Friday, September 24, 2010

American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)

This week I would like to highlight a plant that provides the landscape with brilliant color this time of year. The color comes mainly from the bright clusters of berries (usually around September) that provide food for birds. The pink to lavender colored flowers are commonly seen in midsummer in clusters along the stem.

American Beautyberry is a Florida native that tolerates a wide range of soil and light conditions. A beautyberry shrub can grow up to 8 feet tall and just as wide if given the space. When they are small these shrubs look best grouped together and can make a nice buffer from an undesirable view. A large shrub can also make a lovely specimen. Here is a large beautyberry shrub from the native garden here at the Extension office:

Click here to learn even more about this wonderful plant!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Chinch bugs!

Chinch bugs (Blissus insularis) are an all too common pest in St. Augustinegrass. They are found on many kinds of turfgrass, but St. Augustinegrass is their favorite. You have heard of them, but do you think you would recognize one? The adult chinch bug is between 1/8-1/10 of an inch long. Pretty small, huh? They are black with white wings that each have a characteristic triangular black mark:

Adult and fifth instar (development stage between each molt)

Nymphs (juvenile stages)

Nymphs (juvenile stages) are a red-orange color with a white band and they darken as they mature, which takes about 4-5 weeks. About 7 to 10 generations develop each year in southern Florida with one generation lasting about 6-8 weeks in hot temperatures.

Chinch bug populations are typically clumped in certain areas in a lawn. Often they will start in stressed turf and are often seen along sidewalks, patios, and driveways where drought stress is more common. The insect has piercing-sucking mouthparts that they use to pierce the leafblade and extract vital plant fluids. Once the damage is done and one area is brown and dead, they will keep moving on to neighboring areas in the turf.

Widespread chinch bug damage.

Proper lawn care can prevent or minimize chinch bug populations from establishing themselves in your lawn. A healthy turfgrass will be more resistant to them. This means mowing at the right height and not over-watering or over-fertilizing. The rapid lush growth that results from too much water and/or fertilizer is just what chinch bugs love to feed on.

There are also some natural predators of chinch bugs that help keep populations in check: big-eyed bugs, predatory earwigs, spiders, and a small wasp, Eumicrosoma benefica, that parasitizes chinch bug eggs. Because you want to keep these natural predators around you will need to keep pesticide applications to very specific areas and be sure to use them sparingly (always carefully following the pesticide label of course). The fact sheets linked below will indicate appropriate pesticides and if and when it may be necessary to use them. Pay attention to the part about chinch bugs becoming immune to pesticides. This is just one more reason to use them as seldom as possible.

If you suspect chinch bugs in your lawn you can bring a sample to us here at Extension and we can see if they are present. Be sure to bring a large sample, about 8"-10” square of your turfgrass that includes a progression of healthy green grass to brown damaged/dead grass. The following fact sheet explains a method by which you may check for chinch bugs in your own lawn:

Southern Chinch Bug Management on St. Augustinegrass

Southern Chinch Bug Management in Florida (December 2008)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Have you seen this weed?

Photo: UF/IFAS Okeechobee County Extension

Chamberbitter (Phyllanthus urinaria) is a summer annual that germinates from early summer through early fall. This is an aggressive weed that can take over landscape beds and invade lawns. As you can see from the photos, the leaves somewhat resemble mimosa leaves with small bumpy looking fruits under the foliage. Chamberbitter can grow up to 18” tall and will grow in full sun or shade conditions. Early detection and persistent pulling are the keys to controlling this weed. Be sure not to shake the soil from the roots, as that might spread the seeds. Once the weeds have been pulled, be sure to dispose of them in the trash to prevent the spread of this prolific weed.

This is what chamberbitter looks like when mowed along with turfgrass.

Here you can see the small fruit beneath the foliage.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Pest Alert: Oriental Fruit Flies found in Pinellas County

According to a recent press release from the Florida Depart of Agriculture and Consumer Services, two male Oriental fruit flies were discovered in traps in Safety Harbor. The Oriental fruit fly (Bactrocera dorsalis) discovery has prompted an increase in the local monitoring for this pest in Pinellas County, particularly within an 81 square mile area around the traps where they were found.

According to the press release: “The Oriental fruit fly is considered one of the most serious of the world’s fruit fly pests due to its potential economic harm. It attacks more than 100 different fruits, vegetables and nuts, including citrus, apples, guava, mango, tomatoes and peppers. As with other fruit flies, it is not safe to rule out many plants as potential hosts. The fruit flies lay their eggs in the fruits and vegetables. In a few weeks, the larvae or maggots hatch and render the fruits or vegetables inedible.”

If you have questions please call the Florida Depart of Agriculture and Consumer Services at 888-397-1517.

Oriental fruit fly fact sheet from the University of Florida.

Exotic fruit fly information.