Pests and Diseases: June Bugs

june bugs
Photo courtesy of


Just a quick note for those who live in Virginia: those big green beetles that are flying around a couple of feet off the ground are June bugs. They’re not hornets, Japanese beetles or cicadas. And yes, people have asked me if what they are witnessing is an invasion. Rest assured that it’s not. The recent heavy rains have stimulated the bugs to get their rear ends out of the soil. And don’t stress over them…they don’t bite although they will leave a mark on your forehead if they fly into you (don’t ask me how I know!). Chemicals aren’t necessary. They generally are gone before you can reach for the pesticides.

Their life cycle is very similar to Japanese beetles and they can cause damage to your turfgrass. If you want to treat for them, follow the recommendations that I made in this article on Japanese beetles. Or you can just plant more perennials…or vegetables…or shrubs…or trees.

Let me know the funny things that you’ve heard regarding June bugs. My all-time favorite was the concern that they were hornets. If I ever see that many hornets, all you’ll see of me is my tail lights as I pack up and leave. ūüôā Leave me a comment or e-mail me. Don’t forget to like the Facebook page and follow me at Twitter. Happy gardening!

Did You Know? Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous Earth, or DE as it’s also called, is a naturally occurring compound that is derived from¬†fossilized diatoms.¬†It’s an excellent tool to have in your arsenal whether you’re a gardener, animal lover or homesteader.¬†DE can help rid your garden of squash bugs, keep fleas from making your pets’ lives miserable and can act as a dewormer for your barnyard friends. Sounds too good to be true, huh?

diatomaceous earthDiatomaceous Earth works by cutting the exoskeleton of insects so that they dry out and die. Sounds painful. The great news for humans is that DE is completely safe for us…it doesn’t cut us or irritate our skin in any way. If you inhale too much, it can certainly make you cough but that’s about it. There are two types of DE: pool grade diatomaceous earth and food grade diatomaceous earth. You want FOOD GRADE DE. The pool grade DE has other stuff mixed in and I would much rather be safe than sorry, especially since you’ll be using it in your garden or on your pets.

So what parameters should you use when applying diatomaceous earth? If you’re using it in the garden, you¬†need to apply it when the foliage is dry. DE is rendered ineffective when water touches it…the sharp edges of DE disappear as it mixes with water but once it dries DE is effective again.¬†Try not to¬†apply it first thing in the morning when the foliage is still dewy or before you water. If you have issues with insects in the garden, apply it directly to them making sure to coat the undersides of the leaves as well. DE will also kill beneficials in the garden so make sure that you are targeting a specific pest and not just blanketing your garden as a preventative.

What about fleas? We have an indoor/outdoor cat that thoroughly enjoys her job as protector of our property. Whether it be birds, squirrels, rabbits,¬†moles, voles or snakes, she has successfully removed at least one of them from our yard.¬† But as is the case with most cats, she doesn’t just kill them and leave them be…no, she has to play with them. As a result,¬†she has¬†fleas; not tons of them but there are still fleas. One flea is enough to make me miserable so we use DE on her. The results vary depending on how often I apply it.¬†We¬†just sprinkle it on her coat and massage it down¬†to her skin.¬†The adult fleas are killed within a couple of hours but the eggs and larvae are still there long after the DE has faded. The effectiveness of the DE is only as good as the frequency of the application.

Now the part of the intro that mentioned using DE as a wormer in animals is not something that I’ve done personally but many folks, especially old-timers, swear by it. There are also quite a few websites that tout their products as being effective in controlling worms and other internal parasites. There are many people who ingest DE daily as well. That’s between you, the man upstairs and the DE if you decide to go that route. It can’t be much worse than the GMO laced food we ingest on a daily basis can it? Sorry for the tangent…

So, have you used diatomaceous earth to treat for pests in your garden or on your animals? What kind of results did you have? Leave me a comment below or e-mail me. If you enjoy being part of the Mid-Atlantic Gardening community, join our e-mail list (upper right hand corner of this page), become a fan on Facebook and follow me on Twitter. Happy gardening!


