County residents give hotline a buzz for insect advice

The most common questions to the Elkhart County Master Gardener Hotline in June were about emerald ash borers, aphids and home-invading insects.

Posted on July 5, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on July 5, 2013 at 1:21 p.m.

GOSHEN — Bugs — they’re creepy, they’re crawly, and they’re what people are calling about on the Elkhart County Master Gardener Hotline.

The most common questions in June answered by volunteers on the hotline, operated by the Purdue extension office, had to do with emerald ash borers, aphids and home-invading insects.

Most ash trees in Elkhart County are showing signs of infestation by the emerald ash borer, according to extension educator Jeff Burbrink. Tree canopies are thinning, water sprouts are growing on trunks, and there is damage from woodpeckers as well as holes where the insects are burrowing underneath the bark.

Hotline volunteers have fielded several questions about aphids feeding on plants including fruit trees, tulip trees, maple and oak. While aphids do not necessarily harm the trees, they could make newer leaves unsightly or cause a sticky sap-like material to drip from the trees. If the sap is not washed off, it often turns black because of mold that lives off the sugars in the sap, Burbrink said.

Boxelder bugs, red clover mites and earwigs topped the list of insects that callers reported inside their homes in June. Burbrink, coordinator of the local master gardener program, said most of these tiny invaders can be managed easily with insecticide barrier sprayed around the exterior of houses.

Gypsy moths reappeared in Elkhart County in June after not being spotted in large numbers for several years. Small pockets of the pests feeding were reported east of Elkhart and in the New Paris area, Burbrink said.

“When gypsy moth larva near maturity, they have a nasty habit of dropping down from trees in the evening, crawling over everything in sight,” Burbrink said in a news release. “During the day, the caterpillars climb back up the trees. You can often see and hear their droppings falling from the tree as they feed.”

Gypsy moth populations have been nearly non-existent in Elkhart County because of rain storms in late April and early May, according to Burbrink. Wet weather causes newly hatched larva to contract diseases.

Burbrink said gypsy moth larva will soon be creating pupa, a brown cocoon that sticks to anything sitting still like homes, swing sets, grills and firewood. He said people should remove the pupa if possible and to be careful about moving firewood or other objects with pupa to uninfested areas.

“People are the No. 1 way that invading insects move from place to place,” Burbrink said.

To contact the hotline or learn more about the master gardener program, call 533-0554 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.


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