Posts tagged bugs

Japanese beetles are back

They’re back.

Japanese beetles

Japanese beetles

I spotted the first Japanese beetle of the season yesterday on my raspberry bushes. I went to check one of my rose bushes and sure enough, there was another one, sucking the life out of a beautiful pink bud. Unfortunately, both got away.

The beauty of these copper-colored beetles belies the devastation they wreak. Adult Japanese beetles feed on more than 300 types of plants – turning leaves into lacy skeletons. As larva, the white c-shaped grubs feed on turf grass roots.

I’ve heard some people have luck with the Japanese beetle traps that can be found at garden centers. Others say the traps just lure more beetles into your yard. When I see just a couple of the bugs, I use the squish method, but as they become more numerous, I’ll try to control their numbers with soapy water.

Take a small bucket with water and dish detergent – any kind will probably work – and knock the beetles off the plants into the bucket. The beetles are more active at certain times of day and will fly off. Othertimes, they do a drop and roll, which is the best way to get them to fall into the bucket. Early evening seems to be the time when they are more sluggish and easier to catch that way. Obviously, if you are growing crops that the beetles are attacking, such as grapes (another favorite,) you’re going to need a different method of control. They also favor certain trees, but supposedly they don’t kill the trees as do pests like the emerald ash borer. I also wonder what they will ultimately do to the monarch butterfly population, as Japanese beetles devastate the monarch’s food source, milkweed.

Since they make my top 10 bad bugs list, the Japanese beetle and different control methods can be found in several posts on this blog. Just use the search box at the right to find more from city arborist Daniel Gibbons, master gardeners and others on this foreign invader.

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Critters in the garden

Linn County Master Gardener, Claire Smith, wrote the following: The driver of the car at the stop light next to me looked rather aghast when I broke into a hearty laugh this morning.  I guess some radio and TV facts are just meant to be light hearted even though reported in a most serious manner, for example, the obnoxious little black flies that are so prevalent this spring are called buffalo gnats.  Do you know why?   Because they have a hump in their back.  With no disrespect intended to those folks who study insects, that “need-to-know” fact really struck my funny bone.

Not so funny is in the onslaught of beetles again this year.  Just a reminder, do not spray edible plants to rid the beetles.  Traps seem fairly effective.  The traps do attract the little critters in addition to killing them so it is suggested you locate traps at the ends of your property.

The ugly tunnels in your lawn are probably mole trails.  Another little known fact is that moles eat more than their own weight in worms daily.  Worms are good for the soil.  They constantly aerate the earth.  Keep the worms; eradicate the moles.  The most practical method of eviction is a scissor or harpoon type trap.  Locate the active tunnel by tamping down all of the tunnels.   Place the trap in the one the mole reopens. 

And then there are the garden invaders, the ground hogs, rabbits and raccoons.  Probably the best offense against them is a good fence. Hardware cloth or wire mesh should be at least 1½ to 2 ft. tall supported with wood or metal stakes.   Bury the fence into the ground a bit or secure it down with landscape pins.  Repellents are somewhat effective, but more costly as they need to be reapplied after each heavy rain. You could consider live traps, but the last time we tried live traps, an opossum was smarter than we were. We did capture two cats, though. 

And, finally, Oh! Deer!  It is best to discourage deer before they become accustomed to the delicacies in your garden or yard.  The most reliable deer prevention maintenance is a fence.  However, a deer proof fence will be at least eight feet tall which can be a costly venture, be aesthetically unattractive, and possible prohibited by local building codes.  Repellents and scare tactics are ineffective as deer ignore them.  Try temporary fences around new plants and special plants.  Deer may force you to choose plants that are less tasty to them, have an unusual texture, or a strong aroma.  Call your local extension office (in Linn County 447-0647) for a list of deer resistant plants.  Perhaps impractical in some cases, a good dog will be as efficient as anything else you might try.

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Gnat Attack

   If you’ve spent any time outdoors this spring in Eastern Iowa, you’ve probably seen them. Swarms of black flies –most people call them gnats – that surround their victims in a frenzied cloud.

