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Dallas Morning News - October 13, 2016


Q.  How do I control voles / field mice in my yard without using poison? T. C. Durango, CO
A.  Voles are controlled with the same techniques used for moles. Traps can be used successfully and there are several repellents on the market that can help. Look for the ones that contain garlic, hot pepper and castor oil. The specific product that has shown some of the best results is Mole Scram.

Here is some more information on voles: 

Mole Gopher Vole Newsletter

Q.  My pindo palm, if that is the right name, is going downhill and seems to be dying from the center. Here are before and after pictures. What should I do.  A.B. Dallas, TX
A.  Your palm is definitely pindo but has less of a blue cast than I usually see. There is stress involved for some reason and it appears to have a crown rot underway. The entire Sick Tree Treatment should be applied but in the case of palm problems, hydrogen peroxide should be poured down the center of the crown. It should also be mixed with the Garrett Juice spray as part of the usual STT procedure. Some people have been successful pouring full strength (3%) hydrogen peroxide down in the crown but I would probably dilute it with water 50-50, especially if the weather is still hot. The other thing you need to do right away is get the weed blocking fabric out. I never use it around plants. I'm suspicious the tree has stayed too wet. Make a probe by sawing the head off an old golf club and use it as a probe to see how wet the soil is around the palm. I see the bed has sprinkler heads so turn the system for now. I would also remove the Christmas lights. Get the soil moisture balanced, apply the Sick Tree Treatment and your palm should rebound.

Q. Help!!!! What is this deformity in my asparagus spears? How to fix it?  D.B. Richardson, TX
A.  Fasciation, or cresting, is a rare abnormal growth in vascular plants where the growing tips become elongated perpendicularly to the direction of growth, producing flattened, ribbon-like, crested or contorted tissue. Fasciation can also cause plant parts to increase in weight and volume. This condition may occur in stems, roots, fruit or flower heads. Some plants are grown and prized for their development of exotic fasciation. It has several possible causes including hormonal, genetic, bacterial, fungal, viral and environmental. Additional factors that can cause fasciation include mite or insect attack, exposure to chemicals, physical damage to a plant's growing tip and exposure to cold and frost. Some plants, such as peas and cockscomb celosia, can inherit the trait. It is not contagious but pathogens that cause fasciation can be spread from infected plants to others. To shut down the suspected pathogens, spray infected plants with hydrogen peroxide mixed 50-50 with water or Garrett Juice.

Q.  Any idea what species this green, spiny caterpillar is?  It was on my cherry laurel.  J. M. Dallas, TX
A.  This is the Io moth larva or caterpillar. The fine spine-like bristles are tipped with stinging hairs. The body is always green with a distinctive white and red or purple stripe. Mature larvae are about three inches long. They should not be handled because the hairs give a painful sting that can persist for minutes to hours. Those allergic to the venom can have even more severe reactions. Larvae can also be found feeding on birch, blackberry, cherry, clover, elm, hackberry, hibiscus, oak, poplar, sassafras, willow and wisteria - also on corn and some ornamental grasses. They are active throughout the summer months. The male moths are yellow and the females are a purple-brown. When disturbed, they will raise the front wings to expose the two hind wings that have distinctive eye-spots. Adults can have wingspans of two to three inches. Controls include Bt products, spinosad products and the release of trichogramma wasps in the spring.

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