Q: I have large bees drilling holes in the side of my house. What are they?
A: Carpenter Bees drill holes in to wood to lay eggs. Larvae hatch and may attract woodpeckers, further damaging the house. Apply a hornet and wasp spray in to the hole, fill holes with putty or filler, then treat wood with preservative or sealer. To repel carpenter bees or to protect buildings that can not be painted, use an insecticide such as permethrin at structural rates. Read the label before purchase, use and disposal.
Q: What can I use to repel deer flies which seem to be worse this year than in the past?
A: Ohio State has done some research on non-chemical sticky patches placed on the back of hats to trap Deer Flies. Deet can also be effective as a repellant but “should not be applied indiscriminately since human allergies can develop.”
Q: Are there any plants that actually eat mosquitoes?
A: The only carnivorous plants that I am familiar with, the pitcher plant and sun dew, grow in bogs and attract insects with a sweet nectar-like substance. Male mosquitoes are attracted to flowers but females, the ones that bite, are attracted to carbon dioxide. Mosquitoes are best controlled by eliminating breeding habitats of the larvae. Dump out any standing water from outdoor containers including cans, tires and tarps. Clean out gutters, stock fish in ponds and change water in birdbaths weekly. In shallow ponds and ditches use mosquito “Dunk” larvicide available at local garden centers. Protect yourself and use insect repellents safely. Black light bug zappers do not help prevent mosquito problems. These devices generally kill more beneficial insects than pests. Newer “mosquito traps” designed by the CDC for monitoring emit CO2.
Q: Mosquitoes are breeding in my rain barrel. Is there anything that I can use and still use the water to water my garden?
A: Add a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil on the water surface in the rain barrel. This will suffocate the larvae and will be OK if you use the water for vegetables or plants.
Q: A vine is taking over and strangling the trees over 1/4 of an acre. It has orange berries all along the stem. Suggestions?
A: This sounds like Oriental Bittersweet, Celastrus Orbiculatus. Cut plants 6″ form the ground and treat freshly cut stumps with Triclopyr (Ortho Brush B-Gone) in late summer. Pull seedlings and bag or burn berries. See how to control other invasive plants below. Always read the pesticide label.
Multiflora Rose (Rosa Multiflora): Spray foliage before or after flowering with glyphosate (Roundup) or treat freshly cut stumps with glysophate. Mowing prevents establishment.
Poison Ivy (Toxicondendron Radicans): Cut off 6″ above ground level and treat stems with glysophate (Roundup) according to the label directions in mid-June. Treat any sprouts with glysophate in late summer.
Fungus in Mulch
Q: I have some kind of fungus growing on the exterior of my house. It looks like millions of pin-sized, black dots that are raised in texture and grows on the wood siding and the glass windows. It does not wash off with bleach or detergent and if I scrape it with my fingernail it actually feels like tar. Have you ever heard of anything like this, and what can I do to get rid of it? I would like to paint the house this summer but need to find a way to remove the mold first.
A: What you see on the siding are the spore caps of the artillery fungus. The fungus develops in hardwood or shredded bark mulch when temperatures are between 50 and 68 degrees. The fruiting body points itself at a strong light source (sun or reflected light from windows, light colored siding or cars) then propels the spore cap up to 20 feet. Remove mulch and replace with bark nuggets, pine needles, redwood or cypress mulch or gravel. Fungicides are not recommended for control. The spore caps are almost impossible to remove without sanding or scraping.
Q: My husband went in to the mulch bed to turn on the hose when he stepped in a big pile of yellow goo. At first, we thought it may possibly be vomit from a dog. Slowly, every day since then, these patches of bright yellow goo have been continuing to show up in just one of the mulch beds. We have not seen it anywhere else in the yard. It first appears as bright yellow in big bubbly foam like blobs. It shows up only at night, then during the day it turns to a beige color, then grey and then it powders up and hardens, all within 1 to 2 days. Any ideas?
