Posted in Horticulture

Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes are a huge irritation in the summer months. Mosquitoes are a type of insect that is in the same order as flies, which means they are closely related to flies and gnats, which all tend to bother us. Mosquitoes are also vectors of many different diseases. Because of these factors, we need to do what we can to eliminate the problem and reduce mosquito populations.

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The best way to avoid any pathogens transmitted by mosquitoes is to prevent being bitten. Like any pest management program, IPM is the strategy that works best to prevent mosquito bites at home in the yard. Sanitation is a must to eliminate breeding sites and harborage locations of mosquitoes. Female mosquitoes lay eggs on the surface of standing water and the larvae (“wigglers”) require water to survive before pupation. Removal of stagnant water in a variety of containers such as flowerpots, buckets, gutters, pool covers, used tires, and dog bowls will break the mosquito life cycle. A general rule is to dump any water that has been standing for more than five days.

Culex mosquitoes are active biters in the evening, so it is important to wear long sleeves and pants or permethrin-treated clothing when outdoors between dusk and dawn. The effective insect repellents applied to skin include those with the active ingredients: DEET, picaridin, or the oil of lemon eucalyptus.

As far as chemical control, Mosquito Dunks contain the active ingredient bacterium, Bacillus thurengiensis israelensis (Bti), which is toxic to mosquito larvae when consumed, but non-toxic to humans, pets, pollinators, fish, and other wildlife. They are sold in hardware stores, and will dissolve in standing water such as water troughs, fishponds, rain barrels, and birdbaths. They are effective immediately and can last for a month. (We have mosquito dunks in our Extension office free from Public Health Solutions.)

It is not recommend to use foggers or adulticide treatments by homeowners. These treatments are not effective for more than a couple of days and should only be used a few days ahead of a large outdoor get-together if absolutely necessary.

It is best to utilize IPM to reduce your exposure to mosquitoes because they spread many diseases including West Nile Virus and the Zika virus. Most people who get West Nile Virus have no symptoms or have flu-like symptoms. However, from 2001 to 2009 1,100 deaths in the U.S. were attributed to West Nile Virus. Most of the deaths occurred in people ages 65 and older.

As for the Zika Virus, it has been known about since 1947, but has just recently hit the news as it spreads more. Zika does appear to have minimal impacts on adult humans, but if a pregnant woman becomes infected, her fetus may suffer from developmental abnormalities such as microcephaly. The good news is that the main mosquito that transmits Zika isn’t in Nebraska. The mosquito that most commonly transmits zika to humans is the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti. We are not on high alert for Zika in Nebraska, but it is still a good idea to protect yourself from mosquito bites to reduce the chance of West Nile and other mosquito vectored diseases.

Information for this article came from Nicole Stoner, Drs. Jody Green and Jonathan Larson, Nebraska Extension Educators.

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Posted in Horticulture

Bagworms

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One common horticultural pest our office receives questions on is bagworms. Bagworms feed on the foliage of a wide variety of trees and shrubs, but are of most concern for evergreens, especially junipers. Bagworms overwinter as eggs in their bags which are attached to tree branches. The eggs hatch in mid-May to early June. As bagworms grow, leaf fragments are added to bags which often grow to 2 inches in length by the end of the summer. The earliest signs of bagworm injury in evergreens are brown or stressed needles at the tips of branches. Heavy infestations  of older bagworms may completely defoliate a tree or shrub and if severe enough can kill the tree or shrub. Less severe injury will slow growth and stunt plants.

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To control bagworms on small trees or small infestations, remove the bags by pulling them off the branches and immersing them in soapy water. If you place the bags next to the tree, the larvae might return to the host plants. If you have bagworms in a windbreak or large tree, insecticides are most effective when applied during early bagworm development. For early season damage, insecticides from mid to late June when bags are less than ½ inch in length are effective. By late August, chemical control is no longer effective as the bagworms have ceased feeding and are enclosed within their bags.

Reduced-risk insecticides to use contain Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) and insecticidal soaps are quite effective on young bagworm larvae but may require repeated applications. Additional insecticide options for bagworms include: acephate, bifenthrin, carbaryl, cyfluthrin, malathion or others. As always, be sure to read and follow all label instructions and use all insecticides with caution to avoid exposure to humans, pets, wildlife and other non-target organisms.

