Friday, June 27, 2014

Tent Caterpillar Moths Are Flying Now

Jerald E. Dewey, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org
The tent caterpillars that were eating are trees until recently are still around although not so active.  Some though have already cocooned and pupated, emerging as mating adults. They're out laying the golden egg clusters for next years brood.

So, between now and next spring, keep an eye out for the egg clusters (see photo at right) that will hatch out next years wave of leaf-chewers.  If you find them, just rub them off.  No pesticides needed.

Is Your Soil Dry?

After two decades of post college gardening experience, I've learned that watering plants is not nearly as simple as people seem to think it is (or should be).  I've worked at a couple different plant nurseries in my time.  Everyday people would come in with various garden questions.  Often these were questions about "What is wrong with my plant."  I quickly observed that many people were annoyed, or even offended if it was suggested that maybe the plant just needed water or, in some cases, had been watered too much.  We gardeners often tend to view watering as one of those things that is so basic to our hobby or profession that we unconsciously presume ourselves to be experts on the matter.  Any suggestion to the contrary is damaging to our egos.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Beach Botanizing

Fay Bainbridge Park.  Photo from the BI Parks & Rec website.
“Botanizing” is the act of studying plants, usually in their natural habitat.  In my case that typically means looking for plants I’m not familiar with, identifying them, and if appropriate tasting them. Today I had time to go botanizing.  In recent years I’ve not had time to do that much at all.  Botanizing in my youth is what really built my love of plants.  It’s a major part of who I am now.


I’m quite familiar with the woodland flora where I work and live, so coming across native plants that I can’t identify is unusual.  Well...that’s not quite true.  I’m a little daunted by grasses and mosses so there are many of those I can’t identify.  But I am working on them.  And sedges.  And willows.  Okay...maybe there’s more than I care to admit.  But I’m slowly chipping away at them.  Let’s just say I’ve just saved the hardest for last.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, part 2

This article is part 2 of my previous BMSB article found here.

BMSB Nymphs.  Two nymphal stages are present. 
Note the color difference
Gary Bernon, USDA APHIS, Bugwood.org
Now is a good time to be on the lookout for the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB).  You may have earlier encountered adults as they emerged from their winter hiding places.  Their task was to lay the next generation's eggs on the underside of host plant foliage.  Now, in early June, the eggs begin to hatch and the BMSB nymphs (juveniles) emerge to feed on their host plant.  As the season progresses, these insects and their damage will become more and more obvious.

Probably these smelly pests aren't in Kitsap county yet, but then again someday they probably will be.  So what do you do if you think you've found one?  Here are some steps to follow:

Friday, June 6, 2014

Outdoor Ohana

Meet Outdoor Ohana, aka HappyHiker.org, a non-profit organization run by family friend Alli Krug.  Her site promotes hikes, runs, and swims for families and details various hikes she's done locally and back in Hawaii.  There is even an educational section called "Freeschool" with STEM lessons.  It's a great resource for families looking for outdoor activities.  I intend to use it with my kids!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Western Tent Caterpillar Parasite Pictures

Photo by Darren Strenge, 2014.
In an earlier article found here, I wrote about the increasingly apparent return of the western tent caterpillar
to Kitsap county.  In that article I mentioned Tachinid flies, parasites that lay eggs on live caterpillars to be used as food by the fly larvae upon hatching.  These flies, along with a virus, are two parasites that help to bring the tent caterpillar infestations under control over a period of a few years.  At the beginning of these infestations, the population levels of these parasites can be very low.  But they are around and in my yard, I found a caterpillar with the egg of a Tachinid fly stuck to its head.