Horseflies Are Back

Horseflies are building in population here in Southeast Ohio. There are several species of horse flies in Ohio ranging in size from 3/8″ – 1 1/8″ in length. All are aggressive and vicious biters. Horse flies have specialized vision that allows them to see heat; they literally use thermal imaging to locate their hosts. The flies are also able to track large moving objects, particularly dark colored objects, even while the flies are in fast flight. Taken together, their visual acuity allows them to effectively zero in on large, savory, warm blooded animals like cows, deer, people, and of course, horses. Unfortunately for the flies, their visual perception may also cause them to be fooled. A dark colored moving car or tractor that has been warmed by the summer sun looks to a horse fly like a dark, galloping horse, which is why they sometimes chase me when I am on the tractor!

There are a number of things you can do to keep yourself off the horse fly menu. If possible, avoid horse fly habitat. Their larvae feed on decaying organic matter in moist soil, so horse flies are frequently found in swamps or near streams and ponds. If you can’t avoid their habitat, schedule your activities to avoid the flies. Horse flies are active during the day; they can’t find their hosts at night. So, evening pool parties will be free of horse flies. If you must venture into horse fly habitat during the day, remain alert and take precautions. Most flies are silent flyers while horse flies produce a loud, buzzing sound. When you hear the buzz, locate the fly because horse flies love to land stealthily for a quick bite. However, avoid running; remember that horse flies are attracted to moving objects! Wear light clothing. Finally, while insect repellents may provide some protection, horse flies are very good at finding unprotected skin. Long sleeves, long pants, and neckerchiefs can help to thwart the flies.

16th Ag and Livestock Field Day scheduled

   Plans are finalized for the 16th Ag and Livestock Field Day in Morgan County. This year I am pleased to announce that our host farm will be Wiseman Livestock farm, home of Russ, Dee and Austin Wiseman. The field day will be on Monday, August 8, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and our headquarters will be at 2262 Newlon Rd, Malta (from Malta, take SR 37 west 7.2 miles to CR 39, Newlon Rd, and proceed two miles on CR 39 to the location, signs will be posted). We will begin with a tour of hay and crop fields, and discuss new seedings, rotations and fields being put into production. We will then view a silage bagger, a bale slicer round baler with sliced bales to view. We will then have a TMR feed mixer demonstration, and Perry Owen, nutritionist from Hubbard Feeds will provide tips for developing feed rations for our operations. Next, we will tour the feedlot/ background lot where they have up to 800 head of cattle per year. Finally, we will finish up the tour with a demonstration of an in-line bale wrapper.

   After supper, Dr. Lyda Garcia, OSU Meat Science Assistant Professor will provide a program on Quality & Adding Value to Your Cows. She will discuss quality and grading standards, adding value to your cull cows, potential feed alternatives and what does quality mean to you? She will also be very interested in answering your questions. We will also have updates from Morgan Soil and Water Conservation District, Natural Resource Conservation Service and the Farm Service Agency. We will finish up with my annual Ag Outlook and the forecast for ag prices for the upcoming year. The program is sponsored by OSU Extension, Morgan SWCD, NRCS, and many other local businesses and organizations. The program is free and open to the public but reservations need to be made to the OSU Extension office at 740-962-4854 by August 5th.


Watch Out for Cucumber Beetles

Striped cucumber beetles start flying around even before many of our plants emerge. This means they are often there just as the cucumber, squash, pumpkin and melon seedlings push through the soil, eating off the stems and first leaves to emerge. Later, adults feed on leaves, vines and fruits that survive. Larvae feed on the roots of the plants, weakening them and making them susceptible to other problems.

One problem these beetles cause is a disease called bacterial wilt, a serious disease of many vine crops. The bacteria overwinters in the bodies of hibernating beetles which introduce the bacteria to the plants during feeding. Infected plants quickly wilt, the leaves dry, and the plants eventually die. Cucumber beetles also spread the squash mosaic virus.

Bacterial wilt and mosaic virus must be prevented since they cannot be controlled once the plant is infected.  Inspect plants frequently for the striped cucumber beetle (the adult is about 0.2 in. long, tan in color with three black stripes down the back). Row covers provide some protection, but must be removed during pollination. Some resistant varieties are available, and there are a few products labeled for control of the beetle.  Always read and follow pesticide label directions when used.

