Asps won't hurt plants 9-01-2006

I'm having a problem with asps, fuzzy insects that are 1/2 to 1 inch long. When you brush against them they sting. I usually only see a few asps each year, but this year one of my small bur oaks is covered in them. They drop on me when I mow around the tree. Will they hurt the tree? J.Z., Midlothian

ANSWER: Asps are the larvae of a moth. They don't hurt plants much if at all. You can prevent them from hatching by releasing trichogramma wasps early in the season. These gnat-size wasps lay their eggs inside moth eggs, which kills them. To kill asps after they develop, spray them with a Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) product, but do this as a last resort because butterflies also will be killed.

QUESTION: I want to plant something at my Dad's gravesite, which is west of Fort Worth. The only water this area receives is rain, which has been scarce in recent years. I would like plants that bloom, but I'll be happy with anything that will grow. I live in California, and I don't know of anyone who can tend the grave site. Any suggestions? J.R., Gardena, Calif.

ANSWER: Anything you plant must be watered well at planting time. Here are some of the best plants for dry areas: yucca, wild rose, flame sumac, desert willow, agarita and mesquite. Most native oaks also would do well, but they need a little help. Planting should be done in the fall after the first frost so roots can establish before hot weather returns.

QUESTION: I just acquired two horses, and they have worms. The vet wants to put them on a daily chemical wormer. How much do I use? Do I need to mix it with alfalfa, or can I mix it with feed? Also, is the diatomaceous earth that I use in my swimming pool filter the same as the diatomaceous earth used for pest control? J.S., San Antonio

ANSWER: Sounds as if you need a new vet. Chemical wormers are bad for animals and for the life in the soil. These products will harm large beneficial insects such as dung beetles. Natural, freshwater diatomaceous earth is a wonderful natural wormer. Swimming pool diatomaceous earth, on the other hand, is dangerous to use for animals. It is a completely different product.

QUESTION: An oil company has drilling mud left over after drilling a well.They plan to put a berm around 5 acres of land and then dump the mud there.Later, it will be plowed into the soil. The oil company says the mud is great fertilizer and will not hurt land, animals, etc. Do you have any information regarding this process? M.C., Millsap

ANSWER: No, but you should ask the oil company for a complete chemical analysis of the drilling mud. I also wonder what this material will do to the physical structure and drainage of the soil. Right now, I am not buying the company's line.

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