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

Grasshopper adult

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 couple of critically-timed releases of Trichogramma spp. mini-wasps, a little bit-o-tree-banding and, of course, the ever-popular attack the egg-masses located within reach.

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