September 1, 1999 | By: Aimee D. Heald
LEXINGTON, KY

There is no doubt the drought has negatively affected production for many commercial vegetable farms and home gardens this summer. But to many insect pests, the garden may still be a paradise.

The parts of the plants considered to be edible by humans have been harvested, however pests still can find food and shelter among aging plants and weeds.

"Many insect pests are able to complete development in these crop residues long after the las fruits are picked," Ric Bessin, Extension entomologist for the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, said. "Some acquire disease-causing organisms that can infest young plants next year."

Several serious insect pests such as the European corn borer, squash vine borer, squash bug, and tobacco hornworm are able to continue development on crop residues long after edible vegetables are harvested. Other pests such as flea beetles can find food and shelter from weeds and crop residues throughout winter. Two-spotted spider mites continue to feed on weeds after crops have withered.

Bessin recommends destroying crop residues shortly after harvest to discourage these pests from continuing to develop.

"Removal of crop residues may reduce pest survival by exposing them to the winter elements, " he said. "These weeds and crop residues insulate the pests from frosts and freezes."

Bessin said a thorough fall cleanup should help discourage some of the pests that may cause problems next year. He recommends disking commercial fields to destroy crop residues. Home gardeners can compost or till the residues into the soil.

"It is important to keep in mind it should not be just a fall practice to destroy crop residues," he emphasized. "As soon as a crop is harvested for the last time, clean-up should begin, even if that is early summer for spring crops."

Another problem many Kentuckians will face this fall is insects moving into homes. With the onset of cooler fall temperatures, insects may be trying to find a winter home. It's happening a bit earlier this year, due to the drought.

Lady bugs, boxelder bugs, flies and hackberry psyllid are common invaders in the fall. Fortunately none of these insects are poisonous and they don't bite. But, some stay active throughout the winter and can be a nuisance.

"The key to keeping them (insects) out of the house is prevention." Bessin said. "Make certain cracks along windows and doors are caulked or weatherstripped. Ventilation openings in attics should be screened or sealed."

Bessin said if the problems are recurrent, applying an insecticide to the outside of the house may help.

The drought has caused some unusual insect problems, but they all can be reduced with careful planning and by staying on top of the situation.

Contact: 

Writer: Aimee D. Heald 606-257-9764

Source: Ric Bessin 606-257-7456