Aphids

Aphids do not look alarming when there are only a couple hanging out in the garden. More times than not they go unnoticed until a plant is doing very badly. Then the gardener starts running through a mental checklist, especially those of us with busy schedules that rely on technology to maintain our gardens throughout the week.

  • Is the watering system working properly?
  • Did I plant that in the right spot?
  • Is it getting too much light? To much water?

It was so pretty when I bought it. What am I doing wrong?

Aphid Appearance

Then on closer inspection you spot the mass of small nearly translucent bodies covering the underside of the leaves. The little aphids are out of sight and out of mind.

A few aphids in the garden is not a problem. The plants immune system so to speak will heal the little holes they eat into it when they move on after the sap or honeydew has dried. It’s when the garden or a more often even just a single plant, commonly rose bushes, become infested with hundreds of the tiny little ¼ inch pests. 

There are nearly 4,000 species of aphids in the world. Some are only attracted to certain plants others have a wider appetite. 

Aphids can come in almost any color green, brown, white even pink. They have soft pear shaped bodies with long antennae. Most species of aphid do not generally have wings but when an area becomes overpopulated they can grow them to move to a new location. A gardeners worst nightmare.

Aphids on Crape Myrtle

Aphids Effect on Plant Health

Most species will be found on the underside of a plants leaves. This keeps them out of the sun and protected from predators. 

A few species like the grey-white root aphid will bury in the soil and attack a plants roots.

Constant assault from aphids and them being overpopulated in an area can lead to severe disease and death in plants.

  • Leaf curl
  • Misshapen leaves
  • Yellow leaves
  • Fungal growth
  • Sooty mold

Aphids can also carry disease from one plant to another. Aphids are the plant equivalent to ticks and mosquitoes for humans.  

They can also attract other unwanted bugs to the garden that prey on aphids. Ladybugs love to eat aphids, and no matter how cute they are I do not want a swarm of ladybugs in my yard anymore than the aphids.

Aphid Control and Prevention

Prevention goes a long way when it comes to garden pests. Regularly inspecting plants and not relying too heavily on timers and other time saving routines can make a difference. 

Be sure to inspect all buds, fruit and flower but pay close attention to the underside of leaves. 

Companion Gardening is one of our favorite things. We know its not for everyone. But when it comes to low maintenance routines having a balanced garden is a big help.

Plants with certain smells are less appealing and tasty to most aphids. But with so many species it can still be tricky. Most pest don’t have a specific species just for beans, cabbage, melons, potatoes, but aphids do. So here are some of the most common plants to deter and repel aphids. 

Aphid Deterrent Plants  

  • Marigolds
  • Catnip
  • Lavender
  • Fennel
  • Dill
  • Garlic
  • Chives
  • Cilantro
  • Oregano

Some plants are hardier and act as a trap for aphis. These plants will tolerate the abuse and heal themselves quicker. They are also cheaper than other aphid favorites.

Aphid Trap Plants

  • Sunflowers
  • Nuestriums
  • Mustard

Other Aphid Deterrents

Sometimes it may be as simple as hosing the pest of off the plant. Often times the aphid will not find it’s way back to the same plant. For example roses are an aphid favorite and the rose bush is the only plant being infested.

There are chemicals on the market for everything. Dust pest control products are quick and simple way to go. Again we know that not everyone wants unsightly powder spread on their plants for the neighbors to see. If you are willing to use a powder form for control you may also want to try

Powder Products from the house

  • Flour
  • Baking Soda
  • Borax
  • Epsom Salt
  • Diatomaceous Earth 

Spray Mixtures you may have on hand

  • 1 part white vinegar to 3 parts water
  • Rubbing alcohol and water
  • Neem oil
  • Epsom Salt and water
  • Liquid dish soap, cayenne pepper and very little water

Banana peels chopped up and buried a couple of inches under the soil are said to prevent aphids as well. I have never tried this for pests, but it is a trick I personally use on my rose bushes a couple times a year to provide them with more nutrients. So it is worth a try.

We hope your gardens flourish and are pest free. As always give us a call if you are in Northwest Arkansas or Southwest Missouri and your yard or garden serviced. Feel free to email or reach us on any of our social media platforms even if you don’t live in our area and have a question.


Carpenter Bee Deterrents

Carpenter Bees also called Wood Bees seem to be taking over and causing havoc  this year. They start out as a loud slightly annoying house guest. Scaring children by buzzing and dive bombing when anyone gets too close to their nest. They annoy homeowners by leave perfectly drilled little holes in wood. Normally occupying the most serene of spring and summer sitting areas like porches and decks constructed of wood.

