Sometimes the tiniest creatures can freak you out! One creature that may give you the chills is the pseudoscorpion. Pseudoscorpions are arachnids like other traditional scorpions, but they lack the stinging tail. They can range from 2 to 8 millimeters in length, so they often go unnoticed. Pseudoscorpions have four pairs of legs and two body regions. In addition to their legs, they possess a pair of pincer-like claws called pedipalps. Pseudoscorpions are light brown in color and are teardrop shaped similar to a tick. Their pedipalps are about twice as long as their body regions.
Pseudoscorpions are often found in bathroom sinks and tubs and are not dangerous. They eat small arthropods such as caterpillars, flies, ants, beetle larvae, and booklice. Most species are tropical, but they can be found throughout the continental United States.
Female pseudoscorpions produce 20 to 40 eggs, at one time, that they carry beneath their abdomens. After the eggs hatch, the young stay with their mother for several days. Sometimes they ride on her back during this time. Adult pseudoscorpions can live up to four years.
If anything, pseudoscorpions are beneficial, as they are predators of nuisance insects. It is not recommended to use pesticides to control these arachnids.
This article was written by Kacey Aukema, University of Florida/IFAS Extension – Walton County.
I recently met with a home gardener who brought in tomato plants showing strange symptoms on the leaves. Together we puzzled over the odd leaf-curling symptoms that were affecting their tomato beds, but not other areas of the garden. Upon further investigation it was revealed that hay, used as mulch, had recently been spread around the tomatoes, but not in other areas of the garden. It quickly became apparent that the symptoms were likely related to herbicide residual on the hay that was used. The herbicide aminopyralid was the potential culprit. In this case the residual herbicide was not enough to outright kill the growing tomato plants. However, it was interfering with their growth and development and is a cautionary tale reminding us how important careful sourcing of hay used in mulch or compost can be.
What is aminopyralid and how does residual herbicide affect non-target plants through mulch, compost, etc.?
Aminopyralid is a herbicide active ingredient found in several popular pasture products such as GrazonNext™, Milestone™, Chapparral™ and similar products. This and other similar chemicals have residual activity and can be retained in plant tissues, animal manure, and soil, which makes them a very useful for controlling certain troublesome broadleaf weeds in grass pastures for an extended period of time. Unfortunately, this residual activity increases the potential for causing trouble in vegetables or other crops when hay or animal manure from aminopyralid treated pastures is mistakenly used for mulch, compost, etc. In Florida, aminopyralid containing pasture herbicides are often used as the “go to” for control of hard to control weeds like horsenettle and tropical soda apple which are potentially toxic to livestock. Tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant are in the same genus (Solanum) as those weeds and are therefore very susceptible to this herbicide as are many other vegetable and other broadleaf crops.
Residual aminopyralid damage on a tomato plant. Photo Credit: Kacey Aukema, University of Florida/IFAS Extension – Walton County
How can I know if hay is safe to be used for mulch or compost?
Before acquiring hay to be used as mulch or to compost for vegetable beds, be sure to ask if the hay is free of herbicides with residual activity. Find out what was sprayed on the field in the last two seasons before the hay was harvested. Given that hay destined to be used as mulch or compost is usually old and spoiled, management history of a particular hay bale is likely to be hard to pin down. Do not trust hay to be used for mulch or compost in vegetable beds if prior spray management details are unknown. Also consider that well-stored hay may retain residual herbicide better and for a longer period of time than weathered hay, as the active ingredient is less subject to weathering and biological breakdown.
Those who use broadleaf herbicide products with residual activity such as those containing aminopyralid are subject to follow herbicide label guidelines. For instance, supplemental labeling of GrazonNext HL™ (including FL, AL, and GA) indicates that hay/straw from fields sprayed in the past 18 months should not be used for compost, mulch, or mushroom spawn. When in doubt refer to the label of the particular herbicide product used on hay you purchase for any restrictions and/or reach out to your local county extension agent if you have questions about a specific herbicide product. Relevant use restrictions and considerations like in this example should be conveyed between hay producer and buyer.
