Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Florida‘s State Tree. Palm Mostly Right

Quick! What is the official Florida state tree? If you answered “palm tree.” you’re mostly right. After all, Florida is synonymous with warm, sunny days; sultry evenings and, of course, palm trees. But there are 2,600 varieties of palm trees and the one Florida calls its “official” tree is the Sabal Palmetto Palm. Also called a cabbage palm because the central bud can be eaten raw or cooked, it isn’t a good idea to do either since damaging the bud will kill the tree.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

20,000 Species of Ants and Counting

To view this film in its entirety, click here

There are nearly 13,000 named species of ants worldwide. Since many of the ant species found or studied in tropical areas have yet to be named, myrmecologists – those who study ants – estimate there may be as many as 20,000 or more species of ants. In Florida alone, there are over 200 recognized species.

And, sometimes it seems that all these near relatives to bees and wasps are marching through your home all at once. They just keep coming and coming and coming with no apparent end in sight. Later, I’ll give you the recipe for a simple, safe, inexpensive and natural ant killer. I can’t say yet whether or not it’s effective because I’ve only started to use it today.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Newspaper Reports on Spiral Whitefly Invasion

Last week, the Palm Beach Post ran a story on the Rugose spiraling whitefly invasion (Whiteflies hit Palm Beach County homeowners’ trees, plants, pools, Aug. 16, 2012). If you’re a regular reader of this blog, then you knew about the Rugose spiraling whitefly more than two weeks earlier (The Spiral Whitefly Invasion – A New Pest in Town, Aug. 1). We don’t want to brag about our timeliness; the Post certainly has more resources than us. But, it does beg the question (with apologies to Ghostbusters):

If there's somethin' strange in your yard
Who ya gonna call? (Insect Pest Control)
If it's somethin' weird an it don't look good
Who ya gonna call? (Insect Pest Control)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Spiral Whitefly Invasion - A New Pest in Town

As if it isn’t bad enough that our ficus hedges have been under attack by the fig or ficus whitefly (see Whiteflies Leave Wide Path of Defoliation, Feb. 14, 2012), now we have to contend with a new whitefly to our area, the rugose spiraling whitefly. This newest of more than 75 whitefly species found in Florida is of particular concern in Palm Beach County because of their voracious appetite for your trees and plants. Well established along the eastern portions of the county, they are now making their way west.

Do You Have These in Your Landscape?
  • Bird of Paradise
  • Coconut Palm
  • Bismark Palm
  • Pygmy Date Palm (Roebelenii’s)
  • Gumbo Limbo
  • Pandanum (Screw-Pine Palm), to name a few

If so, this new spiral whitefly will attack all these palms, plants and more. It is completely different than the ficus whitefly found on shrubs. But before you panic, the University of Florida IFAS Extension says that unlike its cousin the ficus whitefly, the rugose spiraling whitefly hasn’t caused severe plant damage, such as plant death or severe branch die-back.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Greening of Florida Citrus

orange treesWhen the Florida Dept. of Agriculture reported in 2005 that Citrus Greening had infected residential trees in Palm Beach and Martin counties, a University of Florida Extension Horticulture Agent commented that if on a scale of one to 10, Citrus Canker is a three, then Citrus Greening is an “imperfect” 10. Although the disease poses no threats to humans or animals, diseased trees can die within five to eight years and bear unusable fruit.

Many of us will recall the Citrus Canker eradication program begun in January 2000 when the state Dept. of Agriculture adopted a policy of removing all infected trees and all citrus trees within a 1,900 foot radius of an infected tree in both residential areas and commercial groves. By 2006, the program was suspended after the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture declared that eradication was not practical.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Lions, and Tigers, and Bears! Oh My!

Nearly everyone remembers the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. Before Dorothy and her friends Scarecrow and Tinman meet up with the Cowardly Lion on their way to Oz, they hear strange sounds coming from the forest. A frightened Dorothy asks if there are any wild animals in the woods. Scarecrow and Tinman tell her there are Lions, and Tigers, and Bears, which they all begin to chant and to which Dorothy adds, “Oh my!”

It’s unlikely that you’ll meet up with any of these creatures in your backyard, but because of its great diversity of habitat types, Florida is home to more wildlife species than most other states. So you may find some less exotic animals on your property creating a nuisance and understanding why they are there is key to resolving the problem.

Florida has approximately 45 species of snakes of which only six are venomous. According to the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) at the University of Florida, snake bites related deaths have occurred at a rate of about one every four or five years in the state. IFAS goes on to say that mortality figures for lightning strikes and bee stings are much greater.

Snakes are actually beneficial to the environment. They eat insects, rats, mice, worms, toads, frogs, fish and some snakes even eat other snakes, including the venomous ones. You could just give them their space and leave them alone. They’re not aggressive and don’t chase after people. But if snakes are a problem for you, IFAS says their visits to your yard and home can be reduced by eliminating firewood stacks, debris, boards and other objects lying close to the ground. These create the cool, damp and dark shelter or prey habitat areas that snakes prefer.

There are no repellents, poisons or fumigants registered for snakes. They can be removed from inside buildings with the use of a glueboard or funneled minnow trap. Glueboards are sold at hardware stores while minnow traps are available at bait and tackle shops. Finally, a broom can also be used to sweep a snake into a trash can for removal outside.

Armadillos weren’t always present in Florida. They migrated from Texas into the Florida Panhandle and then over a 50 year period, from about 1920 to 1970, there were several introductions of armadillos into the Atlantic coast region of Florida. Soon, the Panhandle and the coastal populations merged, so that armadillos are now found in uplands throughout the state.