Are there Moles in Florida?

“Are there moles here?” I once asked as a child visiting my Grandma in Florida. My Grandpa over heard us and immediately saw a teachable moment. He offered to show me a real mole. What kid could resist? Out we went to the backyard with shovels and visions of cute beaver-toothed hamsters in my head. As soon as we got out there a couple of other-people’s Grandpas came over to help with the search and some tentative digging ensued. Confused, I dug in and chunked out a huge shovelful. I examined the spadeful of soil for big game. Another chunk out of the grass. And another. “Not so deep!” the Grandpas exclaimed in unison. I was deeply confused. I was going for a six inch long animal about the size of a slicked down chipmunk-squirrel. Something like this:

A horrible vicious beast, all rubbery whiskers and spade-like paws

The Grandpas were picking around so tentatively, I thought they were nuts. “Ah, here is one” one of the Grandpas declared and held out his hand.

Really?!? Is that all you got? That thing is just a CRICKET!

I was kind of angry that a bunch of Grandpas did not even know that a mole was a furry mammal that was like a subterranean squirrel with interesting rubbery nose things and were trying to trick me with a joke of a big grasshopper. As you can see, I never quite got over it. In hindsite, I can see they were talking about creatures they referred to as “moles” in their neighborhood and really had no idea what a real mole was. I remain appalled that the Average Grandpa had so little knowledge of insects/moles/mammals vs. cold blooded beasts. Was the public school system so bad in their day that they really got these things mixed up? Sigh.

For all you gardeners out there fighting real moles, here is a link to the Extension Service. They never get mammals and insects confused.

http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw080 link to the Florida Extension Service’s info on moles in lawns.

Advertisements

Stinkbugs

Infamous recently traveled to the Garden State, New Jersey, for a family get-together. It was not too long before I saw my first stinkbug flying around. My relatives told me the Marmorated Stinkbug Halyomorpha halus, has become a pest to crops and homeowners in new Jersey in 2010. The stinkbugs were so prevalent in the fall, they congregated on the sunny exterior walls of the house sunbathing. As the weather became cooler, they infiltrated into homes and come flying around lazily even in winter.

This is not too different from ladybugs and many other casual home invaders. They come seeking shelter as winter closes in. Some species come in by the thousands and have to be vaccuumed up. The stinkbugs were found all aver the window sills making quite a mess.

Stinkbugs as a group are members of the true bug family, the Hemiptera. The word Hemiptera means half-wing in Latin. They hold the wings over their back in a characteristic crosswise fashion, making the appearance of an “X”. Their wings are half heavy leathery upper parts and clear, veined lower tips. They usually have a broad shoulder look to the collar behind the head. Once you see a few examples of insects in this Order, it is easy to classify Hemiptera whenever you see them because of the big “X” on their backs.

This particular species is an exotic import from China and was first found in Allenton, Pennsylvania in 1998. Rutgers University first trapped some in 2000, so they are successfully spreading. In Japan and China they are responsible for damaging soybeans, corn, green beans and many types of fruit. They have a piecing mouthpart that pokes into the plant and allows them to suck juices out. They make numerous tiny holes all over the plant they are feeding on and cause damage to the fruits especially by wounding the ripening fruit. So far this insect has spread into several states on the east coast and seems destined to keep going across the country.

When an insect comes to our country from another environment, it leaves behind the natural checks and balances that keep it under control in its home. The diseases and predators that attack it either are not present in the new home or need several years to ramp up their levels to control the population. Apparently in its native country several predatory spiders, wasps and other insects are known to feed on them.

This story is just another reminder that imported goods from other countries may harbor hitch hikers that can cause damage to our agricultural crops. Good shipping practices are essential to avoid scenarios like this.

Woolly Aphids

Our pest today is an unusual version of a common insect. Most people know what an aphid looks like. They are soft bodied tiny insects that suck plant juices by inserting a pointed snout into the plant. They are very common in most gardens. Colonies of mothers and daughters are fairly well known on the new growing tips of plant shoots like roses. One other kind of aphid that is not so well known is the woolley aphid. They are called woolley because of a white waxy covering on their backs that keeps them protected from the elements. When giant colonies of these insects cover twigs it can look like the branches are coated with snow. When you take a closer look it is appalling how many thousands of individual insects are attacking the plant and sucking plant juices. The branches can be overwhelmed and dry up and die. This is a picture of a fine big colony attacking my ornamental cherry tree.

The white stuff on these branches is wall-to-wall insects attacking the twig.

Although I may have been a little late discovering what was going on, they have now all been sprayed with Orthene insecticide. I hope they are incapacitated and I will not lose this branch.

Max Force on Ants

If you get ants invading your house in the spring, you might try an ant bait.  The reason baits are good is that they take the product back to the nest thinking  it is food.  Then they eat it and feed it to everyone else, including the queen.  When she goes, the rest are not going to live long.  Most baits are either growth regulators or slow acting poisons.  They are impregnated into delicious tiny nuggets about the size of large sand grains.  These grains are scavenged by the workers looking for food to bring back to the colony.  The food is shared and in approximately a week, the colony dies out. 

This approach is pretty good since the colony is sometimes a little hard to find or destroy.  This way wandering worker ants can deliver the goods to the colony even if it is inaccessable to humans.  It is a pretty safe way to go since you use a little bottle cap full of bait crumbs and they are not all over your home.  A little goes a long way, too.  A bottle cap full is way too much; you just need a pinch or two.  If a cat or dog eats it, there is too little to hurt them.

The active ingredient in MaxForce is hydramethylnon, which you can read about on Wikipedia.  It is a slow acting stomach poison for ants.  It is low toxicity to mammals, although apparently fish are quite sensitive to it.  The Lethal dose to kill 50% of a population of dogs  is 2500 mg/kg or quite low toxicity.  Max Force is attractive to most all species of ants.

The other products out there to kill any colonies by bait method are growth regulators.  Insect growth regulators (IGR) disrupt the maturation of the insects into adults by not allowing the chitin of their exoskeletons to shed properly.  They never reach the reproducing stage and so die out.  Advance carpenter ant bait (http://kill-fireants.com/mcart/index.cgi?ID=300975347&PID=IT14&code=13) is available for carpenter ant infestations.  The smell of the bait is attractive to that species  and is especially good on them although other ants will take it too.

A Bad Day

Infamous likes to use glue boards in the home to catch pests.  They are non-toxic and work quite well for pests big and small.  Of course, the large pests will be seen licking their paws after escaping, but I find none of the pests I object to can escape.

Here are some photos of pests having a real bad day.

You know it is a real bad day when you get caught in a mousetrap that then throws you onto a glue board.

 

Basic white belleh mouse