A: Your husband has stepped in a slime mold. It lives on wood and bark mulch but doesn’t really decay the wood. The most common form appears in the evening as a slimy yellow mass about 12″ in diameter (people describe it as looking like something that the dog coughed up). Each mass is actually one large cell and has the ability to move across the mulch! There is not preventative measure for controlling these annoying growths. But they are most common on newly applied mulch. When they appear, simply scoop them up and throw them away. To avoid them in the future, use a different material for mulch. If you have pine bark, switch to hard wood and vice versa.
Q: I have the red cedar chips around all my bushes, but this “growth” is only in one spot. It looks almost like it hatched out of a shell. It starts as a white egg like thing close to the surface. Then it springs out like in the picture. Within hours it is deflated and laying on the ground. Could you tell me what this is? Should I collect all the “eggs” and dispose of them? The fire bush that is closest to them does not seem to be doing too well, is this why?
A: That is a Dog Stinkhorn fungus (Mutinus Caninus). The reason for the name should be obvious. They grown in mulch or soil high in organic matter. They cause no harm to plants. The fungus will continue to appear as long as the weather conditions are right for fruiting.
Wet weather can create a nuisance of insect-life creatures that live in the soil and mulch. Millipedes are one of these that may move in to garages or homes in large numbers when soils become saturated with water or too dry. Millipedes are necessary decomposers and are important to natures food chain. They are a temporary nuisance and can be swept aside and placed back in the grass.
Q: How can I successfully remove weeds? I have tried digging them out several times. I have poured bleach and other vegetation killers on the area but they always come back!
A: Bleach is not an herbicide and should not be used as a vegetation killer. First, you need to identify the weeds, then choose an herbicide, meaning that it will kill all plant material that it comes in contact with. But be sure to read the label. Effectiveness is enhanced by appropriate timing and targeting certain life stages of the plant. Typically, plants are most susceptible around the time of flowering or late summer to fall. Second, you need a plan for sustained weed control. The use of mulch and/or pre-emergent herbicides are options that prevent weeds from starting.
Q: I have a front ditch populated by a number of giant hogweed plants this year. We had one there last year and chopped it down when it got to about 5′ and before it had gone to seed. My son experienced skin irritation after that encounter. My older son has chopped and mowed and kept their size down this year but they are still thriving. Is there some help I can get in permanently removing these plants from my property?
A: Giant Hogweed is being surveyed by the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets however, they do not have immediate plans for removing or eradication. In the short term, you will have to take care of this yourself. Glysophate (Round-Up) is the best chemical for spraying while the plant is actively growing. Glysophate is a non-selective herbicide and will kill any adjacent plants that it comes in contact with. Giant Hogweed is a perennial so it can come back each year even though the flowers or seeds are removed.
Giant Hogweed may cause severe skin irritations. Contact with the sap of the plant may increase the sensitivity of some people’s skin to sunlight. Blisters or blotches are likely to develop when sap comes in to contact with moist skin in the presence of sunlight. Cutting off the flower heads befor they go to seed will prevent the plant from self sowing. If you are cutting back the plant after the seeds have formed, it is important to avoid scattering the seeds. Cut plants after sunset and launder clothing that comes in to contact with plant juices. Even so, the roots of the plant may persist and grow.
Mexican Bamboo Knotweed
Q: How do I kill bamboo?
A: Japanese Knotweed, aka bamboo, is very difficult to control. Cutting the entire patch twice a month from April to frost over the course of 2-3 years may give control. Pile the cut stems where they will dry out. Digging or pulling out plants once a month can also provide some control over a few years. Better results can be expected when combining the above methods with herbicide sprays. Discontinue digging or cutting in late-July then spray with glysophate (Round-Up) in late-August or September. The best time to spray is when the plant is in the flower bud stage. Always read the pesticide label.
Hornets, Wasps and Bees
Q: We have bees around the house. How do we get rid of the hive?
