50 September 2, 2006

Insects appear to be a problem for many gardeners. However, you need to keep in mind that just because there is an insect on a plant, it doesn’t mean that the insect is harming the plant. You only need to be concerned when the insect is damaging the plant. Even at that point, you need to determine if the damage is bad enough to warrant treating for the insect. That said; let’s look at some of the gardening culprits.


In the past weeks, I have talked about the tomato hornworms on tomato plants. This past week, I have had many people come into the garden center with the usual fall horror stories about the giant caterpillar eating the tomato plants and even the tomatoes. The tomato hornworm is indeed a giant caterpillar. It can be as big around as a man’s thumb and 3 to 4 inches long. When disturbed, it will rear up and acts like a monster in a horror movie. With the tomato harvest underway, you need to be careful about the type of insecticide you use to control this insect. I’m not sure that an organic control like Bt will work on the caterpillars when they are huge in size. Your best bet will be to spray the tomato plants with a pyrethrum spray. This spray can be used up the day of harvest on tomatoes. You can also just leave the caterpillars alone if they are not doing too much damage.


Flying ants seems to be a problem at this time of the year. On Wednesday afternoon there were swarms of them all over the area. My hunch would be that this is the time of the year when large colonies of ants sort of divide up and create new colonies. I’m sure that if I’m wrong on this, someone will let me know. I do know that it seems to be an annual fall occurrence for as long as I can remember.


Many people have asked about their squash and pumpkin plants wilting during the heat of the day. The squash vine borer causes this. In the spring, around planting time, eggs are laid at the base of the squash plant. The eggs hatch out into a borer that tunnels up through the stems of the plants. The tunneling affects the ability of the squash plant to take up water. During the heat of the day, the inability of the plant to take up water causes the plant to wilt. Unfortunately, there is little you can do to stop the borers at this time of the year. Next spring, you want to dust Sevin, Rotenone, or Bt at the base of the stem. This will kill the borer before it has a chance to do major damage to the plant.


Fall is also the time of the year that mice begin to look for a place to call home for the winter. In many cases, it is almost impossible to seal up all the spaces that mice can use to gain entry into your home. I know about the moral issues some people have about using mousetraps. They do work quickly and in my mind they are a better alternative than poisons.


With Labor Day weekend, people will be planning cookouts. This brings up the reality of being outside with mosquitoes and the possible dangers of EEE or West Nile virus from mosquito bites. Many people do not like using DEET and other insect repellents. There are several good organic mosquito repellents that you can spray around your yard that should keep your yard relatively mosquito free.


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

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