Archive for the ‘Garden Pests’ Category

Neem Oil Application

January 12, 2017 11:38 pm
posted by Martin Boyle

Chris asks…

Will my weeping cherry live after a Neem Oil Application?

I purchased a 3 1/2 foot weeping cherry tree a couple of weeks ago. It transplanted fine and seemed to be showing no signs of stress from the transplant.

While watching the tree very carefully (I live in Port Orange Florida and hope that persistence in maintenance will help it survive slightly outside the recommended growing zone) I noticed spider mites almost immediately and decided that a neem oil application would be the best to apply to the weeping cherry.

I mixed a higher amount of neem oil than what was recommended because I felt that I did not have the time to mess around with mixtures while the spider mites continued to multiply. I specifically remember spraying the foliage heavily and seeing drops of neem oil/water mixture hanging from the bottom of the leaves by the time I was done.

The next day, I noticed brown spots/edges on the bottoms of the leaves where the neem oil collected and ever since then, the leaves have been getting slightly wrinkled. Green leaves that seemed to not have been burned by the neem oil are still falling off.

It has been about 4 days since the application was applied and about 1/4 of the leaves have fallen off.
Will my tree survive this mistake on my part for applying too much of an over concentrated neem oil mixture? Is there anything that I can do besides providing sufficient irrigation? I apologize for the rambling length of this, but I want to do all I can for this tree. I would really appreciate your input!

Martin Boyle answers:

Neem Oil Application

Amazing Benefits of Neem Oil

Neem Oil Application

A hard lesson about a Neem Oil Application and how more is NOT “better”. Or “faster”. You might lose most of the leaves. An established tree can take losing all its leaves without killing it. It should eventually put out a new set of leaves. Whether your tree survives that  is another story, but if it doesn’t make it, it won’t be the Neem Oil application damaging the leaves that did it.

If it loses most of its leaves, you can pull back on the amount of water you give it. It won’t be using as much water if it’s defoliated. Cherries also don’t like “wet feet”, so don’t kill it with love, by watering it too frequently. Watering it about every 5 days should be plenty during hot weather.

For more information click this link….

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Can You Get Rid Of Midges From Your Garden?

February 11, 2013 4:04 pm
posted by Martin Boyle

Lizzie asks…

 Rid  midges from your garden?

We’ve moved into a new house, and lo and behold, there seems to be a permanent midge mist over our lawn. Is there anyway to dispel this annoying nimbus of biting insect pain? I thought for a while that an ultra violet style electric zap-trap might do the job, but having bought a cheap version, they don’t seem to care about the light.

Martin Boyle answers:Eliminating midges from your garden area!

Knowing why type midges would help. If the lawn is the culprit, could be a robust thatch layer (dead grass parts on the soil surface) could be providing a breeding or at least resting spot. Cleaning out the thatch might help.

Also try insecticidal soap. It is harmless to people and plants unless misapplied (read label) but rather nasty on soft bodied insects.

Here’s a site from Australia that might help:


The Midge Fact File

Biting Midges are not sand flies;
They are present on all continents except Antarctica;
The adults are about 1 – 2 mm long, much smaller than the related mosquito;
Generation time – ie life cycle from egg to adult, is probably not less than eight weeks;
Estuarine Midges do not breed in the grass, trees or in soil or sand in the garden. They only harbour in these areas;
They are not known to be vectors of any human disease in Australia;
In overcast humid weather, they are known to bite all day and night.
Only the female bites: She needs a blood meal to fertilise her eggs. They are known as pool feeders because they use their proboscis like a saw to create a tiny hole in the skin into which a pool of blood can flow. Saliva is injected into the pool to help the flow of blood. It is this saliva that causes the allergic reaction and itching.
You should remember that Biting Midge numbers increase around the time of the full and new moons. It is advisable not to plan outdoor functions that coincide with these times.
Biting Midges can penetrate ordinary fly screens.

Useful Tips

Personal reaction to bites varies from a slight redness which disappears in half an hour or less, to severe inflammation. If you react rapidly and the swellings are small, you are reasonably immune so treatment may not be needed. Swilling and itch will soon go away.

For these less severe cases, the following tips may help reduce the effects of bites:

A hot bath may provide temporary relief;
Anti itching creams or lotions from the chemist are quite effective. Do not apply them when the skin is broken;
Some insect repellents also give relief to the bite, providing the individual’s skin is not sensitive to the repellent.
It has been observed that Vitamin B1 (Thiamine Hydrochloride) taken over a period of more than 30 days before exposure to midges, can reduce the severity of some people’s reaction to bites. (This is not true of everyone and consult your doctor before taking any vitamins)
However, if you react hours or days later to a bite, whether you felt it or not, your immunity is poor and you are likely to be more severely affected. If your reaction is very severe, see your doctor.

