Milkweed Assassin Bug

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I just wanted to share this interesting bug I found out in the field today. This little guy is called the Milkweed Assassin Bug! What an awesome name! I had to look this one up myself when the customer asked me what it was. So it’s true, even when you’ve been doing something for a long time, you always learn something new.

As you can see in the picture, these bugs are very small. They average 16-18 millimeters in length, with the females being bigger than the males. The vary in color around the globe, but in the United States they are primarily the Orange and Black color seen above.

The Milkweed Assassin Bug is not aggressive and normally do not bite unprovoked. However, if mishandled, their bite can lead to burning and swelling of the are, but will only last a few days. They are beneficial to the ecosystem since they will hunt other insects in your garden. Since they are predators and do not harm your lawn or shrubs, it is recommend to not treat for them when they are found.

Iron Chlorosis

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Let’s talk about an issue Ive been seeing a lot of lately with all the heavy rains. A condition called Iron Chlorosis, where the grass blades start to become pale yellow to almost white in sever cases. It’s simply a lack of nutrients in the lawn, mainly iron, causing the pale appearance. Many people can confuse chlorosis with a Nitrogen deficiency. However a nitrogen deficiency will leave the blades a more solid yellow color rather than pale. But we will talk about that at a later time.

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There are a few different reasons why a lawn can become chlorotic. The most common reason is over watering. Either from running the irrigation system too long, of from too heavy of a rainfall. The excess amount of water will cause the nutrients to wash out of the lawn. If this is the case, a fertilizer containing iron or a sprayable iron treatment can help correct this issue. Always be careful when applying iron products because they will stain non target areas. Check the irrigation system to make sure its not the cause or any treatment will be in vain.

Another common cause is high phosphorus levels in the soil. If the pH level of the soil is too high, it will cause a distortion in the nutrient uptake of the turf leading to this pale color. If this is the case applying a 21-0-0, which is Sulfate if Ammonia, will help balance the pH of the soil, and give the turn some extra nutrients. 5 pounds per 1,000 sq feet is the normal rate for this, but could require a few treatments to get the pH to drop where it needs to be. Make sure to test the pH between treatments to make sure you don’t send it too far the other direction. The pH level for St Augustine you should aim for is 6.5.

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With this, and any other issues you have, I recommend seeking the help of a Lawn Care Professional. They will have the products and equipment to properly take care of any issues you may have. If you decide to do it yourself, always remember : THE LABEL IS THE LAW! Make sure to careful read the label of any product you use to make sure its the correct product, and that you apply is correctly. It is against the law to use products outside of the parameters stated on the label.

Shrub of the Week: Hibiscus

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Another one of my favorite shrubs, the Hibiscus. I love the vibrant color flowers that these produce. There are tons of different colors and varieties of this plant, each just as beautiful and colorful as the rest. They are originally from China, and made its way here through the Pacific and Hawaii. Since it’s not native here, it is technically considered an invasive plant grown in many tropic regions. Most of the flowers are considered one day flowers, meaning they open in the morning and begin to wilt in the afternoon. Luckily here in Florida, the flowering season for Hibiscus is nearly all year long, so we can almost alway see these pretty flowers.

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This more bushy plant does better being left to grow rather than trimmed or shaped. They can range from small and bushy, but can grow as tall as 20 feet. If planting multiple Hibiscus plants, its recommended to leave about 4-5 feet between each plant to allow them space to grow. They will do much better in the southern half of Florida, because a younger smaller Hibiscus will be wiped to in temperatures lower than 30 degrees. So take precaution incase of the off chance of a Florida freeze.

When planting make sure to take note of the amount of sunlight. Full sun is preferred, but as long as the plant gets half a day of sunlight they should do well. They do not like areas of High Saturation, so also make sure the area it is planted drains well when choosing its location. Also check the pH of the soil when planting. A pH of 5.5-6.5 is optimal. Too alkaline of soil can lead to nutrient deficiencies. If you have issues with the color of the plant you can add some Manganese to help correct this.

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Keep an eye out for pests on Hibiscus. Many different types of chewing insects can be found on them including Caterpillars, Grasshoppers, leaf miners, etc. Also keep an eye out for sucking insects such as Mealybugs, Spider Mites, Aphids, whitefly, and thrips. Pest problems will be more likely in areas with poor air circulation, so keep this in mind when planting.

A common issue I’ve seen with Hibiscus is root rot. As mentioned before, these plants do not like wet feet. So keeping the soil from being too saturated it important. If they do start to have root rot issues, they will wilt and die quickly. Ive found in this case if you hit them with Heritage (a very strong Fungicide) and fertilize them heavy to push some new growth, they will some times pull through. If the damage is too far, the plant will not survive.

Sod Webworms

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Lets talk about an issue common this time of year, Sod Webworms. Ive been getting a lot of service calls, and seeing them a lot on my normal services lately. A lot more than I have in past years. You can see them throughout the year given the right conditions, but you will see the most activity from July-August.

