May 2015 is half over and it is time to see how the monthly climate is doing so far. The maps from the High Plains Regional Climate Center below show that for the region as a whole, temperatures are running about 1.5 degrees above the 1981-2010 normal, while the precipitation is much below normal and in some areas none has fallen at all, which is shown on the “percent of normal precipitation” map as an area of dark red, indicating zero percent of normal rainfall for the month. Atlanta broke their record for the driest start to May before finally getting rain on 5/17. Athens, GA is the driest May to date on record and Macon is tied for the driest, although rain is likely at both locations this week.
For the rest of the month, warmer than normal temperatures are expected to continue. Rainfall is expected to increase and may even be above normal for the rest of the month, although it will be spotty.
Strawberries can be a welcome addition to the Georgia community or school garden. And, spring is the time to plant!
Traditionally in north Georgia strawberries are grown in a matted row system where initial plants are set two feet apart at spring planting. That summer the runners are allowed to fill in the rest of the bed. This set up is perfect for raised beds or bed plots.
Treat your strawberry bed as a perennial bed. You will need an area that is in full sun and contains well drained soil. Avoid planting where you have been growing peppers, tomatoes, or potatoes. These plants are susceptible to verticillium wilt and so are strawberries. The UGA publication Home Garden Strawberries is a great resource.
Varieties of Strawberries
Varieties recommended for early fruiting for north and middle Georgia are Earliglow, Sweet Charlie, and Delmarva. For south Georgia look for Chandler, Camarosa, and Sweet Charlie. Early season varieties are best for school gardens as you should get fruit before school lets out for the summer.
For mid-season fruiting look for Allstar. Purchase plants that appear to be disease-free from a reputable supplier. This can be a local store or a mail order supplier. You will probably have more varieties to choose from if you use a mail order supplier.
Care of Strawberries
The most important part of planting strawberries is the placement of the crown. The top of the crown needs to be above the soil line. Otherwise, you will probably have rot. Set the plants two feet from the bed edge and from each other. Remember, runners will fill in. Remove flowers the first year to encourage more blossoms, and fruit, next year.
Weeds are the number one problem with strawberry plants. Mulch between plants and use hand pulling or hoeing to remove stubborn weeds. Strawberries need 1 to 1 1/2 inches of water a week.
Birds and rodents love strawberries as much as we do. Raised beds deter rodents. Some gardeners use netting. A problem with netting is birds and small animals getting caught in the net. Some gardeners report success with loosely hanging aluminum pie pans around the beds to deter birds. The best practice is to pick the fruit as soon as it is ripe, before other hungry eaters find it.
During the second spring, after you have picked all of your berries, get ready for next year. By this point runners have filled in and if you don’t thin the bed you will have too many plants for that area. You need to get rid of about two-thirds of the plants in order to have healthy plants for next year. Pot up the extras and have a fund raising plant sale!
As always your local UGA Extension agent is a great resource for you.
The weed in question is most commonly lawn burweed (Soliva pterosperma), a.k.a. spurweed, stickerweed, sandbur, sanbur and sandspur. Lawn burweed is a winter annual member of the Aster family. The weed germinates in the early fall months as temperatures cool and remains small or inconspicuous during the cold winter months. However, as temperatures warm in the early spring, or about the same time as spring sports activities, lawn burweed initiates a period of rapid growth and begins to form spine-tipped burs in the leaf axils. The sharp-tipped spiny burs of this weed can irritate the skin.
Key identification characteristics of lawn burweed are:
opposite, sparsely hairy leaves that are divided into numerous segments, or lobes
small, inconspicuous flowers, and c) spine tipped burs that are found in the leaf axils (junction of leaf and stem).
attains an overall diameter of up to 6 inches and a height of about 3 to 4 inches.
It is commonly found in the Coastal Plain and Piedmont regions of Georgia.
Lawn burweed is easily controlled during the winter months.
December, January and February are ideal months to apply herbicides to control this weed. Lawn burweed is small and easier to control at this time of the year than in April and May. Also, turfgrasses are not actively-growing during the winter months and have better tolerance to some herbicides.
See the UGA Pest Management Handbook for pesticide recommendations for your turf type. Two to three weeks after the initial application, lawn burweed control should be evaluated. If control is not acceptable, an additional application may be necessary.
Lawn burweed can be controlled in late-March, April and early May, however, two main facts should be considered.
Lawn burweed begins to die as late spring temperatures approach 90° F and the plant is harder to control once the spiny burs or stickers have formed. Multiple herbicide applications are usually necessary, which increases the risk of temporary injury to the turfgrass.
Additionally, it takes time for the herbicide to control lawn burweed, and after death, it takes time for the dead lawn burweed plants to decompose. Therein lies one of the main problems with late treatments. Dead lawn burweed plants contain dead, or brown spine-tipped burs. Dead or alive, the spiny burs still present a problem. The only recourse at this point is to allow time for the plant to naturally decompose.
Author Richard Levine is Communications Program Manager at the Entomological Society of America and editor of the Entomology Today Blog.
