A Listing of Other Plant Pests: F-M

Filth-Breeding Flies

Filth-breeding flies, as their name implies, utilize garbage, feces or manures, dead animals and other sources of “filth” for reproductive purposes. The bacteria and waste materials from these sources turn flies on. They lay eggs on such sources and the larvae or maggots which hatch from said eggs thrive in these conditions. The adults enjoy a taste-treat when visiting these places of fly-delight. They suck it up with their sponge-tube mouth parts. Now none of this would be a problem, if only these insects would remain static, as being one with the pile — as flies do play an essential role in the drama of life on earth, but we’ll get to that in a bit. They don’t stick in one place for long, though, because, also as their name implies, they fly. They visit houses and farms, restrooms and restaurants, backyards and bathrooms. And try to have a picnic. If flies are in the neighborhood, they’ll probably visit you and your picnic-fare. The foods, too, they’ll stand ankle deep in while they eat. And this where the problems begin: flies spread germs. When flies are tap dancing on your watermelon, having a good old time, dead animal and poop-pile bacteria are hoping off, thanking the flies for the ride. Flies and pestilence are synonymous. They have been known to spread bacteria which cause diseases.

In retaliation, we kill them. You can start with sound manure management (substitute “manure” with your filth of choice). Clean it up; compost it; haul it off; these are all good ways to deal the stuff flies are bred on. Trapping also helps. Especially with those pesky flies which fly in from other places — before they decide to breed somewhere on your lot. There are many kinds of traps which, basically, all have one thing in common: a stinky bait of some sort. Some of the traps come with a bait prepared and enclosed (just add water), while others provide the bait and/or a recipe to make it yourself. The recipes tend to be a bit on the disgusting side. Another way to deal with flies it to employ some of their natural enemies. There are many fly pupae-parasitic species which are commercially available. All have small differences which make some species more productive at times, while others more productive at other times. This is why “Fly Parasitoids” are typically supplied as a mixture of species. They are usually implemented in a series of releases throughout the fly season so as to obtain their maximum benefit. Species include Muscidifurax raptor, M. raptorellus, M. zaraptor, Spalangia cameroni, S. endius and others fly parasites work very well. Parasitic nematodes can also be effective if used against the larval maggots. And one last thing, which is pretty new, is to use a probiotic on the manure. A probiotic will eliminate the fly-attracting odors and thus reduce the influx of adult flies. Between all of these choices, control is an obtainable thing without the chemicals.

Fleas

Fleas are bloodsuckers and prey on mammals. They attack most dogs and cats, and many pet owners as well. They get into homes and breed in lawns. Mighty big pests for being such little ‘uns. However, the bigger they are (in the pest sense), the harder they fall. And fleas fall hard. Keeping them off your dog or cat is the key to keeping them out of your home. But we have no solid information on how this is done without using chemicals. Fleas can be controlled in the home and in the yard with a couple of things. These are diatomaceous earth (DE) and Parasitic Nematodes. DE, when sprinkled on carpets and swept into the fibers kills all sorts of household pests, fleas included. And the feedback we’ve gotten about the use of plain-Jane Steinernema carpocapsae parasitic nematodes to kill fleas in lawns is truly outstanding. If your pet stays in the yard, Parasitic Nematodes can solve all of your flea problems. Killing them at the source keeps them off of your pet (again, if he or she stays in the yard) and will thus keep them out of your home. It does work and it works well.

Flea Beetles

Flea beetles are small, about two to three millimeters, depending of species. They are blue to black in color, shiny — some metallic — and they hop like fleas; hence their name. Alone they do minute amounts of damage. A little hole or two. But flea beetles don’t work alone and, when combined in vast numbers, their damage is akin to that of which would be caused by some bird shot. Their tiny larval and pupal forms are found in areas lying adjacent to your green and cole crops. The adults move from overwintering places in the spring. They feed on your plants as soon as they find them. Additionally, they lay eggs near these plants, and the subsequent larvae feed on the roots. Fortunately the larvae and pupae fall victim to parasitic nematodes. The same is true of row covers. Between blasting millions of them with soap when your timing is right and you find them moving in, and using Parasitic Nematodes to take care of the offspring of the ones which do make it through, you will find control.

