Pretty plants and ugly bugs raise questions

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 4, 2011

By Darrell Blackwelder
For the Salisbury Post
SALISBURY — Cooler fall weather has returned and many are coping with problems associated with cooler weather. Below are a few questions posed to Cooperative Extension over the past few weeks.
Q: I have a problem with some type of basement crickets. Can you tell me how to get rid of them?
A: What you have may be camel crickets. These often come inside in cool, damp basements. Seal off cracks and crevices that allow the insect access into these areas. Implement a dehumidifier to help eliminate damp areas. Also, rake mulch and plant materials back at least 12 inches away from doorways. Indoor insecticides should be used as a last resort. More information can be found at
Q: There are a small trees blooming along sides of the road with small white flowers. What type of tree is this and can you buy them?
A: The plant you have described is a silverling shrub/tree (Baccharis halimifolia). These plants often form dense thickets in open areas along roadways or abandoned fields. The plant is considered a trash tree of no economic or aesthetic value for most landscapes and has also been placed on the watch list as a possible invasive species. However, the outcast native does have a redeeming value as a salt tolerant hedge or screen in coastal or flooded areas. It has been successfully used in difficult areas as a small specimen tree or as a shrub border. From a distance, the plant does possess aesthetic value, especially in the fall.
Q: We planted lantana this year and it grew and bloomed very well. According to the label it is a perennial, but my neighbor says it will not come back next spring. Will lantana come back next year like my other perennials?
A: Some cultivars such as Miss Huff and Chapel Hill are cold hardy and should return to grow another season. There may be other cultivars that are half hardy that will survive if we have a fairly mild winter. Prune back the foliage when frost arrives and add 6 inches of mulch to increase your chances and keep your fingers crossed.
Q: I saw some bluebirds flying around my yard yesterday. What can I do to help feed them this winter and keep them in my yard?
A: Bluebirds eat insects in the spring and summer but in the winter, they turn to berries. Bluebirds are attracted to berries of hollies and dogwoods. Beautyberry, elderberry and mulberry are also native plants and another food source. Incorporate hollies and dogwoods into your landscape if possible. More information can be found at the official N.C. bluebird website:
Darrell Blackwelder is county extension eirector, Rowan County Center, N.C. Cooperative Extension, 2727 A Old Concord Road, Salisbury; 704-216-8970.