Formosan subterranean termites (Coptotermes formosanus) and Asian subterranean termites (Coptotermes gestroi) are the most damaging pest species in the world. Both are highly invasive and have spread throughout many areas of the world due to human activity, and their distributions overlap in some areas.
Now scientists in Florida have observed Formosan males mating with Asian females — in fact, they seem to prefer the Asian females more than females from their own species — and their hybrid offspring seem to grow colonies twice as fast as their parents. Their findings are published in the journal PLOS ONE, and are described in this video.
Many hybrids are unable to reproduce (the mule, for example, which is the sterile hybrid offspring of a male donkey and a female horse). And many hybrids that actually can reproduce tend to lose vigor after one or more generations, which is why farmers often buy new hybrid seeds each growing season.
But so far that doesn’t seem to be the case for these termite hybrids. In the laboratory, the Florida researchers are raising a hybrid colony that is growing twice as fast as same-species colonies, suggesting a potential case of hybrid vigor.
“Our hybrid colony is still showing high vigor, can potentially live up to 20 years, and can still cause a significant amount of damage,” said Dr. Thomas Chouvenc, a co-author from the UFL’s Ft. Lauderdale Research and Education Center.
While these laboratory observations remain to be confirmed in the field, the results still raise a concern about the hybridization of these incredibly destructive pests, which could have significant economic impacts, according to the authors.
To get an idea of how potentially destructive they could be, watch this video of University of Florida researchers observing both termite species swarming and mating simultaneously.
It seems that all of a sudden, numerous lawns in Georgia are turning white. Well it is not snow, nor is it left over cotton from last fall. The “cottony” appearance is due to the presence of a weed named facelis (Facelis retusa).
Facelis, also called annual trampweed, is a winter annual member of the Aster family that reproduces by wind-blown seed. This weed reaches heights of 4 to 6 inches and has alternate wedge-shaped leaves with a small tooth at the tip. The upper leaf surface is green, while the lower leaf surface is densely gray due to the presence of leaf hairs. Flowers are very inconspicuous; however, seed have soft, white bristle-like hair. With severe infestations the lawn becomes white when seed are being released from the plant. Typically facelis is found in lawns with a low density of turfgrasses, as well as on open, droughty, low fertility sandy or clayey soils.
Facelis actually germinates in the fall and late winter months, produces seed in late April to June and then dies. May is not the preferred time to control facelis, as the weed is essentially in the process of dying.
There has been very little research done on controlling this weed in turfgrasses. Additionally, this weed does not appear on herbicide labels. However, herbicides that contain 2,4-D, MCPP, dicamba and triclopyr or atrazine applied during the mid-winter through early spring months should control facelis.
Since this weed is found on droughty, low-fertility sites, try to improve the turfgrass density through liming, fertilization and irrigation.
The University of Georgia’s Office of Vice President for Public Service and Outreach honored UGA Extension specialists for their outstanding service to the state.
Alfredo Martinez and Clint Waltz received Walter Barnard Hill Awards for Distinguished Achievement in Public Service and Outreach in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the improvement of the quality of life in Georgia and beyond.
Martinez, a professor of plant pathology in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, focuses on disease management and production practices for turfgrass, small grains and grass forages in Georgia.
Waltz, professor and turfgrass Extension specialist in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, has statewide responsibilities in all turfgrass management areas, including turfgrass water management.
Crane flies have long legs, a long slender body, and vary in body length from 1/16 to 1 inch. Some crane flies may resemble large mosquitoes. Color will vary depending on species, but one common species is light brown or tan. The larvae are called leatherjackets and can damage lawns by feeding on the roots of grass.
Habits: Crane flies generally rest with their legs spread widely. Adults feed on nectar or do not feed at all; many have vestigial mouthparts. Once they become adults, most crane flies simply mate and die, all within a few days. They do not bite humans.
Interventions: No action recommended.
Might Be Confused With: mosquitoes.
Fruit flies (Drosophilidae):
The most common species have red/orange eyes, but not all fruit flies have red/orange eyes. Fruit flies often hover around and just above food (most often decomposing vegetable matter) prior to landing. Flies are 1/8 inch.
Habits: Feed mainly on decaying vegetable matter, compost, rotting fruit, etc. Often found around salad bars and restaurants where vegetable matter and juices collect. Also called vinegar flies, since vinegar (acetic acid) is a decomposition product of some rotting vegetable matter.
Interventions: Find larval fly feeding site(s) and clean or otherwise throw away rotting fruit or vegetable matter. Remove garbage, including the plastic liner, and other refuse at least twice per week.
Might Be Confused With: humpbacked flies, fungus gnats, moth flies.
Small (1/16 inch) fly with smoky black wings. Y-shaped wing venation is characteristic.
Habits: Often found in over watered plants indoors or in otherwise wet conditions.
Interventions: Find larval fly feeding site(s) and clean or otherwise dry out. If desired, apply a soil drench with an appropriately labeled liquid insecticide.
Might Be Confused With: mosquitoes, fruit flies, humpbacked flies, moth flies.
Black Soldier flies (larva) (Stratiomyidae):
Strongly-segmented larva, 3/4 to 1 inch, with two 1/16 inch protrusions from one end. Adult flies rarely seen, but are 3/4 inch and appear wasp-like and with two clear spots on upper abdomen.
