THE OLD SIGN PHILOSOPHER, THOUGHT FOR THE DAY!

THINK MORE...........TALK LESS

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Sorry for the lack of updates lately but the hot weather takes the writing juices out of the old sign philosopher. But for those who check out the website frequently: The website has had 47,xxx website visits in the past 18 months and over 186,xxx web page views in the same time. Hopefully with decent weather, I'll be able to update the blog and the website more often.

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LAWN PROBLEMS GALORE IN THE ST. LOUIS AREA.

In many parts of St. Louis moisture stress is present on many home lawns. In areas where supplemental irrigation is needed and water conservation is critical, a few suggestions:

* Water during times when evapotranspiration is the lowest. Watering during the middle of the day will result in significant evaporation of water not only from the turf but from sprinkler water spray prior to the water hitting the turf. Night watering increases the severity of disease however compared to water loss the potential increase in disease severity is minimal.

* Water deeply and infrequently. Warm season grasses have a deep root system allowing them to absorb deeper. Deep infrequent watering also allows for a greater hardening off of the turfgrass plant. In some instances where hand watering is being implemented this may be difficult.

* Bluish colored turf is a sign of wilting. Water when the turf needs moisture the most, which is at the first sign of wilt.

* Pray for rain. Its really getting serious. Today I was at a farm coop buying some supplies and all the farmers were discussing the severe drought conditions in the St. Charles area.

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JAPANESE BEETLE HITS THE ST. LOUIS AREA

The Japanese beetle invaded portions of the St. Louis area in the past 2 weeks. We have been swamped with questions on what to do to eliminate this pest.

The Japanese beetle is a highly destructive plant pest of foreign origin. It was first found in the United States in a nursery in southern New Jersey nearly 80 years ago. In its native Japan, where the beetle's natural enemies keep its populations in check, this insect is not a serious plant pest.

In the United States, however, the beetle entered without its natural enemies and found a favorable climate and an abundant food supply. By 1972, beetle infestations had been reported in 22 States east of the Mississippi River and also in Missouri. In Missouri, it was originally found hitchhiking on travel trailers at Meramec State Park in Sullivan. Since then, the pest has continued to disperse south and west. Isolated infestations have been found in Wisconsin, Oregon, and California. Without its natural checks and balances, the Japanese beetle has become a serious plant pest and a threat to American agriculture.

Both as adults and as grubs (the larval stage), Japanese beetles are destructive plant pests. Adults feed on the foliage and fruits of several hundred species of fruit trees, ornamental trees, shrubs, vines, and field and vegetable crops. Adults leave behind skeletonized leaves and large, irregular holes in leaves. The grubs develop in the soil, feeding on the roots of various plants and grasses and often destroying turf in lawns, parks, golf courses, and pastures.

Today, the Japanese beetle is the most widespread turf-grass pest in the United States. Efforts to control the larval and adult stages are estimated to cost more than $460 million a year. Losses attributable to the larval stage alone have been estimated at $234 million per year--$78 million for control costs and an additional $156 million for replacement of damaged turf.

How To Recognize the Japanese Beetle's Life Stages

The adult Japanese beetle is a little less than 1/2 inch long and has a shiny, metallic-green body and bronze-colored outer wings. The beetle has six small tufts of white hair along the sides and back of its body under the edges of its wings. The males usually are slightly smaller than the females. You are most likely to see the adults in late spring or early summer.

During the feeding period, females intermittently leave plants, burrow about 3 inches into the ground--usually into turf--and lay a few eggs. This cycle is repeated until the female lays 40 to 60 eggs.

By midsummer, the eggs hatch, and the young grubs begin to feed. Each grub is about an inch long when fully grown and lies in a curled position. In late autumn, the grubs burrow 4 to 8 inches into the soil and remain inactive all winter. This insect spends about 10 months of the year in the ground in the larval stage.

In early spring, the grubs return to the turf and continue to feed on roots until late spring, when they change into pupae. In about 2 weeks, the pupae become adult beetles and emerge from the ground. This life cycle takes a year.

Homeowner Control

The Japanese beetle life cycle

No quick fixes can rid homeowners of the Japanese beetle once it becomes established. The Japanese beetle is here to stay. Therefore, we must learn to "live with" or manage this insect pest while attempting to minimize its impacts.

It is not necessary to eliminate the beetle in order to protect your trees, plants, and lawn. It is hard to predict when and where Japanese beetle populations will increase, and there is no guaranteed control formula to follow.

