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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.