After a few weeks we stop really paying attention to them. Carpenter bees aren’t normally known for stinging, because only the females have a stinger.  They are however very good at pollinating all of our beautiful flowers. So how bad can they really be?

Carpenter bees aren’t just drilling a perfectly round simple little hole. Those holes are just the entrance to tunnel that can be as long as 4”. That’s a long ways for one little bee. Actually that’s about a third of the length of one of the boards that the roof to my porch rests on. Wood bees aren’t usually seen to pose any actual structural damage because they don’t take over a whole board the way a termite does. However I don’t want want to think about the amount of damage that they are doing or they shere number of holes they have made.

It may not be to bad but after the boring the entrance hole the female Carpenter bee cuts over at a 90 degree angle. She then continues on with the tunnel that can be anywhere from 6 inches to 4 feet.  This normally happens in April or May so that the female can lay her eggs.

The next generation of bees is ready by about August. The new bees will spend the rest of the year finding a new nest and hibernating until spring.

As a gardener I love pollinator insects. We go out of our way to not use pesticides in our yard to make it a better place for pollinators. At this point, after several summers of having wood bees nest on our porch and in the wooden siding of the house I have started to look into pesticides for them. Wasp spray is one of the few chemicals we use outdoors and it just is not helping with the Carpenter bees. Not only is it not working but we also don’t necessarily want to kill them just prevent them. That way they can go on pollinating.

While looking we came across several products that are supposed to prevent insects that damage wood, including Carpenter Bees and Termites. Unfortunately all of these products have to be used on untreated wood. Those products don’t do us much good.So what can we do?

Tips for Stopping Wood Bee Damage

  • Keep exterior wood surfaces well painted or sealed
  • Keep wood and brush piles picked up and away from other wood structures
  • Plug the existing holes to nest entrances with wood glue, silicone, or dowel rods
  • Treat newly built wooden structures with a product that deters wood damaging insects before painting or sealing.

What Deters Wood Bees

There is a wide range of dusts and aerosol sprays on the market that will kill Carpenter Bees. I don’t want the dust all over my porch, and the aerosols are pretty bad for the environment. I just can’t stop thinking about the bees that get into some of it and don’t die taking it back to the flowers they pollinate. Or all of the plants that won’t get pollinated as well if we keep killing everything that pollinates. So what can we use to keep Wood Bees from destroying our homes and harassing us while we relax?

  • Tea Tree Oil or Eucalyptus Oil most insects hate the smell. Can be mixed with water and put in a spray bottle to use on existing tunnels. 20 drops to a cup of water should be about right. Be careful both oils are dangerous to humans and pets.
  • Almond Oil contains benzaldehyde a known pest deterrent that should last about 3 months.
  • A mixture of Tea Tree, Lavender and Citronella Oils in a spray bottle.
  • Cloves of fresh Garlic can be boiled and then added to white vinegar in a spray bottle. This mixture should be reapplied frequently if used.

Yes, most of the these call for essential oils.No, we are not addicted to the essential oil craze. The oils help preserve and treat the wood in small areas where the problem is occurring with the added benefit of certain smells hopefully driving the pest away.It is also the reason why the garlic and water solution needs to used more frequently.

Our Favorite Carpenter Bee Repellent

We like to use 1 Cup of Water, 1 Cup of Apple Cider Vinegar in a spray bottle with 1 Tablespoon of Rubbing Alcohol, 6 Drops Lavender Oil and 6 Drops of Tea Tree Oil.

Remember that Tea Tree oil can be harmful to people and pets, and to always label your spray bottles for safety and future reference.

Plants that Deter Carpenter Bees

Plant deterrents don’t seem to work as well on flying pests, as they do on ground dwelling pests. Plants may still work fairly well in small areas such as decks or balconies depending on the size of the area.

  • Basil
  • Rosemary
  • Lavender
  • Citronella
  • Chrysanthemums

Carpenter bees are wonderful pollinators. We want them to keep healthy and pollinating. It would just be really nice if they could make their nests in dead fallen trees and brush instead of in our homes.

Termite Prevention

Web-Worms and Prevention

Fall brings cooler weather pretty leaves and  those horrible webs that seem to cover the trees and deter from the pretty leaves.

 

Commonly referred to as bagworms or webworms.  Hyphantria cunea are the type of webworms that make their appearance during late summer and autumn.

 

The Good News                      autumn-oak-foliage

The good news is these little guys don’t generally  hurt the trees, and are just more of an aesthetic problem. Webworms only munch on the leaves of the tree, which is already about to go dormant for the winter and shed it’s leaves anyway.

