Extension Educator, Horticulture
Master Gardener Program Coordinator
February 17, 2012
Richard Hentschel, Extension Educator
These warmer than average outside temperatures continue to mess with not just us, but with insects that should still be dormant for awhile longer. Calls and visits to Extension Master Gardeners have been about outdoor insects finding their way inside the home and some typical and not so typical indoor insects.
There have been the usual Box Elder bugs working their way through our outside walls and into the home. Box Elder bugs do not have anything to eat inside the home, but can and do leave fecal deposits behind as they move about the home, using up their reserves. If you are finding them dead, they have run out of juice so to speak. Finding them alive provides a couple of options. Hand picking them off the drapes and windows will work or you can use the nozzle on the vacuum to dispose of them.
Another very small insect seen inside after figuring out how to get in have been outdoor mites. You will find mites moving about the window sills where they seem to move effortlessly through cracks that we cannot imagine. The will look like tiny specks moving about, slowly at first, faster as they warm up once inside. These outdoor mites were feeding on our foundation plantings last summer and found our home siding and trim around the windows as an easy place to hide. Mites are not quite true insects, so if you are going make a spray treatment, be sure your Ready To Use aerosol spray will actually control them. Smashing them is not a good idea because they can leave a colored streak behind when you do.
It is pretty a typical time of year for some of our regular indoor pest to show up on our overwintering houseplants. Spider mites, just like their outdoor friends are very small and can cause webbing like appearance on brand new growth on our houseplants. They are around most of the time, but when there are no natural predators around as there would be when set outdoors for the summer, their populations really explode indoors seem to only get worse as our homes become dryer and dryer. Houseplants that are small can be carried to the kitchen sink and you can rinse off the mites with the sprayer attachment. Larger plants can be showered in the bathroom. This will have to be repeated every ten days or so until you do not see any more activity. Badly infested houseplants that are not a favorite can be composted.
The last indoor insect for the week is the Indian Meal Moth. These fall into the category of a pantry pest. It all starts with a flower product that has not been used for some time. The insect egg hatches into a larva that feeds and creates webbing in the product as it grows. Later the larva leaves the food stuff and pupates and turns into the flying moth. Many times this is the first clue that the pest is present in the pantry because they will be found flying around a light or at the kitchen window. A very thorough cleaning of the entire pantry is in order including finding the offending product(s) and getting them out of the house. The adult moth flies through the home laying eggs where the worm can hatch and survive. Besides the items in the pantry, dried flower arrangements (there are seeds in there) dog and cat food and a real common food source and during the winter, the wild bird seed we have on hand to feed the birds as well. Keeping the last three in the garage and or in container that seal are good preventative measures
February 14, 2012
Richard Hentschel, Extension Educator
Extension offices have begun to get phone and email inquiries on timing for dormant oil sprays on fruit trees in home orchards and calls on managing Cedar Apple Rust and Apple Scab fungal diseases.
Dormant oil sprays are typically applied to the point of run off to the branches and trunks of fruit trees to control over wintering adult insects and insect eggs that were laid last summer and fall as a means of lowering the insect pressure early in the season. Dormant oil sprays do not manage insects that are overwintering off your fruit trees or in the soil around your trees. These insects will be managed through your early multipurpose sprays and cover sprays as the growing season progresses during the summer months.
Dormant oil sprays work by smothering the adult insect and soaking in to the overwintering eggs, effectively controlling them as well. This is why the instructions say to thoroughly cover the tree. Dormant oil sprays are temperature sensitive and will need to be applied when the temperatures are above freezing for 24 hours. This is the standard used, yet be sure to read the label of the product you are going to use for more specific guidelines. The dormant oils are mixed with water and if temperatures fall below freezing the oil and water separate, the effectiveness are greatly reduced.
The sprays used to control Cedar Apple Rust and Apple Scab diseases are most often applied at what is called "bud break" This is when the bud scales start to swell and soften to allow either the flowers or foliage to begin to emerge. The bud scales soften during our spring rains, the same time that the fungal spores begin to emerge from their overwintering stages and float through the air infecting the very young flower and leaf tissues. Those first few sprays are critical to prevent early infestations that remain through the entire season and this is what most home orchardists find most challenging. Sprays need to be applied during inclement weather when we would rather be indoors. Another challenge to be recognized is that if it rains within hours of the application, you must go back out and reapply or the treatment is lost and the fungal spores arriving on your leaf tissues can infect anyway.
Apple scab is the disease that will cause your leaves to fall off the tree and that impacts the fruit quality since the leaves are the source of the energy that grows the apple. Apple scab can also infect the fruit so the damage to your fruit trees is two-fold. Cedar Apple Rust is damaging as well as it impacts the leaves ability to produce food, it is just that those leaves remain on the fruit tree. Home orchardists can find as many spray calendars as they have trees. The important thing to remember is your sprays have to match the trees development and the weather. You can use the calendar to measure the days between sprays, yet you cannot assume that the intervals between sprays remain constant. There will be more sprays more frequently in the beginning of the season and fewer sprays towards the end of the season. Your product label will also be helpful in this regard. Lastly, there will be "days before harvest" notation on the label, letting you know when you must stop spraying prior to harvest.
February 6, 2012
This topic is not exactly a typical one that you would expect to hear from me, yet involves foods we eat every day and many of us grow every year so it loosely fits. One of the many new laws in Illinois is the Cottage Food Operations Act that Governor Quinn signed last August at the State Fair and became law on January 1, 2012. This is a bill that will change the way homemade food is sold at the Farmers Markets in Illinois. This new law provides an opportunity to supplement household incomes by those families, who would like to sell their baked goods and jams, preserves and jellies at Farmers Markets. The Act has relaxed a lot of the paperwork, rules and regulations. The Act does limit the kinds of home prepared goods by limiting them to a list of lower risk foods. This list also included some of the fruit butters, but not all of them. Baked goods include breads, cookies, cakes and pastries. Fruit pies are included, but as noted already with fruit butters, not all fruit pies are allowed and there is a list of a variety of pies that cannot be sold at through this act. Dried foods like dried herbs, herb blends and dry tea blends and be sold as well.
Even though some rules have been relaxed, there are plenty of others that remain in place. Labels will need to be on all products, even if it is clear to the purchaser what the product is. That label will also need to contain all the ingredients and for all those with allergies, a statement that the product may contain allergens has to be there too. With all the food pathogens being discovered worldwide and the ease of spreading that food pathogen today, how products will be preserved, cooked, baked and canned will have to definitely be modified in order to ensure a wholesome safe product.
Other bits and pieces include being registered with the local health authority and perhaps the biggest rung on the ladder to climb is that the operator will need to complete an Illinois Food Service Sanitation Manager Certification. Before the Farmers Market season gets here, local health authorities will have all the necessary paperwork available. The University Extension Service will also have a web site up that will simply and clearly help anyone through the process by early / mid spring.
What if you have a great recipe for a food that does not fall into the allowed products and not on the not allowed list and you absolutely want to sell it? With appropriate food testing at an approved food laboratory, you still can "have your cake and eat it too"