June 23, 2013

Maine Gardener: News from front lines in bug wars


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She wanted to reassure people that the flies will not cause any problem themselves. Their population rises and falls with that of the winter moth, and once the winter moth goes, the flies will go too, she said.

THE IMPETUS for me to write an insect column was the discovery that our snowball viburnums were gorgeous this year. They had died back to the ground about 10 years ago when eaten by the viburnum leaf beetle, and Nancy and I had given them up for dead.

But they recently grew back from the roots, and appear to be thriving. I wondered if the viburnum leaf beetle had been eradicated.

"I don't think it has gone away," said Clay Kirby, insect diagnostician with the University of Maine Extension in Orono. "I think like any pest situation in Maine, it is like thunderstorms; it can be random. You'll have one in one place, and on the other side of town it will be sunny."

He is seeing a lot of problems with white grubs -- the larval form of the European chafer, Japanese beetles and other pests -- which are creating huge brown spots on lawns. Grubs are not the only things causing lawns to brown -- salt runoff, pets, sod webworms, cinch bugs and diseases are also to blame -- so it takes some work to determine the cause.

THE BROWN MARMORATED STINK BUG could be another big problem, Handley warned.

"It's made its way up the East Coast, and there is no reason to think it won't come to Maine," he said. This bug will eat apples, which will hurt a major Maine crop, and at the end of the season, they like to come inside -- and, as the name says, they stink.

Officials are still on the lookout for the emerald ash borer and Asian longhorn beetle, which are close but not yet in Maine. These two could cause major problems to the state's forests.

Tom Atwell has been writing the Maine Gardener column since 2004. He is a freelance writer gardening in Cape Elizabeth and can be contacted at 767-2297 or at:


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