Small Flies Indoors During the Winter? Check Potted Plants

Fungus gnats are nuisance pests that occur indoors throughout the winter months. They breed and develop in overwatered potted plants. Many people do not realize plants take up less water in the winter, continue to water regularly, thereby creating a suitable habitat in the soil for the fungus gnat to complete its life cycle.

fungus gnats on dime

Fungus gnats are very small, often mistaken for fruit flies.

Adults are grayish-black, about 1/8-inch long and have one pair of wings. At first glance, they may appear similar to fruit flies, but they complete their development in top layers of soil. Females lay 100–150 eggs in moist potting soil and the larvae feed and develop on the fungi and organic matter. Fungus gnat larvae are white, slender, legless maggots with translucent bodies and dark heads. Larval feeding sometimes includes gnawing on the roots and stems of plants.

fungus gnat

When magnified, fungus gnats have dark-colored body, long antennae and Y-shaped wing vein.

In warm conditions, overlapping generations may occur, producing large populations which can cause spotting, curling, yellowing or plant death. After pupating in the soil, they emerge as winged adults, bothering people by flying around faces, lights, windows and food items.

In order to eliminate a fungus gnat infestation, the life cycle must be broken. This can be done by removing the fungus in which they breed, while simultaneously reducing the number of breeding and egg-laying adults. A non-chemical approach is to reduce the topsoil moisture by less frequent watering, drying out the soil and changing the plant medium to provide better drainage.

fungus gnats in jade plant

Fungus gnats breed in the moist soil of potted plants.

To catch flying adults, yellow sticky card traps are available at garden stores and placed at the soil surface. In addition, there are biological control products such as the microorganism, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which is applied to the soil to kill larvae after ingestion. Bti (subspecies israelensis) is selective to insect fly larvae, non-toxic to humans, pets and contains no harmful residues. A product labeled to control fungus gnats in plant beds or pots include Mosquito Bits® by Summit Chemical Company.

Check out our guide to help identify other common pesky flies that may be bugging you in your home. For help with vinegar flies or fruit flies, check out this blog post.screen shot 2019-01-22 at 10.13.35 am

Confessions of an Extension Entomologist: I have two plants in my home that have to get dry and droopy before I water them. I do not have a green thumb.

Keep calm and respect the critters,

Jody

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Put Your Christmas Tree to Good Use

by Sarah Browning, Extension Educator – Horticulture

Add fruit garland to your Christmas Tree

Add fruit garland to your Christmas Tree

Before taking your Christmas tree to the recycling center this year, consider using it to create backyard habitat for birds. To attract birds to your backyard, you must provide their three basic needs- food, water, and cover or shelter. Your old Christmas tree will provide excellent shelter for birds, providing protection from wind and predators. It can also serve as a feeding station, where you provide a buffet of food that our native birds love.

Before taking the tree outside, remove all decorations and lights, including tinsel. To provide the most shelter possible for the birds, place the tree on the south or east side of the house, sheltered from winter’s harsh north and west winds. Anchor the tree securely by setting the stump into the ground or a large bucket of damp sand, and securing the top of the tree with twine to nearby building, fence or trees.

There are several more ways to recycle your Christmas tree. Learn more, read the entire article “Recycling Ideas – Christmas Trees“.

If you don’t live in Lancaster County, Nebraska, please make sure to check out your local extension office too. Your extension office has resources for you, your family and community. To find your local office, visit http://lancaster.unl.edu/office/locate.shtml (nationwide listing).

Have a great day!!

Soni

Responsive. Innovative. Trusted.
Nebraska Extension provides research-based information to help you make informed decisions any time, any place, anywhere –

Roasting chestnuts … and what has happened to American Chestnut trees?

American Chestnuts. Photo by Pixabay

American Chestnuts. Photo by Pixabay

So how do you roast chestnuts?

With a sharp knife, make an incision through the smooth outer skin and textured inner skin on the rounded side of each nut. This allows steam to escape and prevents the nuts from bursting during roasting. Roast the nuts over an open fire in a wire popcorn basket or special chestnut roasting pan, shaking periodically, for 15-20 minutes. Allow the nuts to cool slightly before peeling and eating. Chestnuts can also be roasted in the oven after scoring, at 375 ° degrees for 15-25 minutes. Place them in a shallow pan, and turn them over mid-way through the roasting time.

The information on roasting chestnuts was included in the following article written by Sarah Browning, Extension Educator. 

Is Emerald Ash Borer the Next Chestnut Blight?

“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose….” We’re all familiar with this popular holiday song, but have you ever wondered how to roast chestnuts? Or exactly what a chestnut tree looks like? Why don’t we see them growing in our neighborhoods?

Once, American chestnut was a major component of eastern forests from Maine to Michigan and south to Alabama and Mississippi. Called the ‘Redwood of the East’ because of the tremendous size of mature trees, American chestnuts made up approximately 25% of forests in the eastern United States. When chestnuts bloomed in spring, the Appalachian mountains appeared covered in snow. The trees were an important part of the rural economy, as a source of highly rot-resistant lumber, and the nuts a major food source for wildlife. Trainloads of chestnuts were sent to eastern cities to be roasted and sold by street vendors during the holidays. However, today the American chestnut has been reduced to merely an under-story shrub in eastern forests.

