliate a tree. Defoliation will weaken the tree, making it more susceptible to invasion by secondary pests and diseases. Treatment for these caterpillars is most critical early in the season.
Winter can be hard on indoor plants. “Low light, shorter days and dry air create a stressful environment for our houseplants while at the same time helping insects thrive,” explained gardening expert Melinda Myers. Myers said not to despair if insects have moved in and plants are struggling with yellow or speckled leaves. She shared these eco-friendly strategies to diagnose the problem and manage insects, so houseplants stay healthy and look their best.
Start by making sure houseplants are receiving the proper amount of light and water. A healthy plant is better able to resist and recover from insect infestations. Check the plant tag, internet or plant book for the recommended growing conditions. Make any needed adjustments to the plants’ care.
Take a close look at the upper and lower leaf surfaces and stems of the plants for clues to the cause of the problem. Here are some of the more common indoor plant pests and organic options, safe for children and pets, for managing them.
Fungus gnats are those small fruit fly-like insects that flit around the house. They feed on plant roots and organic matter in the soil. They usually don’t harm the plants, but certainly are annoying.
Just sprinkle an organic insecticide, like Summit Mosquito Bits, that contains the active ingredient Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis on the soil surface. This naturally occurring bacterium only kills the larvae of fungus gnats, black flies and mosquitoes.
Aphids are common pests of indoor and outdoor plants. These small teardrop shaped insects suck plant juices, causing the leaves to yellow, brown, wilt or become distorted. They secrete a clear sticky substance known as honeydew.
Mites cause similar damage, but are too small to see without a hand lens. If mites are suspected, shake a leaf over a white piece of paper and watch for specks, the mites, moving across the paper. Don’t wait until webbing is visible to control these pests. At that point there are thousands of mites making it difficult to control.
Both these types of pests can be managed in the same way. Start by placing plants in the sink or tub and knock the insects off the plant with a strong blast of water. Follow with several applications of insecticidal soap to kill the adults. Repeat as needed. Or suffocate all stages of the insects with a lightweight horticulture oil like Summit Year-Round Spray Oil.
Bumps on the stems and leaves of plants that can easily be scraped off with a thumbnail are scales. Their shells protect the adults and eggs from predators, weather and most insecticides. A similar pest, mealybug, has white waxy strands on its body for protection. Mealybugs can be found on stems, leaves and area where leaves and stems meet.
Both types of insects suck the plant juices, causing leaves to yellow and plants to decline. And just like aphids and mites, they secrete honeydew. Both are difficult to control and require persistence.
For mealybugs, remove the hard scale covering with an old toothbrush. Use a cotton swap dipped in alcohol to dissolve its waxy covering and kill the insect. Then spray with insecticidal soap to kill the immature insects. This takes time and persistence to control these pests.
Or apply a lightweight horticulture oil, like that used for mites and aphids, to suffocate both the adult and immature stages of these pests. Continue to watch for outbreaks and treat as needed.
No matter what products, natural or synthetic, make sure they are labeled for the plant and pest that are being treated. And always read and follow label directions carefully.
Investing time in managing pests as soon as they appear means healthy and more attractive plants to brighten the indoors now and for years to come.
Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio segments. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and was commissioned by Summit for her expertise to write this article. Myers’s web site is http://www.melindamyers.com.
While tending to my own garden, I have found that one of the most frustrating things that can happen to a gardener is to walk outside to check on your plants. It’s just a routine walk to make sure that your garden is thriving, but you end up finding holes in all of your plants that looked fine only hours before. The explanations for some of these plant-destroying holes are garden pests. Some of the main garden pests are slugs, worms, caterpillars, birds, snails, and the occasional gopher. Although you can never wipe out these pests entirely, after all your hard work in the garden you have to do something.
Insects are one of the worst things to have in your garden; they can live under the soil, in old weeds or piles of leaves, or in a number of other places. In order to help keep insects away, always try and eliminate places in your garden and near your garden that these insects and other plant diseases could be living. Remove old leaves, weeds, or any other decaying matter that insects and diseases could be living in from your yard. Also, regularly turn over your garden soil and break apart any clumps of dirt so that you can eliminate the living spaces any insects that might be hiding underground.
Another way to rid your garden of the pests is to use dormant spray, which is used to keep destructive insects and diseases under control. It is best that you use dormant spray when your plants are dormant, usually around February or early March. I have used dormant spray many times on my garden and it has worked wonders on keeping insects out. But as I learned from experience, dormant spray is only effective if you follow the correct instructions. When I first decided to use some on my garden, I just dumped it everywhere in hopes of killing everything harmful. Unfortunately I ended up killing my entire garden along with my neighbors. Some insects can be beneficial to your garden though, so be sure to find out which insects help your garden.
Another pest problem I’ve had besides insects has been birds. Whenever I see birds in my garden I run outside a chase them away, but as soon as I step inside they come right back. The solution that I’ve come up with to keep the birds away from my garden is to put a bird feeder in my yard. Instead of costing me time and money by eating my garden, the birds eat at the bird feeder. In the long run it’ll save you money. Not only can a bird feeder help keep birds away from your garden, but they can also be a new part of your yard decoration. Although not completely eliminating my bird problem, my bird feeder has made the problem smaller. Getting a dog has also helped.
If you start seeing mounds of dirt around your yard, and your plants keep inexplicably diying, you can assume that you have a gopher problem. Thankfully, this is one of the few garden pasts that I haven’t had. However my friend has struggled with a tremendous gopher infestation, so I decided to research it. Gophers are rodents that are five to fourteen inches long. Their fur can be black, light brown, or white, and they have small tails. One method of getting rid of these root-eating pests is to set traps. The key to successfully capturing a gopher using a trap is to successfully locate the gopher’s tunnels and set the trap correctly. Another way to get rid of them is to use smoke bombs, which you place into the tunnel and the smoke spreads through out it and hopefully reaches the gopher.
If you suspect that your gardens are being pillaged by any of the pests I mentioned, I encourage you to try your hardest to eliminate the problem as soon as possible. The longer you let the species stay, the more established it will become.