How you can protect yourself?

Anything you can do to reduce humidity, increase light and air movement will make your house and garden less attractive to midges.

Closely mown lawns, sparse vegetation around your house and minimal surface water in the garden will decrease humidity, increase air movement so as to minimise the resting places for midges.
Avoid gardening or watering in the afternoon and early morning.
Increase air movement in the house by using electric fans can effectively create an area unsuitable for Biting Midges as their activity reduces in wind speeds over 6-8km/hr.
Spraying residual (surface) insecticide on your flyscreens will help deter midges from entering your home.
Burning mosquito coils inside can also reduce numbers.
Most insect repellents are effective against midges and should be used whenever you are outside the house, alternatively an equal part mixture of baby oil, Dettol and Eucalyptus oil is useful.
Long sleeve shorts and long trousers made of closely woven materials give good protection. When gardening, a hat and gloves are also a big help.
Reducing Midge Activity in your Yard

To avoid the heat of the day, midges hide underneath the leaves of the plants and shrubs in your garden. These areas can be treated by applying a fine mist of insecticide on the leaves.

Reminder: Re-apply the insecticide after heavy rain or when midge activity increases.

Chemical Control Tips:

Natural Insecticides (ie. Pyrethrum) are available from most plant nurseries and hardware stores. Pyrethrum has little residual capacity, so applications may be needed on a regular (weekly) basis during problem periods.
Chemical Insecticides (Common garden sprays- Diazinon, Fenthion and, for a longer lasting effect, Permethrin) are effective.
Organic InsecticidesIf you are reluctant to use chemicals in your garden, organic insecticides can be made up and applied. These will be capable of killing the adult midges, however repeated applications may be necessary.

Some Useful organic insecticide formulations are:

Garlic Spray

85g unpeeled garlic
2 tablespoons mineral oil
600ml water and 7g of soap dissolved in solution
mix solution and place in trigger sprayer.

Derris Spray

120g soap in 4.5 litres of water solution
mix in 60g of derris powder (from garden suppliers) mix additional 4.5 litres of water
dilute entire mixture in 12 litres of water and place in trigger sprayer.

Out Door Repellents

Gardening or hosting a barbecue?- Parrafin oil or perfumed lamp oil can be mixed with either Citronella or Lavender oil and burned in ‘Polynesian’ bamboo lamp burners placed upwind of your activity.

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Plant Diseases In Crops

November 26, 2012 3:57 pm
posted by Martin Boyle

Richard asks…

Plant Diseases

Plant Diseases in a simplified community such as a cornfield are usually more vulnerable to harm from insects and plant diseases than a more complex, natural community such as a grassland?

I have been trying to find the correct answer to this question, but after reading the book (crappy book) I cant find anything and I NEVER ask for homework help, but please someone. This is the last question and I cant even begin to formulate a somewhat correct answer!
Thanks for the great answers guys. I am a Computer Sciences major, and the environmental class is a requirement! I can logically get through most of this stuff on my own, but this one just eluded me!

Martin Boyle : Plant Diseases!

Lets start with the grass land or, in the US, prairie. In a healthy prairie ecosystem, there is about 120 different plant species. All of the different species have different defense abilities to ward off plant diseases and insects. Some actually work to protect other species that cannot exist without one another!! Some natural insects of the prairie, such as the tiger beetle, help to protect the plants from invading insects that harm the plants. This is the short answer, but with a variety of plants, insects, and animals in a grassland, it is much more able to resist insect or plant diseases. 

In a field where there is just corn, one species, it is far more suseptable to insect and plant diseases. There is no genetic diversity to resist a rust blite or other diseases. There are not natural insects that use the corn as a host, that can defend the plants from other insects; ie, root bore, etc. Without genetic diversity, a single species can easily be wiped out.


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Your Questions About Red Ants

September 30, 2012 7:57 pm
posted by Martin Boyle

Susan asks…

Help, please! very big red ants! millions!?

