Whether you call them tent caterpillars or armyworms, these insect larvae can become a nuisance in home gardens and backyards. The nests appear in the spring and are filled with hundreds of tiny caterpillars. The caterpillars venture out of the nest to feed on the tree's leaves during early morning or late evening and return to the nest during the heat of the day.
These caterpillars are Eastern Tent Caterpillars (Malacosoma americanum) and can be found throughout the eastern part of the U.S., including Maine. They are often referred to as armyworms, but this technically isn't true. According to Merriam Webster, armyworms can be any number of insects larvae that travel in groups and devour crops. Armyworms may devour your garden, but the Eastern Tent Caterpillar typically eats the foliage of the host tree.
According to the University of Kentucky Entomology Department, the Eastern Tent Caterpillar nest increases in size for 4 to 6 weeks before the caterpillars leave the nest for good in search of a place to spin a cocoon and morph into small reddish-brown moths.
While they do not always pose a problem for homeowners, there is a bumper crop of them them every few years. When this happens, they can defoliate host trees and can be found crawling on lawns, decks and even in the pool, making them a nuisance. Getting rid of them can be a challenge once they have left the nest..
Natural Methods for Getting Rid of Tent Caterpillars
Sometimes the easiest method of getting rid of tent caterpillars or armyworms is to physically remove the nest. If you catch them early when the caterpillars and nests are small, physical removal is easy.
Organic Pesticide Recipes - White Oil Spray
There are several variations of the oil and soap mixture as a natural pesticide. These formulas work because the soap helps the oil stick to the insect's body and blocks its breathing pores. It is unclear how cayenne pepper or ground cinnamon increases the effectiveness. While some sources claim you must use a true soap and avoid dish detergents that contain degreasers, others report success with Dawn Dish Detergent.
Avoid spraying when the temperature is above 90 degrees as it may cause foliage to burn.
Last fall many of us who feed the birds noticed that we had fewer birds and fewer varieties of birds at the feeders. It seemed to carry through the winter too. However, with the arrival of spring I have noticed a much wider variety of birds than I have ever experienced before. I'm not sure it is because I have more bird feeders or if there is another reason.
Last night I noticed this little warbler flitting from branch to branch in my chokecherry tree. I thought he was eating the buds of the chokecherry blooms, but with some further reading it seems he may have been nabbing spiders and insects.
This tiny warbler is called a Northern Parula (Setophaga americana). According to All About Birds this bird migrates and spends the winter in the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America and returns to northern areas to breed in the summer months.
The Northern Parula does not typically visit bird feeders, but this one seems to enjoy the trees my bird feeders are hung in. I suspect that tiny insects attracted to the budding chokecherry blossoms are providing a tasty meal.
I recently found this wire/metal basket at a secondhand shop and purchased it for a few dollars. I immediately had visions of lining it with moss and using it as a planter.
Last night, I gathered moss from the nearby woods and and lined the basket using care to press the moss into the wire so that the entire basket was lined.
Next, I filled the cavity with humus-rich soil that would hold moisture and keep the moss moist.
I then added some seedlings from my greenhouse and tucked them firmly into the soil. As you can see, I used pastel-pink and white petunias with a small dusty miller for contrast.
Today I will visit the plant nursery for a a small trailing plant to spill over the sides. I'm thinking of pale blue Lobelia or white Bacopa, but I may change my mind, depending on what other other flowers I find.
I topped the planting off with a few stones and tucked moss into any openings to cover the soil.
This planter will need to be displayed in a shaded or semi-shaded area and kept moist to keep the moss from drying out, but I have just the spot for that. I will tuck it into a corner of my garden that receives morning sun and falls into the shade by late morning and gets indirect light for the rest of the day.
I have learned from experience that even though full sun is recommended for petunias, mine do remarkably well with several hours of early-morning light and afternoon shade.
I am looking forward to watching this basket of flowers grow
I found this beautiful specimen of Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) at the Bangor Flower Show yesterday. Although I had seen photos, I had never seen a real one before. I wasn't disappointed. These tropical plants can't survive the winter in Maine and must be grown in containers and brought inside during the winter.