Perhaps you already have some hay for mulch/compost with an unclear management history, or you would like to double-check and be sure that it is safe. How could one test it to see if it was safe to use? There is a test called a “bioassay”, conducted by growing susceptible plant seedlings like tomatoes or beans in small pots with the hay/compost/mulch in question incorporated into the potting soil. Then, the test plants can be observed to see if any herbicide symptoms develop to know whether the material is safe to use, before using the hay over a larger area or garden where there would be more risk. For more information on how to conduct a bioassay see: Herbicide Residues, in Manure, Compost, or Hay. Similar in-field bioassays are also recommended when rotating areas out of pasture and into other crops when pasture herbicides with residual activity were used. If susceptible crops like peanuts are grown in areas where such herbicides were used in the recent past they can be damaged, as in this case in an older Panhandle Agriculture Newsletter post.
When used according to label instructions, herbicides with residual activity are very useful for control of broad-leafed weeds in pasture and hay fields and may reduce the spread weeds through seed coming in on purchased hay. However, problems can emerge when hay from fields treated with these products change hands without the use restrictions and considerations being adequately explained. Therefore, caution should be taken by both producer and buyer to avoid damaging sensitive crops when hay or livestock manure are used for mulch or compost.
Turf lawns provide an excellent groundcover that hold soil in place, filter pollutants, and are beautiful. However, turfgrass may not be your first groundcover choice, due to heavy shade, landscape layout, or just personal preference. In that case, there are a lot of alternative groundcovers on the market. To help determine what groundcovers do best under certain conditions and to provide information on lawncare and groundcover maintenance, this month’s Gardening in the Panhandle LIVE! was all about groundcovers.
‘Needlepoint’ Perennial Peanut in a yard. Photo Credit: Daniel Leonard, University of Florida/IFAS Extension – Calhoun County
The University of Florida/IFAS has a long list of publications on alternatives to turfgrass. The comprehensive list can be found at Ask IFAS: Groundcovers.
White clover is a groundcover that may be best suited in a mix with other groundcover species. The publication “White Clover” provides some excellent information on growing this plant.
A number of factors come into play when you are choosing a turfgrass species. Some species are more tolerant of shade than others and maintenance levels are species and variety specific. The “Choosing Grass for Your Lawn” webpages can help answer some common questions. For additional information on turfgrass species a list of EDIS publications and other UF/IFAS websites is available at Ask IFAS: Your Florida Lawn. (Note: Buffalograss is not recommended for Florida.)
Fertilizer is required to maintain a healthy lawn. A list of lawn fertilization publications and links can be found at Ask IFAS: Lawn Fertilizer.
Lawns in the southeast are susceptible to a number of different diseases mostly thanks to our hot and humid weather. But there are some preventative and curative practices you can implement to help keep disease under control. The “Turfgrass Disease Management” publication answers a lot of questions about disease control.
Past episodes of Gardening in the Panhandle LIVE can be found on our YouTube playlist.
Piedmont azalea (Rhododendron canescens) flowers. Photo Credit: Matt Lollar, University of Florida/IFAS Extension – Santa Rosa County
Native azaleas are stunning this time of year. These deciduous shrubs (and sometimes small trees) often go unnoticed until they bloom in the spring. Three species native to Florida are the piedmont azalea (Rhododendroncanescens), the Florida flame azalea (Rhododendron austrinum), and the swamp azalea (Rhododendron viscosum). Piedmont azaleas have whitish to pinkish blooms, Florida flame azaleas have yellow to orange blooms, and the white blooms. All three species have a wonderful honeysuckle-like, sweet fragrance. All three serve as outstanding focal points in the landscape.
Native azaleas and other deciduous azaleas have varying site preferences. Like other azaleas, piedmont and Florida flame azaleas prefer moist, well-drained, acidic soils. However, as the name would suggest, the swamp azalea tolerates wetter locations. All three species prefer partial shade (morning sun and afternoon shade are best) locations and can grow up to 15 feet tall.
Rhododendron x ‘Aromi Sunny-Side-Up’ in bloom. Photo Credit: Matt Lollar, University of Florida/IFAS Extension – Santa Rosa County
In addition to these beautiful native azaleas, a number of deciduous hybrids have been developed. Aromi hybrids have been bred to tolerate heat and humidity. These azaleas were developed from four native species ()from Gene Aromi in Mobile, AL. He developed more than 100 cultivated varieties (also referred to as cultivars). Popular cultivars in the market include ‘Centerpiece’, ‘Aromi Sunrise’, and ‘Aromi Sunny-Side-Up’.