We expanded our porch. I’m assuming we must’ve disturbed a large nest of really big red ants.
I seen them usually at night – maybe 30 – and they usually run when i turn the porch light on.
Well, last night, I went outside and did not turn on the porch light. I was in slippers & pj pants; and it felt like I was walking on gravel. I thought, “Why does the porch feel so crunchy?” There was a lighter on the table and so I lit it to find what looked like MILLIONS of BIG red ants!
I was blocked from my front door because there were soooo many! They started to come after me! I jumped up and down and swiped my pants, grabbed a broom that was there and continuously swiped (while listening to them smack against the car – eeewwww!) until I cleared a path for me to get back in my house.
It was soooo disgusting and traumatizing!!!
I went to bathroom in case there were any on me b/c I didn’t want any to bite my kids, and sure enough some were there – I swiped them and stomped them dead.
I can’t imagine if I had walked onto my porch w/o slippers on, as I have from time to time. I could’ve died being stung by that many poisonous ants!

So, I have a baby, 2 kids, and a cat. I’m afraid of these big red ants getting into my home and biting my kids. They’re huge! and red ants are poisonous.

So my question is: how do we get rid of them – quick & forever?!?!

Thank you kindly to anyone that can help me to prevent this from worsening and potentially harming my kids!

Martin Boyle answers:

That sounds awful! You poor thing! Red ants are a huge problem. Often people confuse red ants and the more harmless argentine ants
There is a tool for differentiating between ants here:

If you are certain that they are red (fire) ants then you are right to be cautious because the bites are painful and some people are sensitive to their poison. Depending on where you live these are registered pests – I believe that in California you must report infestations and they are dealt with for you.

You should first try to locate the nest- they are often built under cover so it makes sense that you may have disturbed it when you redid your porch. It could be open in this case, which will make getting rid of them easier.
There are a few ways that i’ve heard of to deal with the problem, I’m not sure which work the best, but I would probably try several.

You can buy specific red ant bait/killer from hardware stores, i have read that when the ants eat this and go back to their nest they infect the other ants

Pour hot water with salt and pepper down the nest (this works with many nesting pests)

put peppermint oil near the house etc as this repels them.

Apparently if you leave out water with cornmeal in it the ants are attracted to it and when they consume it it swells in their stomach and kills them.

All easy enough to try I guess!

Good luck!

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Your Questions About Gardening Pests Grasshoppers

September 13, 2012 5:53 pm
posted by Martin Boyle

Sharon asks…

Need advice on organic and/or Eco-friendly pest control for vegetable garden?

I’ve got a nice vegetable garden, but grasshoppers and other insects are going after my broccoli plants something fierce. I’d rather not use chemical insecticides to stop them. Does anyone have any advice on how to protect my plants without resorting to Raid? I’ve heard of making solutions with dish soap and other household items; that’s the sort of stuff I’m looking for.

Martin Boyle answers:

Controlling insect pests organically is multi faceted-there is no magic bullet

Keep the soil healthy and that keeps the plants healthy-pest insects prey on weak plants and will avoid healthy plants.

Realize that 95% of all insects are either neutral or beneficial

Know that your plants can lose 70% of their leaves to insect damage and still be fine


hand picking and manually killing insect pests is amazing effective
soap sprays for soft bodied pests such as aphids

hang a humming bird feeder in your garden as they eat many kinds of pest insects

Have habitat for beneficial insects such as a small plot of tall weeds that have flowers like coriander or Queen Anne’s Lace as beneficial insect like to eat the pollen from such plants. Also have water sources for these insects.

Row covers are great at excluding insects. I use thousands of feet of these on my farm but they have to go on as soon as seed/seedlings are planted.

It takes many years to get a garden environment into balance so you don’t have too many pest insects (nor so few that the beneficial critters have nothing to eat). You will have damage that looks worse than it is for the next few years but resist using poisons (including organic) as this will set you back about 5 years for each application and keep you on the toxic chemical treadmill.

Mary asks…

What are ladybugs used in the garden for?

I see usually this time of year, the nursery are selling bags of lady bugs. What for? I have alot of flower beds, and vegetable garden. Do I need ladybugs? I’m assuming they are for some type of pest control, we notice this year MANY grasshoppers-what is up with that?? In Idaho.

Martin Boyle answers:

Many people forget that ladybugs fly so they tend not to stick around if conditions are not ideal. They are voracious eaters and are very patient aphid killers, neat to watch! If you have grasshoppers, try and get some praying mantis cocoons, keep them out of direct weather and they will hatch mid spring. They tend to stick around and are one of the smartest and most efficient predators I’ve ever seen.

The easiest and cheapest way to kill aphids without killing everything else in your garden is to mix up a mild solution of water and dish soap, put it in a spray bottle and spray down the affected plants.

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Martin Boyle
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