For more information, check out Nebraska Extension’s NebGuide on bagworms which can be accessed online through extension.unl.edu websiteor in our office.

Posted in Horticulture, Programming

Tree Care Program

treewkshppicTrees are very valuable in our landscapes. They provide us with beauty, shade, oxygen, and better resale on our homes. These trees need our help to ensure they have healthy growth. When they have a disease or insect problem, it is up to us to manage those pests to help them live many years. On Wednesday, April 18th from 5:30-7pm at the Clay County Activities Building in Clay Center, Nicole Stoner will teach us what to do with our trees. Nicole Stoner is a Horticulture Educator from Nebraska Extension in Gage County. This tree program is only $5.00 and will cover light refreshments and your educational materials. Nicole will cover watering, insect and disease problems, general care, and planting of trees. Please pre-register by April 13th with Nebraska Extension in Clay County. You can pre-register by calling 402-762-3644 or by emailing dpeshek2@unl.edu.

A repeat of the program will be held at the Fillmore County Extension Office on May 1st starting at 5:30 p.m. This tree program is also only $5.00 and will cover light refreshments and your educational materials. Nicole will cover watering, insect and disease problems, general care, and planting of trees. Please pre-register by April 25th with Nebraska Extension in Fillmore County. You can pre-register by calling 402-759-3712 or by emailing holly.ackland@unl.edu.

Posted in Horticulture

Uninvited House Guests

You are sitting at home and all of a sudden a little gray rodent with relatively large ears and small black eyes scurries across the room!   It is about 1/2 ounce in weight and if an adult 5 1/2 to 7 1/2 inches long, including its 3 – 4 inch tail.  Of course, you must know by now that I am describing a house mouse.  The house mouse is considered one of the most troublesome and economically important rodents in the United States.  They can cause damage to property and transmit diseases such as salmonellosis and swine dysentery.  You will know you have mice if you see small droppings, fresh gnaw marks and mouse nests made from fine shredded paper or other fibrous material.  They are active mostly at night, but can occasionally be seen during daylight hours.  Mice are excellent climbers and can jump up 12 inches from the floor to a flat surface; they can squeeze through openings slightly larger than 1/4 inch in diameter.

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Photo Source: pixabay.com 

Sanitation, mouse-proof construction, and population reduction allow for effective control of mice.  Mice cannot survive in large numbers if they have few places to rest, hide, or build nests; however a few mice can survive with limited amounts of food and shelter. Proper sanitation is an important step to control mice.  Most buildings that handle food will have problems with mice not matter how clean they are, but the house should be mouse-proofed.   To mouse-proof a house, eliminate all openings larger than 1/4 inch.  Steel wool can be used as a temporary plug; cracks in building foundations and openings for water pipes, vents, etc. can be sealed with metal or concrete.  Doors and windows should fit tightly.  Cover doors and windows with metal to prevent gnawing.  Latex, plastic, rubber, and wood are unsuitable for plugging holes.

Once you find mice in your house, traps can be used to control the population.  The advantages of traps are 1) it does not rely on hazardous rodenticides, 2) it permits the user to view his/her success, and 3) it allows for disposal of trapped mice therefore eliminating dead mouse odors that may occur when poisoning is done.  Peanut butter works great to put on traps because it is easy to use and very attractive to mice.  Simple inexpensive wood-based snap traps are effective, as well as glue traps.  Glue traps must not be in extreme temperatures and can lose their effectiveness over time with dust collecting on them.  Whatever traps, you decide to use, be sure to set them behind objects, in dark corners, and in places where evidence of mouse activity is seen.

For more information on mouse control, refer to NebGuide, Controlling House Mice that can be accessed at http://extensionpubs.unl.edu or through your local extension office.

Posted in Horticulture

Proper Tree Planting

Some of the most common questions we receive in the office on an ongoing basis is related to trees. Whether trees appear to be dying, stressed or have a pest problem, sometimes there is nothing that can be done and in fact many times the issue is environmentally related or beyond treatment. That being said, if you do have to replace a tree or are looking to add a new tree to your landscape be sure to get your tree off to a great start by properly planting the tree. Recently Nicole Stoner, a horticulture educator presented a hands-on workshop teaching how to plant a tree. Many people think, dig a hole, put the tree in and that’s it. While that is essentially the case, the depth and techniques used will impact that tree’s life 5-10 years down the road. Many trees are planted incorrectly so let’s examine the proper techniques.

