Preventing insect infestations

(Newport News, Va.) Daily PressAugust 10, 2012 

  • Be an insect detective Evaluation of plant symptoms can provide an effective indication of the insect type. There are three common types of problem insects: 1 Sucking insects and mites cause damage by removing a plant’s life-sustaining sap from plant tissues. Symptoms include wilting of plant tissues; stunting, curling or distortion of new plant growth; rust coloration of the upper leaf surface; sticky substance followed by black sooty appearance on the upper leaf surface. 2 Chewing insects consume plant tissue such as leaves, stems and roots or burrow into plant tissue. Symptoms include silvering of leaf tissues; complete removal of leaf tissues; holes in and around plant leaves, stems, branches and trunks. 3 Boring insects target the trunks, stems, bark, buds and roots of woody ornamental shrubs and trees. These insects damage plants through their tunneling activities. Symptoms include holes in the bark; tunneling activity in leaf tissue; dead terminal growth on a plant; complete removal of strips of bark.

No one really likes spiders, ants and other creepy crawlers invading home and yard. But there are some best-practice ways to deal with them.

“An essential aspect of landscape maintenance is insect control,” said entomologist Doug VanGundy. “Problem insects can affect the vigor of plants and landscapes, either through disease, insect feeding or other destructive activities. Insects can also invade the interior of a home in search of food, water and shelter, becoming a general nuisance.”

Here are VanGundy’s tips on preventing insect infestations on your property:

Choose plants wisely. Native plants are less likely to attract unwanted pests.

Combat insects with essential nutrients. One of the best defenses is a strong, actively growing, well-maintained plant, so proper fertilization is essential. It helps sustain optimum plant growth and resistance to insects, diseases and environmental stresses.

Create a line of defense. Use a bait formulation such as an ant barrier to create a deterrent around your home. The bait kills a range of ant species outside so they are unable to infest interior areas. Foraging ants bring the granules back to their mound, resulting in death of the entire colony, including the queen.

Clean up debris. Remove loose debris from around the home and at the foundation of plants, including fallen leaves or dropped fruit, because pests often use it for nesting and feeding.

Protect beneficial species. Within every landscape and garden, there are pest predators that are beneficial to the health of plants – either by feeding on problem pests or by helping with soil aeration and drainage. Examples include earthworms, spiders, ladybugs and praying mantises. You can attract beneficial insects to your landscape with plants that provide nectar, pollen and other food sources.

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