Easy Identification for Leafcutter Bees

Easy Identification for Leafcutter Bees

In a garden with a variety of flowers, pollinators will be abundant.  Sometimes we don’t always recognize the specific pollinator when we see it, but there are some native pollinators that leave other signs of their activity. One of our medium-sized native bees will leave a distinctive calling card of recent activity in our landscape.

Leafcutter bees have collected circular notches from the edges of a redbud tree. Photo by Beth Bolles, UF IFAS Extension Escambia County.

If you see some of the leaves of trees and shrubs with distinct circular notches on the edges of the leaves, you can be sure the Leafcutter bee is present.  The females collect the leaf pieces to make a small, cigar-shaped nest that may be found in natural cavities, such as rooting wood, soil, or in plant stems.  Each nest will have several sections in which the female places a ball of pollen and an egg.  The emerging larvae then have a plentiful food source in order to develop into an adult bee.

When identifying a leafcutter bee in your landscape, look for a more robust bee with dark and light stripes on the abdomen.  These bees also have a hairy underside to their abdomen where they carry the pollen.  When loaded with pollen their underside will look yellow.

Leafcutter bees are solitary bees that are not considered aggressive.  A sting would only be likely if the bee is handled.  Your landscape will have many plants that a leafcutter may use for nesting material.  The pollinating benefits of these bees far outweigh any cosmetic injury to the plant leaf margins.

Visit Featured Creatures to see a photo of the leaf pieces made into a nest.

Integrated Pest Management: The Basics

Integrated Pest Management: The Basics

Integrated Pest Management or ‘IPM’ is a sustainable approach to managing plant pests by using several different methods to cause the least harm to people, property, and the environment. IPM focuses on the management of problems rather than their eradication. Using IPM strategies in your garden is one way to ensure its productivity!

Avoiding Pest Problems

Prevention is key to IPM! It is important to select the right plant, for the right place at the right time. It’s also important to select pest-resistant plant varieties and maintain healthy plants through proper watering and fertilization.

  • Plan before you plant. Be sure not to plant in a location not suited for a particular plant. Stressed plants are more susceptible to insects and disease.
  • Start with healthy plants. Do not plant plants with insects or disease.
  • Monitor the lawn and garden regularly. You’ll want to be able to detect a pest problem earlier rather than later.
  • Water and fertilize properly. Too much of either can make plants vulnerable to insects and disease.
  • Encourage beneficial insects in your garden. Learn to recognize the insects in your garden and let the good ones do the work for you!

Recognizing Pest Problems

Depending upon the insect and the life cycle stage they are in, they may look different than we are used to! Here is a photo of the pupal stage of a lady beetle.

Scouting or monitoring the garden or plants in the yard frequently helps detect problems early. Some of the common insects you’ll find in your garden are: aphids, mealybugs, scales, whiteflies, thrips, mites, caterpillars, and stinkbugs. Often times you’ll find damage from the insect before you see the insect itself. Chewed or deformed leaves, sooty mold or a colony of ants scurrying up and down stems are all signs an insect may be present.

Treating Pest Problems

IPM is the best strategy for dealing with pests in the lawn and garden. IPM strategies:

  • Remove affected plant leaves or parts. If an insect or disease is heavily concentrated in an area, you can reduce or eliminate the problem by simply removing it.
  • Pick insects off by hand. Be sure to dispose of them so they don’t make it back into the garden.
  • Look for beneficial insects. If you see a pest outbreak, try to determine if it is being managed by natural enemies. Many insects such as ladybugs and lacewings prey on pest insects and removing them will just help the pest insects. If you need help identifying insects, contact your local county Extension agent!
  • Try the above strategies before pesticide use. If the problem persists and pesticides are needed, use products that have a reduced-risk to the environment such as insecticidal soaps, horticultural oils, botanicals, or microbials.
  • Read and follow all pesticide label instructions. The label is the law!

For more information on integrated pest management, please visit:

 

Stinkhorn Mushrooms

Stinkhorn Mushrooms

While there are many fungi that produce mushrooms out in the world around us, there are some that are particularly notable. Edible varieties such as the lion’s mane, jelly ear, and chanterelle may be welcome additions to the landscape. We may have to look out for harmful fungi that cause leaf spots on our landscape plants, toxic mushrooms that could cause harm if ingested, or even things like sooty mold that indicate the presence of another problem (plant-damaging insects, in that case). Then, there are stinkhorn mushrooms.

