CNHI News Service
As the lack of rain and temperatures continue to rise, so do the sightings of grasshoppers and other bugs that thrive in dry, hot weather.
Folks trying to keep their homes or gardens bug-free are finding daily challenges in controlling four-legged insects and other pests.
“The grasshoppers are really bad this year,” said Tahlequah Farmers Co-Op General Manager Roger Saunders. “A lot of people have just kind of given up [on maintaining their gardens] because of the heat, but a lot of them are still fighting a little bit. The grasshoppers and the dry weather have been a problem. We did have a lot of blister beetles, but we haven’t had as much of them lately. We had them really bad a couple of weeks ago.”
To create a defense against the slender, winged insects like grasshoppers or the elongated soft-bodied blister beetle known for its defensive secretion of a blistering agent, Saunders said customers have been using Cyonara Law & Garden Insect Control.
“It’s just an insecticide that you can use on your garden to help control bugs, especially grasshoppers,” he said.
Cyonara Lawn & Garden Insect Control, according to online descriptions, is a broad spectrum Lambda-Cyhalothrin product used to control 130-plus insects and pests like spider mites, aphids, fleas, and chinch bugs that prey upon gardens, roses, flowers, trees and shrubs.
Heaven Sent Food & Fiber owner Coleen Thornton has been battling both blister beetles and grasshoppers, and has had ongoing skirmishes with aphids and squash bugs. She suggests use of an organic grasshopper and cricket control known as Semaspore Bait and a botanical insecticide called PyGanic Crop Protection as sources of defense.
“The organic Semaspore bait has a bacterial infusion or an inoculate in it that’s the same as what they get when it rains a lot,” said Thornton. “It’s one of their natural enemies. They eat it and get sick. Grasshoppers frequently cannibalize each other, and when they do, it spreads. You can use it to surround your garden or orchard or whatever you’re wanting to protect. Chickens and guineas do a good job of controlling grasshoppers and bugs.”
Because of the weather conditions, the higher nitrogen levels in the soil have created a problem with plant lice for Thornton.
“This is the first year I’ve ever had problems with aphids,” Thornton said. “That will happen when you have higher nitrogen levels in the soil. They’ll suck the good juices right out of the plants basically. If you don’t get a hold of them right away, they will reproduce, and they don’t need a male to reproduce. You can have a massive problem, and it really, really cuts down your production.”
Thornton stressed the importance of not giving a plant more fertilizer than what’s needed.
“Don’t ever over-fertilize, especially with things like okra,” she said. “When it has extra fertilizer, you tend to provide what attracts the aphids.”
The high population of grasshoppers is due to the lack of extended cold stretches earlier in the spring, said OSU Extension Agriculture Educator Roger Williams.
“The beauty of it is, you can spray most all other bugs and kill it, but the grasshopper – that’s another story,” he said. “You pretty much need to put a bait out for them.”
Williams provided instructions for a homemade grasshopper bait. The ingredients call for 20 pounds of wheat bran or cornmeal, 2 gallons of water, 1 quart of vegetable oil, 1 quart of molasses and 1 quart of Liquid Sevin or Sevin XLR. Then mix the water, oil and molasses. Add 1 tablespoon of liquid dish soap to the water and oil; mix for emulsification before stirring in the Liquid Sevin. Slowly add the water mixture to the bran and mix together. Let the mixture stand for 24 hours to allow for complete absorption.
“After you get that mixed up to a cookie dough consistency, you then put that bait around your garden [in small piles],” he said. “The thing about it is you’ve got to put it somewhere where the ground won’t wick away all the moisture.”
Taking the sting out of things
Area residents are reporting wasps are prevalent this year, especially in the rural areas. Red wasps are more aggressive than their black cousins, and they tend to build nests under eaves and on porches, where they pose problems for humans. In the current drought-like conditions, they will also seek water in swimming pools, bird baths and outdoor spigots.
According to www.wasp-control.com, hindering free-flying wasps can be as simple as removing their favorite food source away from home. The site suggests avoiding planting sweet, succulent plants that contain lots of sap or nectar away from the house, and planting fruit trees upwind from the residence. It’s also important to keep the area clear of garbage. Placing water baths and nectar feeders upwind is also suggested.
Most wasps will only nest where they can find shelter away from wet and overpopulated conditions. To prevent nesting, deny access by using insect mesh to cover air bricks and soffits and treat timbers with wasp repellent. Repellent can be made by mixing one part eucalyptus oil, one part menthol and one part citronella in teak oil. It should be applied sparingly.
Farmers Co-op and other stores have poisons available that will kill wasps that have already nested. Before using a pesticide, put on protective clothing, gloves and goggles. It’s generally best to use the spray at night, when the wasps are less active. Spray the nest directly and thoroughly, and leave the area. Give the poison time to kill all the wasps – usually overnight – before checking for activity. If all the wasps are dead, dispose of the nest, as wasps often rebuild in the same spot.
Many people recommend mint-based wasps killers, which are less poisonous to people and pets. You can also build a small fire under the nest; the smoke will force the wasps to leave the nest, at which point it can be removed. Another removal method is placing a bucket of boiling water beneath the nest and knocking the nest into the water with a long stick, which is then used to stir the nest into mush until any larvae are destroyed. Shop vacs with long wands can also be used.
Whatever method you use, always wear protective clothing. And those who are allergic to venom should call a professional exterminator.
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