EDITOR’S NOTE: A University of Florida faculty member and Nassau County Extension Horticultural Agent, Rebecca Jordi addresses some of the questions she receives about landscaping and gardening in northeast Florida, in GARDEN TALK. The Extension also offers helpful clinics throughout the year, providing assistance to local gardeners on Amelia Island and in the surrounding areas of Nassau County, Florida. __________
QUESTION: My Oleander is covered in caterpillars. What can I do to get rid of them? GP
JORDI: I’ve seen the Oleander moth recently, therefore, we know she is continuing to lay eggs. We should not be lulled into thinking because the weather is somewhat cooler the Oleander moth is not active. The photo is actually from one of my neighbor’s trees.
Once the caterpillar reaches lengths over one inch, little can be done except to manually remove them. This, of course, means you must hand pick them off. If you cannot bring yourself to hand pick them off, then consider pruning out some of the branches which are heavily infested. Do not burn the branches as this plant will give off a poison gas which can be deadly to humans and pets. The branches can be bagged but be sure the bag is securely tied as these caterpillars have a natural tendency to crawl upward. If the bag is not tied tightly, they will escape and all your work will be for nothing. You can apply the insecticide Bacillus thuringiensis or Bt but it only works well when the caterpillars are small. Although the shrub looks terrible it will eventually re-grow its leaves; the defoliation will not kill the shrub. Also see publication from the University of Florida on the Oleander moth which will provide more information. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/IN135
QUESTON: My next door neighbor told me to stop watering my St. Augustine lawn. Right now I water two and three times a week. But it is still warm and if I do not water my grass looks terrible. Is he giving me good advice? JW
JORDI: Three times a week is excessive no matter what time of year. St. Augustine grass prefers to be watered deeply, but less often. Watering it frequently and shallowly makes for a weak root system.
Right now, St. Johns River Water Management (SJRWM) recommends watering once a week if we do not receive sufficient rainfall. Addresses with odd numbers can water on Saturday and even numbered homes water on Sunday. Therefore, you should cut back your irrigation system to once a week. If your grass is wilting between watering it may be the result of poor root growth or root disease. Contact me for an appointment to look at the grass in my office. I would need a specimen about the size of a piece notebook paper. I would need to see roots, runners (stolon), leaves (blades) and soil. Call me at the office at 904-548-1116 for a consultation. I will discuss the best maintenance practices for your lawn. This professional consultation is free but you must make an appointment.
QUESTION: I found this beetle in my decaying tree. What is it? WC
JORDI: You are the second person who wanted me to identify this insect. I suppose they are moving about now. The insect you brought me is one of the young stages of the common Florida Woods Cockroach. The young stages look very similar to the adult but the adults can grow up to 2 inches in length. I know you do not want to hear this, but this insect is actually very important to the environment. They feed on decaying material.
We do not recommend using any type of insecticide on them. If, however, they enter into the home you can either kill them or if possible, sweep them up and put them back outside. The best way to keep outdoor insects out of the home is to provide a protective barrier around the perimeter of the house. There are several pesticide companies which make these types of pesticides, check for them at your local garden centers. Remember to read and follow the labels of any pesticide you use around your home and in your garden. The label is the law. Attached is a publication from the University of Florida on the Florida Woods Roach which will provide more information. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/MG225
Rebecca L. Jordi
University of Florida/IFAS
Nassau County Extension
Environmental Horticulture Agent III
543350 U. S. Highway #1
Callahan, FL 32011
904 548-1116 or 904 879-1019