Snakes in the garden

It is not uncommon this time of year to encounter a slithery visitor in gardens, landscapes, and backyards. There are several species of snakes happy to live their lives in backyards, but one of the most common is the garter snake. Named for the 3 light stripes that run along the length of its black, brown, gray, or olive body, the garter snake is sometimes nicknamed the ‘garden’ snake because that is where unsuspecting gardeners often encounter them. While it can be startling to encounter a snake while weeding or planting, if their presence can be tolerated, garter snakes are doing the constant gardener a favor. They feed on worms, slugs, insects, and small mammals that may otherwise be feasting on garden plants and flowers.

Garter snakes are most active during the day and on sunny summer days are often found basking on rocks, sidewalks, decks, or patios. On hot days and when sleeping, they retreat to sheltered areas such as under foundations, rocks, logs, stumps, or porches. There are no repellents that effectively work to keep snakes away. The best approach, aside from sharing the garden with them, is to eliminate denning and sleeping sites (rock or log piles) and shoo them away from basking areas. They are rarely aggressive and habituate to humans easily. Some gardeners find relief using glue traps to capture and remove snakes from around the home.

The common watersnake, on the other hand, is not a snake that should be picked up without the expectation of a strong bite. The coloration of this snake, which prefers streams, creeks, and other bodies of water, can sometimes cause it to be mistaken for a northern copperhead, one of Ohio’s 3 venomous snakes (the other 2 are the timber rattlesnake and eastern massasauga rattlesnake rattlesnake).  The northern copperhead has a distinct triangular head that the watersnake lacks, and is not common among well-settled areas.  Because of the common watersnake’s preference for water, it is also often mistaken for a water moccasin, a venomous snake that does not occur in Ohio.

While it would be rare to encounter a venomous snake while gardening, never disturb or handle a snake without first determining the species and if it is venomous.  Other snakes found around the home are the midland and northern brown snake, eastern milksnake, and black rat snake (source, Marne Tichenell, OSU Extension Wildlife specialist).

Wait to control pond algae

Over the past couple weeks, there have been several calls on how to control pond algae. Some have put in White Amur fish which help control vegetation, but these fish do not like to eat algae. Another option is to aerate the pond which may reduce algae and some will even rake the stuff out. A very common option is to use copper based products such as copper sulfate.  When used at the appropriate rate, it is a very safe product. However, now is the time fish are spawning and the fish eggs are very sensitive to copper and applying copper sulfate now will kill the fish eggs. If you wait until June, the spawning season should be over, and applying copper based products at recommended rates will not hurt the young fish.

Mole Control

This is the time of year I receive phone calls about moles causing problems. Over the past 27 years, few critters can stir such emotion as these little animals. When I started in Extension 27 years ago, the solution was fairly simple: put down an insecticide, kill the food source, and the moles would move away (maybe to your neighbors) to find a new food source. The problem was that the insecticide would kill all the insects, good and bad. The moles favorite food is grubs, but the most common food is earthworms. The older generation insecticides would kill both. Newer generation lawn insecticides are much safer to the environment and many are insect growth regulators targeted to work on grubs only and leave the earthworms alone.

If you are trying to control moles, these newer insecticides will not encourage moles to move away as well, but they are still very effective in controlling grubs which can damage lawns. So what can we do? When it comes to “home remedies”, the ones I have heard of simply will not work. I have heard of putting chewing gum or laxatives in the holes but we need to keep in mind that moles are carnivores and only feed on insects, so these will not work. I suppose some other remedies that I have heard could work somewhat as they could act as a repellent.

When these remedies are tried and in a period of time, the moles go away; was it the remedy or was it the weather? Right now the weather is warming up and the ground is saturated, so the moles are moving up near the surface. When it gets hot and drier, they will probably move down into the soil and I doubt if we will see much damage. In the fall, it will cool down, the ground will get wet and they will move back up, then when winter sets in, they will go back down deep. My “guess” is that it is probably the weather.

