Insects, Diseases, EcoTours and Superweeds

July 7, 2013

What’s ailing your plants this summer?

If there’s one thing we can say about this growing season in the upper Midwest, it’s that most of us haven’t been hurting for moisture. But while it’s good for keeping your plants growing, it’s also a breeding ground for certain plant problems.

Believe it or not, one of those problems is aphid infestation. Why? Here’s what the Missoula County (Montana) Extension Office says.

Aphid outbreaks are encouraged by cool, wet spring weather because their populations increase more rapidly than their natural enemies in this climate. Aphid outbreaks may also occur if controls used to treat other pests harm aphid predators (i.e., syrphid fly and lacewing larvae, ladybird beetles). Certain controls are more toxic to predators than others…Excessive fertilization, especially nitrogen, causes plants to maintain succulent growth, and may encourage aphids. Use less soluble nitrogen fertilizers (ammonium or urea-based forms or compost). Avoid pruning that encourages early spring growth. On aphid-susceptible species, prune in late spring after aphids arrive and prune a little at a time. Stop pruning before the end of July so you don’t encourage a fall flush of growth.

A couple of weeks ago, I posted several other websites about apid control.

Of course, as friend of the show Dan Kosta pointed out, they are also more likely to be a problem in the spring, when new growth is present.

The Plant Health Care Report from the Morton Arboretum for June 28 has more to say about excessive rain:

While this helps recharge the water supply in soil, it can lead to additional stress on plants . The drought could have damag ed roots last year making it more difficult for trees to take up enough water. Having a good supply of water in the soil can ease that burden, but trees that have been standing in flood waters may experience additional root damage. That damage can vary g reatly depending on the duration of the flooding, the age of the tree (very old and very young trees often suffer more) and the health of the tree before the flooding. So while the rain s may have aided some trees, they may have added an extra stress for o thers. Time will tell. We may be seeing stress symptoms showing up on woody plants for the next few years.

And, believe it or not, they warn that you might have to haul out the sprinkler this year:

Looking forward into summer, we need to keep watching the weather. If the rains do stop and the heat comes on again, we may need to consider watering plants. It is hard to think about that now while there is so much water around, but things could change drastically as the summer progresses . If the weather suddenly turns hot and dry, we could see our water surplus turn into a deficit. We need to base our watering needs on the current water supply, not the amount of water that fell a month or two ago. Northern Illinois is a big region and rainfall has varied quite a bit across that region.

Another problem caused by excessive moisture is fungal disease. And, according to Jennifer Brennan from Chalet Nursery, she’s seeing a lot of it. Here’s a partial list of plant problems (and some earth-friendly remedies) that Jennifer has diagnosed:

1. Any apple family plants (crabapple, apple, hawthorne, Amelanchier)– both apple scab AND cedar-apple rust on the leaves together! You can tell that we have had both cool weather conditions and warm to hot weather during the inoculation periods. (Controls: Bonide Orchard Spray with Sulfur and Pyrethrins, Espoma or Bonide Copper Soap spray, Immunox by Spectracide or 3 and 1 Insect, Disease and Mite Control by Bayer Advanced)
2. Insolidabasidium leaf blight on Honeysuckle. A fungus that turns the tips grey and crinkled up. (Control: same as #1)
3. Guignardia leaf blotch on Horse-chestnut. (Control: same as #1)
4. Anthracnose on Oak, Maple, Ash and Sycamore causing irregular brown patches on the leaves that stop at the veins. (Control: same as #1)
5. Powdery mildew on peony, roses, grapes, cucumber and squash – a surface fungus that grows over the leaf blocking the sunlight and causing reduced production. (Control: same as #1)
6. Turf fungus – yellow patch , red thread , smut due to warmer temperatures and wet conditions. (Control: Immunox by Spectracide for Lawncare)

Insects and other leaf feeders:

1. Slugs are here with a vengeance! Use Sluggo or Sluggo Plus – new change 1 pound covers 2,000 sq. ft. now! That equals 1 teaspoon per 3 sq ft. Re place every month, but check after the first 2 weeks to “re-load”, because the numbers of slugs are that large now.
2. Cucumber beetles on cucumbers and squash. (Control: Espoma Insect Control or Bonide Tomato and Vegetable Insect Control or Bonide Captain Jack’s Insect Control with Spinosad)
3. Cabbage Looper on any cabbage family plant in the vegetable garden – note the white butterflies flying around. (Same as #2)
4. Aphids on many, many things – snapdragons, hibiscus, Viburnums, roses. (Same as #2 or Bayer Advanced Rose & Flower Insect Spray)
5. Be warned and spray roses now with systemic – Japanese Beetles are on the way, sighted at the Morton Arboretum and also here at Chalet. (Control: Bayer Advanced Rose & Flower Insect Spray)
6. Leaf weevils on Lambs Ears (Control: Bayer Advanced Rose & Flower Insect Spray)

If you’re concerned about how toxic some of these remedies are (and I’m talking about the organic ones, too!) you should peruse this article from Colorado State University, which gives an overview of some of the pesticides that Jennifer mentions that are used in organic gardening. Remember: just because it’s organic doesn’t mean that it’s not toxic. The article mentions this but I’m going to say it again because it’s so important: ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW LABEL DIRECTIONS. And to that, I will add my own advice: IF YOU’RE UNSURE ABOUT THE PRODUCT, DON’T USE IT!

