Roots, Shoots, Fruits & Flowers: Orbweaver Spider, Camellia Tea Scales, and Mushroom ID

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Spiny orb weaver spider.
Photo by Texas A&M University.

Spiny Orb Weaver Spider

A specialist with the LSU AgCenter identified the remains of the spider as a spiny orb weaver spider. According to Master Gardeners in Galveston County, TX, “The famous spider from Charlotte's Web is a barn orb-weaver spider. Orb weaving spiders produce the familiar flat, ornate, circular webs usually associated with spiders. Orbweavers come in many shapes and sizes, but the brightly colored garden orbweavers are the largest and best known.

Orbweavers are generally harmless and can be a nuisance when they build large webs in places inconvenient for humans. Despite their formidable appearance, orb weaver spiders are not considered dangerous.”

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Camellias infested with tea scales.
Photo by John Martel.


“What’s happening to my camellia?”, asks John. He also included this image of blurry camellia leave with yellow spots.

AHA responded, “Based on your image, I think you have tea scales. These adult insects park under leaves and feed on sap. They stay attached and the juveniles will crawl around to establish on other leaves.”

Dan Gill, retired AgCenter horticulturist, wrote about tea scales and their treatment, “The least toxic, effective insecticides to control tea scale are the horticultural oil sprays. These insecticides contain oil in a form that will mix with water. When mixed and sprayed onto an infested plant, the oil coats the scale insects and clogs their breathing pores. The insects are suffocated rather than being killed by a toxic material. Brand names include heavier oils like Volck Oil Spray and light oils like Year-Round Spray Oil, All Seasons Oil Spray and others. The light horticultural oils are more useful as they can be used all summer.

For proper control, it is critical to apply the oil spray over every surface of the plant. If the insects are on the underside of the leaves and the oil is only applied to the upper surface it will have no effect on them. Because tea scales are relatively difficult to control, a second application should be made following label directions.

Oils are also effective against aphids, whiteflies, spider mites and the crawler stage of scales. In addition to their low toxicity, oil sprays do not leave behind a residue that may be harmful to beneficial insects.

Systemic insecticides are another option for controlling tea scale. These insecticides are applied to the roots. The plant absorbs the insecticide into its tissue, and it gets into the plant’s circulatory system and, eventually, into the sap. When the scale insects feed on the sap they ingest the toxic insecticide and are killed. Imidacloprid (Bayer Advanced Tree and Shrub Insect Control and other brands) is a systemic insecticide that is effective against tea scale.

When a very heavy infestation is observed, use both horticultural oils and imidacloprid. A two-prong approach will provide best results.”


Mushroom, edible or not?
Photo by Lynette Manuel.

Edible Mushrooms?

Lynette sent some pictures of mushrooms and asked if they are safe to eat.

AHA recommends finding an experienced “shroomer” who know which mushrooms are safe. The mushrooms in Lynette’s picture looks like chanterelles, a popular edible mushroom, but AHA is unsure if it is safe to eat.

Our friends at the Alabama Extension Services have some useful comments, “We cannot identify mushrooms for human consumption at the diagnostic lab, especially based on pictures. There are look-a-like mushrooms that can be difficult to distinguish without fresh specimens (Jack O'Lanterns and false chanterelles). You should never eat a mushroom you have identified based on pictures. And never eat anything you can't positively identify!

Chanterelles grow from summer through early fall. They are usually found associated with hardwood tree roots. They form a symbiotic (beneficial) relationship with the tree. They are usually found growing solitary or in a small bunch and have a sweet smell. They are usually orange yellow in color with a convex or vase shaped cap. They have false gills that appear as forked folds or wrinkles on the underside of the mushroom. The false gills are decurrent, meaning they run down the stalk.

Jack O'Lantern mushrooms are also orange in color but are found growing in large clusters and not necessarily associated with tree roots. When you cut a Jack O'Lantern stalk open, it will be orange through the whole stalk. Chanterelles are usually white inside their stalk. Jack O'Lanterns also have true gills, meaning they are non-forked and knife-like. Jack O'Lanterns contain the toxin muscarine. If eaten, they can cause severe cramps and diarrhea. The Jack O'Lantern mushroom is named such because it can bioluminesce (glow in the dark), although difficult to see.

The false chanterelle is also orange in color and vase shaped but has true gills. The gills are forked on the edges, but still appear as close blades rather than folds or wrinkles. The orange color is also graded, meaning they're darker at the center of the cap rather than one uniform color. There are reports that this mushroom is poisonous, causing upset stomach and digestive problems.

If you want to contact Roots, Shoots, Fruits and Flowers, please send your questions and pictures to Keith Hawkins, Area Horticulture Agent (AHA), 337-463-7006 or Also, you can be on the “green thumbs” email list by emailing your request to the address above.

“This work has been supported, in part, by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Renewable Resources Extension Act Award, Accession Number 1011417.”

11/18/2019 5:49:16 PM
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