 

The Bad News               20160921_151813

The bad news is that webworms range from south Canada across the U.S. and love just about every kind of hardwood tree. Hickory, oak, pecan, even redbud and some fruit trees. The list goes on encompassing almost all deciduous trees.

 

Appearance

More than likely before the worm or adult moth is spotted we will notice the nest. Nests are composed of spider like string thread that is woven together with twigs, leaf debris and excrement from the worms. They gradually become larger and encompass more leaves, the larger nests can reach up to 3 feet.

 

The adult moth is most commonly white with darker spots on the wings.

 

Caterpillars can grow up to 1 inch long and colors vary by climate and location. Most caterpillars  have a yellow to green colored body with a mottled strip or two running running along the length of them. Their heads can range in color from black to a reddish hue.  

 

Life Cycle                       sack-worms

 

The eggs are laid on the underside of leaves. Clutches contain a couple hundred eggs that hatch out in about a week. Young caterpillars build their own webs while they feed on leaves. This stage will last about a month and a half. As winter comes closer the grown caterpillar weaves a dark brown  cocoon about ⅜ of an inch long either in leaf debris or under some loose bark. It will survive the winter in its pupa form.  

 

Webworm Control

 

More often than not little is done to control these pests. Expert opinion is that they cause little damage to trees, that are preparing to shed their leaves and go dormant for the winter. So why not let them be.

 

Tree safety aside making your home in a tall tree and out of reach keeps most humans from braving the awkward scenario of removing them. But what if some of us do want to remove them from interrupting our fall leaf experience.      wren-feeding-young

 

  • Natural Enemies. Webworms have a lot of them. Including birds, if you can reach a web  cut it open to give birds easy access.
  • Make Your Yard More Bird Friendly.  Adding bird feeders, houses and baths will help you attract mother nature’s first line of defense.
  • Keep Trees Pruned. Pruning dead branches will help deter them especially if you use pest spray afterwards 
  • Keep Debris Picked UP. Leaf and other fall debris provide hiding places for insects, and prevent natural predators from getting an opening.

     

  • Sevin Dust or other farm powder can be used as soon as you notice a problem and repeat 10-14 days later. The construction on the web makes nests water resistant and prevents most sprays from penetrating.

     

  • Let Them Be.

Mouse Prevention

A Mouse in the House     hagatha-the-great-mouser

 

Mice! I hate to find that mice have made their way into our house. It hasn’t happened for years, in part to my diligence and an awesome cat. The last time was about 8 years ago after our old cat died. The awesome kitty we have now was 4 years old 8 years ago when she came to live with us. No wonder she’s helping me slack, poor girl is 12 years old now.

 

As it happens the washing machine stopped working. After a quick youtube search and diagnosis, we took  the control panel apart. What did we find? Dog food. Yep shady little fur balls had dog food stashed in our clothes washer. Urgh, well it wasn’t because of the mice that it stopped working, it was a faulty lid switch. Not too shabby since we’ve had the washer longer than the cat.

 

Now we are maybe geniuses and slightly mean. I wiped the inside of the washer control panel and the rest of the machine down with bleach water, and replaced the dog food with mouse bait. Lunch is served.

 

Mouse Damage  mouse eating bread

 

Mice can cause major damage to infrastructure and appliances when they make themselves at home in our houses. They love to chew, which is not great since most homes are made of wood. It can also be very dangerous if  they get into electrical wires.

 

Mice are NOT Sanitary

 

Mice are also not sanitary. They carry a host of parasites and diseases that I don’t even want to get into, just think about The Black Plague. From 1346 to 1353 The Black Plague killed millions of people mostly because of a certain kind of flea that was being transported by mice.

 

Parasites aside, mice just kind of do their business every where. One way to tell if you have a mouse problem is by noticing their trail of feces or stains from their urine in corners or along your baseboards. As the problem begins to escalate a smell may become noticeable.

 

Mice are primarily nocturnal and have bad eyesight. So chances are you won’t see them out scavenging your home during the day. Their eyesight also makes them stick close to walls and baseboards. For the most part they will follow the same trail on a nightly basis, their keen sense of smell helps them follow this trail. The same trail we talked about earlier, pretty gross really.

 

How are the Mice Getting in?

 

The sneaky little beast don’t need much room to find an entrance. It’s important to routinely check your home for any small gaps, and repair them hopefully a tube of silicone will be enough.