This hibiscus flower looks lighter orange because it was under a light. Both photos are from the same plant from different angles.
I have added hibiscus to my wish list of plants and would love to give one a try in my unheated greenhouse this summer. Perhaps I will seek one out once the weather warms and we set up the greenhouse.
I tried an experiment with growing peppers in my Aerogarden and am happy to report that I have baby peppers just 66 days from planting them from seed. Those of you who have grown peppers from seed will understand my excitement as they typically grow very slowly inside the home.
As you can see from the photo the plant is "peppered" with blooms. I have been hand pollinating them with a small paint brush.
Update! Peppers at 74 Days
Hand Pollinating Pepper Plants
To hand pollinate a pepper bloom, use a small, artists paintbrush (or a Q-tip) to collect pollen from the stamens. There are several pollen-covered stamens inside the bloom. Gently brush the pollen you have collected on your paint brush or Q-Tip onto the stigma of the flower. This is located in the very center of the bloom. The pollen will stick to it and pollinate the flower. Move from flower to flower repeating the same procedure.
Once pollinated, the petals will shrivel and fall from the bloom and you will see a tiny, pea-sized green pepper beginning to form.
The largest pepper on my plant is 1 ¾ inches long and slightly more than 1 inch in diameter today, but it is growing rapidly. I first noticed the pepper about a week ago.
I'm not sure how much room there is for my peppers to grow, but I'm going to let them grow as long as their is room for them.
I trimmed the tops of the plant because it has outgrown the Aerogarden.
Cloning Pepper Plants
I used the cuttings from the pepper plant to make clones of the plant. These cuttings should root and produce another plant identical to the original. Once they root, I intend to pot them in soil to use as seedlings in the garden this summer.
Queen Anne's Lace (Daucas carota) grows wild throughout Maine and many parts of the world. It can be found along roadsides, in open fields and along the edges of wooded areas. Also known as wild carrot and the bird's nest flower, these showy flowers are often used as cut flowers, especially in combination with Black-Eyed Susan flowers. At first glance the flower head appears to be one large flower, but this really isn't the case.
Unique Flower Head Can Be Deceiving
The flower head of Queen Anne's Lace is made up of clusters of tiny white or ivory flowers on short stems (called umbels) that splay outward like an inverted umbrella. The clusters of flowers give the illusion of white lace giving this flower part of its common name.
Legend of Queen Anne's Lace
According to Legend, the flower earned it's name when Queen Anne (wife of King James I) was challenged to make lace as beautiful as a flower. While making the lace, Queen Anne pricked her finger and a drop of her blood created the red flower in the center of Queen Anne's lace. While it is a fanciful tale, some claim the name Queen Anne belonged to another that gave this flower its name. According to this legend, Queen Anne refers to St. Anne (the mother of Mary) the Patron Saint of lacemakers.
Either way, botanists do not know the purpose of the dark flower in the center of the flower head. It can range from rosy-pink to dark red or purple. It is theorized that the dark flower serves as a mimic of an insect and encourages wasps and larger insects to visit the flower for a tasty meal, which in turn helps with pollination.
Seeds Trigger Flower Head to Curl
After the tiny flowers are pollinated and the seeds have formed the umbels curl inward giving the flower the appearance of a cup or nest.
Dried Flower Heads Look Like Bird's Nests
As the seeds dry they turn brown creating the illusion of a bird's nest atop a tall slender stalk. Seeds are dispersed by wind or by catching a ride in the fur of animals. Once the seeds have dispersed the remaining stems often take on a heart-shaped appearance.
Nearly everyone knows that eating raw veggies is better for you than eating cooked veggies because cooking destroys their nutrients, right? Not so fast. While it is true for some vegetables, cooking many vegetables actually increases their nutritional value.
Use this guide to decide whether eating your veggies cooked or raw is better for your health.
