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