So what can we do? I see two options. First, don’t worry about it and they will go away in a month or so. Or if you do want to do something, there are traps that can be used. If you can find an active runway (the tunnel under the soil) and set the trap in, you should catch moles. Generally, the most active runway is one that goes from the nest to the feeding areas. The nest will usually be around the edge of the lawn, maybe in a grassy meadow or some woods with cover over the soil. In my old lawn, the nest was between the sidewalk and the wood house, where my wife had a flower bed. The runway would go under the sidewalk, then branch off where the moles would feed. If a trap could be set between the nesting area and where the runway branched off for feeding, that would be an excellent location for a trap. Just check it every day, and if you have not caught a mole, consider a new location. In my lawn, it wasn’t the moles that caused the most damage, it was my Golden Retriever trying to catch the mole and was always six inches behind!


Now is the time to control bagworms!

Every year, around Labor Day, we start receiving calls of damage to many of our evergreen trees. There are numerous small, two inch long brown to gray football shaped bags on the plants, devouring the needles. These are called bagworms. Feeding damage is heavy enough on some plants; spruces, junipers and arborvitae in particular, to have a significant impact on the overall health of the infested plants. Portions of these plants are thinning and/or turning brown and approaching the point of not being able to recover from the damage.  In some cases, the bagworms are still very small with their bags being less than 1/2″ long.

The good news is young bagworms can be effectively controlled using a biological insecticide that will not hurt beneficial insects. The efficacy of these biological insecticides declines once bags reach 3/4″, so a standard insecticide will need to be used after bags exceed this length. However, if the bag gets too big and the worm has too much protection from the bag, no insecticide will work. If possible and if the infestation is not too bad, you can simply pick them off and drop them in a bucket of soapy water (picture source: University of Kentucky ENTFACT 440).


Why Are the Bottom of My Tomatoes and Squash Rotting?

This is the time of year we receive inquiries about blossom-end rot on zucchini and tomatoes, especially in a wet year like this. This disorder affects tomato, pepper, squash, and eggplant and occurs when soil moisture is uneven. It is easily recognized by the flat, leathery, discolored area on the blossom end of the fruit.    Blossom-end rot occurs when there is a calcium deficiency in the blossom-end of the fruit. If demand for calcium exceeds the supply during rapid fruit development, deprived tissues break down, leaving the leathery-looking blossom end to the fruit.  It may be due to lack of calcium in the soil; however, this is not usually the case. The real culprit is usually drastic changes in weather (cool to hot) or uneven or extreme soil moisture fluctuations. When these situations are prevalent during fruit development, calcium uptake is limited or non-existent and blossom end rot can occur.   What is a gardener to do? Avoid wide fluctuations in soil moisture. Calcium sprays for the fruit are sometimes recommended, but are of little value due to poor absorption and movement of the calcium to the fruit. Long term solution is to make sure the pH is at acceptable levels by adding lime to the soil (this fall will be an excellent time to apply lime).  Soil test kits are available at Extension offices to help determine your garden nutrient needs.



Still Time to Plant While Harvesting

Even though we are in July, there is still time to plant many things in the garden.  To figure out what you can still plant, check how many days it takes the crop to mature, then count back from October 10, which is the average first frost in our area.  If there is enough time, you can still plant.  Some bean cultivars require as few as 45 days to mature.  By the end of the month, it will be time to start planting some cooler season crops like peas, turnips and other leafy vegetables.

Morgan County Garden Tour Planned for July 19

The Morgan County Master Gardeners will be hosting a summer garden tour in the McConnelsville vicinity on July 19, 2015. Cost is $5.00 with the tours beginning at 1:00 PM Sunday afternoon. Five local gardens will be featured, including the home and gardens of Galen Finley. Additional tour stops are scheduled at the Community Gardens near Morgan Junior High School at South Riverside Road and the Presbyterian Church will host a quilt show and feature landscape plantings around the church. An assortment of plants will be available for the public at the Button House on Main Street. Master Gardeners will be at each of the sites to answer questions or to assist attendees. Tickets can be purchased in advance at the OSU Extension Office located in the Riecker Building or at any of the tour stops the day of the tour.  The complete listing of tour stops and descriptions will be available soon. Contact the OSU Extension office at 740-962-4854 if you have questions.