54 August 15, 2006

People have been commenting on the number of insects that are in our gardens this year. For some people it may be earwigs, for others it may be Japanese beetles. Insect populations seem to have cycles of larger and then smaller populations. If you are old enough, think back to the late 70’s and early 80’s. Gypsy moth caterpillars were everywhere. I remember whole forest areas of maple and oak trees that by mid July, you could not see a single leaf on a tree. Those maples and oaks looked like trees that you would see in November. By the early 1980’s, a virus hit the caterpillars and wiped out almost the entire population of Gypsy moth caterpillars. Since then, I have heard very few people complaining about Gypsy moth caterpillars. However, this year, there seems to be a lot more Gypsy moth caterpillars around this area. People have brought into the store, large caterpillars that were Gypsy moth caterpillars. If you add in the damage caused by the winter moth caterpillar, then we are starting to see more trees with moderate leaf damage. My guess would be that, over the next few years, we would see an increase in tree damage due to an increased population of caterpillars.


People have also commented on the increasing number of Japanese beetles eating the leaves on flowering ornamental trees and other plants. About 3 years ago, the Japanese beetle population started to increase after a number of years of relatively small populations. I honestly think we have a few more years of larger populations before the numbers of beetles drops back again. This is all part of natures’ grand scheme. All we can do is ride the wave and protect our plants as best we can.


This week I had a local landscaper show me a plastic bag with some unusual “pinecones” in the bag. If you watched for a while, the pinecones moved. The pinecones turned out to be bagworms. It is a caterpillar that surrounds itself with the needles of the evergreen, creating a home. In this case, the bagworms were on arborvitaes. The shrub was literally covered with the bagworm  “pinecones” This insect hasn’t been around in large numbers for many years. If you have arborvitaes in your yard, you should look at the plants for signs of bagworms. Spraying the shrub with a systemic insecticide should control the problem.


The heat has also caused the crabgrass plants to grow quickly. Even if you applied a “step 1 “ product this spring, you probably will have crabgrass in your lawn. My theory is that the heavy spring rains washed away most of, if not all of the spring crabgrass control. During the month of August, the crabgrass plants will grow quickly. At some point, the plant puts up a seed tassel and those seeds drop to the ground. Those seeds are the source for next year’s crabgrass plants. Once we get to a frost, the crabgrass plants will die. However, the damage will have been done because the seeds will have dropped onto the soil. You probably have a few weeks to spray the crabgrass plants before the plants go to seed. The tough part is that the spray needs to be applied when the temperatures will be below 85 degrees for the bulk of the day. It sounds as though this weekend may cool down below 85 degrees. If it does, this would be a good time to apply a crabgrass control to those crabgrass plants.


Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you gain next week.

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