Monday, August 13, 2018

Flea Biology 101

Horticulture Hotline 08/13/18
By Bill Lamson-Scribner

Fleas have been particularly bad this year.  I have been asked a lot about them in the store (Possum’s) and when I have been out and about. Judging from the amount of flea products I’m ordering for the stores, they have been busy with flea situations as well. Fleas are hard to control because they have a wide range of hosts and their life cycles are designed for survival.  Although there are 2400 different species of fleas, the one we are most concerned with is the cat flea. This week I’m going to write about the biology of the cat flea and next week focus more on the control.

The flea that primarily attacks the dog is called the cat flea.  This flea attacks dogs, cats, and several other wild hosts including rodents, rabbits, squirrels, skunks and yes, the opossum!  They will also attack humans as well.  As you treat your yard, your dog, and your house you need to realize that these other animals can re-infest your yard. 

A flea can go from the egg stage to the adult stage in anywhere from a few weeks to several months (even over 1 year).  This life cycle helps ensure their survival.  The flea will wait in the pupae stage, and emerge as an adult when the conditions are favorable for the survival of the adult. Adult biting fleas only account for about 2% of the population, the rest are in the egg, larva and pupae stage.

The flea lays eggs on its host.  These eggs are not attached to the host so they are constantly falling off.  When a dog gets up from a nap and shakes, the dog is shaking the eggs off of his body.  The egg then becomes a larva. 

The larva can live on the dog or larva also live under grass, soil, mulch or other organic matter.  Larva are very susceptible to heat and desiccation so they usually stay in shady moist areas of the yard.  Treating your flower beds is very important.  You may see the adults out in the middle of your yard; however, they are coming from your mulch beds where it is shady and moist. 

After the larva stage, the flea develops into a pupa.  This pupae stage is what makes the flea so hard to control.  The pupa is made out of a silk like cocoon that protects the flea.  This cocoon is very sticky when first developed and dust and other debris stick to it making it very hard to detect.  If someone moves out of an apartment that had a dog with fleas, the apartment could be closed for months.  When the new tenants open the door and walk in, the adult flea will emerge from the pupae stage and begin biting the person who has entered.  These pupae respond to vibration, so it is good to vacuum when trying to control fleas.  Vacuuming removes fleas and the vibration from the vacuuming brings the flea out of the pupae stage and into the adult stage that is susceptible to control products. 

All these factors make the flea very hard to control.  When using control products there are several different products to use.  Some products are used inside, some outside and some on the animal.  A pest management professional is always a good option when dealing with fleas.

Next week I will write about several different control products.  In the meantime apply Prefurred One, Petcor or Prefurred Plus to your animal, use Precor 2000 inside the house, spread Bug Blaster (or spray EcoVia EC NOP Compliant) in the yard and spray the yard with Nyguard (Growth Regulator). 

Since it takes about two weeks to control fleas, it will also take me two weeks to write about controlling fleas!

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

Monday, August 6, 2018

Shrimp Cocktail Anyone?

Horticulture Hotline 08/06/18
By Bill Lamson-Scribner

Until this weekend, I had forgotten the connection between overhead pruning with a pruning saw, pole saw or a chain saw and cigarette smoking. If you are a non-smoker, you know that whatever direction you stand in relation to a smoker, the smoke is going to blow in your face. While I was using a pole saw over the weekend to try to get some more sun and air movement in my yard, I was reminded of no matter what side of the tree you were working on the saw dust was going find its way to your face and eyes! Saw dust in my eyes brought back memories of pruning palms at Long Cove Club on Hilton Head Island when I was a young horticulturist.

I was asked the other day while grocery shopping, “I have these insects in my bathroom that have little pinchers, and when you crush them, they smell really bad. What are they and how can I get rid of them?”

When she mentioned the pinchers, I was thinking earwigs.  When she mentioned the foul odor when you crushed them, I knew for sure she was talking about earwigs! 

Earwigs like dead organic matter and moist areas.  If you have recently mulched your beds, sometimes you will see earwigs.  They are considered mainly an outdoor pest.  Earwigs feed on plant material; however, they rarely eat enough to damage plants.   

If you have a pest control company under contract, give them a call and they can get rid of this problem very quickly.  If you would rather do it yourself, the first place to start is to check and be sure you have a 12-24 inch barrier around your house that is free of vegetation and mulch.   Caulk any gaps around pipes, wires, windows, doors or any other area that might be an entry point for the earwig or any other pest (roaches, ants, etc.).  Using yellow bug lights on the outside of your house will attract fewer earwigs and other insects to your house.  Any wood piles, deep pile of leaves, or other areas that stay moist should be removed.  If you have wood for your fire place, you can stack it above ground on metal wood holders, cinder blocks or pallets away from your house.  These are all good practices to help prevent insects and to protect your house.