Grasshoppers

These large yellow-tan to green two to five centimeter insects spell doom by way of large-scale crop losses for many growers-especially for those farmers who make use of the wide open spaces out west for the production of grains, grasses and corn. Grasshoppers eat plants causing ragged holes in the leaves. In fact, grasshoppers can take down entire plants. And if enough grasshoppers reside in, or swarm to, areas in sufficient numbers, mass destruction of complete fields may ensue. These pests lay their eggs in the ground, but parasitic nematodes would have little effect as grasshoppers prefer dry, sandy soils and nematodes require moisture for hunting and survival. There is one product, though, which does seem to work well, and is inexpensive enough that it can be utilized by the large-scale farmers in the west. This product is a bran flake bait which is tainted with a pathogen called Nosema locustae. This pathogen spells disfigurement and death to grasshoppers. Timing, though, is very important. The grasshoppers must consume the bait in their immature stages — specifically their second to third instar of development. Other controls may be noteworthy. Some neem-based products are labeled for grasshopper control but, like N. locustae, timing is critical because the active ingredient in neem is azadirachtin, which is an insect-growth regulator (IGR), and targets the immature stages — it prevents them from developing into adults.

Gypsy Moths

The larvae of these moths have been really bad. They eat trees. Many species of trees fall prey to these unremarkable-looking, smoke-colored to brownish defoliating caterpillars-with a preference for oak. They begin life as eggs protected in tan patches made of a felt-like material firmly attached to the trunks of trees. They then grow to about five centimeters as larvae, before they pupate and emerge as adults capable of egg-laying before the end of the season. There are two types of Gypsy moths: the Asian species and the European. The female moths of the Asian species can fly. Consequently, if that species invades by way the modes of international trade, it could become a widespread pest in a short period of time. The female of the European species-which is well — known in the east where it has become a gradually spreading pest — cannot fly. It is the larvae which can out-maneuver the adults of the European species. The larvae hang from the limbs on which they feed, gradually lowering themselves toward the ground on silken threads, waiting until passersby obligingly carry them away or for wind gusts to “balloon” them to new grounds. The female’s lack of flight has slowed the progress of the invasion of the European species. These moths run in cycles. Using Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a little bit-o-tree-banding and, of course, the ever-popular attack the egg-masses located within reach.

Iris Borers

These moth larvae are not common pests but they are worthy of mention on this website. The common-looking brown-yellow moths who parent the pestiferous larvae lay there eggs on old iris leaves in the fall. The eggs hatch in the spring yielding pink worms with a tan stripe down the back of the body and rows of black dots down the sides. These larvae grow to five centimeters as they tunnel deeper into the sheaths of leaves and grow older. They eventually make their way into the crown where most of the damage is caused. They pupate in the soil. There is little to control these pests except to remove as much of the dead plant portions as you can before the snow flies and to apply Parasitic Nematodes heavily during and immediately after the growing season. Other iris-saving techniques include pulling the rhizomes in the fall and dipping them in a sulfur fungicide solution to help control the rot these pests can cause.

Japanese Beetles

Japanese beetles are a little over one centimeter in length but are as destructive as many pests twice their size. The appearance and coloration of these beetles is actually quite stunning and if they weren’t so destructive they might be considered beautiful. They are tough-looking bronze-colored beetles with highlights of metallic green. This very distinctive appearance aids in their identification. Mid to late summer these beetles can be found on many plants. They’re particularly fond of beans and roses on which they can be spotted feeding and mating-stacked two to three individuals deep. Their feeding causes ragged holes leading eventually to leaf skeletonization and, ultimately, if left unchecked, complete defoliation. Their off-white, C-shaped larvae or grubs are also voracious pests, consuming the roots of grasses and other plants with tasty roots. The grubs can cause considerable damage to otherwise healthy lawns. Their presence can also lead to a mole invasion which, in its own right, can devastate a lawn or garden. (The best way to get rid of moles is to destroy their source of food: the grubs.)

