Monday, August 24, 2015

Stockings on My Tree

Here’s a version of a question I have been getting the last few weeks:

 “While looking over my crepe myrtle (could be oak, maple, etc) the other day, I noticed a large group of black bugs on the bark of my tree and a fine tight webbing.  None of my leaves appeared to be eaten.  When I tried to scare them away with a branch, they scattered and then regrouped back on the tree.  This group of black bugs has me worried.  This is one of my favorite trees and I do not want anything bad to happen to it.  Do you have any ideas as to what these bugs are and why they are on my tree?”

Not to worry!  It sounds like you have tree cattle or barklice (louse).  These are good guys.  The tree cattle clean the tree by eating dead organic matter and lichens (algae and moss combination) out of the bark crevices of the tree.  Even though crepe myrtles have smooth bark, there are plenty of places for the tree cattle to find food.  They are the housecleaners of the trees! Maples are another favorite tree of the tree cattle.

These are the same bugs that produce that stocking like webbing that looks like something out of a horror movie.  The webbing is tight against the bark of the tree just like a stocking.  It is found on limbs as well as trunks of trees.  The tree cattle use this webbing as protection from predators and weather. 

Tree cattle do not harm a tree. They do not eat leaves, just dead organic matter.  If they are really bugging you, you could spray them with a blast of water.  I would let them clean the bark of the tree, so you do not have excessive organic debris buildup.

If you have a lot of lichens, you may want to check the general health of the tree. Lichens produce their own food like plants. So if you have a healthy thick canopy of foliage from the tree, lichens will not grow because they cannot get the sunlight they need to survive. A soil test and the appropriate fertilizer should help with this situation unless the tree has other cultural issues (compacted soils, wet soils, dry soil, planted incorrectly or in the wrong place …).  

Last week, I laid to rest many fall army worms. They attacked my yard as well as my mother’s yard and my counter attack proved to be too much for them for now. They are known to launch a counter attack, so in a week or so I will launch a preemptive strike (if all goes as planned). I do not want to go out of town and return to a chowed on lawn.

The daylight hours are getting shorter. Time to get your preemergent product of choice out for winter annual weeds. Remember to treat your beds as well as your lawn.

Always read, understand and follow product label. The product label is a Federal Law.

Bill Lamson-Scribner can be reached during the week at Possum’s Landscape and Pest Control Supply. Possum’s has three locations 481 Long Point Rd in Mt. Pleasant (971-9601), 3325 Business Circle in North Charleston (760-2600), or 606 Dupont Rd, in Charleston (766-1511). Bring your questions to a Possum’s location, or visit us at You can also call in your questions to “ The Garden Clinic”, Saturdays from noon to 1:00, on 1250 WTMA  (The Big Talker). The Horticulture Hotline is available 24 / 7 at 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Fall Army Worms and Preemergent Products for Winter Weeds

This is what I wrote two weeks ago after I had sprayed my beds with herbicide mix for three hours and I was then hit by a pop up thunderstorm:

“While spraying in my beds, I did notice a huge number of moths, which usually indicates a worm attack is not too far away. Time to get out a little preventive worm killer it looks like. If you have ever experienced worm damage, you know it hits your lawn hard and fast, so preventative applications will keep you from having any surprises if you go out of town or even take a long nap! The worm season so far this year has been weird – very spotty.”

Well, I got busy with other things. Sure enough, I went out to check on what vines I was going to attack Sunday and there was a small fall army worm outbreak in my yard.

A friend of mine that grew hay used to say he could hear army worms munching on the pasture as they crossed the fields. Since army worms eat the green leaves off the plant, he would lose big hay dollars to this worm. Athletic fields, Golf Courses, and home lawns lose the aesthetic value of the green grass, and the worms thin the canopy of the grass where weeds will move in if given a chance. Prostrate growing weeds like spurge, lespedeza and Florida Betony seem to come in the fastest.

What bothers me the most is you work all summer on your grass to have it looking nice, and once it starts to slow down for the winter, fall army worms and then sod web worms attack the grass. Look for areas that appeared to have been mowed low and with a dull blade. You can see that the leaf blades have been chewed. Also thatch type debris will be churned up on the surface. Birds and low flying wasps are also predators of army worms. Thanks to cell phones last year, I took a cool picture of a wasp attacking the head of an army worm.

Since army worms are in direct contact with the ground, they are very easy to control. Bug Blaster, Bifen, Sevin, Cyonara and Acephate will all put a hurting on army worms. Thuricide (Bt) and Spinosad are organic products that will also work well if you get them while the worms are small. Since the population of worms is so high and hit so hard, keep your eye out for a second hatching.

For those of you with St. Augustine and Centipede, keep your eye out for the sod web worm. Watch for moths in your yard around dusk. If you begin to see a moth that gets out of the grass, flies for 6-10 feet then lands again (like a bobwhite quail for you bird hunters) you may want to consider using one of the above mentioned products. Usually sod web worms would not come out until September / October; however, with the crazy weather we are having, scouting for them could not hurt.

