Beware of the Tiny Bad Guys
It’s mid-summer and a lot of us have turned our attentions to the outdoors, whether it be our gardens or just being out in the woods enjoying our beautiful trees and mountains. But there are villains lurking out there, attacking our plants and trees. To learn more, we talked with Pocahontas County Extension Agent Greg Hamons about these tiny bad guys.
Greg, can you tell me the most common plant problems people are having this time of year?
“Typically, the biggest thing that I’m seeing this time of year and getting questions on is folks’ home gardens” said Hamons. “That deals with a variety of issues – insects, diseases, and nutritional issues with plants. A lot of folks here are growing home gardens so they have a lot of questions about those things. I’ve got a lot of questions about the Poison Hemlock. It’s pretty widespread and can be toxic to livestock, and humans too if it’s ingested. But there is a lot of mis-identification of that weed, a lot of people think it’s Giant Hog Weed, which is another invasive species which is very noxious and can be harmful ti the skin.”
What does it look like?
“Kind of resembles Queen Ann’s Lace, but it’s a much bigger plant, a lot taller, it’s hollow stemmed. The Giant Hog Weed is even larger than that, with a larger leaf – that’s the one you hear horror stories about that people talk about, but to my knowledge it hasn’t been found and confirmed in West Virginia yet. The Poison Hemlock has, the Giant Hog weed has not. The Poison Hemlock, I think, is pretty much here to stay. Like I said, I’ve gotten a lot of calls about it in the last month, folks are wanting to confirm that’s what it is, and get ideas to get rid of it. I’ve had a lot of phone calls and site visits over it the last few weeks.”
What insects and diseases are affecting things in the area now?
“Well, the Emerald Ash Borer, all the Ash trees dying. There are treatment methods out there for those =some systemic insecticides you can inject in those trees, but the price of them makes it pretty non-feasible to inject them on a large scale. But we’ve treated this large Ash tree out here on the Courthouse lawn the last few years to try to save it. But it is wide spread – most of the Ash trees in the Greenbrier Valley total, I’d say, are mostly either dead or damages or dying from Emerald Ash Borer.”
It seems like they get between the bark and the tree?
“They’re basically girdled from the inside. Because of the small shot holes where that insect is coming out, you’re not seeing that damage until it’s too late. Basically, all the conductive tissue inside the tree is being devoured from the inside. That’s what’s causing it. That’s probably the biggest insect that we’re seeing having that kind of damage. Obviously, this time of year, June Beatles are another thing we’re running into, but that’s an annual problem that’s been here forever.”
“Other insect issues that we’ve had here lately: Wire Worms in Potatoes, pretty common this time of year. Usually people will see those when they’ve planted potatoes in new ground in sod. Wire worms don’t seem to exist near as bad in ground that’s been plowed before and tilled up, but in that new sod ground that seems to be really bad. And there is not any really feasible way to get rid of them once they are in your potatoes. I’ve had people come in all the time and say ‘I’ve got wire worms in my potatoes,’ and there is really nothing you can do at that point, you have to do it as a preventative ahead of time. There are some insecticides that you can apply prior to planting, but once we see them, there is not much you can do about them.”
“But almost everything that I see plant related in especially gardens and stuff, it seems it is always related, it seems like it always comes back to that soil test analysis. If plants are not healthy to start with, if they are not getting the proper nutrition, they are weak. So, insects can identify those weak plants and attack them, diseases as well.”
Be sure to listen to part two of our interview with WVU Extension Agent Greg Hamons where Greg picks up right where he ended part one – with the soil testing, and he will cover his 4-H involvement and other aspects of his job as well.