Pests

 

Armadillo

Q: I have had one armadillo home under my back steps since I moved in 3 years ago. I thought it was OK and didn't find him/her too much of a nuisance. BUT now, I have a condo attached to the original home and I'm having my grass dug up all over. Apparently the armadillo invited others to join or had babies!  I appreciate any help you can give!

A: Wow, this must be the month for backyard nuisance pests. ArmadilloThe following is information from a University of Florida publication called “Dealing with Unwanted Wildlife in an Urban Environment”. Armadillos live in dens and some damage also can be caused by their burrowing under foundations, driveways, and other structures. More than 90 percent of the armadillo's diet is made up of insects and their larvae that live in the soil. They also feed on earthworms, scorpions, spiders, and other invertebrates. Armadillos are most active at night, when they make small cone-shaped holes in the ground while rooting for food. There are no successful repellents, toxicants, or fumigants registered for armadillos. The use of insecticides to reduce food sources also has not been proven to stop armadillo digging. A fence slanted outward at a 40° angle, with a portion buried may be a somewhat effective barrier under certain conditions. Although trapping live armadillos is very difficult, some people have experienced limited success by using a 10x12x32 inch live or box trap. The bait used by successful trappers is earthworms in a ball of dirt and placed in the toe of an old nylon stocking. Trapping is most effective when leaf litter or soil is placed over the trap entrance. Armadillos caught in these traps can be released in an area where you have obtained landowner permission several miles away from your home. Armadillo meat is edible if properly prepared. To download the complete article from the internet check out: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/UW070

Castor Bean

Q: Could you help me determine the name of the plant that just appeared in my garden one day in late summer?  It had interesting foliage so I let it grow. It may be an invasive weed but it turned out to have a very pretty and unusual flower.  Are there any problems with this plant?  Folks have been asking for seeds from it. 

A:   I sent your photos to the University of Florida Herbarium and below is the response from one of the specialist.  “The plant is Ricinus communis L., commonly known as Castorbean, Castor Oil Plant, or Palma-Christi, in the Euphorbiaceae (Spurge Family). Castor Bean It is thought to be native to Africa but is widely cultivated as an ornamental and as a source of seed oil used in industry and medicine.  It is also widely naturalized.  In Florida it has escaped from cultivation and is frequently found on disturbed sites.  The Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council lists it as a category II invasive for northern, central, and southern Florida.  It can be safely cultivated as an annual in colder climates, but in northern Florida it often sprouts back from the roots after freezing and the seeds are dormant in the winter and sprout once temperatures have warmed.  There are a number of cultivars, some of which are very attractive ornamentals, but because of its aggressive tendencies this plant probably should not be grown in Florida.

All parts (but especially the seeds) are highly toxic if consumed; the toxic principle is called Ricin.  Because of its toxicity the oil must heat treated before it is safe to consume medicinally.

For more information on this plant see the following websites:
http://www.floridata.com/ref/R/rici_com.cfm  (info on cultivation)
http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/duke_energy/Ricinus_communis.html  (info on uses)
http://www.issg.org/database/species/ecology.asp?fr=1&si=1000&sts=  (info on invasiveness)

Devil's Walking Stick

Q: Can I grow Hercules club here? 

Devil's Walking Stick TrunkA: I believe you are referring to a plant that is more commonly called Devil’s Walking Stick,Aralia spinosa.  This plant can reach heights of 25-30 feet with a 6-10 foot spread.  It grows in full sun to partial shade in a variety of soil types but it prefers well-drained soils.  Devil’s Walking Stick has been known to survive occasional flooding although it does not want to be in continual water.  It thrives on neglect so place it in the landscape where it will not receive heavy fertilization or irrigation.  It can be trained, with pruning, to be a multi-stem or a single trunk tree.  Devil's Walking Stick FlowerIt has beautiful fall colored compound foliage but it is deciduous, which means it loses its leaves in the fall. The trunk is spiny and extremely sharp.  Once the leaves drop, it is not necessarily an attractive shrub without leaves as it resembles a bare stick with barbs.  The compound leaves can grow to 4 feet long and 3 feet wide, each with their own prickles. Devil’s Walking Stick has no known disease or insect problems. The fruit provides food for local birds, but is not messy.  If you decide to plant this American native tree, you should consider putting it in an area where normal landscape duties (mowing, pruning, edging, weed-eating) will not be required as the spines and prickles could pose a problem. 

