Danélle Cutting: Change of season raises questions

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 14, 2016

This month has seen some chaotic weather but with the cooler temperatures this week, more people are either turning on their heaters or spending time outdoors.

This makes it the perfect situation for getting phone calls and questions about what people are seeing in their homes and in their gardens. Here are a few questions we have received this week.

Question: What is this leaf-looking insect? I found it on my porch, and it is a really cool specimen.

Answer: This is what is called a Katydid. They can be fairly large and either have a long wing span or have elaborate leaf-shaped wings. They are very unique and quite interesting to look at if you are able to spot them. They are related to crickets, and there is some folklore about hearing their sounds; the most prevalent concerns frost. Ironically, I have received two photos of katydids within the past week or so, so maybe we will have a frost in the near future.

Question: What is wrong with my white cone flower? It has green grass coming out of the flower head.

Answer: The photo submitted was the start of some interesting growth because it was in its early stages. I am torn between two possible theories, one being Eriophyid mites, the other being Aster yellows disease. Both are organisms that feed on the plants. The first is a microscopic mite; the second is from leafhoppers that are vectors for the disease. For both instances, the plant material should be destroyed to reduce the spread of the disease. For more information on the pests and problems, visit this publication: http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/plants/landscape/flowers/hgic1182.html

Question: You wrote about stinging caterpillars, and I have not seen any yet. Are they still around?

Answer: Absolutely! We have had a few emails sent in to identify the stinging caterpillars, so they have been out and about. Just make sure that young children are taught not to pick up unusual or hairy caterpillars to reduce their risk of being stung and going to the hospital. The caterpillars can pack quite a punch, and their sting is very painful. For more information on stinging caterpillars, visit this publication: https://forsyth.ces.ncsu.edu/files/library/34/CES_Venomous_Caterpillars.pdf

Question: Why are these stinkbugs coming into my home?

Answer: Remember when I mentioned cooler weather? Well, this is the time that insects start invading our homes to seek shelter over winter! These pesky stinkbugs are some of the worst pests. The Brown Marmorated Stinkbug is the typical stinkbug that invades our homes and has become quite a problem for homeowners and farmers. They have raised such a “stink” that one of our entomologists at N.C. State University is interested in finding locations where thousands of the pesky critters are overwintering. If you have such a place, be sure to call our office and let us know because our entomologists want to learn more about these pests.

Every day, something different or unusual seems to walk through our doors. It definitely helps the workweek go by. If you have anything strange in or outside your home, growing or crawling around, send us a photo or drop a sample off at our office. For more information about the topics discussed today, call or email your local Cooperative Extension agent, Danelle Cutting, at 704-216-8970 or danelle_cutting@ncsu.edu.