Pests and Diseases: Galls on Trees

I have a white oak (Quercus alba) that lives in my backyard. It’s home to birds and¬†squirrels and galls. Galls on trees are a pretty common occurrence but they can cause great concern to gardeners. Is there really cause for concern? Let’s take a look.

Galls are a growth that occurs on the leaves or branches of trees as a result of a myriad of pests. These pests can include fungi, bacteria and nematodes although the most common are insects and mites. When the insects and/or mites invade the tree, a gall is formed by the tree and the pest is protected inside. The gall also serves as a food source for the pest. For the pest, it’s pretty much a win-win; it’s protected and fed by the gall.

Galls on trees may be unsightly but there really isn’t much need for concern by the gardener. Once the gall has formed it’s going to stick around for a while. No amount of spraying will remove the galls and they don’t take a tremendous amount of energy away from the tree. Consider them an anomaly and let them be. If you are truly concerned about them, consult a Certified Arborist or your local extension agent.

For curiosity’s sake, let’s take a look at some pictures of galls.

galls on trees
Photo courtesy of


galls on trees
Photo courtesy of
galls on trees
Photo courtesy of


Do you have any¬†experience with galls¬†on trees?¬†If you’d like to share with the Mid-Atlantic Gardening community leave me a comment below or send me an e-mail. If you enjoy being part of the Mid-Atlantic Gardening community, join our e-mail list (upper right hand corner of this page), become a fan on Facebook and follow me at Twitter. Happy gardening!

Reader Question: Japanese Holly


I received the following question and thought that it would be useful for all of you to know as well:

Hi Stacey. I have Japanese hollies as my foundation planting on the front of my house. They have been developing brown, dying to dead areas and I’m concerned that there is something wrong with them. I noticed that my annual vinca plants that¬†were planted in the same bed didn’t do well this summer either. Sorry I don’t have any pictures but I’ll try to get them to you soon. Do you have any ideas as to what this could be?


Photo courtesy of Virginia Cooperative Extension

Steve, first of all thanks for¬†e-mailing me…this is exactly the reason that I started this blog; to help gardeners solve the problems that they are experiencing. With that being said, I’m afraid that I don’t have any encouraging news to offer. I’m pretty sure that black root rot (Thielaviopsis basicola) or BRR for short, is to blame. Japanese Holly¬†is otherwise known as Ilex crenata and the entire crenata species falls prey to BRR. Annual vinca (Catharanthus roseus) is also on the list of plants that BRR enjoys. While chemical controls are always an option, I’m not a fan for many reasons. My advice is to remove the shrubs and take as much soil with them as you can; in other words, don’t shake the soil from the rootball as you remove them.

Black root rot is ubiquitous which means that it is virtually everywhere. When viewed under a microscope it looks like little Tootsie Rolls in the soil.

Photo courtesy of Virginia Cooperative Extension

Those “tootsie rolls” are known as chlamydospores and there sole purpose in life is to remain dormant until the next little root comes growing by. At that point, the infection starts all over again.

But there is good news from all of this…there are many plants that are resistant to BRR and can grow very well in¬†areas that have been contaminated. Some of the shrubs¬†include Nandina, Chinese holly (Ilex cornuta) and Boxwood (Buxus spp.). If you are looking for annuals that can tolerate a BRR infestation, consider Mexican heather (Cuphea spp.) or Lantana but steer clear of vinca, petunia, pansies and geraniums (Pelargonium).

I hope this helps you Steve and anyone else who may have Japanese hollies that are floundering in the landscape. This speaks volumes about monoculture but I’ll save my time on my soapbox for another day. If there are any pest or disease issues that you’d like me to help you with, please let me know at

November 22, 2011Permalink Leave a comment