Grubs

Q: When I lived in Ohio, I used Milky Spore to control grubs in my lawn.  Will it work here in Fernandina on my St. Augustine grass?  If so, when is best time to apply? 

A:  Thank you for writing.  I checked with the University of Florida Entomology Department for their expertise on this topic.  Milky spore is used on Japanese beetles and apparently has only shown minimal success.  Milky spore is a bacterium ( Bacillus popilliae) which is produced by a technical in vivo culture procedure using the larvae and adults of Japanese beetles.  It is host specific, which means it works only on Japanese beetles.  We, thankfully, don't have Japanese beetles in Florida.  Therefore, it would be of little use here to fight lawn grubs.   Are you certain grubs are a true problem in your lawn?  To inspect for grubs, cut 3 sides of a 1 foot square piece of sod and roll it back.  Sift through the sod to see if grubs are present.  Inspect several areas.  As a rule of thumb, if an average of 3 or 4 grubs are found per square foot, then apply insecticide.  There are plenty of products on the market to fight the grub population just be sure they can be applied to St. Augustine grass and follow the directions on the label. 

Invasives

Q:  What are these little round growths I keep finding in my flower beds? 

A:  My first question to you was whether or not you had Boston fern in the flower beds. Once you said yes, I knew the growths were the bulbuls of the invasive Boston fern, Nephrolepis exaltata.  They are sold at most of the garden centers in hanging baskets.  Boston fern would probably not be such a problem if they were left in the hanging baskets.
But people often tire of them which results in the plant being taken out of the hanging pot and planted into the landscape.  From there, the fern begins to multiple at alarming rates showing up in other areas of the yard, in palm tree tissue, along roadsides and into wildlife areas.
Once in the landscape it becomes very difficult to maintain.  Boston fern can handle most any soil condition as long as they are in shady areas.  It is possible to gain some control if you hand pull them, but you must be sure to remove all of the root tissue.  Glyphosate products applied to the fronds will help you manage these prolific growers. You might consider painting the product directly onto the fronds.  Painting glyphosate rather than spraying it would help you avoid drift.  Drift occurs when a chemical is sprayed and the wind picks up the tiny particles and takes them to another site. The other site could be Grandmother Mildred’s prize camellias or daylilies, which would probably not be a good thing. So, please, please read the directions on the pesticide label and follow them completely.  Consider using some other form of ground cover such as holly fern or cast iron plant which does not cause the same environmental problems of invasive plants. 

Q: I have Chinese tallow all over my property. How do I get rid of it?

A: I am glad to hear you recognize this tree as a pest and that you are willing to get rid of it in Chinese Tallowyour landscape. Chinese tallow (Sapium sebiferum) grows and spreads rapidly, is difficult to kill, and tends to take over large areas by out-competing native plants. Chinese tallow is spreading rampantly in large natural areas including state-owned protected lands along the St. Johns River. It can thrive in well-drained uplands as well as in bottomlands, shores of water bodies, and even on floating islands. It also is referred to as "Florida aspen" and "popcorn-tree."

The plant was purposely introduced into the southeastern US as early as the 1700s. It comes from China where it has been cultivated for about 1,500 years as a seed-oil crop. In the US, it is primarily associated with ornamental landscapes. Chinese tallow has become naturalized in the southern coastal plain from South Carolina south to Florida and west to Texas.

New growth on Chinese tallow begins as early as February and flowering lasts from March through May. Fruit ripens from August to November. The tree is deciduous, losing leaves during the autumn. Young trees establish a taproot system and are able to withstand extended periods of drought. At maturity it reaches a height of 20 feet or more. Its primary vectors are birds and moving waters, which is why it is such a difficult plant to control. Homeowners can cut down the tree or have it professionally removed but the stump should be immediately painted with a concentrated herbicide.

