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Extension > Yard and Garden News > April 2017

Friday, April 28, 2017

Get ready for ticks

Jeffrey Hahn, Extension Entomologist

Spring has arrived and as we start enjoying our favorite outdoor activities, don’t let your fun be ruined by ticks. Although it is difficult to make predictions on the severity of ticks in a given season, it does appear because of our mild winter, that we may experience a year of above average tick numbers. However regardless of how abundant they are, ticks are always a concern that people should remember so they can take the proper precautions to protect themselves when outdoors.
Adult female blacklegged (deer) tick, a potential vector of
Lyme disease.  Photo: Jeff Hahn, U of M Extension

There are two common ticks in Minnesota; the blacklegged tick (also called deer tick) and the American dog tick (also called wood tick). Both ticks are nuisances because they bite to take a blood meal from not only people but also pests including dogs and horses. Blacklegged (deer) ticks are a health problem because they are a potential vector of Lyme disease and other diseases (see Tick-borne disease in Minnesota). Both of these ticks are common in grassy fields and the underbrush

Keeping ticks out of your yard is challenging, especially when property is adjacent to natural habitat. Fortunately ticks generally are not found in lawns that are kept short. Routinely mowing brushy areas along the perimeter of lawns will help minimize ticks from moving into yards. If large numbers of ticks are present, it is possible to treat the perimeter with an insecticide to help reduce the number of ticks that may move into that area. It is not practical or effective to treat an entire area of natural habitat.to control ticks.

Tick tubes and tick boxes are sold for blacklegged (deer) tick control. Mice enter tick tubes and can take insecticide-impregnated cotton back to their burrows as nesting material. The insecticide kills ticks that occur on the mice. Although research has shown tick numbers are reduced, it has not demonstrated a decrease in the number of infected ticks.

Tick boxes, sold through licensed applicators, treat mice that feed on bait inside the box. While they feed, they are treated with an insecticide that will kill ticks infesting the mice. It has demonstrated they can reduce a large of number of ticks found on mice, although it has not demonstrated an ability to reduce the incidence of Lyme disease in the treatment area. It does not hurt anything to use these devices, although their use may not achieve the desired control that is sought.

Regardless of what you do on your property, use personal protection when you are out in known tick areas. Take these steps to protect yourself from ticks:
of hardwood forests.
  • Stay on trails and avoid when possible walking into brushy, grassy areas where ticks are more common.
  • Wear long, light colored pants so ticks are easier to detect. For additional protection, tuck your pants into your socks.
  • Use repellants: Deet can be treated on clothes and skin while products containing permethrin are applied just to clothing
  • Do a tick check when you return from the outdoors. They are small and can be easily overlooked so look carefully. Be sure to look in out of the way places, like behind ears or behind knees.
If you do find a tick, especially if it has been biting, get it positively identified. While American dog ticks are not an important disease vector, blacklegged (deer) ticks can transmit a variety of diseases, especially Lyme disease.

 For more information, see Ticks and their control.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Watch for eastern tent caterpillars

Jeffrey Hahn, Extension Entomologist

This is the time of the year that eastern tent caterpillars are active. The first sign people notice are silken tents in the forks of branches, particularly in fruit trees, including apple, chokecherry, crabapple, plum, and cherry. These tents are be small at first but will increase in size and can eventually become quite conspicuous. Eastern tent caterpillars feed on tree leaves during the day and will remain in their tents at night and during rainy weather.
Eastern tent caterpillars and tent.  Photo: David Paulson


Eastern tent caterpillars are bluish black with yellow and a white stripe running down the top of its body. They are mostly smooth but do have a series of hairs sticking out along the sides of their bodies. They are two inches long when fully grown.

Healthy, well-established trees can tolerate eastern tent caterpillar feeding. Their feeding, as well as the presence of their webs, is primarily a cosmetic problem, affecting just the trees’ appearance. However, young trees, as well as unhealthy, stressed trees, are more susceptible to feeding damage and may need to be protected.

A great method to deal with eastern tent caterpillars without using pesticides is to wait until they have retreated into their tents at the end of the day or on a rainy day and then pull out the webbing, along with the caterpillars. Then bury or bag them to properly dispose of them (you could burn them if it is permitted where you live).

