Spring Tips

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Several kinds of caterpillars feed in groups or colonies on trees and shrubs and produce a silken "tent." The most common type in the Spring is the Eastern Tent Caterpillar and in the Summer through the Fall it is the Fall Webworm.

Eastern Tent Caterpillar

The Eastern Tent Caterpillar are more or less common on the forks of branches on cherry and apple during May and June, and are used as a shelter during molting and resting periods. These caterpillars are sociable until full grown and enlarge their tent until they are full grown. Cherry and apple are the favored food plants. Plum, peach, hawthorn, pear, rose and some of the deciduous forest and shade trees may be attacked.

If accessible, the tents can be pulled out and removed by hand. Pruning to remove the tent can be done if needed, but doing this and burning usually results in doing more damage than the caterpillars. Numerous natural enemies attack all of the tent making caterpillars. Birds, predaceous insects and hunting wasps prey on the caterpillars. Various tachinid flies and parasitic wasps are important as parasites. Tent caterpillars are also susceptible to virus diseases that can devastate populations. Selective control of all the tent making caterpillars can be achieved with biological insect controls. Timing is critical. Other insect controls are available that can give excellent control. Control is best achieved when the webs are small. Treating the web as well as the area around the web is beneficial so that the young susceptible caterpillars will feed on the treated leaves as they expand their web.

Fall Webworm

Similar to the Eastern Tent Caterpillar, the Fall Webworm prefers to feed and nest in deciduous trees. Birch, cherry, crabapple, walnut, and maple are among their favorites. Typically appearing in late summer or early fall, they construct their web over the end of the branches as opposed to the crotch of the tree like the Eastern Tent Caterpillar.

Control for these pests is the same as for the Eastern Tent Caterpillar. Mechanical removal either by hand or pruning can be done. There are also many natural enemies of the webworm, such as birds and insects. Treatment using a control product is best done in July or August when the webs and very small.

Information gathered from the University of Vermont Extension Service and Colorado State University Extension Service. Feb 02 RN

Frost seeding is the newest and most effective way of establishing turf in the spring time of the year. The spring time ranks as second only to fall as the most ideal time to establish turf. Ideally, frost seeding should be done anytime from late February to late March.

  1. Broadcast the seed either by hand or with a spreader over the bare frozen ground.
    • As the frost begins to leave the ground, the soil surface expands and contracts in order to allow the moisture to escape. This produces a honeycombing effect with tiny openings being created in the soil surface. It is through these openings that the seed is able to work its way down into the soil to begin germination. As the soil temperature rises, combined with spring moisture the seed is present and ready to begin growing.
  2. Once the seed has germinated, it is important to begin watering as needed.
    • On new grasses, we recommend enough water to keep the surface of the ground damp. This should continue until the new grass has been mowed 3-4 times. Then water as needed, the same way you normally do with your established turf areas.

Spider mites are closely related to spiders and ticks, but are not actually insects. Spider mites will have 4 pairs of legs and 1 body part, whereas insects will have 3 pair of legs and 3 body parts. A spider mite is almost microscopic, yet a large population can cause significant damage. Spider mites are widely distributed and can attack various types of trees and shrubs. They can range in color from yellow, to green, to orange or to red and the colors can vary within a species. A fine web over the leaves of the host plant or numerous, small, light colored to brown mottled spots on the leaves may be an indication of a spider mite population. As the damage increases, leaves or needles may drop or appear distorted. A paper test and a hand lens should be used to identify the specific mite problem. Damage to the plant material depends on the type of mite, the mite population and the condition of the host plant. Infestations may be a result of environmental conditions or from the use of insect controls that can destroy populations of beneficial insects and mites. Plant material under drought stress or transplant shock are the common targets of spider mites. The spruce spider mite can be found on many evergreens including spruce, hemlock, arborvitae and juniper. On broad-leaved plant material, the oak mite, European red mite and the two-spotted spider mite are commonly found.

Controlling spider mites in the landscape can be done by cultural or mechanical methods, or with a specific mite control product. Cultural control can be done by not planting susceptible plant material in heat or drought stressed areas of the landscape. Mechanical control can be achieved by a periodic wash of the plant material with a strong stream of water from a garden hose. The best results will come from a spray application program beginning when mite populations are just beginning to increase, typically in May or June. Additional applications of controls may be done as needed.

That's just what you'll be doing if you try anything except trapping to get rid of the little critters. And, you'll probably still have moles after you've stomped on their trails, cursed at their burrows and shoved wads of gum down their holes.

Moles are remarkable animals known for their underground habitats. They are not rodents and don't have typical mouse-like features.

Instead, moles have sharp, pointed teeth like cats, but they use them for catching and eating grubs, earthworms, snails and beetles. They have enlarged, "paddle-like" front feet and big toenails uniquely adapted for digging.

Moles construct two types of extensive underground tunnels. The shallow runways appear in spring, summer and fall. The deep, permanent tunnels are used year-round as the main avenues of travel.

Moles typically travel one-fifth acre, eating continuously as they move. No more than three to five moles live on each acre and two or three per acre is more common. Their life span is relatively short, three to four years.

Controlling moles is a difficult task. No new techniques or materials have been proven effective. The best method is trapping. Even that can be tricky, since moles are naturally suspicious and can detect out-of-place objects.

However, moles tend to reopen damaged trails. This habit makes for a fairly effective method of capture by tamping down a tunnel and then placing a trap on the damaged area.

Several types of traps are available at hardware, agricultural supply and feed stores. Trapping is most effective in the spring or fall with traps placed in early morning or early evening. Handling the traps safely by following manufacturers' directions is key to stopping the wee varmints from digging up your yard.

(Information in this article was reprinted with permission from the Cooperative Extension Service of Monroe County.)

Most people do not recognize scale as actual insects since they show little resemblance to the typical insect. They are well protected because they live under a waxy, almost impermeable shell. The female lays her eggs under this shell which offers them protection. When the eggs hatch, the "crawler" stage emerges. It is mobile and will crawl about on the host plant to select a feeding site. It is during the crawler stage that they are most easily controlled with insect controls. Except for the males of some species, adult scales will permanently attach themselves to a position selected during the crawler stage. Scale infestations frequently go undetected until the plant is completely covered. A needle like mouth part is inserted into the plant and sap is sucked out. Scale insects will also secrete a sticky substance called "honeydew" which can coat surfaces below the plant. A fungus called sooty mold can then survive on the honeydew.

Scale insects can be categorized as either armored or soft shelled. Armored shelled scales are small(1-2mm), permanently attached, hard flat, circular to elongated and crusty, whereas soft shelled scales are frequently larger (up to 6mm), soft bodied, sometimes mobile, hemispherical and dark.

Proper plant care, including pruning of heavily scale infested branches, is a primary management strategy. Insect controls are often needed. Horticultural oils applied in the spring will help to suffocate overwintering eggs. Properly timed applications of insect controls will also be beneficial in controlling the crawler stage. This is when the insect is in the crawler stage and has yet to develop its shell. Adult scale insects are difficult to control. At this time, systemic insect controls can be applied.

Information gathered from the Green Tips, Michigan State University and the University of New Hampshire. Feb 02 RN