I was telling my daughter about ladybugs and explaining that they eat aphids, but the ladybug I found in our yard had no spots. Is it still a ladybug?
Ladybugs, or as the British call them ladybeetles, are one of the 450,000 types of beetles that share our Earth. We are used to ladybugs with spots, but increasingly we are seeing orange/red bodies with no spots.
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These are Asian beetles, which can be tan to orange, and can have very discreet spots. They have become more prevalent as they have displaced the native beetles. Like the native beetles, they do eat aphids, scale insects and mealybugs.
They have become fairly infamous because they try to move into houses when the weather turns cool in the fall. If squished, they can leave a yellow/red stain, and they have an offensive odor. This is just a natural defense mechanism designed to protect against insect and animal predators.
Vacuuming them is the safest way to get rid of them if they get into houses, but outside they should be left to take care of insect pests.
How can I clean clay pots?
Some people like the green algae and moss that grows on pots, but there are reasons why you might want to clean the pots.
Pots sometimes build up a layer of whitish fertilizer salts, which is unsightly and can burn leaves that lie on it. Mold can be unattractive and unhealthful to bring inside. And diseases that affected the previous plant may remain on the pot.
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Pots can be cleaned in a solution of one part chlorine bleach to 10 parts water. Warm water may be a little more effective.
Place the pots in the solution, and let them soak for 30 minutes. You may have to scrub them with a stiff brush. A 10 percent solution is strong enough to discolor clothing and damage skin, so use caution.
Rinse the pots and allow them to dry in the open air, which will allow the bleach to evaporate.
For fertilizer salts, you will need to use a brush and a paste of baking soda and water.
My sago plants have buds growing up from the tip, but they are brown. Can I trim them off?
The best thing you can do for your sago is to leave it alone. Although the emerging fronds may be brown, at the center of them is a very sensitive bud. If that bud is damaged while you are trimming, the sago could very well die. Allow the emerging fronds to continue on.
The green we associate with plants doesn’t develop until they have significant exposure to sunlight, which triggers the chlorophyll to develop. You may find the fronds turn green with continued exposure to sunlight.
When the fronds are fully extended, if they are still brown, you can trim them off, taking care to not touch or bump the bud area at the center of the plant. Always trim parts off, leaving a bit of the “boot” or bottom of the frond.
I have a lot of weeds, and especially dollarweed. Can I apply a herbicide to it now?
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The best time to attack dollarweed is in the fall, when our rains taper off and our temperatures cool down. While you can apply a herbicide now, focus most of your attention on next fall for best control.
Meanwhile, you can apply Prompt, a mix of Atrazine and Bentazon to inhibit the weed. Alternatively, a mix of Atrazine and Simazine can be applied.
Read the labels carefully to ensure best results with least damage. Expect some damage to St. Augustine when you apply a herbicide.
Make sure your lawn dries out between waterings. When St. Augustine needs water, the leaves fold, turning a gray green. Until the temperatures heat up, one watering a week is probably enough. More water than that will only encourage the dollarweed.
Our wet weather the last year has favored dollarweed. Wet soils are the perfect medium for them to spread.
Make sure your lawn is getting fertilized, watered and mowed as recommended to encourage your St. Augustine to grow and overcome the weeds. The details are important.
For the other weeds you are finding in your lawn, it is important to be able to identify them to control them.
Take samples into your County Extension Service for help with identifying them.
Becky Wern is a master gardener with the Duval County Extension Service and the University of Florida/IFAS.