Biting Insects and Pumpkin Time
By John Fulton
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[September 19, 2014]
Biting Insects - First came the
buffalo gnats, then mosquitoes, and still mosquitoes, and now
another biting insect. During the late summer small insects, known
as insidious flower bugs and minute pirate bugs, become real pests
by producing painful bites on people.
They are about 1/5 of an inch long with black and white markings
on the back, and belong to the “true bug” family of insects.
They are beneficial insects most of the time, at least while
feeding on small insects and their eggs.
They are present all summer in area fields, flower beds, and
other landscape areas. Most of the summer the insects are
beneficial, but then they become quite the nuisance when their
regular food source runs out. Their painful bite is caused by
their beak breaking your skin. These insects don’t suck blood or
inject venom like mosquitoes.
People differ in their response to the bites. Some people react
to the bites like mosquito bites, with swelling and itching.
Other people have no reaction at all. Control of insidious
flower bugs and minute pirate bugs is not practical. They are
mobile, and the populations change greatly. Wearing dark
clothing on may help, as the insects seem to be attracted to
light colors. Repellents are sometimes effective, but not enough
to make a recommendation. Try the repellents for yourself and
see if they work for you. You can throw the same group of
repellents in to your trial that you stocked up on for the
This week really makes it seem like fall, and one of the
favorite fall decorations is the pumpkin. As a matter of fact,
pumpkins are ripening ahead of normal. It’s been a challenging
year with many of the diseases common in a wet season, and
having a cool year as well. Following are some of the cardinal
rules for selecting and keeping pumpkins, particularly with an
early harvest season:
- Choose a pumpkin with a stem and never carry it by the
stem. Pumpkins without a stem will not last long.
- Select a pumpkin with a flat bottom, so it will stand
- Avoid pumpkins with holes, cuts or soft spots. These
areas will rot.
- Light colored pumpkins are easier to carve because the
skin is not as hard as darker orange colored ones, but they
will not keep as well.
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- Wash the pumpkin with warm water and let it dry before
carving. Use of a small amount of dishwashing soap in the warm
water may help extend the life of the pumpkin.
- To make the pumpkin last longer, keep it in a cool place
until ready to carve. After carving, coat the cuts with
- Carving should only be done three days ahead of Halloween.
After cutting, the pumpkin will deteriorate rapidly.
- The use of a candle in the pumpkin will also make it
deteriorate rapidly, so many have gone to battery powered lights
to show off their carving ability.
[By JOHN FULTON, COUNTY EXTENSION
DIRECTOR SERVING LOGAN, MENARD, AND SANGAMON COUNTIES]