Good news and bad news
The heat and lack of rain are a concern not only for our lawns, gardens and fields but it could also affect the insects in our area as well. There are some insects that prefer cooler weather and then there are those that prefer the hot weather.
The good news is that the insects that cause certain problems such as cutworms in our tomatoes or seedcorn or onion maggots do not do well in the heat. The bad news is that aphids, thrips and spider mites love the hot weather. We may even see a tick up on grasshoppers as well but they like weather that is hot and dry.
The bad news about today’s insecticides is that when we use them they do not discriminate from good insects versus bad insects. Meaning, that they kill just as many of the good insects as the bad insects. It is important to try to use other methods than insecticides whenever possible and start dealing with an insect problem early. The longer we wait, the harder it is to get things under control.
A very simple solution to aphids and thrips is to use your garden hose. If possible, a good stream of water will knock them off plants and that will be the end of them. The trick is to make sure that you are able to catch them early as both aphids and thrips are very good at hiding out along the base of stems and underneath leaves where it is harder to see them. We generally tend to overlook these little guys until real damage is being noticed.
The telltale damage that both aphids and thrips leave behind are very similar. They use their mouthparts to puncture holes into the underside of leaves and they suck the juices out of the plant leaf. Aphids are the ones to really watch out for as they can also spread garden diseases from plant to plant.
Spider mites feel rather encouraged to blossom their numbers when the temperatures hit 90 degrees or more. Their population will actually explode under the current conditions that we have been experiencing these past few weeks. They, too, tend to feed on the underside of leaves and have often been able to kill a medium sized spruce tree with a good-sized infestation.
The one thing to keep in mind that these insects will also be able to survive in just the right amount of numbers, which will knock back the harvested yield from produce from a garden. Scouting for these little devils every few days throughout your yard and garden would be a smart thing to do. If needed bring along a magnifying glass in order to see them. Most smart phones now have an app for that as well.
Since most of gardeners are savvy at using the internet and most have smart phones, a good website to keep handy when you are trying to figure out what is wrong with a plant in your garden is called “What’s wrong with my plant.” It is a website that the U of M Extension has put together; complete with pictures.
The website is located at https://apps.extension.umn.edu/garden/diagnose/plant/. For more information about gardening, you can reach me at email@example.com. In addition, remember, with the lack of rain, mulching your garden as much as possible will help in reducing the amount of water you may need to keep plants going. 6 inches of mulch is the key!