Insects loving this warm, wet weather

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 24, 2013

SALISBURY — The unusual weather this spring has many people asking questions about lawns and gardens, especially insects and other pests. Warm, wet weather often brings out insects from their winter hibernation. Cooperative Extension has received many inquiries over the past few weeks that may be of interest.

Question: There are little red bugs almost the size of a pin head all over my plants, window sills and on the deck. Are these harmful? What can I do to get rid of them?
Answer: The bugs are actually clover mites. Clover mites come out early in the spring and are more an annoyance than a threat to plants or people. When crushed, they often leave a tiny red stain. The pest usually goes away as it gets warmer. Go online to for more detailed information about the pest.

Question: My rose bushes are covered in plant lice. What can I do to control them?
Answer: The plant lice or aphids often reduce the number and quality of rose blooms. All aphids give birth to living young, which mature in about 10 days. Most aphid species have several generations per year. Often natural predators will keep the insects in check. Extremely high aphid populations may need chemical control. Applications of an insecticide at seven- to 10-day intervals may be needed. Don’t ignore the practice of merely wiping off or gently washing off small concentrations of aphids in the garden. Go to for more information on controlling aphids on roses and other shrubs.

Question: My gardenia has black, sooty scale all over the leaves. When I looked closer, the plant was inundated with small white insects by the hundreds. What are these insects? Will they kill the shrubs and how do I control them on my plants?
Answer: Your plant is inundated with whiteflies. Several species are common and gravitate toward gardenias and other plant materials, including tomatoes. They normally do not kill shrubs, but do weaken them and cause them to become rather unsightly. Insecticides that can be used to control this pest include insecticidal soap and horticultural oils. Horticultural oils in conjunction with synthetic insect control products containing a pyrethroid insecticide work well for control. These must be sprayed on the upper and lower portion of leaves and reapplied over the summer. Go to the website for more detailed information.

Darrell Blackwelder is the county Extension director with horticulture responsibilities with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Contact him at 704-216-8981.