The Pest is Yet to Come, Vol. 01

 In Biology, Tips & How-Tos

The Bad news first

Cast Iron Plant Scale

Director of Living Landscapes Brian O’Neill has suggested, since many of you have Aspidistra in your gardens (and maybe even at home), that I address the Cast Iron Plant Scale. He recommends using systemic insecticides or removing the badly-infested leaves: “Hopefully, treatment would occur so that removal of foliage isn’t necessary.” His are treated once every 4-6 weeks during the growing season. Brian used a granular form of Acephate that yielded good results. He also says that the plants need to be checked yearly after treatment to be sure the infestation doesn’t “spread like wildfire.” It’s important to note you can’t use Hort Oil on Cast-Iron plant because it will result in some mottled leaves.

Japanese Beetles (Popilla japonica)

The unavoidable things in life are death, taxes, and Japanese Beetles, right? These beetles are the ultimate foodie with over 300 different plants on their menu. If you are looking for them, odds are you’ll find them. While there are definitely chemical control methods being trialed, I’d recommend a surprise attack involving some gloves and a bucket of soapy water. These beetles are less active in the morning because of the lower temperatures. Knock them off your plants when they aren’t suspecting it and throw them into your bucket of soapy water. Justice is best served suds-y.

The Rise and Fall of the Fall Webworm (Hyphantria cunea)

­­ The first gen of these guys appears in May/June and we don’t notice them. But the second gen is when the ugliness picks up. In July/August we will see nests that the webworms have built on the terminal ends of branches. Their menu is by no means specialized—it contains over 100 species of plants including cherry, crabapple, maple, and sycamore. If you see a silvery, hairy clump in your trees, an easy way to be done with these bad boys is to cut out the masses. However, if your tree isn’t glistening with the silky masses all over, go ahead and try to cut/knock them open for birds and beneficials to enter the buffet.  A fun note is that these guys get confused with the Eastern Tent Caterpillar really often, but keep this quick tip in mind: ETC build nests in crotches of branches, rarely enclosing foliage. FWW build nests on the terminal ends of branches which cover the foliage they feed upon.

Thanks to Dan Fulford and his photography skills for the FWW photos!
* Note the wheel bug nymph on the webbing; they are major predator of the Fall Webworm.

Now, the good news

Green Lacewings (Chrysopidae)

We found an ally this week hanging around Propagation…Green Lacewing eggs. Both the larvae and the adult are predacious on aphids and even some beetles. This explains why they are often referred to as “aphid lions.” Lacewings use their long mandibles to puncture prey and suck out the valuable insides. What makes this beneficial even cooler is that some of the larvae can disguise itself! This wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing tactic involves decorating its body in plant bits and even dead aphid husks. Deranged? Maybe, but it’s believed they do this to avoid being removed from an aphid-buffet by ants. Ants protect aphids because aphids supply honeydew to ants. So, if you see a roving lichen or a moving tuft of petals, you should consider yourself in good, slightly psychotic company.


Bug Joke of the Week:

A dung beetle walks into a bar…

“Is this stool taken?”

If you guys see any insects you think are worthy, or just plain creepy, reach out to me! I am always happy to help figure out what the heck it is or share the excitement with others.

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