   Bug experts say there’s not much you can do to protect yourself against black flies. The pests come out during the day; while mosquitoes come out toward evening, so you can either lock your doors and stay inside or put up with the huge welts they’ve been known to leave. See story here: http://tinyurl.com/mnqwen

    Removing the gnats’ habitat can reduce their population, as well as the number of mosquitoes, which start to appear about the time the gnats die. Linn County Public Health  monitors for mosquitoes, which carry risk of diseases such as West Nile virus. Residents can report bad infestations to the health department at (319) 892-6000. Workers are using larvicide to control mosquito larvae in standing water, but the same can’t be used against black flies, which live as larva in fast-moving water such as rivers.

   Both insects made my top 10 list of bad bugs: https://cindyha.wordpress.com/2009/05/22/bugged-by-bugs/

  What makes your’s?

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Bugged by bugs?

  

Japanese beetles

Japanese beetles

 Spring in Iowa is too fleeting. Rare are those 70-degree days with cool nights before the air explodes with humidity and bugs begin their annual invasion. I can look at healthy green potato plants today and know that in a week or so the Colorado potato beetle will begin its defoliation quest. Same is true of the lush rose bushes that succomb ever earlier to the dreaded Japanese beetle, a copper-colored foreign invader.

   Because of the devastation they wreak on my plants, the Japanese beetle and potato beetle rank number one and two on my list of “bad bugs.” I was enjoying my backyard garden last night trying to think of others when a mosquito bit my leg. Mosquitoes= #3.

Colorado potato beetle

Colorado potato beetle

   Here are the others: 4) gnats or whatever those little black bugs are that bite behind the ears. 5) chiggers – not an insect, but larvae of a specific family of mites – the Trombiculidae. If you’ve ever suffered through chigger bites, you’ll know why these are on my list. 6) wasps – I try to leave them alone, but they seem ubiquitous this year and more aggressive – building wherever they take a liking, which includes my back porch and my sons’ club house.  7) ticks – again, not an insect, but my general worry over them keeps me from enjoying the outdoors at times. 8) Ants – luckily we don’t have  fire ants like they do in the south, but they’re just a pain when they decide to come in the house. 9) termites – again a general anxiety thing. 10) Emerald ash borer – not here in Iowa yet, but a preemptive disdain for a foreign invader that will someday devastate our ash trees. 

Emerald ash borer

Emerald ash borer

   What makes your list? I’m sure I’ll think of more, now that our perfect spring days are in the past.

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Dragonflies and Damselflies

My all-time favorite insect, the dragonfly, is finally getting the attention it deserves. This came out today from the University of Iowa:

Dragonflies and Damselflies cover

Dragonflies and Damselflies cover

“Dragonflies and Damselflies in Your Pocket: A Guide to the Odonates of the Upper Midwest,” the new addition to the Bur Oak Guides Series, will become available from the University of Iowa Press May 1.

The pocket guidebook with text and photos by Ann Johnson will be available at bookstores or directly from the UI Press by phone at 800-621-2736 or online at http://www.uiowapress.org. Customers in the United Kingdom, Europe, the Middle East or Africa may order from the Eurospan Group online at http://www.eurospangroup.com/bookstore.

Just as more and more people enjoy watching birds and butterflies, watching the many shimmering dragonflies and damselflies — collectively called “odonates,” from Odonata, the name of this order of aquatic insects — has become a popular outdoor pastime. With their extremely large eyes, elongated transparent wings, long and slender abdomens, and prehensile extendible jaws, dragonflies and damselflies are efficient hunters and quick, darting fliers. Their beauty and their behavior make them delightful subjects for birdwatchers and other nature lovers.

“Dragonflies and Damselflies in Your Pocket” introduces 50 of the showiest odonates of the Upper Midwest. In addition to providing useful general information about broad-winged damsels, spreadwings, pond damsels, darners, clubtails, cruisers, emeralds and skimmers, Johnson includes common and scientific names, sizes, general flight seasons and the best habitats in which to find each species.