Q: I bought a pink Mexican petunia and it has taken over my yard.  I am finding it every where.  What can I do to get rid of it? 

A:  Truly this plant is a pest in our area. Pink Mexican Petunia Mexican petunia, Ruellia brittoniana, is listed as a Category I invasive species by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council. This means that it is "altering native plant communities by displacing native species, changing community structures or ecological functions, or hybridizing with natives". This warning applies to all parts of the state of Florida (and other areas with similar mild climates). Where hardy, the Mexican petunia excels at invading wetlands.  Your first strategy should be immediate application of glyphosate (Round-up) directly onto each plant.  You must use great care because this product will kill anything green and growing so you should paint each plant rather than spray it.  Painting the plants will be a tedious job but very effective.  Mexican petunia is similar to Boston fern in its ability to reproduce rapidly and effectively in most soil and light conditions. 

Q:   I found these critters dead in my garage after I sprayed the lawn with a pesticide.  What are they? 

A:   These creatures are actually terrestrial amphipods which belong to an order of crustacea.  They look very similar to tiny shrimp therefore they were given the common name of lawn shrimp.  Lawn ShrimpMost amphipods live in salt and fresh water but there are a few terrestrial forms. Even though these terrestrial forms live in our landscapes, they still require a moist habitat. The color of terrestrial species varies from pale brown to greenish to brownish black when alive, but they often turn pink to red when they die. Most amphipods are scavengers feeding off mold which can be found in the mulched areas of our flower beds and shrubbery. Terrestrial amphipods live on the surface (top 1/2 inch) of mulch and moist ground. After rains, large numbers of amphipods can migrate into garages or under the doors of houses. When this occurs, they quickly die as they do not have the protective covering (exoskeleton) of crustaceans or insects.  Because they lack an exoskeleton their bodies quickly lose too much moisture and they die.  However, they come into our homes and garages after heavy rains because their bodies will take on too much water and it can also kill them. Most species are active at night.  Since you found large numbers in the garage already dead, it would be best to sweep or vacuum them up. If you find them in the house, be sure to check the weather stripping around doorways. Since terrestrial lawn shrimp do not transmit diseases nor do they destroy any plant material it is best to leave them alone.  In addition, there are no labeled insecticidal recommendations for control. Think of them more as a nuisance rather than a real pest.  For more complete information, take time to look over the UF/IFAS publication titled, “Terrestrial Amphipods or Lawn Shrimp” at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in377

 

Mistletoe

Q: I purchased some land filled with trees, but I noticed many of them have mistletoe in the branches. What can you tell me about mistletoe?

A: Mistletoe is not like typical plants, Mistletoewhich obtain support, water and nutrients from the soil in which they grow. Mistletoe is a parasite which lives in the tops and branches of trees. Look for round green branches in treetops - mistletoe is often found in mature laurel or water oaks and other hardwood trees. The "roots" of mistletoe penetrate the tree’s bark and enter the wood of a tree. After established, mistletoe grows very quickly and can live for about ten years.  Eventually the host tree is weakened and can decline in health; branches become weakened and often die.  Pruning mistletoe branches from mature trees may reduce this drain on the host oak.  Be sure to make the pruning cut at least six inches below the point of attachment. Mistletoe has been used as a Yuletide decoration for centuries. The soft leaves of this woody plant, with its dark green, oval shapes and occasional white berries, symbolize peace and love.  Many customs and beliefs have carried over to its use at Christmas time - most notably to encourage passion by way of kissing.  Hanging up a branch with white berries was a subtle challenge to kiss the unsuspecting (or suspecting) individual who stood beneath it. Use this plant carefully as a holiday decoration - it is poisonous if eaten. In homes with curious pets or young children a plastic or fabric replica may be a safer way to enjoy Mistletoe at Christmas.

Mites

Q:  The leaves on as few of my plants are looking wrinkled and puckered.  A friend of mine gave me this plant and I hate to see it doing poorly.  What is wrong?

