Now is the time of year where those pesky insects are showing up to ruin all your hard work in the garden. This year both aphids and scale are especially tenacious. But not to worry! With the right product, you can stop unwanted bugs in their tracks!

Aphids, aphids everywhere! From black to orange to green to gray. Aphids are very commonly seen feeding on the new, beautiful growth of many plants, from climbing honeysuckle to roses to boxwood and peppers. They don’t discriminate and cause twisted-looking leaves, buds that don’t open, and plants that look generally unhappy. The good news is that with the right products they are easy to eliminate:

-Bayer Rose & Flower Insect Killer

-Eight by BonideOrganic

-All Seasons Horticultural Oil by Bonide

-Neem by Bonide

-End All by Safer

Scale is a sneaky, almost undetectable insect unless you know what to look for. They can be found on indoor and outdoor plants such as Citrus, Holly, Pachysandra, and more. It is usually flat in appearance and sometimes cottony and white. They hide out typically on the underside of leaves making discovery even more difficult until they reveal themselves by noticeable leaf drop, sticky leaves or floors, and black Sooty Mold.
Scale is best eliminated by either:

-All Seasons Horticultural Oil by Bonide or

-Neem Oil
Just remember, it’s important to spray the top sides of the leaves, the undersides of the leaves, and stems. Thoroughly coat all parts of the plant. Allow one week and reapply. Then one week after that you can apply a third time for good measure!

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Are aphids the new supervillain? They have some astounding traits that could qualify them as supervillains or superheroes (depends on your perspective) of the insect world. I guess humans would place them in the supervillain category because of all the destruction they cause to our indoor and outdoor plants.

Aphid eggs can overwinter even in harsh climates. In the spring, the female aphid is basically born pregnant. Talk about reproductive ability! One female aphid can have 12 babies a day without any help from her male counterpart. Maybe the female is the superhero! Aphids have many overlapping generations in one season and these villains love to spend time together. If you go out in the garden now, you may see these villainous clusters everywhere. In my own garden, I have spied them lurking on my sedum, mock orange, spirea, sand cherry, viburnum, honeysuckle, roses and so many more. In my house, they have enjoyed sucking on the buds of my overwintered hibiscus. Shame on them, preying on the new, innocent, tender, spring growth of our sweet plants. Aphids love all the tender shoots and they love to eat together in a big, aphid feast. Another incredible, super villain trait that aphids possess is the ability to sprout wings as needed. Aphids do not normally have wings but will grow them if the feeding spot they are it becomes too crowded and food becomes scarce. They will sprout wings to find more food. Pretty amazing.

Not only can they reproduce without a mate, have 12 babies a day, sprout wings when needed, but they also come in an assortment of colors…green, black, brown, orange, yellow, gray, white, pink, and colorless. Aphids tend to match the plant they eat, providing them with much-needed camouflage from hungry predators. Pretty cool!

Aphids are not impervious super villains. They have their weak spots too. They are very soft-bodied insects so many insects and insect controls can kill them easily. They are also very slow. This makes them easy targets. The most natural controls for aphids are water, Lady Bugs, and Lace Wings. We sell beneficial Lady Bugs and Lace Wings right in the store. Come down to Van Wilgen’s and adopt some. One Lady Bug can eat up to 100 aphids per day. What great garden helpers. Knocking the aphids off the plant with water does not eliminate them but it suppresses their immediate damage. Some Organic products that work very well on Aphids are Neem Oil, Horticultural Oil, and Insecticidal Soap. They are easy to use and easy on the environment.

Aphid damage is criminal. Aphids cause plants to twist, curl, stunt, and turn yellow. These little offenders can also spread viruses to our plants with each suck they take out of a leaf or stem. If the problem is severe, be proactive and use a systemic product like Bayer All-in-One Rose & Flower Care. Applied to the soil, it gets absorbed through the plant and as soon as Aphids go to eat, they ingest the product into their system and meet their demise. This product along with Bayer Dual Action Rose & Flower Insect Killer is kryptonite to Aphids.

The bottom line is that your plants will most likely survive the destruction from these supervillains but let’s thwart their unwanted behavior by keeping our plants strong with a slow-release fertilizer such as Van Wilgen’s All-Purpose Slow Release Plant Food. Using high Nitrogen, quick-release fertilizers are not the best choice when Aphids are in abundance. It is also important to keep these unwanted corrupts under control with the recommended pest control products.

Have no fear, the superhero, VanWilgen’s Garden Center is here! We can help you solve all your pest control problems and we don’t even need to wear a cape to do it!

Come see us at Van Wilgen’s. We would love to help.

Very unscientifically speaking, I think that if a mosquito and a fruit fly had a baby, it would be an adorable Fungus Gnat. Remember, all babies are adorable, even if it is a Fungus Gnat larva baby! Fungus Gnat is not a really beautiful name but it does fit. The Fungus Gnat is a very small fly, about the size of a fruit fly, with long legs like a mosquito. It got its first name, Fungus, because it loves to feed on decaying organic matter and fungus. The more decayed and damp, the better. It got its last name, Gnat, because it is a small fly that can be quite obnoxious when found inside our homes.