A: Hornets and wasps nest in trees, shrubs or even in the eves and walls of homes. The nests are seasonal and will die out in the fall. They prey on other insects and can be beneficial this way. I spent last week painting my house with my face inches from wasps at times and was not stung once. If no one is allergic to bee stings, you can just leave them alone. If control is necessary, spray or remove the nests in the evening when the temperatures are cool. A strong stream of water from a hose can break apart nests under the eves from a good distance. Aerosol sprays formulated for hornets and wasps may also be used. For nests hidden within walls, insecticide dusts will be carried in better than liquid. Up to four applications of this dust may be necessary over a two week period. If you have a Honeybee hive, leave it alone as it is not threatening anyone’s safety. All bees are beneficial and usually do not bother people if they are left alone. If a honeybee hive is in the walls of a home, you will have to contact an exterminator to remove the bees, honey and comb completely. Otherwise, the honey will mold and possibly stain the walls after the bees are killed. Click the following link for more on stinging insects.
Q: I was in Lewiston Sunday night when suddenly hundreds of ants began flying around! I didn’t think too much of it until I talked to my sister the next day and she said they experienced the same thing in Cheektowaga! Is this a plague?!
A: The Allegany Mound Ant (Brachymyrmex Depilis or Formica Exsectoides) will swarm when reproductive adults are ready to begin new colonies. These swarms may occur after rain storms and may even be synchronized with other colonies.
Gnats in Compost
Q: My compost pile is a breeding ground for mosquitoes. It has been very wet lately. What can I use for a layer to discourage them from breeding?
A: The insects in the compost pile are probably not mosquitoes. They need standing water for the aquatic larvae to live in. The insects you are speaking of are most likely fruit flies. When you add kitchen scraps to the compost, mix them in with the rest of the compost and cover with a layer of leaves, mulch or sawdust.
Q: I was hoping you could give me some advice on how to get rid of some ground bees. Last Monday my father in law and my 3 year old son were playing in our backyard when my son ran through a little grove of trees, lilacs and an oak, and came out screaming and covered in very aggressive bees. My father in law grabbed him and ran towards the house and the bees followed. My father in law is allergic and went straight to the ER. I could not get the bees off my son without stripping the clothes right off of his body. He had at least 9 or 10 stings on him and my father in law had just as many. Everyone is OK but we are reluctant to go back to the swing set. I inquired about professional extermination but we really cannot afford the $100 we were quoted. Is there any advice for removing the bees ourselves? Neither my husband or I are allergic.
A: Use a dust formulation of carbaryl (Sevin) and sprinkle is over the nest then cover the area with moist soil. Do this at dusk as hornets and ground bees are not very active at cool temperatures. It may require additional treatments depending on the size of the nest. Alternatively, just stay away for the remainder of the year. The nest will die out when freezing temperatures return.
Fuzzy Stinging Caterpillars
Q: My granddaughter has a rash on her hands and arms. She has no known allergies but she has been playing with the caterpillars she finds. Could they cause this?
A: Warn your children to avoid handling fuzzy, stinging caterpillars. Some species have spines or hairs that contain an irritant and cause itching, swelling and/or pain when they penetrate the skin. You can try removing the spines with tape on the area affected. Check with your doctor for medication to reduce swelling and itching.
Using Pesticides Safely
Indiscriminate use of pesticides introduces unneeded chemicals in to the environment, puts you at risk of contamination, possibly kills beneficial insects and could lead to pesticide resistance in pest insects. Before choosing an insecticide, ask yourself how much damage you can withstand. If the damage to the plant is only aesthetic, your first options is always to do nothing. To choose the appropriate insecticide, look for the name of the pest and the host plant on the label. Always read the label and follow the directions for application methods.
This publication may contain pesticide recommendations that are subject to change at any time. These recommendations are provided only as a guide. it is always the pesticide applicator’s responsibility, by law, to read and follow all current label directions for the specific pesticide being used. Due to constantly changing labels and product registrations, some of the suggestions given in this writing may no longer be legal by the time you read them. If any information in these recommendations disagrees with the label, the recommendation must be disregarded. No endorsement is intended for products mentioned, nor is criticism meant for products not mentioned. The author and Cornell Cooperative Extension assume no liability resulting from the use of these guidelines.