Cook Tomatoes & Red Peppers to Release Lycopene
Lycopene, the red pigment found in tomatoes, red peppers and other rosy colored veggies lowers the risk of cancer and heart attacks. Cooking your tomatoes and other veggies with lycopene releases more lycopene, making it readily available for your body to use reports Scientific America. To reap the health benefits of lycopene, cook your veggies before eating them. You will still get some lycopene if you eat them raw, but cooking will boost the amount of lycopene your body can use. This happens because cooking the vegetable helps to break down the cell walls and releases lycopene..
Cook Carrots to Release Antioxidants
If you thought that eating your carrots raw was the best way to boost nutrition, you might be surprised to learn that cooking your carrots is actually better for you. That's because when the cell walls are broken down via cooking the carrots release more antioxidants, such as, carotenoids and ferulic acid to fuel your body. Cooked carrots contain more beta-carotene than raw carrots, says Prevention.
Cook Spinach and Other Greens to Release Calcium
Spinach, Swiss chard and beet greens are all high in calcium, but if you want to get the most calcium from these veggies, you will need to cook them first. They contain the compound oxalic acid which binds with the calcium and makes it unusable to the human body. Cooking breaks the bond and makes the calcium available for absorption.
Eat Broccoli and Cauliflower Raw
Broccoli, cauliflower and other Cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, bok choy and Brussels sprouts, may be more nutritious eaten raw, explains Deborah Baic at the Globe and Mail. This is because they contain a substance called myrosinase that is released when you chew or chop the raw veggies. It in turn helps to convert phytochemicals to cancer-fighting compounds. Cooking these veggies destroys the compounds and reduces their cancer-fighting abilities.
Balance is Key
Eating both raw and cooked vegetables is good for your health, as not all nutrients respond the same to cooking. Heat may cause one nutrient to increase, while another decreases. Some vitamins like Vitamin A and C can be lost during the cooking process, especially if you cook your veggies with a lot of water. But many experts agree that the gains in other nutrients during cooking may offset any loss of these readily-available vitamins.
Other considerations include whether you (or your children) are likely to consume more vegetables cooked or raw. Obviously, if little Katie refuses to eat cooked carrots, but devours them raw, she will get more nutrients from raw carrots. Likewise, a healthy helping of cooked broccoli may outweigh a nibble of the raw veggie.
If you are new to gardening, you may have questions about cooking fresh garden veggies. One of the most common is: "Should you start veggies in hot or cold water?" Although your instincts may tell you that starting with hot water is the way to go to cook your veggies quickly, it isn't always a good idea. Here's why.
Start Above-Ground Veggies in Hot Water
Start tender, above-ground veggies in boiling water. Because these veggies cook quickly, hot water is ideal. Starting with boiling water also reduces the cooking time and helps to retain both color and nutrients.
Start Below-Ground Vegetables in Cold Water
Vegetables that grow below the ground, commonly referred to as root vegetables, are more dense and require a longer cooking time. These veggies should be started in cold water to preserve their flavor and texture. Cold water that is heated slowly warms the veggies all the way through before they begin cooking and ensures the vegetables cook evenly.
Starting root vegetables in hot or boiling water causes the outside of the veggies to overcook before the inside of the vegetables are fully cooked. This can cause the outside to be mushy or mealy and they lose their characteristic flavor and texture.
If you are like most people, you may have a few misconceptions about the difference between a traditional ladybug and an Asian Lady Beetle. You may be surprised to learn how similar these two really are.
Myth #1: Ladybugs and Asian Lady Beetles Are Completely Different
Even though Americans typically refer to the American version as a Ladybug, it is really a Lady Beetle or a Ladybird Beetle. Both the traditional ladybug and its Asian look-a-like are Lady (or Ladybird) Beetles. They both belong to the same family (Coccinellidae). According to National Geographic, there are more than 5,000 species of lady beetles worldwide, with more than 500 species in the U.S. That means there is a lot of variation in the color and number of spots when it comes to ladybugs.
Myth #2: You Can Tell Asian Lady Beetles and Ladybugs Apart by Their Color
Many people assume that the color of the beetle determines whether it is an Asian or American Ladybug, but this isn't always true. Traditional ladybugs can range in color from bright red to orange-red. While Asian Lady Beetles range in color from orange-red, orange and nearly tan. It can be difficult to tell the difference between the two at first glance.
