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John Fulton


John Fulton
Former County Extension Director



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In The Backyard

Horticulture columns and tips done on a timely basis

Ladybugs and other nuisance pests

Posted by John Fulton -

Pest Season Comes Again

With some warmer days, come some of the many nuisance pests. Over the years, we have battled many nuisance pests such as boxelder bugs, elm leaf beetles, and crickets. None of them compare to the multi-colored Asian lady beetle. These ladybugs are everywhere, and they'll find a way inside the home whenever we get warm spells.

Right now they alternated between resting and sunning. These are the beetles that overwintered as adults, and are looking for a place to stay and something to eat. The place to stay is on the side of something in the sun (in order to warm up) and the something to eat is soft bodied insects such as aphids. Without aphids present, these ladybugs will chew on about anything.

The best control in the home is a vacuum cleaner. If you have numbers too large for that control, area sprays of an aerosol flying insect killer will knock down the ones it hits. If you are terribly bothered, try a perimeter spray of the foundation, door areas, and window areas on the home with a pesticide that will last for a while. Color test the material on siding first, and hope for the best. The pesticides are effective, but they are sometimes overwhelmed by the number of ladybugs that you are trying to control. Permethrin is probably the most commonly used pesticide for perimeter sprays.

Swarms

Also with some warmer weather comes the swarms of insects that raise that perennial question of "Are they ants or termites?" Swarming time for both insects is about the same time, and they are really looking to start new colonies because they have outgrown their old ones. This is the reason for the winged insects, the wings allow the ants or termites to cover larger areas to start their new colonies. The differences between ants and termites are several.

Let's start with the body color. Termites are always blackish in color, while ants may be black or other colors. If you have winged insects that are not black, you don't have termites.

Next look at the body shape. Ants have a constricted "waist" while termites don't have that classic hour-glass figure. Antennae and wings are the other two body parts to look at. Antennae on ants are elbowed, basically in an "L" shape, and those on termites are straight. Both ants and termites have pairs of wings, but those on termites will be of equal length while ants will have wings of different lengths.

Reminders

There are several other items to keep track of this time of year, if you're so inclined. Following is a brief list in bulleted form:

  • Finish lawn seedings quickly – normal cutoff date is April 1
  • Aerate or dethatch lawns by April 1
  • Uncover strawberry plants as you notice yellow leaves
  • Start your own transplants about six weeks before you need them ready
  • Grub control is ineffective in the spring
  • Get that mower ready for use
  • Apply crabgrass preventer when forsythia blooms


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