Neighborly Garden News
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Spotted Lanternflies are among us, be on the lookout!
Last month an established colony of this destructive non-native insect was found in Springfield, MA (Hampden County). Previously the only sightings were in Fitchburg and Shrewsbury, MA (Worcester County). I hate to be a pessimist, but this does not bode well for us. My family in New York City tells me that adult Lanternflies can be seen flying around just about everywhere; from the canyons of Wall Street, to the suburbs of Queens, even as high us as the eighth floor balcony! It only seems a matter of time before they are in our neighborhood.
2 views of adult Spotted Lanternflies
Even with a directive from the Governor to ‘kill Lanternflies on sight’, they are hard to catch and kill. They are like giant leafhoppers, and have the ability to jump quite fast and far. Anecdotally, I have read they only can sustain their hopping for about 3 jumps, so don’t give up! The Spotted Lanternfly has no known predators in the US, for now, as they originated from Asia. They will feed from an alarming amount of important food crops, and local farmers are rightly concerned about this pest becoming established in our region.
Adult Lanterflies swarming on a tree trunk
The spotted Lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula), also known as a Lanternmoth, is neither a fly nor a moth. This insect is a member of the Order Hemiptera (true bugs, cicadas, hoppers, aphids, and others) and the Family Fulgoridae, also known as planthoppers. The adults and immatures of this species damage host plants by feeding on sap from stems, leaves, and the trunks of trees. Much of our information comes from research performed in PA, where the insect has been established since 2014. Adults can be found on tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima), an invasive plant. In the fall in Pennsylvania, adult spotted lanternfly prefer to feed and mate on tree of heaven when compared to other host plants. That being said, proximity to tree of heaven did not significantly influence the number of spotted lanternfly found on other hosts in a 2015-2016 host plant evaluation conducted in PA. (After spending time on tree of heaven, the insects disperse in the local area to lay eggs just about anywhere.)
Lanternfly egg masses
According to the Massachusetts Dept. of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) there is no reason to be preemptively treating for this insect in other areas of the Commonwealth at this time. If you suspect you have found spotted lanternfly in additional locations, please report it immediately to MDAR. If you are living or working in any of the areas mentioned above, please be vigilant and continue to report anything suspicious. When the adult is at rest, particularly on the trunk of the tree of heaven, their gray, spotted color may actually cause them to blend in with their surroundings. Freshly laid egg masses appear as if coated with a white substance. As they age, the egg masses look as if they are coated with gray mud, which eventually takes on a dry/cracked appearance. Very old egg masses may look like rows of 30-50 brown seed-like structures aligned vertically in columns. Coated egg masses may look like “weird gypsy moth egg masses”, an insect we are more familiar with here in Massachusetts, but they are not.
Report Spotted Lanternfly in Massachusetts Here: https://massnrc.org/pests/slfreport.aspx (link is external) (Massachusetts Introduced Pests Outreach Project)
September’s to-do list
Wow, what a difference a year makes! Last year, at this time we were reeling from the effects of several tropical storms occurring back to back; drenching us with a month’s worth of rain in a day. This year the land is crying out for moisture, and we are in the midst of a critical drought throughout the Pioneer Valley, and much of Massachusetts. The rain we had last week was the first good soaking we received since June, but it has not quenched the dire need for sustained rain in this area. The only upside to this terrible shortage of rain, is that it has made the local peach harvest the sweetest and juiciest in memory. The lack of rain has concentrated the sugars within the fruit, and they have been just delicious! Buy some of local peaches, and enjoy them while they last. Until we get a break in the dry weather pattern, I would recommend holding off on any transplanting or dividing of perennials, unless you are able to really soak them with supplemental water prior to digging. Let’s hope for a more normal weather pattern this fall.
As my garden veggies struggle with the abnormally dry conditions, the weeds have had no problem at all holding their own through the sustained heat and drought. It’s discouraging to see these robust weeds next to stunted corn as I drive around the area. Get a handle on next year’s weeds now! Some of the worst offenders set seeds and propagate in the fall. Ragweed, the main culprit during allergy season, sets millions of dust-like seeds that can remain dormant in the soil for decades! Goldenrod has been found to not be the offender for allergies as we once thought it was. Some species of Goldenrod are grown as ornamental perennials. During late fall you may notice many bees and wasps congregating on Goldenrod flowers, it is an essential source of pollen and nectar after many other flowering plants have faded.