 

  • Dryer vent ducts
  • Poorly fitting door
  • Drains and/or other places plumbing may come into the structure
  • Pet doors

 

Be Less Mouse Friendly    mice eating vegetables

 

  • Be tidy
  • Put all food away at night
  • Wash down all counter surfaces nightly
  • Keep all food stored in airtight containers
  • Keep excess pet food picked up
  • Store bags of pet food in airtight containers
  • Move furniture away from walls to clean regularly

 

How to get Rid of Mice

 

Today’s market offers a million ways to get rid of mice. Form classic snap traps to devices that can be plugged into a wall and emit a sound wave only mice can hear. Peanut butter may be the best bait for mouse traps if you ever have to use them. Please also remember to keep and bait or other poisons away from children and pets. All of that being said  I think it is easier to take measures to keep the mice away before they come in (too bad I don’t always succeed).  So here are some ways to get take care of the mouse problem when they do get in or as a backup plan.   mouse trap

 

  • Classic mouse traps  
  • Sticky traps
  • Edible mouse bait

 

Natural Prevention    king snake non-poisonous

 

  • Keep a cat -hopefully one that doesn’t like mice
  • Snakes – I hate snakes but a grass snake outside may not be bad
  • Birds of prey -if you live in the country an owl box may help
  • Mint – mice have a strong sense of smell, growing mint as a border plant around your house may deter mice
  • Dried Mint -sprinkle it by door ways and other places mice may enter
  • Cloves -can also be placed by doors or other places mice maybe
  • Peppermint oil – use some on a cotton ball
  • Clove oil

 

Make Your Own Concoction      mint

 

If you’re feeling creative or just need to off load some things from the garden or fridge you can always make your own mouse spray. Mice have a great sense of smell and so don’t really care for spicy or minty things. This gives us a couple of options, make a minty spray from herbs like mint and clove, or essential oils if you have them. Or a spicy spray from things like hot peppers Habaneros, or jalapenos. You get it.

 

Fresh or dried herbs or peppers if you like can either be boiled down and strained then added to a spray bottle with some water. Option two for your creative DIY-ers is to put the ingredients in a glass jar with either water, oil or even vodka and let it sit in a cool dark place for about a week and then strain it into a spray bottle. Sprays are quick to use and cheap once the time has been invested in making them.

 

Wow that’s a lot on mice. Hope someone found it helpful. Due Diligence and remembering to keep up with pest control routines may be the secret to keeping the the mice out.

 

Termites and Prevention

 

Why Plant Native

Some of our past blog articles have talked about native plants like Butterfly Milkweed. A couple of them have talked about invasive species that are found all over our area and have been here for a very long time like Queen Anne’s Lace. But we haven’t talked about why native plants are important. So why plant native?

Why Natives

Natives as a general rule of thumb are adapted to their environment.  This makes them more hardy to their particular climate conditions. honey bee on butterfly milkweed

PROS:

  • Less water
  • More tolerant to drought (if the area frequently has them)
  • Provide homes and food for native insects and animals
  • Don’t require as much fertilizer
  • Don’t require as many pesticides
  • Root systems are designed for the area’s geography, stabilizing rocky terrain or river banks for example.
  • Native plants have also developed to withstand their regions climate like wind and sun.

 

How Invasive Species Affect the Environment

 

Invasive plants have not had the time to adapt to their new conditions in some cases. In other situations non-native plants compete with the native plants and even effect the animals and insects. Queen Annes Flower

CONS:

  • Need more water
  • Need more fertilizer
  • Need pesticides
  • Take over native species, in essence choking them out
  • Take away nutrients from natives
  • Take sunlight from natives
  • Don’t provide sufficient food or shelter for native insects and animals
  • Do not have natural controls in place to control their expansion
  • Run rampant on uninhabited property

 

Yard Scenario 1

 

In a yard that just consists of a grass lawn and all non-native plants on average there maybe about a dozen native insects present.

 

Yard Scenario 2

In a yard with a grass lawn and all native tree, shrubs and flowers there should be hundreds of mostly all native insects.

 

Why Insects are Important

 

It is estimated that 97% of native insects are beneficial. They provide food for birds , bats , fish and other native animals. Spiders and other predatory insects keep fly and mosquito populations under control, along with a horde of other nuisance pests.

 

Native Plants and Animals Create a Sustainable Ecosystem

 

Incorporating just 20% – 30% of natives into your homes landscaping will encourage more native insects and birds to take up residency.     chickadee

 

A single pair of chickadees need up to 9,000 caterpillars to produce a clutch of eggs.

