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Early spring pests, Master Gardener plant sale and frost-free dates

By John Fulton

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[April 21, 2008]  Early in the spring, there are many pests 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. Spruce spider mites, 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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Master Gardener plant sale

This Saturday the Master Gardener plant sale will make its annual appearance. The sale will be from 9 to noon in the Exhibition Building at the fairgrounds. Enter the fairgrounds through the south gate by the caretaker's trailer. I know they have been busy this year with several varieties of day lilies, rhubarb, hostas, geraniums and many more. The group does the annual sale as a fundraiser for their many activities and to help beautify the community.


  • Mow the grass as it is needed. Try to remove no more than one-third of the leaf blade to do away with catching or raking grass.

  • Broadleaf control is just around the corner for many weeds. Look at early May for control.

  • Grub control is largely unsuccessful in the spring because of large grub size and a short life cycle. Look to August and September for grub control.

  • Moles are active, but controlling the grubs won't help much now. For control, look to a noose or scissor trap or one of the soft baits with poison.

  • The average last killing frost date is about May 5 for our area, and many gardening charts use May 10 for planting tender crops in our area.

[By JOHN FULTON, University of Illinois Extension, Logan County]

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