If you see some browning of needles, and leaves on evergreens, this is the normal cyclical shedding of the older and innermost needles, and leaves of these plants. Don’t worry if you see this browning of the interior needles/foliage of evergreen trees and shrubs during the fall. Autumn is the time evergreens will periodically shed their older needles that have begun to lose their ability to photosynthesize. This is nature’s way of ‘lightening the load’ so to speak, and preserving the integrity of the plant. Additionally, many trees have begun to prematurely shed leaves in the wake of the drought, if you are able to provide supplemental water in your area, please provide water to any young trees and shrubs (those planted within the last three seasons).
Buy garlic sets for planting next month before they are sold out. Once you’ve planted garlic, you’ll always have some bulbs or ‘seed’ to renew your crop. It is a sustainable crop; just reserve the largest bulbs for re-planting, save the small and moderate sized ones for cooking. Planting cloves from the larger bulbs almost always guarantees the biggest heads at next year’s harvest.
If you move your houseplants outdoors for the summer now is the time to gradually acclimate your houseplants back to indoor life. Move them onto a porch to simulate the lower light of indoors. Scrub the pots, and be sure to rinse off the foliage to knock off any clinging insects. You may need to re-pot houseplants that have outgrown their containers. Final step; spray the plants with Safer’s soap or other general purpose insecticide to kill any lingering pests.
Early fall is the time mice will be looking for winter homes, and bringing their germs and pests with them. In the Northeast, the White Footed mouse is the reservoir for the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. Lyme disease is contracted when Blacklegged ticks feed on infected mice, then bite people. We utilize Damminix tick tubes to rely on the natural nesting instincts of mice to deliver tick controlling insecticide directly to the host animal and the ticks it infects. Biodegradable cardboard tubes are filled with permethrin treated cotton. Mice will collect the treated cotton for their bedding; the permethrin from the cotton is released onto the mouse’s fur, ticks that feed on the mice are exposed to the insecticide and killed before they can spread Lyme disease to you, your family and pets. Please contact our Damminix specialist, Scott Higley, for more information.
Need help with the fall garden chores? Want to get those weeds out once and for all? Contact our office to schedule your fall clean-up. firstname.lastname@example.org (413) 458-5586
Mosquitoes are buzzing; be on the defense!
Back when I was an undergrad, my entomology professor asked us to name the world’s most fearsome predator. Students called out, “Tigers, crocodiles, wolves, etc.” but the true answer is mosquitoes. The tiny mosquito, whose population is about 100 trillion insects worldwide, contributes to the death of 700,000 humans every year. Scientists have estimated that the mosquito borne disease, malaria; has killed about half the total population of the earth, since humans have existed. Malaria infects more people now, than in any time in history; over 500,000 new cases per year. Malarial infection causes upwards of 2 million deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa; half of them children, annually. Closer to home, we have read with increasing alarm about other diseases that are transmitted by mosquitoes in our hemisphere; Zika, Dengue, West Nile, and EEE (EEE-Eastern equine encephalitis, first recognized in MA in 1831).
Researchers have attributed human exploration over centuries, and continued global expansion of travel and trade for introducing new species of mosquitoes to areas where they never were before. These foreign mosquito species have arrived carrying the infectious diseases with them. Contributing to the migration of mosquitoes is the warming of our planet. Areas that were limited to colonization by tropical mosquito species are now poised to allow them to thrive. In addition, warmer temperature can speed up the time it takes for the mosquito to mature into a biting adult. Warmer climate also accelerates the time between when a biting mosquito picks up a disease organism, and then becomes infectious, according to Dr. Oliver Brady, an assistant professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. The Aedes aegypti mosquito transmits Dengue, Zika, and chikingunya. One species variant is considered an ‘urban mosquito’; it likes to live in cities. Dengue, also known as ‘break-bone fever’, will infect 100 million people worldwide each year, and contribute to 10,000 deaths. The latest study published in the Journal of Microbiology predicts a very significant expansion of this disease in the southeastern United States, South/Central America, and the Caribbean in the coming years. With so many people traveling internationally every day, you can see how it may be possible to contract a mosquito borne illness without actually living in these regions.
