Photo credit Lyle J. Buss, UF/IFAS
The unwanted guest- Flea beetle
Having trouble with flea beetles? Tired of them showing up unannounced? Do not be alarmed here are a few tips to get rid of the unwanted guest in your garden.
Description: Flea beetles vary in appearance, where colors range from black to tan, with other, brighter colors mixed. They may also have a solid, striped, or spotted pattern depending on the species. Beetles are tiny with large hind legs which allow them to jump like fleas when disturbed.
Lifecycle: These unwanted guests will overwinter as adults in the soil or beneath plant debris and become active in early spring when temperatures reach 50°F, and begin feeding on weeds or early-planted crops. Eggs are laid by adult flea beetles normally around May in the soil or at the base of host plants. After 7-14 days eggs will hatch and larvae will feed and develop on various plant parts. They pupate in the soil for 11-13 days before emerging as adults.
Host plants: Some species attack a wide range of plants, while others target only certain plant families. (Table 1). In the garden, several vegetable crops are eaten by these pests, particularly those in the Brassica family.
Table 1: Common flea beetles and host plants.
Scouting: Adult flea beetles are particularly active on warm, sunny days. To identify damages, scout every 1-2 days in newly planted fields, since it is easier to identify the damages than to see the beetles themselves. Flea beetle populations can be monitored with yellow sticky traps.
Damage: Adult beetles feed on foliage, producing shot holes in the leaves, especially new leaves which will have a lacy appearance. Additionally, in leafy crops like lettuce or spinach, the holes can reduce the quality of the leaves.
Photo Credits: Jeffery Hahn University of Minnesota
Photo Credit : Jeffery Hahn University of Minnesota.
Management / Control strategies:
- In the spring delay transplanting or planting by a couple weeks if possible.
- In the fall, till the garden to uncover any hiding flea beetles.
- Plant “push” or repellant crops such as catnip, sage, mint, hyssop, nasturtium, and basil.
- Use a “trap crop” such as radishes, taking the pest’ focus off more valuable plants.
- Dusting leaves with plain talcum powder repels flea beetles on tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and other plants.
- Insecticides may be used early in the season.
- Water deters adult flea beetles. Any watering should be done in mid-day.
- Planting after adults have emerged or crop rotation can help minimize flea beetle damage.
- Apply commercially available nematodes that feed on flea beetle eggs, larvae, and pupae.
Supporting information for this article can be found in the UF/IFAS EDIS publications EENY-721/IN1238: Flea Beetles of the Genus Altica: Altica spp. (Insecta: Coleoptera: Chrysomelid) (ufl.edu); https://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/ORN/BEETLES/flea_beetle.html and https://extension.uga.edu/content/dam/extension/programs-and-services/integrated-pest-management/documents/insect-pdfs/fleabeetles.pdf
Deer fly trap. Photo credit: Russ Mizell
Recently, I’ve been asked about a deer fly trapping method that I wrote about a number of years ago. So, here it is. This aggravating insect is active now.
Deer flies, which are in the horsefly family, are annoying as they repeatedly and persistently dive for their victims until they inflict a painful bite.
Dr. Russ Mizell, now retired UF/IFAS Extension entomologist, experimented with a method to trap this insect. Mizell wanted to identify the optimum shape, size, color and speed to attract deer flies. If successful, he could temporarily remove a deer fly population long enough to enjoy an outdoor gathering without being bothered by deer flies.
Mizell said he started the research as a high school science project with his son but “it got so interesting, I just kept doing it.”
Deer flies wait for prey to walk before attacking. So, they are highly attracted to movement.
With this in mind, Mizell and his son decided the best way to snare deer flies was to “troll” for them from a slow-moving vehicle. Working in spring and summer when deer flies are most prominent, they set out to discover what kind of trap worked best.
They built a test platform on the hood of their vehicle that could troll seven different shapes at once. They ambled along in deer fly-infested countryside for set periods of one to five minutes, testing pyramids, squares, balloons, plant containers and other shapes, all coated with Tanglefoot (commercially available sticky spray for insects), then counting immobilized prey. They tried black, tan, blue and shapes of other colors suspended from various heights.
The trap that enticed the most deer flies proved to be a 6-inch flowerpot painted bright blue and coated with Tanglefoot. This trap captured as many as 30 deer flies in a one-minute test. It worked best when suspended three to six feet above the ground and trolled no faster than 10 feet per second or about 7 miles per hour.
The traps are remarkably effective, Mizell said. “Many times, after running the traps through an area, we found there were no deer flies left,” he said. “You trap them out for a short period until they repopulate the area.”
The traps also work when attached to a baseball cap and trolled by the hat’s wearer. But instead of attaching a flowerpot to your cap, you could attach a blue drink cup painted with Tanglefoot.
Despite its effectiveness, its aesthetic appeal leaves something to be desired.
For more information including instructions and pictures of how to make a deer fly trap visit the below site. http://entomology.ifas.ufl.edu/pestalert/deerfly.htm
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.
Supporting information for this article can be found in the UF/IFAS EDIS publications (Managing Imported Fire Ants in Urban Areas) visit https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/lh059 and Red Imported Fire Ant, Solenopsis Invicta Buren (Insecta: Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Myrmicinae) https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/IN352.
As you garden this fall, check out the North Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide, compiled by UF/IFAS Leon County Extension.
Getting into vegetable gardening, but don’t know where to start?
Even experienced gardeners know there’s always more to learn. To help both beginners and advanced gardeners find answers to their questions, the UF/IFAS Leon County Extension Office put together the North Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide. It incorporates multiple resources, including articles, planting calendars, photos, and UF/IFAS EDIS publications.