Fungus Gnats make themselves right at home in our indoor potted plants. To keep Fungus Gnat babies happy, all you need to give them is damp soil and a warm home. How did they get here? Did the stork drop them off? No, silly! Fungus Gnat adults are so small they can sneak into any little opening in your home. They can also enter the home in a bag of infested potting soil or from a plant that spent the summer outside. Most people confuse them with Fruit Flies. Unfortunately, Fruit Fly traps will not work for this nuisance.

Fungus Gnats do not have a long life, approximately 4 weeks, but they reproduce very quickly and can inhabit all of your potted plants before you can say, “Fungus Gnat!” The adults lay anywhere from 100 to 300 eggs at a time in the soil. You need to use yellow Sticky Traps by Safer in your plants to cut down on the adult, egg-laying population. Once they lay their tiny eggs, they develop into larvae in the soil. The larvae feed on the roots of plants and decaying fungus matter. The key is to control the larvae in order to get rid of Fungus Gnats in your plants. I have a few suggestions for control:Mosquito bits

I think I need to retract my earlier statement about all babies being cute. Honestly, Fungus Gnat babies are just not that cute and neither is the damage they do to our plants and seedlings. Unfortunately for the adults, what they lack in good looks, they do not really make up for in personality. I have got to give Fungus Gnats at least one, big, green thumb up…they are good pollinators!

Come see us at Van Wilgen’s. We would love to help!

stacey tips art 1I saw it with my own eyes… the 4-Lined Plant Bug! This is the quick-moving culprit that is attacking my Montauk Daisy right now. I was working in the garden and a little too close for this bug’s comfort. It immediately felt my presence and scattered fast! This bug looks like it is built for speed. The adult’s yellowish/green, sleek body is colorfully patterned with 4 black racing stripes. The nymphs(young stage) tend to be more reddish/orange with black spots on their abdomen. If you have the chance, head out to your garden today and see if you can spot this speedy plant feeder. Take a look at your herbs; especially mint, basil, lemon verbena, and sage. No sign of the plant bug there? Head over to your flowers such as; nepeta, coreopsis, dahlias, morning glory, lupine, geranium, zinnia, and marigolds. Still no sign? Walk to the woody plant section of your garden and investigate your azalea, dogwood, forsythia, honeysuckle, hydrangea, viburnum, caryopteris, and weigela. Veggie gardeners, you may even want to look at your lettuce, squash, melons, and cucumbers. Frustrating! This bug is not too fussy.

The best time to begin your 4-lined plant bug hunt is in May. The adults lay their banana-shaped eggs in right angles on the top stems of plants in the Fall. The eggs overwinter and the nymphs begin hatching and feeding usually sometime in May. They will not show themselves until all of the lush, green foliage on your plants has appeared. They will wait patiently until your plants are looking their greenest before they attack. For goodness sake, they need something pretty to feed on!

The nymphs with their reddish bodies and small black wing pads, hatch and immediately begin siphoning out the delicious green chlorophyll from the leaves. It is kind of like they have their own juicing program. They inject a toxin into the leaf that helps break it down and make it easier for them to digest. Their mouths look like little needles or straws. They pierce the top of the leaf surface and suck out the yummy, green juice. This feeding action leaves your plants with round, uniform dots on the leaves. The dots can be very close together. They look kind of blackish/brown at first and may turn white to clear. The dots may even fall out, leaving a hole in the leaf. Usually, the diagnosis for a plant with round, brown dots on the leaf is a fungal leaf spot and often a fungicide is prescribed. Be careful! It may be our speedy culprit. He is swift and likes to hide under the leaf or drop to the ground so you cannot see him, but the round, little dots he leaves behind are a sure sign that he has been there.

The best way to control this “true” bug is to start your spray treatments early on, probably sometime in May, when they first hatch. In April, begin with Bonide’s All Season Horticultural Oil. It will do a good job at suffocating the overwintering eggs of the 4-Lined Plant Bug before they hatch. Once those buggers have hatched, it is time to switch to a different product. In the organic category, Bonide’s Japanese Beetle Killer and Safer’s Insecticidal Soap & End All will do the trick. For something that packs a little more punch, conventional products, such as; Bonide’s Eight & Bayer’s Rose & Flower Insect Killer will really knock them out.

There are other methods that require a little closer inspection but if you have the time and interest, may work for you. In the Fall, you can inspect the top 2 inches of your garden plants for the banana-shaped eggs of the 4-Lined Plant Bug. They usually lay them in groups of 6 and at 90-degree angles. The eggs are kind of easy to spot. If you see them, you can remove them by hand or prune them off. Sometimes, a Spring clean-up consisting of a 3-inch shearing off of plants can also do the trick. I have also heard of planting mint as a “trap crop”. They like it so much that it may be the only plant they attack, leaving your others alone.

The bottom line is, the 4-Lined Plant Bug does not usually kill your plants, especially large ornamental plants. They can be more destructive on herbs and veggies and of course, make your ornamental look not-so-pretty. If you don’t mind brown spearmint leaves in your Mojito or spotted basil leaves in your tomato, basil, mozzarella salad, then you have nothing to worry about. If you like entertaining your guests with more edible-looking herbs, then an early-timed spray or two may be the right answer for you!

Come see us at Van Wilgen. We would love to help!