Stinkhorn Mushroom. Photo courtesy of Evan Anderson.

While not poisonous (indeed, some varieties are edible) and not harmful to plants, these mushrooms are usually unwanted by homeowners. Why? There are two things that make them undesirable. First, they emit an odor that may resemble rotting meat, raw sewage, or some delightful combination of the two. Secondly, some species strongly resemble…well, the genus name Phallus may give some indication. Suffice to say that if your landscape mulch appears to have an inappropriate anatomical addition after a cool rain, you may have a stinkhorn mushroom.

These fungi are decomposers of dead plant material, breaking down wood chips, fallen leaves, or old tree stumps. This is an incredibly important role in the ecosystem, but stinkhorns are particularly offensive as they go about doing their job. The reason for their smell, specifically, is because they need to spread their spores. To do so, they attract insects. Unlike many plants which use beautiful flowers with pleasant fragrances to attract pollinators, stinkhorns attract a different crowd of helpers. They exude a slimy mass of spores that are appealing to flies and other invertebrates that enjoy feces, dead animals, and the like. The insects transport spores from place to place as they feed on the slime.

Stinkhorn Mushroom. Photo courtesy of Evan Anderson.

If you smell or see these mushrooms in your yard or landscape, don’t worry. They won’t last long and may be beneficial to the environment. If they become intolerable, stirring mulch up can help discourage their growth, or they can be removed physically (perhaps with a tool or while wearing gloves, at least). If they recur in an area time after time, look out for their early stages of growth, which may resemble puffballs or small eggs, and remove them then. Fungicides tend not to be effective and may harm other beneficial fungi in the environment.

For more information, see our EDIS publication on stinkhorn mushrooms at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/PP345.

Year ‘Round Interest with Juliet™ Cleyera

Year ‘Round Interest with Juliet™ Cleyera

Plants with variegated foliage are very popular landscape selections.  As flowers fade on other plants, the colors of variegated foliage continue to add interest through multiple seasons.

A very adaptable shrub that has been around for a long time, now has a selection with beautiful variegated foliage.  Juliet™ cleyera offers green and white evergreen foliage that can brighten up a garden year around.  New foliage adds additional interest with a maroon tinge.

Variegated foliage of Juliet™ cleyera. Photo by Beth Bolles, UF IFAS Extension Escambia County

Like other selections of Cleyera, Juliet™ needs to be matched to an appropriate spot to accommodate its mature size.  Shrubs will reach about 8 feet in height with a spread of about 5 feet.  Plants may look best when left to grow in a more natural form with light selective pruning.  This shrub is probably not suited for planting in front of home windows but used as a specimen or as a nice screen plant.

Once established, cleyera is a low maintenance plant and is adapted to grow well without routine irrigation.  My home landscape has very well drained soil and I have not needed to apply supplemental irrigation to two cleyera shrubs in over 20 years.  Consider a spot that receives full sun or partial shade for your plants.

An added advantage of cleyera shrubs in general is that bees are attracted to the flowers so it makes an additional nectar source for pollinators in the spring.

Gardening in the Panhandle LIVE Program Summary: Weeds – February 4, 2021

Gardening in the Panhandle LIVE Program Summary: Weeds – February 4, 2021

Gardeners worldwide and throughout time have bemoaned weeds. In Florida, we get to enjoy weeds all year long! Our February Gardening in the Panhandle (GIP) Live episode focused on weeds and weed control. Many homeowners are interested in ways to control weeds and UF/IFAS Extension and your local extension agents are here to help. The following is a summary of the topics we discussed and links for more research-based information on weeds.

What is a Weed?

Many folks come to the extension office holding a plant and ask, “Is this a weed”? Well, whether it is a weed or not is up to the individual, as the only definition for a weed is “a plant out of place”. Bermudagrass and Oxalis are good examples of plants that some try to grow while others try to kill. One person’s weed is another’s wildflower! However, to be clear, plants classified as invasive by UF/IFAS and governmental entities are officially weeds. There are resources to help identify several common plants that are generally considered weeds by most homeowners and landscapers.

