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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

Early Spring Pests

Posted by John Fulton -

Early in the spring, there are many pest that become active. Many of these are timed by the saucer magnolia blooms, according to Orton's "Coincide" book. The past couple of weeks, when the magnolia blooms were in the pink-bud stage, spruce spider mites became active. These mites are one of the major downfalls of spruce in our area.

The spruce spider mite, along with other spider mites that attack evergreens, are active in the spring and fall. This is opposite of the two spotted spider mite that is active during the heat of the summer. Heavily attacked trees often lose branches, and can even be killed. Even the loss of branches can render an evergreen worthless in the landscape.

To determine if you have spruce spider mites, hold a piece of white paper under a branch and shake it. The mites will look like moving dust specks on the paper. They will also leave a green streak if rubbed on the paper, and that's a good way to distinguish them from dust or plant material. If mites leave a red streak, they are predatory mites. These predatory mites eat the bad mites, so high numbers will control your problem. Many times, there will be some fine webbing, like spider web, visible on the needles as well.

Spruce spider mites can be controlled with sprays of acequinocyl, bifenthrin, cyfluthrin, insecticidal soap, or summer oil spray. The soap or oil sprays will require a second application about a week later to give good control. These mites normally remain active until mid-May, but the cool conditions thus far may extend their life cycle this year.

Other spring pests are also indicated by the saucer magnolia. During the bloom stage, going on now, the ash plant bug, fall cankerworm, spring cankerworm, Fletcher scale, leaf crumpler, eastern tent caterpillar, juniper webworm, and Zimmerman pine moth are susceptible to control. As we get to the petal fall stage, European pine sawfly, Gypsy moth, hawthorn mealybug, honeylocust pod gall, and willow aphid become susceptible to control.

Some plants are great indicators of insects. The plants and insects develop at the same temperatures. It just took somebody like Mr. Orton to put it all in print.

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