Foliage Eating Insects

Karen Cambre, Sharpe, Kenneth W.  |  7/10/2018 1:56:12 PM

News article for July 16, 2018

Now is a good time for gardeners, livestock producers and hunters who plant food plots to take soil samples. Our soil testing lab will be able to give you a report of soil pH, liming needs, soil nutrient levels and recommendations to correct any nutrient deficiencies and needs.

I suggest that you get a soil sample at least every 3 years, but if you had garden problems this past year, go ahead and do it now. Livestock producers and hunters who will be planting cool season forages this fall should go ahead and take samples now so they can plan their fertility program and address any pH issues with lime if needed. This will allow time to source all the fertilizers needed. You may also find a better price on lime that has to be spread if you do this prior to the traditional fall ryegrass planting season when applicator trucks are extremely busy.

Take soil randomly from 15-20 different places within the growing area and from a depth of 2 to 4 inches. Mix that soil together in one bucket and then take a pint of the mixture for one sample. Label the sample with a field name and bring to my office along with a check for $10.

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I have seen missing foliage on a number of azaleas lately. Close inspection reveals a brightly colored caterpillar devouring their leaves.

In the hot humid weather of mid-summer we are not always paying a lot of attention to outdoor plants. It only takes a few days for mature caterpillars to defoliate an azalea bush. The caterpillar that I am seeing and hearing reports about is the red headed azalea caterpillar.

This is one of the times that red headed caterpillar appear. They are pretty specific to azalea plants; however I have seen them on blueberries. I usually see them first in early spring and then again anytime between July and September. This ferocious foliage eater has a distinct red head and their bodies are brightly colored in yellow and black stripes.

Check azaleas early in the morning when it is not so hot to see if you have any missing foliage. If you do, check around for caterpillars. It is possible that they have come and gone.

Red headed caterpillars are relatively easy to control. If you have just one or two small plants you can pick them off and dispose of them. For larger plants, spraying may be a better option. Dipel, Thuricide and Spinosad are good biological sprays that are slower to act, but very environmentally friendly. Insecticdes with acephate, such as Orthene, are systemic and would give you about 2 weeks of residual control, just in case a new hatch of caterpillar eggs occurs.

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I have also seen a lot of missing foliage on my rose bushes, but no insects are present. The culprit is what I know as June bugs or May beetles. These are those light brown to tan, hard shelled beetles that flock to lights at the baseball fields this time of year. They are also drawn to home security lights and other night lights. They will come under the cover of darkness and descend on bushes, shrubs and trees and are gone before daylight. There are usually a few that get left behind so you might see one or two lying under a light the next morning.

They are responsible for my missing rose bush leaves and I have had numerous reports from other victims as well. I have also seen where June bugs have eaten a large portion of the leaves from mature trees to where the homeowner thought the trees were dying. I have frequently seen it in oaks and even live oaks, especially when a night light was right next to the tree.

Hard to treat a swarm of insects that comes and goes so quickly. Use Sevin, Orthene or a pyrethrin on roses or shrubs.

For more information on these or related topics contact Kenny at 225-686-3020 or visit our website at www.lsuagcenter.com/livingston.

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