Weed ID Links

Common, and aggravating, weeds.

How to Prevent Weeds?

There are some general gardening practices that can help prevent weeds so there is less of a need to control them. A lawn that is healthy is less likely to be invaded by weeds and the use of mulch can greatly reduce weed growth in planting beds. Other practices, like the placement of weed fabrics/cloths are less effective and/or less practical in many garden situations.

Weed Prevention Links

How to Control Weeds?

Once you know and/or decide that what you have is a weed and that it needs to be dealt with, then you have to consider your control options. Prevention, as mentioned above, is key but sometimes you may need to use other methods of control, such as physical, mechanical, and/or chemical means. With chemical weed control, it is important to always read and follow the product label.

Weed Control Links

General dates of common annual weed emergence. Credit: Dr. Ramon Leon, UF/IFAS.

Specific Weed Recommendations

When managing pests, proper identification is key to effective control. Because some weeds are annuals, and present either during the cool or warm season, and others are perennials, proper weed identification can provide a more detailed control strategy. Use the weed ID links above and the document links below for more precise, and effective, weed management.

Species-Specific Control Links

 

If you need additional assistance with weed control, please contact your local county extension office. Please tune in for future GIP LIVE episodes for more research-based information on gardening topics.

Winter Watering Concerns

Winter Watering Concerns

Plants need water. This isn’t an outrageous insight, but the details behind this statement can be more complicated than it might seem. While it is true that plants, like all living things, need water to survive, they don’t all need the same amount and they may need more or less at different times. For a healthy landscape, garden, container planting, or lawn, it’s important to pay attention to the little quirks of watering that may not be immediately obvious.

During the wintertime, temperatures are lower and days are shorter. Less heat and sunlight means water will evaporate much more slowly and the soil will stay wetter. With less heat and sunlight, plants grow at a much slower rate (if at all). This means that irrigation systems set for summertime watering are probably going to keep conditions too damp for many plants during the winter. For example, a St. Augustinegrass lawn might only be able to survive 1 to 5 days without irrigation or rain in the summer, but the same lawn can last 8 to 28 days between waterings in the winter. Consider adjusting your irrigation system or watering schedule to account for seasonal differences. Remember also that a practiced eye can tell when a lawn needs water – folding or curled blades of grass, a dulling of color from bright green to bluish-gray, and footprints that remain in turf rather than springing back are signs of drought stress. Before these signs show up, it may not be necessary or beneficial to water.

Snails love moisture, and an abundance of them may be a sign of too much irrigation.

If plants are overwatered, they often show different signs of distress. Lawns may have more issues with fungal diseases or become patchy, which can let weeds begin to take over. Ornamental plants such as shrubs and trees might show signs of nutrient deficiency or begin to drop leaves, appearing sparse and unhealthy. You may notice an increase in moisture-loving pests as well, such as slugs or snails. Check for watering issues if you notice any of these symptoms.

Cooler weather can be a good time to get outside and do regular maintenance on irrigation systems and plantings. Replace or unclog malfunctioning nozzles, patch

Moisture held against the base of a tree by mulch can eventually damage the plant.

holes in water lines, and adjust irrigation heads that may no longer be pointed in the right direction. Prune back plants that have grown into irrigation sprinkler patterns and may disrupt even watering. Put in new or replacement plants and make any adjustments needed to their irrigation. Lastly, add mulch around plants. This can help retain soil moisture, even out changes in soil temperature, suppress weed growth, and add organic matter to the soil as mulch breaks down. Avoid piling mulch against the base of plants, however, or it will hold moisture against the plant and can promote the growth of molds and other fungi.

Improperly placed or calibrated sprinklers can cause problems.

For more information on watering, there is a wealth of knowledge online. The Florida Friendly Landscaping program has a lot to read on the topic: https://ffl.ifas.ufl.edu/handbook/Water_Efficiently_vSept09.pdf

The University of Florida EDIS publications cover many watering topics as well: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_landscape_irrigation

And, as always, contact your local extension office for help as well!