After years of drought, El Niño brought much-needed rain and some tag-along guest you may have forgotten about: lots of yard insects. This winter’s warm rains promise that your yard will be full of life this spring and summer, and we’re not just talking about plants. Here are a few visitors you might expect.
Those patchy spots in your lawn may not be burns, but the evidence of root-chewing grubs. Damp lawns in late-spring and early-summer often host grub problems in the late summer and early fall. If you’ve noticed an abundance of beetles, or commonly called “June bugs,” around your lawn, grubs could be chewing on your beautiful lawn from below. Likewise, you may see spots where skunks or raccoons dig up these grubs for food. Check any browning spots in your lawn for grubs, by pulling back grass. Areas infested with grubs will easily come loose due to root loss.
Mosquitoes only requite a few inches of standing water to breed. This year’s warm rainy weather promises a future for a thriving mosquito population. These annoying, disease carrying pests quickly ruin any outdoor activity. Act now to make sure you’re not allowing standing water on your property. Also, check any vacant houses or lots in the area to make sure trash, tires or construction supplies aren’t playing incubator to potential spring and summer visitors for the entire neighborhood.
El Niño rains sent ants scurrying across California, looking for dry shelter. If you’ve noticed an increase of this pests inside, you’re not alone. And, it means you’ve got more ants on the outside than you previously realized. The Bay Area hosts more than 100 native species of ants. One of the most common ants in the area these days is not native – the Argentine ant. These ants not only lack natural predators but also wipe out many native ants. Common household sprays may prove worthless on these tough pests, as they actually have multiple queens, causing a royal, persistent pain for those trying to enjoy an afternoon in the garden.
Those little holes chewed in your beautiful plant leaves might have a trail of slime next to them this year, thanks to an abundance of snails. Snails thrive and rapidly reproduce in wet weather, so you may have a large crowd on hand for your spring planting. Snails and their buddies slugs tend to cause early damage before other pests return for the warm weather. Look for the small scalloped chew marks in their favorites plants, such as lettuces, ornamental cabbages and spring bulb plants. Snails can also make planted seedlings disappear overnight, chewing through entire leaves and offering only bare stems for your gardening efforts.
- Tomato Hornworm
Warmer areas often host the bright green tomato, or tobacco, hornworm. These pests easily devastate a healthy tomato crop, leaving holes and small black pellets (waste) behind on otherwise healthy leaves. One of the easiest was to control these pests and save your summer salsas, is picking hornworms off plants on sight. As well, our friends the ladybugs are natural predators. Consider introducing some of these little red garden helpers if they are not already at home in your tomato plants.
If insects threaten to ruin your summer gardening or recreation plans, call in professional help to identify the true threats to your yard, while saving your plants, lawn and natural pest predators.