In my last column, I talked about some of the insects that cause trouble in our gardens this time of year. This column is a continuation.
Spider Mites like it hot and dry. If the leaves of your plant are looking dusty and stippled, if they’re yellowing and dropping off, there’s a chance that spider mites are causing the problem. These mites are almost microscopic but look for very fine webbing, much finer than a regular spider web. Shake a part of the plant over white paper. If you’ve got spider mites you’ll see reddish pinpoints moving around. Sometimes, changing the environment is all you need to do to get rid of these things. Wash off your plants with a strong spray of water every few days. Insecticidal soap will work, but it must get directly on the insects. Eight or Bayer Multi-Insect spray are both labeled for spider mites on flowers and vegetables.
Geranium Budworm is the larvae of a nondescript, grey moth that flies around our porch lights. The moth lays its eggs on Geranium, Petunia, and Nicotiana, to name a few. If the buds of these plants fail to open, and the plants are sticky, yellowing, and look like they’ve been sprinkled with pepper (bug poop), check for holes in the buds and start looking for the small worm. It will take on the color of what it’s eating, so it might be green or pink. I watched a couple of yellow jackets clean the larvae off a geranium one day. It was an amazing sight to see yellow jackets carry off caterpillars almost as large as they were. That’s biological control at it’s best. The product Eight is also effective. Spray late in the evening when the bees have retired.
Mosquitoes make everyone nervous these days. Once, they were just an annoying insect, but now, with the threat of West Nile Virus. Mosquitoes are something to be taken seriously. To help control them around your house, eliminate any standing water. Check buckets, old flowerpots, sprinkler timing boxes, gutters and anyplace else you can think of. If you have a pond that is a mosquito breeding area, use mosquito dunks, a dissolvable donut shaped object that floats in water. These dunks are saturated with a BT solution that kills only the mosquito larvae. If you have dragonflies, lucky you, because they feed on mosquito larvae.
As always, read the entire label and take the proper precautions when using chemicals. Use the correct proportions when mixing, since more than listed is environmentally unhealthy, not to mention a waste of your money. Remember, you can only kill something so dead. Now, you have an idea about what to do with some of the insects that are bugging you. Keep in mind we’ll never be in a “bug-free” world. Live with what you can, and then choose the control method best suited for your situation.