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First, select the best type of tree for your situation. Be well informed on the height and spread of the tree and look all around ensuring it won’t interfere with power-lines or crowd nearby plants. Check the adaptability for the tree; is it well-suited for your area? Is it susceptible to pests? One of the fun parts of selecting trees or plants of any kind is the color and shape of it, pick what you like and look for diversity from your own landscape and the landscapes of many of your neighbors.

Then, when preparing the site, be sure the soil is adequate for the plant. If you are planting in an area for the first time and unsure of your soil quality you can submit a sample to a lab for analysis of the pH and nutrient content. Next, is digging the hole. It is not recommended to add any soil amendments to the hole. Soil amendments can make it more difficult for the roots to move through the amended soils and into the natural soils of the area which can cause the roots to circle and eventually girdle and kill the tree. Dig the hole only as deep as the soil ball of the tree. If dug too deep, the roots will suffocate. The hole should be two to three times the diameter of the tree’s root ball. Also, do NOT dig it deeper than needed and backfill it with loose soil; most likely the tree will settle to the bottom over time and then be planted too deep. Instead, place the soil on undistributed soil.

Then, take the tree out of the container and break up the roots if they are started to circle the pot or are girdled. Then, fill the hole with soil, trying to break it up so the hole has relatively loose soil surrounding the side of the tree’s root ball. Gently pat the hole; do not pack or stomp the hole. Depending on the height of the tree, decide if it needs to be staked. If it is leaning over, it obviously will need support until the roots are able to anchor it. Be sure to use a softer material such as tree staking straps; you should never use a wire or something abrasive that could damage or cut into the bark. It is also important to remove the stakes within a year of planting the tree.

Mulch is very important for the tree as well. Be sure to put down an organic source of mulch such as woodchips. Mulch aides in weed control, conserving moisture and can also regulate the temperature of the soil. Mulch should be no deeper than 2 to 3 inches but should be as wide as acceptable to the tree owner. Then be sure to water the tree well at least once a week with a slow trickle for 20 minutes if no rain occurs, but don’t overwater. Consider using a 5-gallon bucket or tub with drilled holes near the bottom as a cost-effective drip irrigation method.

If you have any additional questions you can contact Nicole Stoner at Gage County Extension (402)223-1384 or by email at nstoner2@unl.edu

Posted in Horticulture, Programming

Tree Grant

img_0203.jpgNebraska Extension- Fillmore County received a grant for ten free trees through the ReTree Nebraska program. This grant was funded by Trees for Nebraska Towns and the Sustainable Schoolyard Partnership programs by the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum and the Nebraska Environmental Trust and the Nebraska Forest Service’s Community Marketing of Trees grant funded by the U.S. Forest Service. As part of the grant, educational outreach to increase public awareness of the benefits of trees and proper tree care was done with a workshop conducted by Nicole Stoner, horticulture extension educator in which I assisted. Seven trees were planted at the courthouse lawn and three trees were planted at the Extension Office and Fillmore County East Building.

Posted in Horticulture, Programming

Tree Planting & Care Workshop

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Need a new tree in your landscape? Then come to the tree planting workshop to learn how to properly plant it. Planting a Tree is essential to the life and health of the tree. Nebraska Extension Educator Nicole Stoner, from Gage County Extension will give a hands-on presentation of proper tree planting. The workshop will be held at 5:00 pm on Thursday, October 12th at the Fillmore County Courthouse in Geneva. Ten trees were donated to Fillmore County Extension from ReTree Nebraska to help renew the trees at the Courthouse and Extension Office. We will be planting these 10 trees at the workshop. The workshop will cover how to properly plant a tree, staking needs and methods, and general management for newly planted and established trees including watering, mulching, and winter protection. Registration is not required and the program is free.

If you have any additional questions you can contact Nicole Stoner at Gage County Extension (402)223-1384 or by email at nstoner2@unl.edu