If it is a consideration to treat these caterpillars make sure they are reasonably small, usually one inch or less. As they approach full grown size (two inches), the closer they are to finishing their feeding, making it less worthwhile to treat them.

There are a variety of residual insecticides that are effective against caterpillars. Consider using a product that has a low impact on the environment, such as Bacillus thuringiensis, spinosad, or insecticidal soap. Bacillus thuringiensis is a particularly good product if the tree is flowering since it will not harm visiting honey bees and other pollinators. If you use insecticidal soap, the product needs to directly contact the insects. There is no residual activity so you may need to repeat the treatment.



Monday, April 10, 2017

Video: The ragdoll method for starting seeds and testing viability

By Julie Weisenhorn, Extension Educator

Sometimes we discover seeds that we've saved and wonder if they are still viable (will germinate). The ragdoll method of creating a damp seed packet that will prompt germination is an inexpensive and easy way to test seed viability. It is also a good way to start warm season plants like tomatoes, peppers, etc. In this video, I'll demonstrate how to make a ragdoll for Pride of Wisconsin muskmelon. You'll need a sheet of damp paper towel, a sealable plastic quart bag, seeds or your choice and a marking pen. Watch the video.



Pepper seeds 8 days later: The first root has emerged from some of the seeds. Just gently remove and plant in potting soil. Place in a warm sunny window or under grow lights. Keep the soil moist (not wet). It should feel like a damp sponge when you touch it. These pepper plants should be large enough to plant in a large pot or a sunny garden location by end of May / early June.

New publication from the U of MN Bee Squad on befriending bumble bees

Reprinted from Extension In the News, a weekly email digest highlighting Extension coverage in news media, University of Minnesota publications and other channels. For more coverage, see In The News.

University of Minnesota Extension has published Befriending Bumble Bees: A practical guide to raising local bumble bees. The guide provides the step-by-step information needed to find, capture, house, and feed the next generation of bumble bees. Read more ...

Monday, April 3, 2017

What is Roundup for Lawns?

Recently, we’ve received several questions regarding a new product offering from The Scott’s Company called “Roundup for Lawns.”  There are several versions of this product, including both Northern and Southern grass options.  The Northern grass product, for use on Minnesota lawns, states that the product “kills weeds, not the lawn.”  Most of us are familiar with the original version of Roundup, which contains the active ingredient glyphosate, and we know that glyphosate is a non-selective vegetation killer- meaning that it kills most plants that it is sprayed on.  So, how does Roundup for Lawns not kill the entire lawn? 

The answer is simple; this product isn’t Roundup.  In this case, Scott’s is taking the liberty of using a widely known name of one of the most effective herbicides, and putting something else in the bottle.  So, what exactly is Roundup for Lawns?  The Northern version of Roundup for lawns contains the very well-known synthetic auxin herbicides MCPA and dicamba, as well as quinclorac and sulfentrazone.  You will find some of these same active ingredients in other products because they are so common.  For example, Ortho Weed B Gon Plus Crabgrass Control contains both quinclorac and dicamba, as well as 2,4-D; in this product, dicamba and 2,4-D are the broadleaf weed control products, and quinclorac provides the post-emergent control of crabgrass.  Bayer Advance Weed Killer for Lawns contains only the synthetic auxin herbicides and will not control crabgrass.  Additionally, Bonide Weed Beater Plus contains both quinclorac and dicamba, as well as 2,4-D.  Sulfentrazone is added to Roundup for Lawns because of its added benefit of controlling sedges, such as yellow nutsedge, in addition to broadleaf weeds.  And if you’re looking for a product that is very similar to the formulation of Roundup for Lawns, you can find that in the PBI Gordon product called Surge, although this does not contain quinclorac.


Some points to note.  1) if you plan to use Roundup for Lawns on your lawn, be sure you do not mistake this for a bottle of Roundup containing glyphosate, which will kill your lawn; 2) Roundup is an emotional topic for many, but just because this bottle says Roundup, it is not Roundup as we think of it; in fact, the herbicide active ingredients in Roundup for Lawns are regarded as more toxic than glyphosate (see: Toxicity of Pesticides); 3) if you’re looking for a good broad-spectrum post-emergent weed control product, Roundup for Lawns will work fine for you; 4) be sure to follow all label instructions when using this product, including proper personal protective equipment, application strategies, and re-entry intervals.  
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