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Leatherwing Beetles, Potato Leafhopper, Foundation Sprays and Blossom End Rot
By John Fulton

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[June 20, 2014]  Leatherwing Beetles - Leatherwing beetles, or soldier beetles, have been with us a short while Ė they seem to gather particularly where linden trees are shedding pollen. They look like pale lightning bugs, but donít have the light. These beetles are elongate, soft-bodied and about 1/2 inch long.

Colors of soldier beetles vary from yellow to red with brown or black wings or trim. A common and easily-spotted species is the Pennsylvania leatherwing, which is yellow with one large black spot on each wing. Most larvae are carnivorous, feeding on insects in the soil. Larvae overwinter in damp soil and debris or loose bark. The adults are also predators, eating caterpillars, eggs, aphids, and other soft-bodied insects. They will alternatively eat nectar and pollen if no insects are around. Unlike the lightning bug, they do not damage plant foliage. Adults are often found on flowers such as goldenrod, where they lie in wait for prey, feed on pollen and mate. Since soldier beetles are beneficial, it is inadvisable to kill them.

Potato Leafhopper

Potato leafhopper populations have exploded in the last week. These are the small, pale green, wedge-shaped insects we often see around lights at night. The main garden crop they affect is, guess this one, the potato. The leafhoppers may also infect green beans, alfalfa, and a large number of perennials. They suck sap, and inject a toxin back into the plant. The first sign is a yellow ďvĒ at the tip of the leaf. These areas then turn brown or black. Entire plants or branches can die from these tiny insects. Control with Sevin, bifenthrin, or permethrin.

Foundation Sprays

If you have been following a foundation spray program all year, keep it up. If you havenít been, it is probably time to start. The foundation spray program is your first line of defense against nuisance pests in the house. It cuts down on crickets, millipedes, spiders, ants, and many others that find their way inside. And, with the crickets singing, itís only a matter of time before they find their way into your abode.

To accomplish a foundation spray, you would select a material such as permethrin or bifenthrin to begin with. Then spray the foundation and the adjacent foot or two of soil or plant material with the spray mixture. Both these products are cleared on most types of plants. Foundation treatments should be applied every 7-15 days depending on the temperatures. The materials break down quicker in hot weather.

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Foundation treatments wonít prevent everything from getting in the house, and they certainly wonít kill things already in the house. For insects already in the house, you have a few options. The first is mechanical control. This is fancy language for something like a flyswatter, shoe, vacuum cleaner, flypaper, or glue boards. The next is chemical control. This basically means aerosol cans inside the house. The most common ones are for flying insects or ants, although many of the flying insect killers now have permethrin in them and can last quite a while.

Blossom End Rot

Blossom end rot is a non-pathogenic disease that is very common during extended dry periods. It also seems to be worse on tomatoes grown in containers. It begins as light tan water-soaked lesion on the blossom end of the fruit. The lesions enlarge and turn black and leathery. This can drastically lower the yield and lower marketability of the fruits. Fluctuating soil moisture supply during the dry periods, and low calcium levels in the fruit are the major causal factors. Control of blossom end rot consists of providing adequate moisture from fruit formation to maturity, and use of mulch (grass clippings, plastic, straw, shredded newspapers, or plastic) to conserve moisture and even out the moisture supply. If you donít have a mulch in place now, it is best to apply soon to prevent problems. Also, avoid frequent shallow watering. Water deep and then wait five or more days before watering again. This is one reason this problem is very common in container grown tomatoes.

[By JOHN FULTON, COUNTY EXTENSION DIRECTOR SERVING LOGAN, MENARD, AND SANGAMON COUNTIES]

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