One native oak tree supports the caterpillars of 500 native moth and butterfly species. caterpillar-monarch

 

If we stop planting and encouraging native trees to grow on our property the caterpillars won’t be present for the chickadees to feed on in the quantity they need to breed.

 

We have turned 54% of the continental U.S. into a mixture of suburban and urban development, another 41% is being used for some sort of agricultural pursuit.  This leaves only about 5% undeveloped and still wild. With numbers like that our individual yards and landscaping choices can make a big difference to the environment and ecosystem as a whole.

 

To be honest I grew up in a family that loved to garden but in reality this doesn’t mean that I know a whole lot about native plants. My family loves plants like  elephant ears and banana trees, these are both far from native and are no use to our visiting wild rabbits.

We try now to incorporate as many natives into our personal yard as we can along with companion gardening. But…. the elephant ears and banana tree are both fond childhood memories that I still continue to plant every year. Native or not I feel close to my grandpa ever year when we plant them.         wild rabbit

 

Planting native is a choice that is beginning to give a whole new meaning to the term “Victory Garden”.   

 

Termites and Prevention

Termites A Homeowner’s Nightmare and a Valued Part of Nature

 

Termites can be a very destructive nuisance if they are not kept under control and away from our homes. That being said they are a very valuable part of the ecosystem and have a job to perform in nature. Without termites and carpenter ants dead trees and other litter on the forest floor would not be properly disassembled and would take much longer to decompose. My floor joist just need to be left out of their diet.

 

What Do Termites Look Like      

termites

Termites can cause massive damage before homeowners are aware of their presence.

 

Termites are between ¼” and ½” long. They may be several colors a creamy white, tan or black. They have straight antennae and their bodies have 2 segments. The abdomen  is broadly jointed to the thorax. Some may have wings, although not all do. If they do they will have a front and back pair that are nearly the same length.

 

Signs that Termites are Present

 

  • Mud Tubes attached to floor joists or foundations
  • Discarded Wings
  • Termite Frass or excrement
  • Termite Swarmers these are not destructive as they have no mouth parts. It is just a new group looking for a suitable home
  • Wood Damage in severe cases. Damage is not always noticeable because the the colony is inside the wood.

 

Prevention is the Best Form of Offense   

termite damage

termite damage

 

The best way to prevent termite damage is to take steps to prevent getting them or having them return.

 

  • Keep Moisture in crawl spaces and other confined areas to a Minimum
  • Keep Firewood and Scrap Wood as far away from the home as possible
  • Use Mulch sparingly next to the foundation of your home
  • Keep dead trees and brush cleaned up or treat around dead stumps if they can not be removed
  • Keep All Wood at least 8” from the ground.
  1. Porch Supports
  2. Trellises
  3. Wooden Swing Sets
  • Paint roughhewn surfaces with an anti termite paint
  • Repair Cracks in Cement or Masonry
  • Use Treated Lumber or bald cypress, eastern red cedar, black locust, redwood, osage orange, black walnut, northern catalpa and Pacific yew all contain natural compounds that are either toxic or repulsive to termites
  • Keep the bases and underside of Steps and Porches from filling with dirt and Debris
  • Keep Shrubs Trimmed and Away from Vents

 

Home Treatments for Termites

 

Hiring an exterminator can cost thousand when it comes to termite damage. Homeowners do not have to be powerless there are safe pet and family friendly ways we can treat for termites as homeowners without breaking the bank.

 

  • Borax is good to spread around foundations or tree stumps
  • Exposing the Area to Sunlight       
  • Eliminating Moisture
  • Using Heat and Cold Treatments cold temperature of 15 degrees must be maintained for four days to be effective. treated area has to reach a temperature of 120 degrees for thirty five minutes in order to successfully kill the colony.

Plants and Oils for Treatment

Oils can be mixed with water in a properly labeled spray bottle and applied to affected areas or used for prevention. Plants can be grown around the property as a deterrent.

  • Orange Oil           

    Catnip-nepeta-cataria

    Catnip is a natural deterent for termites and many other pests

  • Neem Oil
  • Vetiver Oil -will repel termites
  • Clove Bud Oil- will kill termites
  • Mint
  • Marigolds
  • Garlic
  • Vetiver

Plants that Attract Natural Termite Predators

These plants will attract insects like ladybugs, centipedes, spiders and praying mantises that pray on termites .

Geranium-cranesbill

Geranium naturally deters termites

  • Catnip
  • Vetiver
  • Geranium
  • Flowering Herbs
  • Daisies
  • Sunflowers
  • Legumes

 

 

 

Don’t let termites destroy your home or property take action and watch for the signs that they may be present before it’s too late.

Companion Gardening