If these cultural practices do not take care of the problem, you may consider using a control product around the perimeter of your house and any moisture harboring areas (wood pile).  There are many good products (InTice 10 Perimeter NOP Compliant is very good) on the market that would help you control earwigs as well as other insects.

Another similar pest that we have been getting lots of calls at Possum’s about is lawn shrimp. Lawn shrimp like a humid, high moisture area to live and feed. Ground covers like Asiatic Jasmine, Ivy and other moist mulched areas are perfect places for these crustaceans to live. They feed on decaying plant and animal matter. When they enter your house or garage, lawn shrimp are seeking a better life-style; however, they usually die because there is no food for them (decaying plant and animal matter) and the air is too dry. Lawn shrimp also like the moisture from wood piles, flower pots or any other stationary object they can live underneath.

Since lawn shrimp mainly feed on decaying debris, they are more a nuisance than anything else. If you are tired of removing them from your dwelling, you may want to remove their habitats from your entry points to your house. Those nice flower containers next to your entryway may need to go.  Sealing thresholds of doorways will save on your electric bill and help keep these and other uninvited guest outside. Although there are not any chemicals labeled for the control of lawn shrimp (they are a crustacean not an insect), any good perimeter pest control product should hasten their demise as well as help with roaches and other household pests.

There are many Pest Management Professionals that can help you with these and other pests if you would rather leave it up to the professionals.

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

Monday, July 30, 2018

Rain And Drain / Chinch Bugs And Army Worms

Horticulture Hotline 07/30/18
By Bill Lamson-Scribner

Rain, rain – I think we have had enough for a minute. Most people that I know that work in landscaping for a living welcome rain at any time; however, it is starting to get a little ridiculous. I guess it is the morning rains that I can’t get used too. The other morning I was all psyched up and ready to spread some Nature’s Blend (Cotton Burr Compost, Composted Cattle Manure, Alfalfa Meal, and Humates) in my yard. I was well hydrated, had some water on standby, had my IPod fully charged and was ready to do some serious spreading – then the rains hit. I stayed out there a while in the pouring rain because I only had a small window of time to work outside. With the threat of my neighbor to call the van with the padded interior and a few lighting strikes I retreated indoors. Lucky, after a change of clothes, I was able to sneak out a little later and finish getting one pallet spread.

All this rain has allowed two insects to flourish. The Nasty Rascal, The Chinch Bug, is usually associated with hot dry areas; however, it is sucking the life out of some St. Augustine. Chinch bugs even during rainy weather attack the grass in sunny areas.
07-00-14 Allectus will give you good control and a little slow release fertilizer to get you to pre-emergent time.

Army worms are also out in big numbers. When it is cloudy and raining their natural predator, birds, cannot see them as easily. While writing this article, I got a call from a local school with worms everywhere – the earth was moving I believe was the description. When you have a bad worm breakout, it looks like a 1950’s horror movie – worms on top of worms crawling on top of each other and everywhere. Sevin or 07-00-14 Allectus will give you good control.

With all the rain, now is a great time to see if you need to work on drainage for your whole yard, areas of your yard, or just have some small areas that puddle.

Starting with gutters, do you have them? Do you need them? Are they clean and functioning properly? If water is running off your roof and draining under your house (crawl space), you may want to consider gutters. Moisture underneath a house can led to mold, fungus, moisture damage and termites.

If you have gutters, are the plants near the downspouts drowning? Do you need to put a piece of flexible pipe on the end of the downspout and direct the water to a place in the yard where it is not a problem? Could you collect this water in a rain barrel and store it for future use.

A large low area in the yard could be dealt with in many ways. Find the lowest point and put a drain and run the water elsewhere. If there are not any tree roots in the area, you could fill in the area with topsoil. If the area is small enough, consider using bagged topsoil, so you do not bring a bunch of weeds in the soil to your yard. If the area is real big you could remove the grass with a sod cutter and re-grade the area.

If you would like to drain an area very effectively and without having to do a lot of digging, then Turface is the way to go. All you need to do is aerate the area then apply Turface. We have worked with many customers using this product in many different situations with great results. Turface will help drain large areas and small areas. Some areas that are bigger and wetter you can dig columns and backfill with Turface. You will also save on the water and fungicide bill with this product.

Since August is approaching, I must mention preemergent time is rapidly approaching for small seeded winter annual weeds. Remember to do your bed areas as well as the turf areas.

 At Possum’s it seems that most husbands are in charge of the grass and the wives are in charge of the beds. The husband comes in and buys the preemergent product for the lawn and puts it out on the turf. In October the husband waves to his wife that is pulling weeds in the beds while he is on his way to the golf course, deer stand or fishing hole. Husbands, if you would let your wife know about preemerge, she would have more free time too.

Always read and follow product label. It is the law.