Traps for adult beetles operate primarily with two chemical lures. A combination of a pheromone, or sex attractant, and a floral lure attract both male and female adult beetles to the trap. Then, as a result of their clumsy flying and the design of the trap, they end up caught in either the bag or funnel portion of the trap.

If you put a trap out while the adults are flying and find that beetles fill the trap in 1 day, you probably have a Japanese beetle problem.

If, during a week, the bottom of the trap is barely filled, you probably do not need to be concerned. Adult beetles can fly long distances, so those caught in your yard may have come from up to a mile away. For this reason, it is difficult to estimate the number of grubs in your turf from adult trap catches.

If your lawn has brown or dead areas, survey near the edge of the damage. If you find that grubs are the cause of the damage, clearly this area should be treated. Just remember: There is several types of grubs found in the St. Louis area. The May or June beetle and the Southern masked chafer are the most dominant lawn problem beetles in the St. Louis area.

Control Methods

Chemical Controls

Homeowners who decide to use chemical methods to control Japanese beetle should base their decision on several factors. Correct timing and application are probably the most essential elements for success with pesticide applications. The following chemicals are effective for use in the control of the Japanese beetle adult and its grubs:

Chemicals for Adults:

Carbaryl
Malathion
Methoxychlor
Rotenone

Chemicals for Larvae:

Imidacloprid (Merit(TM) Insecticide for turf; Marathon(TM) for nursery use)
Bendiocarb
Isofenphos
Chlorpyrifos

Biological Controls

Homeowners who choose biological methods to control Japanese beetle populations can successfully use parasites, nematodes, fungi, or other biologically based approaches. Some of these agents are commercially available to homeowners; others are not. While they take a little longer to produce the same results as insecticides, biological control agents last longer in the environment. More importantly, they do not adversely affect nontarget or potentially beneficial organisms.

Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt)--Bt is a naturally occurring soil bacterium typically used as a microbial insecticide. The Bt strain registered for the Japanese beetle is for use on the grub stage only. Bt is a stomach poison and must be ingested to be effective. Apply it to the soil as you would insecticides. Effectiveness is similar to that of insecticides. Bt is available at Greenscape Gardens.

Milky Spore--Milky spore is the common name for spores of the bacterium Bacillus popillae. This bacterium was first registered for use on turf in suppression of the Japanese beetle grub in the United States in 1948. Milky spore is also available at Greenscape Gardens.

Upon ingestion, these spores germinate in the grub's gut, infect the gut cells, and enter the blood, where they multiply. The buildup of the spores in the blood causes the grub to take on a characteristic milky appearance.

Milky spore disease builds up in turf slowly (over 2-4 years) as grubs ingest the spores, become infected, and die, each releasing 1-2 billion spores back into the soil. Milky spore disease can suppress the development of large beetle populations.

Although the Japanese beetle feeds on almost 300 species of plants, it feeds sparingly or not at all on many cultivated plants. The various kinds of plants on your property can significantly influence the susceptibility of your property and plants to Japanese beetle damage. Having a well-dispersed mixture that favors nonpreferred species can reduce the level of beetle-caused damage.

Mechanical Traps

Millions of beetles are captured annually in mechanical traps. This method is an easy and inexpensive way to reduce beetle populations and curtail egg laying. Under favorable conditions, a trap will capture only about 75 percent of the beetles that approach it. Because the traps actually attract more beetles than they capture, be sure not to put traps near your garden or your favorite plants. Put traps at the borders of your property, away from plants the beetles may damage. We have sold in the past 2 weeks over 50 traps. Yes, we carry the Japanese Beetle trap and have found them very effective.

Replace the lure annually for the most effective trapping. Trap placement should be timed to coincide with the emergence of adult Japanese beetles in your area. Adults generally emerge between early June and late August.

CAUTION: (Sorry but I had to put in this disclaimmer) Pesticides can be injurious to humans, domestic animals, desirable plants, and fish or other wildlifeĆ¾if they are not handled or applied properly. Use all pesticides selectively and carefully. Follow recommended practices for the disposal of surplus pesticides and pesticide containers.

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MORE LAWN PROBLEMS

Lawns that are heavily shaded can sometimes develop a white color on the grass blades, as if they have been dusted by powder. This is due to powdery mildew, a common fungal disease favored by cool, humid weather and shady conditions. Apply a fungus control material and do not water after 5 pm.