Monday, May 30, 2022

Fleas And A Great Product That Is Under Used

Horticulture Hotline 05/30/22

By Bill Lamson-Scribner


First, I want to mention a product called Meso 4. Do Not Use on Bermuda or Zoysia. Can use on centipede and St. Augustine. Will kill Bermuda in St. Augustine and centipede!  Also, many hard to kill weeds. Stops chlorophyll productions and turns the weed white. Will kill crabgrass also. Read and follow product label – helps with many situations that we didn’t have solutions for in the past.


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. 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 beloved possum (O’Possum on St. Patrick’s Day)!  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. So, if you kill the adults, you’ re only 2% done managing them, making growth regulators so important.


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 Flee, Petcor or Prefurred Plus to your animal, use Alpine Flea and Bed Bug, Precor 2625 or Precor 2000 inside the house, spread Bug Blaster or spray EcoVia EC (Organic) in the yard and spray the yard with Nyguard (Growth Regulator).  There are other products that work. Just be sure to apply to the animal, the inside of the house and the outside of the house and that you use growth regulators.


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, May 23, 2022

Summertime and the Living is Easy


Horticulture Hotline 05/23/22

By Bill Lamson-Scribner


“Summertime and the living is easy” was / is my sister-in- laws (a former school teacher) favorite song this time of year. If you like the fragrance of magnolias and gardenias, what a great time of year to work in the yard or take a walk. Three weeks ago, I was smelling the thick intoxicating smell of banana shrubs, and now, the clean smell of the gardenias and magnolias. Hibiscus are in bloom!


1.      I have already seen the nasty rascal chinch bug in St. Augustine grass. If you have St. Augustine grass, be sure to put out a product labeled for chinch bugs such as Allectus, Bug Blaster, Bifen or Lebanon Insect Control.  Pulling into your driveway to a dead lawn after a family vacation is not the “welcome home” you want.

2.      With the lack of rain, the spring termite swarm has been really spotty. Usually, they swarm pretty much all at once after a spring rain; however, this year we haven’t had that spring rain to trigger them. If you have swarmers in your wood pile or in an old stump in the yard, not a big deal. If you have them in your house, you might want to call your Pest Management Professional that your house is under bond with and have them take a look.

3.      We had a wet fall and are having a dry spring. The perfect combination for fleas. Fleas are easy to control with a three-prong attack. Treat the animal (I know you can’t treat all the squirrels, raccoons, and Possums), treat the yard (use growth regulator and adulticide), and treat your house (also use a growth regulator and adulticide). Pest Management Professionals can also handle this job.

4.      While driving through neighborhoods, localized dry spots are very evident since we have had that dry spell.  These are areas in the yard that turn that bluish gray color from lack of water.  New neighborhoods with young grass and poor soils seem to be most susceptible to these dry areas.  Exposed areas with lots of wind and areas at the beaches also are good candidates for these localized dry spots.  Adding organic matter to the soil (Cotton Burr Composts or SeaHume), wetting agents, or adjusting sprinkler heads will help with these dry areas.  Remember to water in the early a.m. before the wind picks up, so the grass will dry by nightfall. A good, long, slow rain is what we really need – just not during my outdoor function!

5.      Moles seem to be particularly active this spring.  They just had their young in April and now they are tunneling up a storm.  The young moles are hungry!  Manage the food source in your yard (grubs, mole crickets) with Lebanon Insect Control and go after the mole with Mole Patrol. Repellex will do a good job of repelling them, if you would rather go that route.

6.      As with all products, you should read and follow product labels.  More is not better when dealing with control products.  Knowing your square footage if you are purchasing products, is sooo important. You need to know how much product to buy.  Watch overlapping when applying your products.  You also need to watch the weather forecast to ensure the products have a proper amount of time on your target pest prior to any rain.  If the product needs to be watered into the ground, a slow watering by a sprinkler is better than a gully washer from the sky.  A very hard rain can wash products into the storm water drains which can be bad for the environment and you have wasted a lot of money.


7.      Also sweep or blow fertilizers or control products off of hard surfaces when you

      finish applying them. In the case of fertilizer, this may prevent staining, and           most importantly it will keep products from washing through storm drains to the     marshes.


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


Monday, May 16, 2022

We Are Dry!

Horticulture Hotline  05/16/22


By Bill Lamson-Scribner


Some years we know through rainfall where our lawns are getting too much water and we need to work on our drainage. This year it is so dry and windy, we can learn a lot about our irrigation systems and how well they are covering our landscape. If you noticed discolored grass, dig into the soil and see if it is just dust.  Since we are way behind on rainfall this year, we are seeing a lot of dying areas due to a lack of water.  Many of these places have irrigation; however, due to the wind and lack of good coverage; they are still experiencing dry spots.  This is the type of year that companies that install and maintain irrigation systems are very busy.  You might need to put an irrigation head into the corners of your property or you need to adjust the heads that are already there to spray into the dry areas.  If it turns out that lack of irrigation is causing the brown patches, you could also hand water these areas if you don’t feel like going through the expense of adding a head. We usually average 48 inches of rainfall in Charleston, so irrigation systems aren’t usually required to provide all the water, just supplement it.


Since the grass was so stressed from a lack of water, the little bit of rain we had the other day was enough to generate a brown patch outbreak. I also saw some grey leaf spot on St. Augustine grass. Brown patch sits and waits for the moisture, temperature and for a susceptible host plant (your grass) to get lined up and it attacks.


This dry weather also helps hide fire ants.  With plenty of moisture, fire ants usually have a visible mound.  As dry as it has been, fire ants are still out there foraging even though they do not have a distinct mound.  Be careful, they are harder to see and they will still bite the fool out of you!


The dry weather has also brought the nasty rascal, the chinch bug, out on St. Augustine grass earlier than usual.  I actually saw chinch bugs back in April.  In the old days, it didn’t seem like we worried about the nasty rascal until July 4th; however, anytime there is a dry spring, they will be out early. 


Fleas also have come out in full force this spring.  They were bad last year, and it appears they will be bad again this year.  Nylar growth regulator will help control these guys inside and out.  Also, include an adulticide with this growth regulator. When treating fleas, using a product with a growth regulator will help you break up their life cycle. Managing them will be a lot easier with the use of a growth regulator.


Water, water, water!  A lot of grass and trees are severely stressed from the lack of rain.  Adding organic matter to your yard or a wetting agent will help improve water retention.  Many people will see a 30-60% reduction in their water bill from applying these products to their lawn.  Trees don’t show stress as obvious as your grass does; however, trees are very important to the landscape and are expensive to take down and replace.  Trees that are under drought stress usually die from borers or some other secondary insect, when all they really need is a little water. 


As humans need to drink a lot this time of year, so does your grass!  Water, water, water!  The nighttime temperatures are finally warming up to the point where grass should grow and start filling in bare areas.


Always read and follow product label.