Adult beetles are nearly impossible to control using non-conventional methods. In other words the beetles are controllable by way of the use of poisons. Handpicking and covering prize plants with row covers are the only Green Methods’ approaches of dealing with the adults that we know of. Trapping is an option as there are several Japanese beetles traps on the market today, but these traps draw many more beetles than they catch, and since they lure both sexes, can exacerbate the problem instead or lessening it. By far, the best way to deal with Japanese beetles, especially if you want to do things the Green way, is to target the grub stage. Two products which are well suited to taking out the larvae are Bacillus popilliae, also know as milky spore disease, and Parasitic Nematodes, specifically the Heterorhabditis bacteriophora species.

June Beetles

These are those big (up to three centimeters) brown beetles which smack into your screen door during hot summer nights. Some people may consider this annoying and will, therefore, for that reason, mark these critters as pests. Their adult forms are, indeed pests as they do chew of the leaves of many plants. It is, however, their large, white C-shaped larvae or grubs which are really the most destructive pests. The grubs chew on your lawn’s roots and can cause patches of lawn to die. Moreover, they may also feed on the roots of other plants including corn, potatoes, strawberries and other vegetables and fruits. Their presence can also lead a mole invasion which, in its own right, can devastate a lawn or garden. (The best way to get rid of moles is to destroy their source of food: the grubs.) As is the case with Japanese beetles you’re better off targeting the grubs, in which case Parasitic Nematodes, the Heterorhabditis bacteriophora species, can control these pests. Additionally, covering prize plants with row covering material can keep migrating adults at bay.

Lace Bugs

Very unusual in appearance with their white, lacy wings and squared, hourglass shape and being about five to seven millimeters long, lace bugs are known pests of a wide variety of trees, shrubs and other plants, including vegetables and flowers. They suck the sap from leaf undersides and can cause a great deal of damage in the form of speckling and chlorotic leaves. Based on feedback, at least in outdoor settings, the insidious flower bug, Orius insidiosus, is quite capable of controlling these pests. The flower bug, it seems, probes the lace bug’s egg and nymphal stages with it proboscis or sharpened, straw-like mouthpart. Regarding other pest control products? Well, there’s not much available. Fortunately the people who’ve reported good news about insidious flower bugs being not just for thrips anymore have been quite convincing. Our suggestion: try it.

Leafhoppers

These are interesting insects. They are somewhat triangular in shape and range in size from four millimeters to about one centimeter. Some species bear incredible coloration: light green, purple and blue stripes, and some red. Leafhoppers can also be incredible pests if their numbers are large-which is often the case in gardens and other outdoor growing areas. Leafhoppers suck plant sap which, in its own right, is bad enough. Additionally, though, they also secrete a toxin as they feed, which, when coupled with their feeding can cause serious damage. Leaf deformities, stunted tip growth and scorching are all symptoms of these activities. Now there are some products capable of controlling leafhoppers, but few sprays actually include this pest on their label. Insecticidal soap is one product which does include this pest on the label. So, for commercial growers, anyway, this may present a logistics problem as in many states the label rules. Biocontrol agents commercially available to target these pests are also few and far between. One predator, the spined soldier bug, Podisus maculiventris, may provide one solution. Spined soldier bugs are commercially available and will not spark legal debate. Moreover, there are attractors available for these predatory bugs, so if cost becomes an issue-which it may as these true bugs are still expensive — you’ll have an option. The only other option that I know of is to exclude these pests by using a row cover fabric.

