Thursday, May 02, 2013
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Nuisance pests and galls

By John Fulton

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[May 02, 2013]  With alternating warm and cool (or cold) weather, we see many nuisance pests when we get the warm days. We've been through the second round at least, and I'll guarantee at least one more round this spring. Add to that the fact we are more active on the warm days, and we are doing things like destroying their resting places by cleaning off flower beds and raking up piles of leaves.

Asian ladybugs, millipedes, boxelder bugs, ants and termites are just some of the things that can "bug" you. The only one in the short list that can do real damage is the termite. If you have a termite problem, it is recommended to consult a professional to handle the matter for you. For the other pests, a nuisance is what they are.

If you've already removed the resting places such as leaf piles, firewood stacks and similar places, we are probably ready for the foundation spray. Foundation sprays of permethrin or bifenthrin are the standbys. Simply spray the foundation of the house and the adjacent foot of soil. In severe cases, you may need to expand the soil treatment area. The larger the barrier, the more effective it is.

I mentioned ants and termites earlier. Swarming time for both insects is about the same, 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. 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 hourglass 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 termite wings on the same side will be of equal length, while ant wings are of different lengths on the same side.

Ants can be controlled on the outside of the house with the foundation treatment mentioned. Inside the house, bait stations that don't immediately kill the ants (allowing them to take the bait back to the colony) are effective. However, you have to wait about a week before you do anything else. Inside the house, it is only recommended to use aerosol cans or pre-mixed spray bottles labeled for indoor use. If you use the bait stations, wait the week before any spraying.

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Oak galls

One group of problems showing up is galls. Galls are swelling of leaves, twigs or other plant parts. Most are caused by mites or wasps. They damage the plant parts, and the plant responds with a gall. In the case of leaves, the swelling is actually leaf tissue. This is something I like to refer to as similar to you getting a mosquito bite. The damage comes in and a swelling occurs. There is no way to get rid of it without tearing a small hole in the leaf.

The maple leaf bladder gall will be easily spotted on silver maples in the area shortly, as will oak leaves in the red oak group. Probably the shingle oak has taken the honors for most galls this year. Oak trees probably have more galls than any other group of trees. Several samples have also been brought in of the stem types of galls.

Fortunately, the oak galls are usually not the type to kill tissue beyond them. However, the galls aren't the most pleasant things to look at. That is the main thing -- they are unsightly.

There is no cure for galls, as they are caused by insects before you see the swellings. The timing would be impossible to try to prevent the insects.

Gardening reminders

  • We are on the early end of the time period (April 25 to May 10) for planting tender vegetables such as snap beans, sweet corn, New Zealand spinach and tomato plants

  • May 10 begins the time for planting warm-loving vegetables such as squash, melons, cucumbers and sweet potato slips. This is also a "more assured" date for planting annual flowers.

[By JOHN FULTON, University of Illinois Extension]

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