Spittle bugs and oak caterpillars a problem

  • Posted: Friday, August 30, 2013 12:18 a.m.
    UPDATED: Friday, August 30, 2013 12:46 a.m.
The pine spittle bug is likely what’s causing foamy spots on grape vines.
The pine spittle bug is likely what’s causing foamy spots on grape vines.

SALISBURY — Labor Day is near and the Rowan County Fair is just around the corner. Home gardeners finally have a break from the stranger than normal wet summer and many are venturing out in the landscapes and gardens to either prune excessive growth or prepare for fall lawn care. Below are a few questions from calls to Cooperative Extension over the past few days.

Question: I have muscadine grape vines with a white frothy substance on the shoots and stems. What is this and will it kill my vines? How do I control it?

Answer: The white frothy spots are most likely two lined spittle bugs. These generally come out in the spring on lawns and on trees and shrubs in the early fall. Some insecticides will control the insect. However, only minor damage occurs to the foliage. Go online to http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/ent/notes/O&T/lawn/note97/note97.html for more detailed information.

Question: I found what looks like insect droppings in my swimming pool. I looked and could not see any insects. Where is the source of these droppings?

Answer: Upon further questioning, there were oak tree limbs over the pool. The droppings were coming from orange striped oak caterpillars. The caterpillars often will completely defoliate oaks and other trees. Fortunately, late summer defoliation does not impede the health of the trees. Birds, diseases and parasites will generally lower the population next year. More information can be found at http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/ent/notes/O&T/trees/note139/note139.html

Question: My muscadine grapes and figs are not getting ripe. What is wrong with them?

Answer: This summer has witnessed some unusual weather. With many days being cloudy, rainy and cool, it has caused numerous fruits and vegetables to delay in ripening. There is not much you can do to improve the situation. If the summer will finish with warmer weather and more sunshine than clouds, fruit should start ripening.

Question: I have seen some good sales on plants lately at my local store. They do not look the best, but I think I can rehabilitate them. How can I help these plants?

Answer: There is probably a good reason why they are on sale and rushing into a “good” deal may turn into a bad one. Sometimes stores put plants on sale to clear inventory and that’s great, but you need to buy healthy plants. Look at the leaves. Do they have any disease symptoms? Be sure to take a close look at the roots. Are they root bound? Are the roots healthy?

If the roots are not a creamy white, leave that plant alone. If you can take time to inspect the plants and have adequate time to prepare your site and soil before you plant, then consider purchasing. Otherwise, you may want to pass on that good deal.

For more information on finding the right plant, visit: http://guilford.ces.ncsu.edu/2012/04/right-plant-right-place/

Darrell Blackwelder is county Extension director, Rowan County Center, N.C. Cooperative Extension; Danelle Cutting is the local food and horticulture agent; call 704-216-8970.


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