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?
Throw another log in the annual debate about which is better for the environment: an artificial tree or a real Christmas tree. Living Christmas trees are also an option in Iowa.
Linn County Master Gardener Gene Frye has some experience in that arena. Frye’s wife was given a potted 2-foot-tall white spruce one year that they used for their Christmas tree.
After the season, Frye kept the potted tree in his basement, keeping it semi-watered. Once the weather warms, the trees can be kept outdoors in their pots. More watering is necessary when they are outdoors.
Frye said the tree was used for Christmas for a couple years until he planted it outside. Now the spruce is about 30 feet tall.
If you want to keep the tree in its pot from year to year, Frye suggested bringing it indoors for the winter. Because conifers don’t go completely dormant, they could dehydrate if left outdoors in a small pot with frozen soil.
Frye advocated finding a large spot to plant the tree when you are ready to transplant it. Early spring is the best time to transplant conifers in Iowa. For fall planting, late August through September is the best time to transplant conifers.
Find more on the real vs. fake Christmas tree debate, as well as eco-friendly holiday tips in the Sunday, Dec. 14 issue of The Gazette.