A:  The cause for the change in your plants could be caused by a number of things. Southern Red Mite I am glad you brought in a few samples so I could identify the problem.  It was surprising, to say the least, to find your plants covered with southern red mite (SRM), Oligonychus ilicis.  This pest is typically a problem on evergreen plants but is found on 34 different species.  Their favorite plants are azaleas and camellias.  Numerous generations of the southern red mite occur each year, but population densities are highest during the cooler months of spring and fall during periods of prolonged high humidity. The species overwinters as red eggs on the undersides of the leaves. Most of the population is dormant during the summer heat. The puckering is caused by the feeding of the mites on the vascular tissue (veins).  The mites pierce into the plant and draw out fluid therefore the tissue is reduced.  You could use horticulture oil or insecticidal soap to manage mites.  Over the counter products labeled for mites can also be purchased at local garden centers.  As always, be sure to read the label on any pesticide product.  If the plant is completely damaged by these mites you might consider removing the plant out of the landscape. I know your friend gave you this plant but the infestation is extremely high and the damage is permanent.  Consider the amount of time and effort required to keep this plant healthy, it may not be worth it.  One other important note: mites are not insects.  They have two body parts (not 3) and 8 legs (not 6).  Passing that fact on to you was just the teacher in me – I can not help myself!

Moles

Q: I have moles and I have been told they will destroy my grass if I don’t get rid of them.

A: I am going to answer this question by quoting portions of a publicationEastern mole by Dr. William Kern, Jr., a professor from the University of Florida. “The eastern mole prefers loose, well-drained soils. It has been found in dune sand and rich forest humus. Moles are beneficial because they eat mole crickets; beetle larvae (white grubs, wire worms, etc.); ants and ant brood; moth larvae and pupae (cutworms and armyworms); and slugs. They also help to loosen and aerate the soil. In loose soil, moles can tunnel up to 18feet per hour. Their living space is in tunnels and chambers 6-12 inches below the surface. Soil from these deep burrows is pushed to the surface in small mounds. The damage caused by moles is almost entirely cosmetic. Although moles are often falsely accused of eating the roots of grass and other plants, they actually feed on the insects causing the damage. The tunneling of moles may cause some physical damage to the root systems of ornamental or garden plants and may kill grass by drying out the roots, but this damage is usually minor. When mole tunnels become an intolerable nuisance, moles may be captured and removed without a permit by homeowners, renters, or employees of the property owner. If a lawn service or pest control technician is hired to trap nuisance animals, that person must have a Nuisance Wildlife Permit issued by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). No poison (bait or fumigant) may be used on native wildlife without a Poison Permit issued by the executive director of the FWC. Because suitable traps are available for mole control, it is extremely difficult to justify the use of poisons. The use of vibrating devices to drive away moles has not been proven effective in scientific trials. In fact, the presence of mole tunnels next to highways would seem to be evidence against the effectiveness of these devices. The same is true for the use of mothballs to repel moles. The mole blocks off the treated tunnels and moves to a different part of the yard. Many people claim that putting sticks of Wrigley's Juicy Fruit gum into moles' tunnels will eliminate the moles. This is another method not proven in scientific tests.”

Rats

Q:  Some animal is gnawing on the trunk of my citrus trees.  What could it be? 
A:  From your description, my first guess would be to suspect a rat.  Literally, a roof rat called Rattus rattus.  I know that is scary thought but we have many more of these rodents than most of us would like to admit.  They come out at night (nocturnal) and eat fruit remaining on trees. Actually, they are omnivores; which means they eat insects, lizards as well as plants but fruit is their favorite food.  Roof rats are very destructive and can gnaw through wire, pipes, walls, etc. Poisoning them can be dangerous to other animals we desire to keep such as our family pets.  Traps could be set at night when birds and other creatures are not active to avoid capturing beneficial animals.  However, some of our furry friends (cats) are active at night and might be too curious to avoid the trap.  If these options seem unacceptable, consider talking to a professional pesticide company.  They can inspect the area for signs of the rats and determine the best course of action.  Metal guards can be placed around the base of the tree to discourage the gnawing and climbing into the tree.  Snakes and predatory birds are excellent rat hunters so be careful to leave these creatures alone as they help keep rat populations in check. 