You can tell American Ladybugs and Asian Ladybugs apart by looking at their 'face'. Asian ladybugs have a white pronotum (the section between the head and the body of a ladybug) with a black M or W above their eyes, while the traditional American version has a black pronotum with small white cheeks.
Myth #3: Asian Lady Beetles Are Bad and Ladybugs Are Good
While it is true that Asian Lady Beetles can become a nuisance because they often crawl into buildings in the fall and over-winter inside, they aren't that different from an American Ladybug. Both consume aphids and insect pests in the garden. In fact, the Asian Lady Beetle was originally introduced to the U.S. by the Department of Agriculture to help control insect pests on pecans and apples. Both are beneficial to farmers and gardeners.
If you find Asian Ladybugs a nuisance in your home, go ahead and vacuum them, but understand that they are not harmful and they do not breed in your home. The bugs you see crawling out in the spring are the same ladybugs that sought shelter in the fall. They will find their way back outside in the spring as soon as it is warm enough for them to survive.
Let's face it. Most of us garden because we love to watch things grow and like to think we have a hand in the process. Naturally, it makes us feel good to see the fruit of our labor and to get out in the fresh air and sunshine.
What you may not know is that gardening provides a host of health benefits you might not have thought about before. Consider these proven benefits to gardening.
We all experience stress in our daily lives and gardening is one way to relieve it. According to CNN Health, a study completed in the Netherlands actually measured the stress hormone cortisol in two groups of subjects instructed to either read or garden for 30 minutes. Gardening reduced cortisol levels more than relaxing with a good book.
High cortisol levels caused by stress are known to contribute to increased blood pressure, high blood sugar and insulin resistance, suppress the immune system and cause fatty deposits in the face, neck and abdomen. Lowering your cortisol levels will improve your health and may even help you lose few pounds.
Gardening is a good way to relieve stress and reduce cortisol levels.
Improves Mental Health
Gardening has also been shown to improve mental health, specifically by alleviating depression and reducing anxiety. While there may be a number of reasons why gardening might elevate mood and relieve symptoms of depression, such as exposure to new experiences and working out in the fresh air and sunshine, there may be another reason.
Soil contains a harmless bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae , that stimulates the release and metabolism of serotonin in the brain. This stimulates the area of the brain that controls mood and cognitive functioning. Digging in the soil and contacting soil that contains Mycobacterium vaccae is like getting a mini-boost of serotonin-boosting antidepressants.
As an added bonus, food grown and eaten straight from the garden contains this beneficial bacteria, too. Perhaps this explains why so many gardeners enjoy a tasty snack of fresh veggies while working in the garden.
Studies on people in the 60's and 70's suggest that those who garden are less likely to suffer from dementia by an amazing 36 to 47 percent. (CNN Health) These results are likely due to a combination of effects, such as exercise, experiencing new things and perhaps getting a good dose of beneficial bacteria.
Nearly everyone knows that eating fresh fruits and vegetables is good for you. When you grow them yourself you also control whether they are exposed to pesticides or other chemicals. But that's not the only benefit to eating fresh fruits and veggies from the garden.
If you are into the New Age practice of Earthing, you will be happy to learn that gardening is a natural form of earthing. Earthing refers to the practice of going barefoot or otherwise making contact with the earth without artificial barriers (like the rubber soles on your shoes) between you and the earth..
Earthing is thought to draw negative energy from the earth to re-balance the body by evening out positive charges in the body and returning your body to its natural state.
According to supporters of Earthing, our bodies are filled with positive ions, mainly from free radicals caused by food additives or other environmental sources. These positive ions can lead to inflammation, pain and disease. The earth, on the other hand, is a natural source of negative ions. If your body (with a positive charge) contacts the earth (with its negative charge) energy from the earth is drawn into the body to neutralize your body's energy. Earthing is thought to bring a host of health benefits from feeling better and experiencing more joy and happiness to eliminating pain and inflammation and other health ailments..
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