Habits: In homes, larvae usually found in the bathroom. Presence in bathroom may be indication of sanitary (sewer drain or septic tank) problems because larvae feed in putrid, wet conditions. This insect also lays eggs and larvae develop in piles of damp organic matter such as compost piles. Like many fly species, larvae are known to wander well-away from their breeding site into areas where they pupate.
Interventions: Find the larval food source and address the problem by sanitation or moisture management.
Might Be Confused With: adults look like wasps.
House flies (Muscidae: Musca domestica):
The most recognizable of all fly species. Black, drab, 1/4 inch, fast-flying, often numerous around garbage cans and related refuse areas.
Habits: Breeds in garbage, trash, animal waste, and other organic refuse. Like most flies, found most frequently breeding in overly liquid or wet conditions. Often associated with unsanitary, unkempt conditions, such as areas abundant in animal waste or human garbage/landfills. The term maggot is most commonly used in reference to this fly’s larval stages. Because flies are pushed by prevailing, local winds, their source may be from some distance away.
Interventions: Proper sanitation and exclusion is an effective means of reducing fly numbers. Indoors deploy and maintain sticky traps associated with attractive lights (commercial insect light traps) and/or the chemical attractant Z-9-tricosene. Be sure that indoor light traps are situated so that they cannot be seen by flies from the outside. There is no scientific evidence to support claims that a hanging bag full of water serves as a deterrent to house flies. Remove garbage and other refuse at least twice per week.
Might Be Confused With: blow flies.
Humpbacked flies (Phoridae):
Also referred to as scuttle flies or coffin flies. Often scuttle about on the surface around and on infested materials. Humpbacked flies are about 1/8 inch.
Habits: Often associated with dead and decaying animal or plant matter (e.g., dead insects, rotting potatoes), bacterial buildup in drains (drain and sewer scum) in bathrooms and kitchens, and in/around garbage cans.
Interventions: Find and clean fly breeding sites and/or clean out drains. Make certain that the water trap in the drain line (especially common in less frequently used sinks) is filled – if the water trap dries out, flies and other pests that live in the drain lines will be able to enter the building. Remove garbage and other refuse at least twice per week.
Might Be Confused With: fruit flies, moth flies, fungus gnats.
Blow flies (Calliphoridae: many species):
Also referred to as bluebottles and greenbottles. Large, robust, fast-flying flies, 1/4 to 3/8 inch, commonly shiny and with metallic blue, green, copper, or gray coloration. Some species strongly bristled, some with stripes on their pronotum (upper thorax), and some with large, reddish-brown eyes. Resemble house flies in their flying behavior.
Habits: Flies attracted to and breed in recently dead and decaying animals and animal waste. When suddenly present in large numbers, and when present indoors (typically at windows sills), is highly suggestive of a dead animal indoors (e.g., attic, crawlspace, wall void, fireplace, etc.).
Interventions: Find dead animal and remove it. Maintain window and door screens to prevent entry into the house. Remove garbage and other refuse at least twice per week.
Might Be Confused With: house flies (especially the maggots).
Drain flies (Psychodidae: Psychoda spp.):
Also referred to as moth flies. Oblong or oval, appears moth-like, and is about 3/16 inch, wings fuzzy. Larvae up to 3/8 inch.
Habits: Commonly found in bathrooms (breeds in scum in drains, showers, overflows, toilet bowls, etc.). Adults rest motionless on walls until disturbed, and then fly well. Need wet conditions to breed. When toilets have gone un-flushed for an extended period, moth flies may lay eggs in the toilet tank, and larvae can be found there. When the toilet is finally flushed, larvae can make their way into the toilet bowl, where they are discovered.
Interventions: Clean the inside of the drain of all scum and detritus using a mild cleanser and a bristled brush. Never pour insecticides into drain. Pouring bleach into drains is not effective. Make certain that the water trap in the drain line (especially common in less frequently used sinks) is filled – if the water trap dries out, flies and other pests that live in the drain lines will be able to enter the building. To help determine whether a particular drain is infested, place a clear cup, inverted, over the drain. If flies emerge from the drain, they will be trapped by the cup, and can be seen.
Might Be Confused With: fungus gnats, humpbacked flies, fruit flies, and small moths.
Azalea leaf gall, caused by the fungus Exobasidium vaccinii, are common on azalea in the spring during wet, humid, cooler weather.
The fungus invades expanding leaf and flower buds causing these tissues to swell and become fleshy, bladder-like galls. Initially, the galls are pale green to pinkish. Eventually, they become covered with a whitish mold-like growth. Fungal spores are produced within the white growth and are spread by water-splashing or wind to other expanding leaf or flower buds, or they adhere to newly formed buds, over-winter, and infect these buds the following spring. Older leaves and flowers are immune to infection. As the galls age, they turn brown and hard.
The disease does not cause significant damage to affected plants. It just looks unsightly.
Azalea leaf gall can be prevented in subsequent years by removing the galls by hand as soon as they are detected and destroying them before they turn white and release spores. Fungicides are generally not needed or recommended for control of this disease.