Sandspurs

Q: I have sandspurs growing all over my yard. How do I get rid of them? The seeds are sticking on the fur of my dogs and when I pet them, I get stuck.

A: It is difficult to control any weed once it has reached the mature stages of producing flowers and seeds. Right now, removing the seed heads would be beneficial. If you have a bag attachment to your mower you can gather the seed heads while mowing to reduce the chance they will produce more weeds next year.

We do not recommend putting weed killer on lawns this time of year as the chemicals can stress or even kill the grass you wish to protect. The best management practice is to have a healthy lawn which means watering, mowing and fertilizing properly. If you have areas where the grass had died then the weeds have an opportunity to thrive.

A pre-emergent herbicide can be used to reduce the likelihood of seeds from the sandspur to germinate next year. This pre-emergent herbicide should be applied in the late winter or early spring. Look at the local garden centers for products used to control crabgrass and you will probably notice they are also used to manage sandspur. Please follow the directions on the label and apply at the appropriate time of year – late summer is too late. Painting glyphosate (Round-up) on the green leaves of the sandspur now will destroy the plant, too, but not necessarily the seed. Do not spray glyphosate as this chemical kills everything green – good grass as well.

Saddleback Caterpillar

Q:  I found this caterpillar on my citrus.  Can you tell me what it is? 

A:  Thanks for bringing in this caterpillar to the Extension office.Saddleback Caterpillar  Your caterpillars provided an excellent opportunity to share with the Master Gardener volunteers, most of whom had never seen a live saddleback specimen. The caterpillars were saddleback caterpillars, Sabine stimulea (Clemus), which are very attractive. Most of its body is brown but it appears to have a green covering on its back and sides which is edged in white. There is an oval spot in the middle of the green color which looks similar to a saddle - hence the name “saddleback.”  The hairy spines located on the both ends of the caterpillar contain poison glands which can cause various skin reactions from local redness and itching to severe reactions requiring immediate medical attention. If the reaction is not severe a piece of adhesive tape can be placed over the spines to aid in their removal. Cold compresses or ice packs will reduce localized swelling along with a paste of baking soda and water applied directly to the site. For people who are highly allergic or have asthma a physician should be contacted immediately.  The caterpillars are not aggressive but we often do not notice them when we are pruning or removing fruit or flowers from plants.  Saddleback caterpillars are not picky about what leaves they chew so do not be surprised to find them on any of your landscape plants. I have found them on my red buckeye and camellias. 

Smilax

Q:  I have this thorny, obnoxious vine growing over some of my shrubs and I want to get rid of it.  Can you tell me what it is and how to control it? 

A:  Your vine belongs to the smilax family and is called Laurel greenbrier, Smilax laurifolia. Smilax laurifolia It is an evergreen vine which produces a large, starchy root.  The leaves are alternate, simple with a waxy covering.  If left unchecked, it can grow in large masses and cover small trees.  It is hardy to zone 8 but it is not uncommon to find it in zone 9 along coastal regions. Greenbrier produces small, white flowers from July to August. The stems are thorny which makes it more difficult to remove from trees and shrubbery.  Be sure to use protective gloves when working with this vine. The flowers are dioecious (similar to holly trees).  The individual flowers are either male or female and only one sex is found on a plant.  Therefore, both male and female plants must be grown in order to produce the bluish, black berry-like fruit.  The plant not is self-fertile. Laurel greenbrier can tolerate any type of light or soil conditions.  It prefers moist soil but has been known to grow in sandy, dune areas.  Just a side note – the roots and young shoots can be eaten, so if you are ever lost in the woods this can provide food. Like most troublesome vines, it is best managed by cutting the stem close to the ground and immediately dabbing glyphosate directly onto the cut root area.  More than one application will be required depending on how extensive the root system.  If possible, dig up the root and remove all of it.  Cutting the vine at the soil line and not applying an herbicide will not deter this plant from producing more stems. 

Snail

Q: Last summer I found snails around my trees, which I have never noticed before this year. Are they going to kill my trees?