Dennis Paulson, author of “Dragonflies and Damselflies of the West,” wrote, “With beautiful photos backed up by concise text, this little guide is simple and easy to use as it introduces birders and general naturalists to a wonderful group of insects, the Odonata. It should be in every glove compartment and backpack.”

Johnson is a management analyst for the Iowa Department of Human Services, a founding member of the Iowa Odonata Survey, and the owner of AJ Endeavors, which specializes in natural history Web development. A self-described birder gone bad, she now spends summers chasing more bugs than birds near her home in south central Iowa.

Named after the state tree of Iowa, the Bur Oak Guides are published to assist the exploration and enjoyment of the natural environment of the Midwest.

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Human Dragonfly

2008_winter_games_turtle   Dragonflies are the most awesome insects. Not only are they beautiful, with their large eyes, transparent wings and sometimes jewel-toned bodies, but they consume mass quantities of mosquitoes and other bad bugs. I’ve seen them at lakes, but they also make regular visits to the city plot where I garden. They are fascinating to watch. If you happen to be trekking to western Iowa this weekend, you can actually “be” a dragonfly.

  

   Jen Johnson, executive director of Active Okoboji, said the group is collaborating on The People’s Art Project with Iowa Lakeside Laboratory (a partner with University Hygienic Laboratory and UI Continuing Education), ArtsLIVE and the Friends of Lakeside Lab. Last year, the project used 173 volunteers to create a giant turtle.  This year, they’re making a human dragonfly.

 

   The groups are looking for people to become part of a human puzzle on Saturday, Jan. 24, 2009, on the lake ice of Little Miller’s Bay on West Okoboji.  The Art Project will create a gigantic image of a dragonfly to raise environmental awareness.
 

   To participate, dress warmly in primary colors and meet at 12:30 p.m. at Peace Corner, located on the southwest corner of highways 9 and 86 in Spirit Lake. From there, buses will shuttle volunteers to the lake. The event includes a bonfire, warm drinks, snacks and door prizes. Observers are welcome.

 

   Jen said an aerial photo and video will be shot. More “bugs” will be coming this summer, when semi-sized metal sculptures will be displayed throughout the Lakeside Lab area. The bug art display will run July 4-Oct. 14.
 

   For more information, contact Jen Johnson at 712-332-6507 or jen@activeokoboji.org

  

The photo above is last year’s turtle. You can see more photos from last year’s event at: http://www.activeokoboji.org/

 

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Firewood pests

 The following is from  Linn County Master Gardener, Claire Smith:

 

   Are you ready for the cold weather?  It’s been just plain chilly the past few mornings!  Does it make you think it’s time to get wood ready for your fireplace?  Is there a better way to spend a snowy day than with hot chocolate, a great book and a toasty fire? But, beware of bugs!  While the Box Elders and Beetles seemed not as prolific this summer, be careful you’re not transporting a host of other multi-legged critters along with your fire wood.

    Firewood is best kept out of the weather. Store it in your garage, a storage shed, or at the least protected under a roof. Whether you have your firewood delivered or chop your own, it’s a good idea to keep the wood up off of the ground.  Firewood holders with metal legs are wonderful as it is difficult for the insects to crawl up into the wood.  Insects will often seek a moist area to reside, so if a metal holder is not probable, at least use wood pallets to get the wood off the ground allowing it to dry and preventing rotting.

    To minimize the number of insects coming into your home, let the firewood you will use in one or two days set outside in the cold for one or two days prior to moving it inside as insects need a couple of days to warm up before becoming active   Never, never use insecticide on your firewood.  There is really little benefit to treating the wood, plus you create a potentially dangerous situation with vapors emitted into your living room. 

    Long horned beetles, metallic wood-boring beetles and bark beetles attack dead and dying trees.  Pillbugs, centipedes, millipedes and ground beetles are the most common insects found in firewood.  These insects are basically just a nuisance. None are harmful to you or pets so when you  see an occasional insect emerge from the wood in your house simply remove it from the premises, then enjoy the ambiance you’ve created.

 

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