More…. Read the entire article on the Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County Horticulture website: Is Emerald Ash Borer the Next Chestnut Blight

 

Make an Ice Suncatcher

This article appears in the November/December 2018 Newsletter:

Make an ice suncatcher

by Mary Jane Frogge, Extension Associate – Horticulture

This winter-themed ice suncatcher (left) has raspberries and spruce branches. This fall-themed ice suncatcher (right) has orange slices, vinca stems and yellow food coloring. (Photo by Mary Jane Frogge, Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County)

This winter-themed ice suncatcher (left) has raspberries and spruce branches. This fall-themed ice suncatcher (right) has orange slices, vinca stems and yellow food coloring. (Photo by Mary Jane Frogge)

Making an ice suncatcher with natural materials is a fun winter activity for all ages. Using water, natural materials, freezing temperatures and a little time, you can create an outdoor decoration to place in the yard during the cold winter months.

1. Collect twigs, leaves, pinecones, cranberries, seeds, orange and apple slices, or other small natural materials to use as decoration for your suncatcher. The suncatcher needs a hanger, use a small loop of twine or ribbon.

2. Fill a pie or cake pan half full with water. Add a bit of food coloring to add color to your suncatcher. Arrange your decorations in the water. By adding fruit or bird seed you can make your suncatcher a bird feeder too. Position the hanger in the water leaving the loop out for hanging later. Place the pan outside if you have freezing temperatures or in the freezer to freeze overnight. After you have the pan in place to freeze, add more water to fill the pan. If you are doing this activity with kids, it can be a bit messy. It might be a good idea to make them outside.

3. When frozen, pop it out of the mold or run the underside of the cake pan through warm water for a few seconds until it loosens. Hang your ice suncatcher on a fence or a tree in the yard. Remove the ribbon or twine once the ice suncatcher has melted.

Check out the entire November/December issue of the free NEBLINE newsletter for much more from Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County. Visit http://lancaster.unl.edu/nebline and click on the link to the March 2018 NEBLINE!

If you don’t live in Lancaster County, Nebraska, please make sure to check out your local extension office too. Your extension office has resources for you, your family and community. To find your local office, visit http://lancaster.unl.edu/office/locate.shtml (nationwide listing).

Have a great day!!

Soni

Responsive. Innovative. Trusted.
Nebraska Extension provides research-based information to help you make informed decisions any time, any place, anywhere –

Fields of White & Gold — GRO Big Red

“Weeds are flowers, too, once you get to know them.” A.A. Milne Who doesn’t love dandelions? They are the most well recognized flower anywhere you go. 473 more words

“…Dandelions and white clover together make for a happy and healthy diet options for pollinators. However, they do not make for a happy homeowner. The last 50 years we have become obsessed with a thick, lush, weed-free lawn. We spray, pull, and weed-out anything that is not turf grass from the lawn. This leaves very little options for our insect friends…”

Learn more. Read Fields of White & Gold — GRO Big Red from our Nebraska Extension in Douglas-Sarpy colleagues.

If you don’t live in Lancaster County, Nebraska, please make sure to check out your local extension office too. Your extension office has resources for you, your family and community. To find your local office, visit http://lancaster.unl.edu/office/locate.shtml (nationwide listing).

Have a great day!!

Soni

Responsive. Innovative. Trusted.
Nebraska Extension provides research-based information to help you make informed decisions any time, any place, anywhere –

Early Spring Care for Fruit Trees

Peach tree in May - photo by Vicki Jedlicka

Peach tree in May – photo by Vicki Jedlicka

This feature article appears in the March 2018 NEBLINE Newsletter:

Early Spring Care for Fruit Trees

by Sarah Browning, Extension Educator – Horticulture

When the apple and cherry trees start to bloom, we know spring has finally arrived. Fruit trees are wonderful additions to the home landscape, both as fruit producers and ornamental blooming trees.

To maximize the health of your fruit trees, begin with proper pruning, then provide good care through fertilization, watering and mulching throughout the summer. Next, develop an integrated pest management plan tailored to the specific insect and disease problems affecting your trees.

Pruning, research, trouble for fruit trees, integrated pest management, and early season pest control are covered in the feature article in the March issue of the NEBLINE Newsletter. View Page 1 and Page 3 for rest of this article (near the bottom of the page).

Check out the entire March issue of the free NEBLINE newsletter for much more from Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County. Visit http://lancaster.unl.edu/nebline and click on the link to the March 2018 NEBLINE!

If you don’t live in Lancaster County, Nebraska, please make sure to check out your local extension office too. Your extension office has resources for you, your family and community. To find your local office, visit http://lancaster.unl.edu/office/locate.shtml (nationwide listing).

Have a great day!!

Soni

Responsive. Innovative. Trusted.
Nebraska Extension provides research-based information to help you make informed decisions any time, any place, anywhere –

Cicada Killers, Cicadas and Cow Killer Ants

If you haven’t had a chance to check out the GRO Big Red Blog, please do! Our colleagues at Nebraska Extension in Douglas and Sarpy Counties, and our own Jody Green in Lancaster County, regularly share resources to help you GRO Big! https://grobigred.com/

Cow Killer Ant (Velvet Ant). This is not an "ant" but a wasp!

Cow Killer Ant (Velvet Ant). This is not an “ant” but a wasp!

It’s that time of year when cicadas “sing”, and their predators are on the hunt. Learn more about cicada killer wasp, annual cicadas and cow killer ants:

Cicada Killer Season is Upon Us – Jonathan Larson

Video: Cicada Killer Wasp – Jonathan Larson & Jody Green

Annual Cicadas: The Musicians of Summer – Jonathan Larson

Cow Killer Ant: Wrongfully Accused – Jody Green

If you have other pest and wildlife questions, we have resources on-line at http://lancaster.unl.edu/pest or contact your local extension office.

Have a great day!!

Soni

Responsive. Innovative. Trusted.
Nebraska Extension provides research-based information to help you make informed decisions any time, any place, anywhere
http://lancaster.unl.edu