A: Many snails are found in trees, but only a few are exclusively arboreal (live in trees) for most or all of their life cycles. Tree snails are normally found on the ground only when they are depositing their eggs or when accidentally bumped to the ground. They are found mostly in warm, humid climates. Two families of tree snails are found in the United States – Bulimulidae and Pupillidae. Florida has 3 native Bulimulidae species, which feed on algae, fungi and lichens found in trees. Except for scientific study, these snails should not be collected since they are not pests and may actually be beneficial. Think of them as decorative tree cleaners. More than likely the snail you have encountered was “Manatee” snail ( Drymaeus dormani ),which is found in our area especially on citrus. Many of the others tree snails are located in south Florida, specifically the Keys.

Q:  The attached photo is of a large snail we found in our yard here in Fernandina Beach .  A friend says it is probably a Florida tree snail but I cannot identify it from sites on the internet. I would like to know exactly what it is and whether we should destroy it or set it free? 

A:  Thank you for the photograph. Rosy Predator Snail You did a great job, which made my search easier.  The snail is probably the Rosy Wolfsnail, Euglandina rosea, or Rosy predator snail, which is one of the largest predatory snails found in Northeast Florida.  The shell is large (up to 76 mm or about 3 inches in height by 27.5 mm or 1 ¼ inch in diameter) and thick with prominent growth lines. Typically, the shell color is brownish-pink. The distribution of this snail is throughout most of the Southeastern states and it is widespread in Florida including the Keys.  Its habitat is normally hardwood forests, roadsides and urban gardens (Hubricht 1985).  Individual snails live up to 24 months. The female produces 25 to 35 eggs, which are laid in a shallow pocket in the soil. These eggs hatch after 30 to 40 days.  The Rosy predator snail is not a problem on plants but rather feeds on other snails that feed on plants.  It is interesting that it tracks its prey and mates by following their slime trails.  We don't consider them a problem so I would let it go.  They have been used in Hawaii in efforts to rid the islands of another snail pest but the experiment has not been successful.

Squirrels

Q:  I have watched the grey squirrels eating my winter greens – although they do not seem interested in the mustard greens.  My neighbor tells me I cannot kill them because they are protected animals. 

A  I know some people will not be happy with the idea of hurting anyFlying Squirrel living thing – especially something as adorable as a squirrel. But, I have found squirrels can have both friends and enemies. I suppose many of us can remember drawing a squirrel in art class and singing the cute song, “Grey Squirrel” as youngsters.  However, as adults we can witness how destructive these cleaver mammals can be around our gardens and bird seed.  Regarding your neighbor’s concerns about these animals being on a protected list - he is probably referring to certain species of the Fox and flying squirrel. The Delmarva fox squirrel is in the same genus as our Eastern grey squirrel but he is shy which makes him very different.   The endangered flying squirrels are very small and have extra skin flaps which enable them to glide easily from tree to tree.  I am sharing a quote from the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife Services -” Chapter 68A-9.010 of the Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C) allows the killing of destructive mammals except deer or black bear on your property by means other than gun and light, steel traps or poison, provided the destructive mammals are killed only within the immediate locality where damage is occurring. Birds other than blackbirds, cowbirds, grackles, and crows may be killed only under authority of a special permit issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”  So, you cannot use a gun to kill them.  Poisons which would attract squirrels would also harm family pets making the use of toxins too dangerous. Consider netting the garden or using a hot pepper spray or powder because taste does matter to squirrels. 
Attached are some important websites from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission:  http://myfwc.com/conservation/you-conserve/assistnuisance-wildlife/
http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/imperiled/
Attached is a publication from the University of Florida regarding ideas of how to deal with unwanted animal pests: 
http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw070

Virginia Creeper

Q: I have this horrible vine growing throughout my Asiatic jasmine.  I am concerned that it might be poison ivy. I would like to get rid of it but I don’t want to kill my jasmine.  Do you have any ideas? 