Deciduous azaleas do not require a lot of fertilizer. A controlled release or slow release, acid forming (specifically formulated for azaleas or blueberries) fertilizer is recommended. A fertilizer nutrient ratio of or close to 2-1-1 (N-P-K) should be selected. Plants should be fertilized in spring or early summer, never in the fall or winter.
Written by: Donna Arnold, University of Florida/IFAS Extension – Gadsden County
Have you ever noticed mounds of dirt popping up on your lawn, in your cattle pastures, and other places? You just might be experiencing an ant invasion. The Red Imported Fire Ant, (referred to hereafter as RIFA) came from South America in the early 1900s through the port of Mobile, Alabama. Today, they have spread across the US and have become a serious pest causing significant social, environmental, and economic impacts. RIFA mounds can be seen in well-manicured landscapes, but also can nest around tree roots and stumps, as well as under pavement, buildings, and indoor areas. Although RIFA do prey on flea larvae, chinch bugs, cockroach eggs, ticks and other pests, however the problems they create usually outweigh their benefits.
Red Imported Fire Ant. Photo Credit: University of Florida/IFAS
Size determines the lifespan of RIFA workers. Minor workers may live 30 to 60 days, media workers 60 to 90 days, major workers 90 to 180 days, and queens may live two to six years. Complete lifecycle from egg to adult takes between 22 and 38 days. RIFA are 1/8” to 1/4” long and reddish-brown or black in color.
RIFA usually respond rapidly and aggressively when disturbed. They clamp onto their victims with powerful jaws and sting repeatedly while injecting painful venom. The stings cause a burning sensation and itching blisters that can become infected. Although very uncommon, in severe cases, the stings can produce shock or cause death.
Where one can find RIFA
Winged alates preparing for nuptial flight. Photo Credit: Donna Arnold, University of Florida/IFAS Extension – Gadsden County
RIFA frequently invade home lawns, school yards, athletic fields, golf courses, parks, and other recreational areas. Additionally, electrical equipment and utility housing, home gardens, compost piles, mulched flowerbeds, pavement cracks, and the perimeter of bodies of water must all be considered when choosing a method of control.
Two approaches can be taken to effectively manage RIFA.
Single mound treatments
Area-wide broadcast applications
Six methods of single mound treatment are available.
Mound Drenches. Large volumes of liquid toxic to ants are poured over a mound. Liquids can range from using several gallons of hot water to insecticides mixed with several gallons of water. This method may not reach the queen, therefore, not preventing colony elimination.
Surface Dusts. Similar to mound drenches, a dust or granular insecticide is applied over the top of the mound and then watered into the soil.
Mound Injections. The use of insecticides that may be pressurized and injected into a mound. Often this method is more expensive, but more effective, than mound drenches; however, more time may be required for this method.
Baits. Baits can be used for both individual mound and broadcast applications. A small amount of the bait is sprinkled around the mound and the ants then forage and bring the bait back to the colony to feed on. This method is slower acting, but more effective than drenching, dusting, or fumigating a mound because the workers will feed the bait to the queen and brood, thus gaining effective control of the colony.
Mechanical Control. Certain mechanical and electrical devices are on the market for controlling fire ants, but the efficacy has not been documented.
Home Remedies. Many homeowners will choose to pour boiling water or ignite flammable liquids over a mound. While these methods may bring about control, they are not recommended because they are both very dangerous, not only to humans, but also to the environment. Several other myths often circulate by the media or by way of word of mouth, often times these methods are anecdotal.
Area-wide broadcast applications
Currently, there are only a few products available for broadcast treatment of large areas. These products are either granular insecticides or baits composed of soybean oil and toxicant on a corn grit carrier. These granules are broadcast over a large area and are carried to the colony and fed to nestmates and the queen. This is a very effective application but does present problems because (1) ants may not find it, (2) do not feed upon the bait, and (3) some baits are light sensitive (as with hydramethylnon) and may inactivate before discovery by the ants. Reinfestation of any treated area, whether by broadcast treatment or individual mound treatment may occur.
As a result, other methods such as Biological Control is widely used to mitigate control of the RIFA.