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Sod webworms are the result of moths laying their eggs in the lawn. These eggs turn to larvae, then pupate in early summer when they begin feeding on the lawn. Many people will see moths in their lawn and automatically assume its Sod Webworms. Even though this could be a sign, its not a for sure thing. There are a lot of different types of moths out there laying eggs for things other than Sod Webworms that won’t damage the turf.

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When inspecting an area of the lawn where Sod Webworms are present, you will see green fecal pellets called frass, pictured above. You will also see the worms, which have a green color, also pictured above. They get to be 1/2″ – 3/4″ long, so they are fairly easy to see when inspecting. One way to inspect and area would be to take a couple gallons of water and add dish soap to the area. This will disturb the worms sending them to the top to breathe.

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The Sod Webworms, are chewing the grass blades, so it will be easy to see the damage, From afar it will look like an area of the grass was mowed lower than the rest. Looking closer you will be able to see the chew marks on the grass blades. The area will also start turning a little brown from the stress as well. Since its just the grass blades being affected, the damage area will grow back in after a few mowings once the Sod Webworms are gone.

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Sod Webworms are pretty simple to control. There are many different insecticides that will take them out. My preferred insecticide is any with the ingredient Bifenthrin since it is useful in controlling many other types of insects as well. Because Sod Webworms eat at night, its best to treat for them late in the afternoon to ensure the product comes in contact with them. As always, remember, THE LABEL IS THE LAW. When using any products make sure to read the label to make sure the problem you are trying to treat is listed on there. I recommend contacting your local Lawn Care Professional to resolve any of your lawn or shrub issues. They will have to proper products and equipment, as well as knowledge, to effectively take care of any of your issues.

Shrub of the Week: Gold Mounds

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This weeks Shrub is the “Gold Mound” Duranta. This is a very common shrub found in many landscapes. When properly maintained, they will have a very bright vibrant color to them, which is why they are a great accent shrub for any home.

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Gold Mounds prefer full sun, to partial shade. The more sun they get the better because they will have more of a green color in areas of shade. Many people will use them as a hedge, but this can be too distracting and take attention away from more important things, such as your beautiful home. I recommend using it more as an accent piece to attract attention to certain points in the landscape. I think they look best when matched with darker plants such as the Loropetalums, since they have such a big contrast from each other. Place them 2-3 feet from each other when planting to give them plenty of room to spread.

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When planting Gold Mounds, make sure the are where you place them has good drainage to prevent possible root issues. Make sure to add some organic soil or peat moss to the area where you are going to plant them to make sure the soil has plenty of nutrients. As with all shrubs, make sure when you transfer them from the pot to the ground that you break up the roots before placing them in the ground. This will help prevent the plant from becoming pot bound, leading to its demise.

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You may see your common shrub pests on Gold Mounds. Scale, Thrips, White Flys, etc. During the winter months it is susceptible to frost damage. Keep an eye out for blackened leaves, damage from the cold weather. This will eventually grow out in the spring growing season. Keep an eye out for small black spots on the leaves. This is a sign of a fungal disease called cylindrocladium. This will cause the plant to defoliate. If this happens, a fungicide treatment will be needed, and make sure to remove to fallen infected leaves to prevent it from spreading.

If you have any insect or fungal issues, I highly recommend seeking out the help of a Lawn Care Professional. They will have the products and equipment needed to take care of any of these issues for you.

Powdery Mildew

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Since we continue to get these heavy rainfalls here in Central Florida, followed by hot humid weather, fungus continues to thrive. This week I’m going to talk about Powdery Mildew. I’ve been seeing it a little more often than I have in the past, mostly because of the weather conditions I just mentioned. It will also be more common in shady areas, since plants will not dry off as quickly. The Powdery Mildew pictured here is on a Crepe Myrtle.

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Powdery Mildew looks a little different from plant to plant. But all variations will start with small white spots like pictures here. It will quickly spread throughout the leaf and cover the top of it. When it gets to this point it will look like someone sifted baby powder on this plant, hence the name of this disease. If left untreated it will cause stunted growth, and cause the leaves to turn yellow and the plant to defoliate.

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You want to make sure that you treat shrubs for Powdery Mildew as soon as symptoms are visible, to prevent it from spreading. There are many different types of fungicide that will work on this disease. A foliar fungicide spray will clear it up easily. Even the use of Horticultural Oil would be beneficial. Heritage works well, but it a very expensive option. Any of your copper based fungicides would be a less expensive option for you. Multiple treatments may be needed depending on the product used. As always, THE LABEL IS THE LAW! Make sure any product you use, you read the label thoroughly. Make sure the plant and issue is listed on the label. Misuse of product is not only a waste, but against the law as well. I highly recommend contacting your local Lawn Care professional to help you with any issues you have. They will have the correct products and equipment to take care of this and any other issue you may have.

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