A:  Thanks for your kind letter and the photos of your vine.  We have several different types of pesky vines growing in this area but the one you photographed is called Virginia Creeper,Parthenocissus quinquefolia.This plant is found as far west as Utah, as far north as Maine, throughout Florida and most of the states in between.  It is often confused with poison ivy as their habitats are similar.  The major difference is Virginia creeper has five leaves but poison ivy has three.  Hence the saying, “Three leaves let it be.”   Both vines change from green to brilliant red in the fall and both produce berries but Virginia creeper does not cause the same reactive rash when it comes in contact with our skin.  Removal of Virginia creeper from the Asiatic jasmine will pose a problem as any killer of one vine can easily kill the other.  Try to locate the root area of the Virginia creeper.  Cut the vine close to the root area and paint it immediately with Glyphosate (Round-up).  The plant will take the herbicide into the root and kill the whole plant.  This same method can be used for any vine you wish to kill.  Be very careful not to drip the herbicide on the jasmine or any other green plant.   

Webworms

Q: I have caterpillars in my pecan trees, how do I control them? 

A: I believe you probably have the fall webworm, Hyphantria cunea (Drury)Webworm in your pecan trees.  It is a pest of a number of ornamental trees and shrubs, and several agricultural crops including pecans. The larvae feed in huge nests and are able to completely defoliate trees and shrubs. Adult moths emerge as early as March in the south, but do not fly until late spring or early summer in northern areas. Mostly, the adults appear from May to August and deposit their eggs. The egg mass of Hyphantria cunea is almost iridescent green in color. The egg batch contains 400-1000 eggs. In one to two weeks, the larvae hatch and immediately begin spinning their silk tent. The young caterpillars place the web over single leaves and feed by skeletonizing. A fall webworm tent normally encloses the foliage at the end of a branch. The caterpillars can build large silk tents that sometimes spread over several branches. At maturity, the larvae may reach one inch in length. Throughout their development, the caterpillars are able to make distinct jerking movements in unison if the nest is disturbed. Insect control on pecans needs to take place over several seasons and it is advisable to protect beneficial insects as they perform well in keeping the larvae in check. When possible, poking a hole in the silk nest will allow for beneficial insects and birds to feed on the caterpillars and provide a way for chemicals to reach the pests. Please see the attached publication for more specific information on chemical control methods:  http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ig077

 

Woodpecker

Q: I have a Mexican Avocado tree, which I planted 2 years ago. The tree has small holes drilled in neat columns approximately 1-2 inches apart and each row contains about 8-9 holes. The tree does not seem to have suffered from this, buy I wondered what it might Yellow Bellied Sapsuckerhave caused the holes.

A: Thank you for sending the photographs which helped me identify the possible culprit. The symmetry is the best clue which indicates a woodpecker, more specifically the yellow-bellied sapsucker. The bird is hunting for insects. They have a unique ability to hear the insect inside the tree. However, they have been known to hammer away on telephone posts and the eaves of homes. The damage is often minimal and control should be directed at the insect and probably not the bird.If your tree has a borer then it may be under some stress. In addition, the avocado is really a tree that belongs south of our area. If it is in a protected area it may survive but if we have a true cold snap, this tree may succumb to the cold. One more important note - it is unlawful to harm or capture these birds without a federal and state permit.

Worms

Q:  What are all those black worms that crawl up on the sidewalks and driveways after it rains? 
 A:  I was not sure exactly what worms you were talking about until you brought in a sample in alcohol to the Nassau County Extension office.  The worms found in your yard are called land planarians or black flatworms, Dolichoplana striata.  They are tropical worms and their numbers will diminish somewhat in your yard during the winter.  The worms have been found as far north as New Hampshire and west to California, they have even made it to Hawaii.  We believe black flatworms were brought into the United States via the potting soil of tropical plants.  When you consider the amount of plant material moved about the U.S. from tropical areas, it is easy to see how the flatworms could have become so widespread in nurseries and garden centers and then to our landscapes.  Planarians have been known to hunt earthworms and insects but they cause no harm to humans or pets.  The flatworms are really no more than a nuisance after they end up on the sidewalks and driveways (hardscapes).  Once they are out of the soil the flatworms become dehydrated, which causes them to die.  After the black flatworms are dead and dry, they are much easier to sweep off into the lawn or ornamental beds.  When our weather dips into colder temperatures over several days the worms go deeper into the soil which means you will see less and less of them.  This is one of nuisance creatures for which you need to simply grin and bear it.