Aphids and beetles — oh my
By Darrell Blackwelder
For the Salisbury Post
It’s evident from the calls I’ve received this week that home gardeners are having problems with aphids or “plant lice” on their young tomato plants.
While Sevin dust generally doesn’t kill aphids, Malathion or insecticidal soaps are recommended for controlling them.
The insects are very plentiful this season, wreaking havoc on both the foliage and blooms. Aphids feed by inserting thin mouthparts into the plant and sucking out sap that causes the plant to wilt and eventually die.
Total control may take more than one application to kill this prolific insect.
Other gardeners have called with questions that may relate to your gardening situation.
Question: My squash vines bloomed a few weeks ago but did not bear fruit. What is the problem?
Answer: Tulip poplar was in full bloom a few weeks ago. Honeybees prefer the nectar of poplar. After the bloom period is over, bees will go to squash. Also, the weather a few weeks ago was cool and rainy. Bees normally do not fly on cool, wet or windy days. Bees are necessary for pollination on all cucurbits including cucumber, pumpkin, watermelon, gourds, etc. Avoid using Sevin for insect control if possible.
Use these pesticides very early in the morning or late in the afternoon while bees are not flying.
Question: The Irish potatoes I’ve planted are doing very well. They bloomed last week and, to my surprise, have small fruit on them. Did they cross pollinate with my tomatoes?
Answer: No, your potatoes are growing normally, as they should. The unusual cool weather allowed them to bloom and produce fruit that is very similar to tomatoes; they are in the same family.
Question: There are beetles on my tomato plants eating the leaves. They are brown and look very similar to lady beetles. What are these insects and how do I control them?
Answer: These insects are probably bean beetles. They feed on a variety of vegetable crops including tomatoes. Sevin dust or liquid will control the beetles.
Question: My tomatoes have curled leaves that seem to twist into a tight roll. What is the problem?
Answer: Some tomato varieties have curled leaves as part of their growth habit. This is normal and the tomato plants will bear edible fruit.
Darrell Blackwelder is an agricultural agent in charge of horticulture with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. For archived garden columns or other information, visit the Rowan County Master Gardener web site at www.rowanmastergardener.com or e-mail Darrell_Blackwelder@ncsu. edu