It’s a Buggy Season
This summer’s excessive heat and the accompanying arid conditions (our home in Gates has had a major rain deficit this summer) that many people are experiencing is really stressing us out; it’s stressing out our plants as well. Plants that are under stress will have an increase in insect predation.
Why have these problems developed?
Insects are Mother Nature’s plant disposal engineers, they’re the cleanup crew. When plants become stressed the frequency of light being reflected off them changes. Insects detect this variation and are attracted to them to dine. Stressful environmental conditions also impair plants built in defense mechanisms which make them even more vulnerable to insects and diseases. Some are introduced to your plants by other insects. All in all they can become a real problem that put your plants in jeopardy.
What to do?
Monitoring is critical to get a handle on the situation. Take an evening stroll and inspect your lawns, gardens, shrubs and trees twice a week to spot potential problems. This way you can react early enough to affect change and save your plants from extensive damage before it’s too late. There are a number of strategies that will help. Following are suggestions for some of the more problematic and hard to detect “sap sucking” insects.
One of the tinniest culprits
Hot dry weather causes many mite populations to explode! Spider mites, Broad mites and Hemp Russet mites for example, begin to reproduce exponentially with females producing 40 to 50 eggs which hatch within 2 to 3 days. Their feeding causes severe yellow stippling – bronzing of leaves and needles which will eventually brown, crisp, and drop off. They’re almost too tiny to see, even under a microscope. To the naked eye they look like confectionery sugar sprinkled on the leaves or floating between stems and branches. Their webs and other debris (they shed many molted skins and poop a lot) strewn about on the backside of leaves are an early indicator of an infestation. You must move quickly before their population decimates the plant!
Spraying with a strong stream of water in the morning can blast mites and their eggs from needles and leaves. Be sure to hit the upper surfaces, undersides and the stems of plants to thoroughly dislodge these pests and clean off the mess they have left behind.
For a more permanent solution, spray a miticide once, wait 3 to 5 days and spray again, then wait 3 to 5 days and make a final application for a total of three sprayings. Neem Oil, an All Season Oil, or an insecticide labeled for mites like Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew or Eight should be used. Check the label! Be careful to avoid products that do not specifically list spider mites as their use could actually exacerbate the problem; killing off mite predators and not the mites themselves. Carbaryl and Imidacloprid are examples of insecticides that do not control mites well and may actually increase their numbers. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions. I recommend early morning sprayings, when the air is cool and still. Temperatures for that day should not exceed 85 degrees to avoid the spray damaging the foliage.
Next time I’ll discuss another tiny culprit that’s probably feeding in your yard!
Success with your Gardening, Naturally!
Written by Rick Stecher
Garden Center Manager