Monday, April 25, 2016

An Old Friend (Foe) Returns

I guess the mole crickets didn’t drowned in the October / Fall rains. Between having 3 stores (Possum’s Landscape and Pest Control Supply), regularly scouting around, and having a whole bunch of friends in the business of killing mole crickets, when they get bad, I hear about it. Right now, they are bad! With some products being removed from the market, we are getting more complaints about mole crickets.   

These guys definitely damage turf.  Their damage is not caused by them eating the roots of the grass plants, as many people think, but is actually caused by them tunneling near the surface and separating the roots from the soil.  When the roots are separated from the soil, the grass plant dries out and dies.  This tunneling can cause big problems when there is a drought. When the soil is dry, it separates quickly from the plants roots.  Regular rains, irrigation or rolling the ground with a sod roller, can help keep the plant alive by keeping the roots in contact with the soil. This spring is bad because the grass is still sort of dormant and little rain and the damage might go undetected.

To control mole crickets, it is best to scout for them.  Get two ounces of lemony dish soap in five gallons of water and slowly pour it over a 2 x 2 area where you may think you have mole crickets.  The soap irritates their equivalent to our lungs, and brings them to the surface gasping for air. This will drive them to the surface and depending on how many surface, you can then decide whether to treat your yard or not.  A golf course green because of putting would have less tolerable amount than a home lawn. 

This time of year, mole crickets are in their adult stage and are mating and flying around. Often you will notice a little volcano with a hole in the center the size on a number 2 pencil. The male mole cricket uses this volcano to amplify his mating call. This is a good time to treat them because you will break up their life cycle before they produce new babies. 

Later, in June and July, if you use a soap flush again; you will see the baby mole crickets.  Baby mole crickets are easy to kill because they do not fly. Baby mole crickets look like little adults. 

In the fall, the small mole crickets will have grown into young adults, have wings, and will tunnel near the surface and fly around.  Depending on the amount of mole crickets in your yard, these are the three critical times to treat for them. 

Many control products are available to kill mole crickets.  Some work better depending on the stage of life of the mole cricket.   There are baits, parasitic nematodes, contact killers, granular products, spray products, etc.  When going after the baby mole cricket, always be sure to use a product that goes through the thatch layer and into the soil where the baby mole cricket resides.  Depending on your population of mole crickets, type of soil (they like sand – easier to tunnel), and amount of lights you have on your property that they attract to, the number of applications can vary greatly. Mole Crickets tend to inhabit the same area of a landscape year after year (usually because of lights or soil type), so with good mapping, you can concentrate your efforts in these areas and save money by using less product.

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

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Wet Fall Surfaces Old Hated Pest

I (Possum’s Landscape and Pest Control Supply) had a booth at MUSC’s Earth Day celebration last week and the number one pest question I was getting was about the control of fire ants. The first time ever the mole got beat out of the top spot!

Believe it or not….fire ants are very easy to kill and manage!  You will not eradicate them; however, you can manage them.  There are many products on the market that will kill fire ants.  Some products are more economical if you have large areas to treat, others do a great job at just killing fire ants, and other products will kill other insects as well as fire ants. 

If you have a large area (16 or more acres) the bait products are very economical (less than 15 dollars an acre) and effective.  You can treat one acre for less than 25.00.  Depending on the amount of rain that we get this summer and fall, you may have to retreat in September.  Some bait products are designed to kill fire ants as well as other ants that are in your yard (carpenter ants, argentine ants).

It is best to spread the bait over the entire area once the soil surface temperature reaches 70 degrees.  You also want to keep the bait dry for 24 hours, so watch the forecast.  The ants must be actively foraging to pick up the bait.  You can determine this by throwing some greasy potato chips or some of the bait itself on the ground and come back in 10 minutes to one half hour and see if the ants are carrying away the bait or chips.  The bait products advantage is that it is low cost and effective.

Products containing bifenthrin (Bug Blaster) will give you long term control of ants as well.  With Bug Blaster you don’t need to worry about rain, or whether the ants are foraging.  Dr. Tim Davis of Clemson University noted that he was getting at least eight months of control with bifenthrin.  Bifenthrin products are best applied over the entire yard.  Bug Blaster’s biggest advantage is that not only will you kill fire ants, but you will kill army worms, sod web worms, fleas, chinch bugs, ticks (Lime disease), mole crickets, and many others. 

There are many choices on the market; the biggest thing is determining which product fits your needs.  Notice I only recommend treating the entire yard instead of chasing them around with mound treatments (stinky white powder).  Remember to always read and follow the product label!

While planting your summer annuals and perennials remember the Mighty Plant.  It will help your plants have a more developed root system and more flowers!

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

Monday, April 11, 2016

Butterfly / Hummingbird Garden

Paul and I were talking about attracting butterflies to a landscape this past Saturday during “The Garden Clinic” on WTMA. In case you were listening while driving and couldn't take notes or missed the radio show completely, but are interested in attracting butterflies and hummingbirds, here are a few tips.

There are many plants that will attract butterflies.  The ones I’m going to recommend will give you the bonus of attracting hummingbirds as well.  I’ve had all of these plants in my yard and they do very well in the Lowcountry with a minimal amount of care. 

One of the first plants that come to mind is the Butterfly Weed.  The monarch butterfly lays its eggs on this plant and when the caterpillars come out, they will devour the foliage.  Do not spray insecticides!  The foliage will come back quickly and you don’t want to kill the larva of the monarch butterfly.  This plant is not a perennial, however it reseeds itself.   When it pops up elsewhere in your yard, you can either replant it where you originally had it or leave it where it popped up.  Some people think it is neat watching the large caterpillars chow down on the plant and others are afraid of the big caterpillars.  This plant provides an important host plant of the Monarch Butterfly’s life cycle and will guarantee you will get plenty of butterflies.

Pentas, Bee Balm, Black Eyed Suzanne, Hibiscus, Plumbago, Lantana, Mexican Sage, Verbena, Vitex, and Glossy Abelia are all good choices for Butterfly Gardens.  If you have a railing around a porch, a Passion Vine does very well.  Of course every Butterfly Garden must have a Butterfly Bush.  A Bottle Brush should definitely be planted as well.  When at the garden center, choose red varieties, when you have a choice (i.e. red Hibiscus versus yellow). 

When you buy these plants they can all go in one little area for a compact “Butterfly/Hummingbird Garden”.  You may also want to plant several plants in one location, then have others groups throughout the yard for the “Butterfly/Hummingbird Yard”!  If you have a new landscape, it is very easy to design your yard to attract butterflies and hummingbirds.  Also consider a source of water for the visitors to your yard.  Leave the insecticides on the shelf away from your guests.

There are many other plants that will attract butterflies and hummingbirds; these are just a few of my favorites that I have had great success with.  Some plants that you would not normally think of attracting butterflies are pine trees, oak trees, birch trees, hack berries, and blueberry bushes.

The butterflies and hummingbirds will add movement to the landscape and a whole new dimension. The colorful plants are a plus as well. 

Now is a great time to enjoy two other butterfly attracting plants, the Dogwood and the Azalea.  It is a great time to get out and enjoy the many gardens in the area as well as Hampton Park.  Get out there soon or the Azaleas will be gone for another year.