Leafrollers

Leafrollers are moths whose eggs hatch into the typically destructive larvae. These two centimeter brass-colored moths lay their eggs on branch tips and leaves. The resulting larvae feed at the point in which they grew from eggs to larva-hood. They’re called leafrollers because, after a month’s time they pupate in a cocoon-like shelter they make themselves. The pre-pupal larvae roll leaves lengthwise by spinning their webbing around them-most of them do, anyway, some species prefer to lie tucked into the bark of trees. In either case, they use the cocoon as an abode over the winter months. Trichogramma spp. parasitic wasps may help control populations of these critters by parasitizing the eggs. This would be done during late spring and early summer. Another egg control technique would involve physically removing the egg masses. The larvae can be dealt with by way of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) variety Kurstaki. The leaves and buds would be treated while the larvae or caterpillars are feeding. Another control worth doing is to physically squash the larvae in their leaf-rolled cocoons. Pop! (Just a thought.)

Mexican Bean Beetles

Bad bugs sometimes resemble good bugs. And this is the case with these bean-loving skeletonizing beetles. They look very similar to our friend, the ladybug. Bean beetles are more of an orange color, though, and their spots are smaller and seem sort of in rows running side to side. They are about seven millimeters long as adults and similarly sized as larvae. The larvae are orange and very “spiky” looking. They will feed on most leguminous (legume) crops, and as anyone growing beans will know, they like those best. There is little in the way of sprays and such which can stop these pests, which isn’t toxic (and remember some natural botanical chemicals are indeed toxic). Interestingly, there are two commercially produced biological pest control agents “labeled” for use on Mexican bean beetles. The spined soldier bug, Podisus maculiventris, will feed on the eggs and larvae. A parasitic mini-wasp, Pediobius foveolatus, very effectively parasitizes the larvae. Timing is important for a first generation kill, though, if you want to implement these biocontrols successfully, especially the parasitoids.

Mosquitoes

Like fleas, mosquitoes are bloodsuckers and are infamous for the diseases they are known to transmit. Yellow fever, malaria, the “new scourge” West Nile virus (mosquito-borne encephalitis virus), and other problematic diseases. Fortunately, mosquitoes are not yet credited with the spread of HIV or — the bug which leads to AIDS. But what’s next? What pandemic virus lurks in the future? As far as controlling them in an effort to eliminate them is practically impossible without destroying their habitat by building a city or creating a drought-stricken area. And community spraying tends to work, but that’s not a decent choice. You can keep them from biting by using some deet- or citronella-based repellent (in the form of a spray, lotion or even a smoke), which can’t be very good for you either. Or you can cover yourself with netting, but this is an uncomfortable option most would choose to avoid. So what you have to do, if you want to stay somewhat Green, is to compromise yourself by accepting mosquitoes to a certain extent-to a large extent, actually. This doesn’t mean you can’t fight back a little, though. There are three ways to control mosquitoes while keeping your environmental conscientiousness in tact. The first is to encourage their natural enemies, creatures like dragon flies and bats. Dragonflies are encouraged by much of the same things which keep mosquitoes happy. In fact, mosquitoes make dragonflies happy. So does diversity in your plantings. To encourage bats try giving them a home. Commercially available wooden bat houses are a simple and inexpensive way to increase your local bat population. Bats consume many types of nocturnally flying insects: moths, beetles, etc. Many of which are pests. A single bat can consume roughly 300 to 500 insects in a single night. Encourage bats, and you’ll be encouraging natural pest control methods at its finest. You’ll still have mosquitoes, but depending upon the number of bats you host, you’ll have a smaller number. The second way you can cut into their numbers is to attack their larvae. Mosquito larvae suspend themselves on the surface of standing water-supported by the water’s surface tension. An insecticidal bacteria, Bacillus thuringiensis (I) variety israelensis (Bti), in the form of positively buoyant, doughnut-shaped briquettes, aggressively destroy these immature mosquitoes. The larvae consume the bacteria which covers the water’s surface and quickly die as their stomach lining disintegrates-ultimately digesting themselves. Sounds pretty hazardous doesn’t it? To fish, mammals and birds, Bti is completely innocuous. And these briquettes, which can be a somewhat costly option, do a fantastic job. All you have to do is make sure all standing water, including vernal pools (which exist only seasonally or after large rainstorms), old tires and unused, algae-covered kiddie pools get treated and remain so throughout the mosquito season. The third is to employ a mosquito repellent; there’s a garlic-based product which is supposed to work very well.

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