One of our favorite newer insect pests is the elm seed bug. It arrived in town back around 2014 or so and didn’t take long to make itself known. This isn’t a problem for plants but rather a problem insect for humans due to its inquisitive desire to be in and around our homes and businesses. It’s a tiny thing being one-quarter to one-third inch long, blackish in color with a reddish colored abdomen. Being that it is an elm seedeater you would think this was a great insect. I might even think that if I haven’t seen thousands crawling on the walls of buildings and personally vacuumed up hundreds that find their way into our offices.
Control of these pests starts with sealing up cracks on the outside of the building, weather stripping around doors, and having really good screens over the windows since it’s tiny and seems to have magical properties allowing it to slide through the smallest of openings. Limiting the number of problem elms around your buildings and cleaning up the elms seeds can also help. While appropriately labeled and applied insecticides might reduce their numbers, they aren’t a very good solution due to the mobile nature of the bugs. One should consider periodically spraying with a soapy water solution when numbers are high.
An old-time regular pest seen a lot this time of year is the aphid. They love the newly opening leaves of almost all fruit trees and many perennials. Yes, they can cause the leaves to curl and distort and since they excrete a liquid called honeydew they can make plant leaves sticky. Don’t panic though, since while they can make the plant leaves look funny they aren’t going to kill the plant. As such, take a calm reasoned approach and spray them with a moderately forceful stream of water but if you’re knocking leaves off perhaps it’s too strong.
If they are plentiful, you can spray them with a soapy solution of an insecticidal soap or non-colored non-scented dish soap. You don’t want to see your plants all sudsy so make your solution just soapy enough that you know you are getting some on the aphids. Since soap solutions are contact controls, meaning you have to get it on the insect to control it, they work best on the softer-bodied insects.
An insect shortly to arrive is the tent caterpillar that builds web-like nests around branches of trees such as cottonwoods and poplars but can be seen in fruit trees and other types of trees and shrubs. The best control is not to prune out the limbs with the webbing because it makes your tree look pretty sad if you do it a lot, but rather pull the nest/webbing out of the tree. If caught early enough you might be able to tear the web up with a strong stream of water. Doing this a couple to few times will disrupt the cycle and limit any damage. If you don’t catch it in time you can spray your leaves with some natural controls such as Bacillus thuringiensis or Spinosad. Again, while this caterpillar pest does eat the leaves of these trees it usually does no long-term damage so don’t stress out too much.
Previous articles can be found on The Times Independent website. If you have a topic you would like to know more about call the Utah State University Extension Grand County office at 435-259-7558 or email Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org.