Category Archives: Pests

Controlling Bugs Inside


I always bring in some plants or cuttings in the fall and inevitably they end up with some sort of bug infestation on them. I noticed that at my school’s greenhouse they used the above yellow sticky pads to attract and keep the bug population down.


I decided to give it a try and you can plainly see the results. I count an average of 60 bugs on some 1″ squares and this is only after a couple of weeks. It may not be a perfect solution, but it does helps.

Note – this is in my basement, so the unattractive yellow traps don’t mess up our home decor.

October 2015 – another product I am trying out is Ultra-Fine Pesticidal oil. Note – the bottle I am using contains paraffinic oil, not the mineral oil that is now available. Some of the plants I am bringing in look like they have possible leaf miner damage. After spraying, the plants look better and are growing.


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Soil Solarization

Here’s a new term I recently learned  – soil solarization. It’s a technique using clear plastic and the power of the sun to kill all sorts of pests, weed seeds and pathogens. There are a number of good articles on this so I won’t redo what’s already been recorded. If you are planning a new garden and have the time to do this, I’d give it a try.

Here are some links to check out and a video at the end.


Filed under Butterfly Gardening, Pests, soil

Voles – Battle to the Death


After I lost a few $10 plants to voles, I realized that these cute mouse-like creatures are not to be wanted in the garden.They seem to prefer bulbs and roots from a few of my plants so I have to resort to extreme measures to protect the plants. Here are a few things I’ve learned.

  • As the picture clearly shows, hawks are a good deterrent to voles. Luckily I do have them in my neighborhood.
  • I usually know voles are present by the paths that I see in my lawn. They are like vole highways.
  • I have found sites that recommend mouse traps baited with peanut butter, but have never caught a vole that way.
  • My most effective remedy is to use “Sweeney’s Poison Peanut Pellets” and contrary to the label, it does nothing for moles, but it does kill voles. It takes a while since the voles will probably store the pellets as a food source. I found two dead vole bodies this year as I was clearing the garden, so I know it works. Make sure you put the pellets down the hole and cover it up so that other animals or kids don’t eat it.
  • Another solution that Jim shared with me is shown in the video below. It basically forces the vole onto a mouse trap that is staked down. While you can certainly buy this product, you could probably make it yourself with a piece of gutter, heavy duty wire and a couple of mouse traps. Note two traps cost $14.99 + $6 shipping. 
  • I just found another solution using a Kness Ketch-All Mouse Trap – See this video

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Pests on Blue Baptisia?

Dave Tylka recently told me about a problem with the Genista broom caterpillar/moth. In some places it is devastating the blue baptisias in some gardens.

I just recently noticed this caterpillar and I’m raising one to see what the moth looks like. According to Dave, it only eats the blue baptisia.

You can control it with hand picking or BT if you have a lot. Some people have reported losing their plant. Here’s a link from GardenWeb with other people’s experience.

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Filed under Caterpillars, Identification, Pests

Cleaning the Garden for the New Season










I have about twenty different garden areas in my yard and it takes quite a bit of time to clean up last years debris and trash. One new technique I have tried in the last few days with our record breaking 70 degrees in January is to use a hedge trimmer. It seems to work well for 90% of the garden.

In the past I have used a brush cutters and lawn trimmers and both do a pretty good job also. With my bad back though I find that both tools hurt a bit and I pay the price the next day.

With the hedge trimmer I can set it on the ground and move it back and forth and cut down all but the largest branches.

I’ve noticed a number of gardeners complaining of moth infestations and wonder if this type of clearing early in the year, before spring, might be a good way to reduce the moth population.

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Filed under Butterfly Gardening, Misc, Pests, Pruning

No Mice But Plenty of Bugs

As I bring my plants inside, I always seem to bring in a plentiful collection of small knat type bugs. Rather than try and kill them off with poisons, I’m trying out mouse glue traps and they seem to work very well. In only 24 hours the trap above has captured 31 little critters. Note that I have it above water as they seem to be attracted to water by the many corpses I see in the water also.


My Drosera also does a great job of attracting these insects and provides the plant with plenty to eat.

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Aphids on Milkweed – what to do

One of the truths when growing milkweed is that you not only get milkweed, but you also get other bugs which love milkweed – besides monarch butterflies.

Aphids are the main pest, but also you may get quite a few of the milkweed bugs.

Here are some possible solutions:

  • Do nothing – aphid populations will rise and fall. In nature this is just part of the natural process of life. They will eventually draw predators to their location.
  • I have found that most aphid populations die off around July 4th in St. Louis. One theory is that the aphids get infected with a disease that kills them off. The aphids are all clones, so if one is infected, the others will should get the same infection. The other theory is that the predator population has built up by this time and controls the population.
  • I have taken to spraying the milkweed with water when I have aphids. My theory is that it might encourage viruses and disease which might kill off the aphids.
  • Inter-planting with cover crops is another solution I have found which worked well. The aphids have a harder time finding the milkweed when it is surrounded by other plants.
  • Flaming the plant bed is another solution I have heard of. You obviously do this before you plant. It should kill any eggs which may have over-wintered.
  • Before you do anything else check for monarch eggs and larva. You don’t want to injure them.
  • If everything is clear, you can try a simple blast with a garden hose. They will cling on, but with persistence you can get some of them off your plants. Unfortunately, they seem to find their way back.
  • You can then try a soap and water spray – I’ve tried it and it works. I’m using about 1T dish soap in one quart of water. Most sites say not to do this in hot weather as it hurt the plant. All of the black spots are dead aphids. I have noticed that while the leaves don’t seem to be affected, the blooms whither away with this soap spray, so soap is not quite innocuous as I’d like.
    I won’t do this again.
  • If infestations are terrible, you can simply clip off the infested area and dispose of them.
  • My final solution is to use an oil spray made for plants. Again check for monarch eggs and larvae. This will definitely kill the aphids, but will also kill other insects. Having an oil spray on the leaves and flowers where monarchs will lay their eggs is questionable, so I avoid doing this.
  • I generally don’t worry about milkweed bugs unless I get a lot. You then just use a soapy water solution in a container and knock the beetles into the container.
  • It’s interesting to me the many bugs you will find on milkweed. (click here)

Note – as I was writing this I noticed one Monarch egg and one lady bug which just goes to show that you have to be careful when working with pests.

If you want to learn more about aphid reproduction, watch David Attenborough’s Natural Curiosities – Season 2 #1 – Virgin Birth. It’s available on Netflix.

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Filed under Milkweed, Pests