A few mosquito facts: only the female mosquito bites, she requires a blood meal to nourish her eggs. Mosquitoes will bite anyone, she does not favor women over men, or brunettes over blonds. Mosquitoes are drawn to certain odors, like perfumes, and sweat. They prefer type O blood over other types. Female mosquitoes utilize a series of mouth parts to simultaneously inject an anti-coagulant into her bite, and suck your blood in the shortest time possible to avoid detection, and a possible smack. Mosquitoes can drink 3x their bodyweight in blood. There are 3,500 species of mosquito in the world. Scientists have developed methods to create sterile mosquitoes, in order to reduce their populations.
Even though we are considered low risk for EEE and West Nile Virus in our region of MA, counties in the eastern part of our state are at higher risk. Prevention is the key element in protecting yourself, and your family from mosquitoes. Female mosquitoes lay their eggs in water, and the larvae require water to mature into flying insects. Eliminating standing water throughout your yard can prevent thousands of mosquitoes, as females lay hundreds of eggs at a time in as little as an ounce of water. Drill holes in trash and recycling containers so water will drain. Remove clogs of leaves in gutters to promote drainage. Be sure to aerate ornamental ponds, or add a few hungry fish. If you don’t already change the water in your birdbath every few days, step up the water changes. Check around your yard for areas of poor drainage/standing water and take measures to correct them. Mosquitoes are more active at dawn and dusk. Wear protective clothing; long sleeves and long pants, and use a mosquito repellent. A word of caution about repellents, DEET is not recommended for children under 2 months old, and oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be applied to children under 3 years old, permethrin products should not be applied directly to the skin, they are for clothing and outdoor gear only; as per MASS.gov website. For more information about repellents and mosquito prevention in MA please use this link: https://www.mass.gov/service-details/mosquito-repellents
Fall is on the way, with an abundance of harvested fall fruit and vegetables, along with dramatic changes in our gardens. Many plants are beginning their descent into winter, but others are gearing up for a last blast of color before the growing season ends. With a little planning, you can have a fresh burst of color in your yard with some of these spectacular fall accent plants.
Viburnum nudum‘Brandywine’ The native Smooth Witherod Viburnum has very lustrous dark green leaves in summer. It blooms heavily in early summer followed by green fruit that quickly turns pink, finally finishing an electric blue. Fruit clusters are a mix of pink and blue throughout the growing season. Leaves turn a deep burgundy color in the fall. Grows 6’ wide x 6’ tall, and will happily grow in full sun to partial shade. V. nudum is not fussy about soil, and is resistant to deer browsing.
Viburnum nudum fruit
Spiraea thunbergii ‘Ogon’ the Willow leaved Spiraea holds its golden leaves until very late in the season, and would be a real eye catching beacon of golden light in your fall garden. ‘Ogon’ blooms with dainty white flower clusters before leaves emerge in the spring. This deer resistant shrub has arching branches, and grows 5’ wide X 5’ tall. ‘Ogon’ prefers full sun, but will tolerate some shade too.
Spiraea thunbergii ‘Ogon’
Andropogon gerardii ‘Red October’ Big Bluestem is a dramatic native prairie grass that turns brilliant scarlet red at the first hint of frost. Native ornamental grasses offer many advantages in the garden; food and shelter for birds and mammals, and interesting views through all seasons. Big Bluestem prefers, and grows best, in poor, dry soil. Grows 5-6’ tall, and requires full sun.
Andropogon gerardii ‘Red October’
Itea virginica ‘Henry’s Garnet’ the native Sweetspire shrub, has so much to offer the gardener. Very fragrant white flowers bloom from late spring into summer. As autumn approaches, the leaves change from green to sizzling ruby red and scarlet. Itea virginica prefers consistently moist soil, and full to partial sun conditions. ‘Henry’s Garnet’ Sweetspire grows 3’ tall x 5’ wide. If you are seeking to replace non-native plants such as ‘burning bush’ (Euonymus alata) sweetspire is a good candidate to replicate the intense red foliage of that invasive shrub.
Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Amber Jubilee’ This cultivar of our native Ninebark has striking copper-colored leaves that mature to a rich burgundy in the fall. Deep red berries add to the beauty of this shrub. Very adaptable to a wide range of soil conditions and deer resistant as well; prefers full sun. ‘Amber Jubilee’ grows 6’ tall X 4’ wide.
Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Amber Jubilee’