Ag Notes: Leave the insects outside

September 22, 2004|JERRY LITTLE

As cooler fall temperatures begin to approach, insects start to prepare for winter. Many insects look to homes for winter comfort. Some try to sneak in; others hitchhike indoors on cold-sensitive plants and firewood.

Since pests' natural predators are not in our homes, insects can cause serious plant problems. It is a good idea to inspect cold-sensitive plants for pests several weeks before bringing them in to provide ample time to take care of any problems.

A rule of thumb is to bring cold-sensitive plants indoors before the night temperature drops below 50 degrees.

Separate plants you have just taken inside from others for several weeks to keep insects on the newcomers from traveling to other plants. Regularly inspect plants to keep pests from becoming big problems, and give plants a favorable environment with sufficient light. Remember that plants growing indoors generally require less water and fertilizer than when they grew outdoors.


People usually can control small infestations on a few plants without using insecticides. A brisk stream of water may help wash off mites. Use a swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to remove small infestations of aphids, mealy bugs and scale.

Dispose of severely infested plants rather than trying to nurse them back to health.

When people begin to build fires for warmth in the fall, insects may enter homes by hitchhiking on firewood.

Termites, wood-boring beetles and carpenter ants are some of the insects that may tunnel into firewood or hide beneath the bark.

Properly handling firewood can reduce pest problems. Burn older firewood first to shorten the time infestations can become established. Bring in only enough wood to burn immediately or within a few hours. Check the bottom of wood carriers for insects. Keep outdoor woodpiles away from the house and off the ground.

Do not spray firewood with an insecticide because it is ineffective and could cause harmful vapors when the wood is burned.

In September and early October, lady beetles often cause concern when thousands gather on the outside or inside of homes on sunny afternoons.

Lady beetles are various shades of red, orange and yellow, some with spots and some not. The variations in coloring and marking may make it appear that more than one pest has entered a building or home. Lady beetles are a nuisance because they emit an unpleasant odor as a protective measure and, when squashed, produce a yellow stain that is quite difficult to remove.

There are several ways to reduce their entry but it's virtually impossible to keep a home or building completely beetle-free. One way is to seal cracks, crevices and other opening to prevent entry. Another is to apply an exterior, or barrier, insecticide treatment, preferable a longer-lasting liquid formulation. A third alternative is to hire a professional pest control firm.

When temperatures warm up next spring, people will see swarms of lady beetles again as they leave over-wintering sites.

Settling a cow case

A big-city lawyer was representing the railroad in a lawsuit filed by an old rancher. The ranger's prize bull was missing from the section through which the railroad passed. The rancher only wanted to be paid the fair value of the bull.

The case was scheduled to be tried before the justice of the peace in the back room of the general store.

The attorney for the railroad immediately cornered the rancher and tried to get him to settle out of court. The lawyer did his best selling job, and finally the rancher agreed to take half of what he was asking.

After the rancher had signed the release and took the check, the young lawyer couldn't resist gloating a little over his success, telling the rancher, "You know, I hate to tell you this, old man, but I put one over on you in there. I couldn't have won the case. The engineer was asleep and the fireman was in the caboose when the train went through your ranch that morning. I didn't have one witness to put on the stand. I bluffed you!"

The old rancher replied, "Well, I'll tell you, young feller, I was a little worried about winning that case myself, because that durned bull came home this morning."

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