The North Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide covers the many aspects of vegetable gardening, including how to get started, site selection, insects and biodiversity in the garden, soil testing, composting, cover crops in the garden, irrigation, and more.
You can click here to view the digital version of the guidebook. We also have physical copies of the guide available at the UF/IFAS Leon County Extension Office (615 Paul Russell Rd., Tallahassee, FL 32301).
Happy fall gardening!
Coastal plain honeycombhead blooms through the summer and early fall on local beaches. Photo credit, Bob Pitts, National Park Service
Over my years of leading people on interpretive trail hikes, I have learned it is particularly important to know the names of the plants that are in bloom. These flowers are eye-catching, and inevitably someone will ask what they are. In fact, one of my favorite wildflower identification books is categorized not by taxonomy, but by bloom color—with a rainbow of tabs down the edge of the book for easy identification.
Wildflower identification can be tough, but color-coded guidebooks are really helpful! Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson, UF IFAS Extension
In our coastal dunes right now, several plants are showing off vibrant yellow blooms. Seaside goldenrod, coreopsis, and other asters are common. Rarer, and the subject of today’s post, is the Coastal Plain Honeycombhead (Balduina angustifolia). It has bright yellow flowers, but often gets more notice due to its unusual appearance when not in bloom. The basal leaves are bright green and similar in shape and arrangement to a pine cone or bottlebrush (albeit a tiny one), sticking straight up in the sand. The plants are typically found on the more protected back side of primary dunes or further into secondary dunes, a little more inland from the Gulf.
When not in bloom, the plant resembles a green pinecone planted in the sand. Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson, UF IFAS Extension
The plant plays a special role in beach ecology, as a host plant for Gulf fritillary butterflies and the Gulf Coast solitary bee (Hesperapis oraria). The bee is a ground-dwelling pollinator insect that forages only in the barrier islands of Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. The species is currently the subject of a University of Florida study, as the endemic bee’s sole source of nectar and pollen is the honeycombhead flower. As of publication date, no bee nests have been discovered. Researchers are interested in learning more about the insect’s life cycle and nesting behaviors to better understand and protect its use of local habitats. Based on closely related species, it is believed the Gulf Coast solitary bee builds a multi-chambered nest under the soft sands of the dunes.
Adult female Hesperapis oraria foraging on coastal plain honeycombhead (Balduina angustifolia). Photograph by John Bente, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Park Service.
While the honeycombhead plant is found in peninsular Florida and coastal Georgia, the bee has been identified only in a 100 km² area between Horn Island, MS, and St. Andrews Bay, FL. Luckily for the bee, large swaths of this land are preserved as part of Gulf Islands National Seashore and several state parks. Nonetheless, these coastal dune habitats are threatened by hurricanes, sea level rise, and development (outside the park boundaries). Due to its rarity and limited habitat, a petition has been submitted to the Fish and Wildlife Service for protection under the Endangered Species Act.
While most people are familiar with the European honey bee, the domesticated insect that pollinates our crops and provides us with honey, there are plenty of other species of bees and their relatives out there. Most of them are harmless, spending their time quietly pollinating plants, including our crops. Their presence in the landscape, however, may cause some alarm, as it can be difficult for the untrained eye to distinguish between aggressive species and those that are innocuous.
The entrance to a miner bee burrow.
Homeowners may occasionally note small mounds of soil in sandy areas of their lawns. Sometimes sporting a small hole in the center, these are the nesting sites of solitary, ground-nesting bees or hornets. Miner bees or digger bees build underground chambers, usually in well-drained, otherwise bare areas of sandy soil. Multiple bees may choose to dig their nests in the same location, though each bee makes its own tunnel and they do not live communally. Each bee lays her eggs in the nest she has excavated. She gathers pollen to feed the young when they hatch, stocks the larder, and leaves. When the young emerge from the nest, they fly away and do not remain; they will dig their own nests when they are ready to reproduce. While there is no need to control these insects (they serve as fantastic pollinators), the mounds of soil they make may be aesthetically displeasing to some people. Keeping a healthy lawn with no bare patches can deter miner bees from nesting in an area. Irrigation sprinklers can also help to keep the ground moist; these bees prefer dry soil, so it may keep them away. Care must be taken not to over-water a lawn, however!
A cicada killer wasp. Photo credit: Division of Plant Industry
Another species of note is the cicada killer hornet. Also known as the giant ground hornet, these insects grow to a size of about an inch and a half in length. Instead of pollen, they capture cicadas to feed their young. Like the miner bee, though, they are not harmful. Females do possess a stinger which they use to hunt their prey. Males may try to warn people or animals away from their burrows by acting aggressive, but they have no stingers. Some may see the large size of the cicada killer and wonder if the so-called “murder hornet” has made its way from Washington state to Florida, but as of this writing it has not. Unless you are a cicada, you have nothing to fear.
One ground-dwelling hornet that does warrant some concern is the yellowjacket. These are communal hornets, living in hives that are often build underground. Yellowjackets are known for their bad attitudes, attacking anyone who disturbs the entrance to their nest. They can be beneficial, being predators of many other insects including plant pests. A colony located too close to human dwellings or areas of activity is most often a nuisance, however. Any attempts to control yellowjacket nests should be done at night when they are less active. Protective clothing is recommended even then. Large or difficult to reach nests may require the attention of a certified pest control company.
For more information on these topics, see our EDIS publications:
Miner Bees: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/in912
Cicada Killers: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/in573