Now is the time to put out preemergent products in the lawn and beds to prevent those small seeded annual weeds. Henbit, chickweed, Poa annua (annual bluegrass), cudweed and lawn burweed are a few of the winter weeds that would like to occupy your lawn and flower beds. Poa annua (the green grass that is very visible in February and March) and lawn burweed (the prostrate growing weed that develops a sticker) are usually the most hated of the winter weeds. Some people use profanity while describing them at the counter of Possum’s! 

If your yard has thatch, drainage, or compaction issues, now is a great time to aerate your lawn (and beds where possible) before you apply your fall preemerge. Aeration is a great cultural practice, which will among other things help your roots grow throughout the winter giving you a head start for the spring. 

In my travels this week, I saw brown patch (large patch) fungus in several yards, and the “nasty rascal the chinch bug” is still sucking the life out of many lawns. Gray leaf spot is still alive and doing well.

Always read, understand and follow product label. The product label is a Federal Law.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Time to Get Ready For Fall

Last week, I was trying not to cry about the 3 hours I had spent in the yard spraying weeds. I was thinking I could have done a lot of custom programs from soil test in those 3 hours. When I was finishing up spraying, a major rainstorm hit the area that I live. Thank you Possum’s Spreader Sticker! Even weeds that I sprayed while I was empting my sprayer as the rain was coming down died! All the hours spent formulating Possum’s Spreader Sticker with a scientist (I speak a little of his language and I think he speaks a little of mine) paid off right in my own yard. I had developed with the help of a scientist a spreader sticker that would get a control product in a plant quickly. And it worked awesome! A lot of times I hear of or see (everyone has a camera) great results with our products. When a product saves me 3 hours of hot, mixing and spraying time in my own yard, I’m in love!  

Treat for mosquitoes in your yard! Scout around your yard for potential breeding sights. It is amazing how many places that collect water and a mosquito can lay an egg. Old tarps, tarps on boats, saucers under flower pots, a dent in a trash can lid, old fountain, bird bath, tires, refrigerators, old cars, and even half - filled rain gauges all provide enough water to help mosquitoes breed. If you do not have time to do scout your yard, hire a professional, and they will help make your yard safe.

Eco Via is a new broad spectrum, NOP (National Organics Program) compliant product that will control mosquitoes. Mosquito Repelling Granular has a good residual and is organic. Cyonara is broad spectrum and is very effective.    

Large Patch fungus has raised its ugly head again in the Lowcountry.  The decrease in daylight hours and rain have been great for Large Patch disease to kick in.  Water only as needed and apply Cleary’s 3336 or Disarm. 

If you have any bushes or trees that need to be transplanted, you can begin to root prune them.  Ideally if you transplant a tree you would have a ball that is 12 inches for each inch in diameter of the tree (i.e. 3 inch tree would be 18 inches on either side of the tree).  Take a shovel and dig straight down without prying and just sever the roots of the tree.  Depending on the size of the tree, whether it was planted or a volunteer seedling, how long it has been in the ground, and whether it is in a group of other plants, will dictate how big of a root ball you will be able to dig. Add some SeaHume and other rooting biostimulants to the area to encourage new roots.  Root prune now and for the next few months for transplanting in November-January.

It is getting close to the time to switch over from summer annuals (crops) to winter annuals (crops).  When amending your annual beds or garden this year try Back to Nature’s Flower Bed Conditioner.  It’s balanced blend of cotton burrs and cattle manure along with feather meal, cotton seed meal, alfalfa meal and sulfur will surely make your winter annuals a hit.  The alfalfa contains Triacantanol, a natural root growth enhancer and may aid in the control and suppression of certain fungal diseases.   Unlike wood and wood by-products, composted cotton burr and composted cattle manure do not tie up valuable nutrients in the soil and help neutralize the soils pH.  Cotton seed and feather meal provide added nutrients for the plant. If you are planting bulbs for next spring, consider using Back to Nature’s Flower Bed Amendments as well.

The change in weather will also bring on the winter annual weeds.  Now is the time to put out preemergents in your lawn as well as your beds. If you have had Florida Betony in the past, consider using a preemergent that contains Dimension. Many of our customers have noticed a decrease in Florida Betony in lawns that they have used Dimension in late August and again in October. Over ten years ago, I put out some test plots for Dow AgroSciences, and I saw about an 85% reduction in Florida Betony the first year! Dow AgroSciences did not add Florida Betony to the label because of the costs of dealing with the EPA; however, I say, “try it you‘ll like it!”

Watch out for mole crickets, grubs and sod web worms in your turf.  Mole crickets have just developed their wings and are beginning their fall flights, which means they will be up near the surface tunneling (damaging) your grass. Grubs are near the surface and easy to kill before they become a food source for moles or damage your root system themselves.  Sod web worms can eat a huge amount of grass in a short period of time.  Look for moths as you walk around your lawn in the evening.  These moths will come up from the ground, fly erratically for a few feet, then land, almost like a quail.  Treat with Lebanon Insect Control or Aloft and you will take care of both of these guys as well as fire ants and many other insects.