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Boxelder bugs, bulbs, Master Gardener training

By John Fulton

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[October 17, 2012]  Boxelder bugs and other nuisance pests -- The cooler nights sure make for better sleeping weather, but they are also a sure sign that fall is here. With the cool weather, we have quite a few insects that are looking for a warm place to be -- or at least a nice, warm place for the afternoon. That brings us to nuisance pests.

A nuisance pest is anything that causes us grief. Ones that I would target as nuisance pests right now are Asian lady beetles, ants, crickets, boxelder bugs, elm leaf beetles and woolly bear caterpillars. The boxelder bugs have been particularly bad this year. All these things are in and around the house, and generally making things miserable for us.

With nuisance pests, the best offense becomes a good defense. We can start with a barrier pesticide application on the foundation of the house (and the adjacent foot or two of soil around it) with something like permethrin or bifenthrin insecticide. This puts down a barrier that insects crawl through when trying to get in or on your house. Insects may not die immediately, but shouldn't last long after crawling through this barrier. In severe cases of insects congregating on outside walls, entire walls can be treated. Just make sure you test-apply the chemical on a small section to make sure you don't discolor siding.

Of course, if insects are already in the house, the barrier won't stop them. Inside the home, only aerosol products should be used. The safest of the group are the ones that are for flying insects and contain pyrethrins or their derivatives. These products basically kill insects that you get the spray on, and the sprays are inactivated by hitting the wall, floor or other surfaces. You can spray the air in a particular room and vacuum up the dead insects in an hour or so. This is one way to get rid of insects inside the house.

Another useful tactic, particularly with ants and crickets, is to use baseboard-type sprays. These products are typically labeled as ant and roach-type products and may last for several weeks. Just spray in areas of high insect traffic, along baseboards, to put down a lasting barrier inside the house.

For ants, the bait stations also offer us the opportunity to kill the entire nests. The bait stations are probably the most effective, but they should be used alone for at least a week. Then you can also use the baseboard-type sprays. The idea is to let live ants get to the bait and take some to the nest.

For those who don't like to use chemical products, sticky boards (like the type used for rats and mice) offer an option. Place these in areas where many insects are seen, such as room corners and under stairs in the basement. The vacuum cleaner is also a good option for cleaning insects from draperies and the like.

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We are into the time to plant tulips, daffodils and other spring-flowering bulbs. Earlier might have been a little better, but we had to have some moisture in the upper area of the soil. They should be fall planted before a killing frost. That date is usually about the second week in October in our area. Plant larger bulbs 6 to 8 inches deep, and smaller ones 3 to 4 inches deep. Mix into the soil 5 tablespoons of 10-10-10 fertilizer and 2 cups of bone meal per 10 square feet of bed area.

If you haven't done so, dig summer flowering bulbs such as canna and dahlia as their foliage turns yellow or before a frost causes them to rot back to the bulb. Store them on layers of sawdust or peat moss in a cool, dry place.

Master Gardener training

If you have a desire to learn more about gardening and then share your knowledge with others, the University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener volunteer program may be for you. Applications are now being accepted from residents of Logan, Menard and Sangamon counties.

Master Gardener trainees receive 60 hours of in-depth, unbiased, research-based horticulture training from University of Illinois Extension educators and specialists. A Master Gardener intern is expected to return 60 hours of volunteer service in the year following their graduation.

Classes will be offered on Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., starting Jan. 17 and ending March 28. Training will be conducted in a shared arrangement between Springfield and Decatur.

Applications are due Nov. 15. If you would like an application or more information about the program, call 217-782-4617 or stop by the Logan County Extension office.

[By JOHN FULTON, University of Illinois Extension]

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