Speaking of plant diseases, the June 28 issue of the Home, Yard and Garden Pest Newsletter, published by Illinois Extension, has an article called What Does Plant Disease Sanitation Really Mean?

Jennifer Brennan and “Dr.” Wally Schmidtke from my sponsor Berthold’s Garden Center both stop by this morning to talk about what they’re seeing on plants and how to treat them effectively and with respect for the earth.

Bee carnage continues

Last week I reported how 25,000 bumblebees had died in the town of Wilsonville, Oregon, after a landscaping company sprayed 55 linden trees in a Target parking lot to control for aphids. Unfortunately, within a matter of days, the estimated number of dead bees had risen to 50,000.

The Oregonian reported that

Aphids produce honeydew, a sticky liquid that can drip off onto cars or pedestrians. A Target representative said by email that the Wilsonville store had received no customer complaints about it.  (emphasis mine)

Then, last Sunday, there was a memorial service in honor of those poisoned pollinators:

Fifty thousand bumblebees  will be honored in a memorial this weekend at the Wilsonville Target where a majority of the insects died … Rozzell Medina, of Portland, said on the Facebook page that the event will “memorialize these fallen lifeforms and talk about the plight of the bees and their importance to life on Earth.”

You’d think that would be bad enough, right? Ah, but you would be underestimating the fascination with pestiicdes that permeates Big Ag. This story comes not from the U.S., but from our neighbor to the north:

Millions of honeybees are dead in a new colony collapse disorder crisis being reported from Ontario, Canada. And that’s on a single farm in Elmwood, Canada.

Depending on the reports you read, 30 million, 37 million, or even 40 million honeybees may already be dead — a reflection of the expanding numbers as the crisis continues.

According to MSN Living , Elmwood beekeeper Dave Schuit has lost at least 600 hives representing 37 million honeybees — and he’s pointing the finger squarely at neonicotinoid pesticides.

If you find anything in the main stream media, please let me know. While this story is making the rounds of bloggers, I have seen nary a peep from the “respectable” news organizations.

Tar sands in action! The SETF Energy Solutions Ecotour

Tom Shepherd from the Southeast Environmental Task Force joins me on the show this morning to talk about next Saturday’s Energy Solutions Ecotour, which could best be described as a trip from the sublime to the ridiculous. I’ll let you figure out which is which by reading SETF’s description of the event:

Join us for a tour of energy producers and innovators, and learn what effects they have on our region. We’ll visit a huge, recently-shuttered coal-fired power plant, the world’s largest urban solar farm, and the massive BP oil refinery that processes tar sands from Canada. We’ll also visit the proposed site of a coal gasification plant and a unique local produce distribution center whose energy is supplied by wind and solar. On this tour, you’ll experience the most obsolete as well as cutting-edge methods of energy production. We will be accompanied by experts in the field of wind & solar, as well as critics of the controversial tar sands coming to refineries in our area. Plan on seeing more coal and smoke than you’ve ever imagined!

Even better, our very own Lisa Albrecht and friend of the show Josh Mogerman from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) will be on board to discuss solar energy and tar sands at BP.

And best of all, the $35.00 fee has be discounted to $20–and it includes lunch! So sign up today at The tour starts at the Chicago Cultural Center at Randolph and Michigan Avenue in Chicago at 10:00 a.m. and runs until 2:00 p.m.

Here are some of the highlights of the tour:

1) Testa Produce Co. (nearly off-the-grid produce warehouse & distribution)
2) Exelon / Sunpower Solar Farm in West Pullman (world’s largest urban solar farm)
3) Southeast side’s coal and petroleum coke piles; site of Leucadia Coal Gasification project (currently stalled)
4) State Line Generating Plant ( on the Indiana border along the shores of Lake Michigan -shuttered coal-fired power plant, March 2012)
5) The massive BP Refinery; Whiting, Ind. – with a lunch stop at Bulldog Brewing Co. in beautiful downtown Whiting…..home of the annual Pierogi Parade & Festival!

For More information, contact Peggy Salazar at SETF. Phone 773-646-0436 or write to

Hydrilla Hunt: searching for a superweed

I think that Cathy McGlynn, Coordinator for the Northeast Illinois Invasive Plant Partnership (NIIPP), does wonderful work. But whenever she gives me a call, it means that there’s trouble a-brewin’

This time it something called Hydrilla, (Hydrilla verticillata), a highly invasive aquatic plant. Do you want to know just how invasive? Take a look at the two photos on the left, which were taken a mere 18 days apart. That one fast-growing weed! Click here to see even more images.

Cathy is asking that boaters, anglers, swimmers, and others who enjoy Illinois’ lakes and rivers keep their eyes peeled this summer this plant through the Hydrilla Hunt! Program. Citizen volunteers can be very valuable in this search. Hydrilla has already been found in Wisconsin and Indiana and it’s just a matter of time before it’s spotted in Illinois. This could mean millions of dollars in losses to recreational and private water resources.

Cathy informs me that

The strain of hydrilla that has been found in the northern United States is believed to have originated in Korea. It grows on mucky as well as sandy bottoms of lakes and rivers, and from very shallow water to depths of 20 feet or more. It can be spotted snagged on fishing lines or on boat anchors, or by noting plants seen while boating or growing along the sides of a pier. Hydrilla spreads quickly, since just a small stem fragment of hydrilla can sprout roots and grow into a whole new plant.

She stops by today to sound the alarm. As if we needed one more thing to be concerned about.