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MSU Extension Service

Home Grown is an educational, entertaining, question-answer column seen weekly in "News from the Genesee MSUE Office," a weekly newsletter for Genesee County Master Gardeners. Special thanks to the Genesee, Oakland and Livingston county MSU Extension offices for providing this service.

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This week's HomeGrown

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Several really creepy looking insects have shown up in my house. They look sort of like stink bugs or squash bugs and are brown and about half an inch long. Each hind leg has a widened portion that makes it thicker than the other parts of the legs. I have done some searching on the internet and it appears that these are kissing bugs that carry a bad disease. I donít think that I have been bitten but I keep finding more. I have squashed the others but I am still finding them. What can I do?

Consider this your written finger wagging. There are no kissing bugs or Western Conenoses in Michigan, so stop this immediately. There will be no savage attacks or weird diseases in your future, at least from this insect. The internet is a more dangerous place than the critters that you found. The part you neglected to read was where these insects live, like southern California and warm, sub tropical states. Many kissing bugs carry Chagas, an African sleeping sickness. The shape of the insect is somewhat similar but not close, even if you were playing horseshoes. I hate to burst your state of red alert but all youíve got is a Leaf-footed Pine Seed Bug. They spend the winter as adults hanging out in wall voids. When it warms up, they squeak through a small crack and pop into the interior of the house. Outside, they suck up the tender interiors of pine seeds. Unless you are a pine seed, they have no interest in you. More than likely, you have cone-producing evergreens around your house or a close neighborís home. Thatís the food of choice, not mammal blood. Your pine seed bug is slightly more than half an inch in length and if you measured the antennae, it would be an inch long. They are several colors of brown with tiny heads and long, thin, elbowed antennae. The hind legs are slightly spiny. The lower portion of the hind leg widens to be flatter and wider than the rest of the leg. Put these guys in the category of annoying pinheads not evil predators.

I have an African violet and want to make another from my plant. I was told that I could cut off a leaf and put it in a glass of water. I did this and put it on the windowsill. I have done this four times and the leaf turns brown and rots. So how do I get a plant started?

The steps are simple, grasshopper, so listen carefully to the steps to enlightenment. African violets will almost never root in water. Instead they become slimy blobs. Buy some soil-less potting mixture at a local nursery or garden center. Cut a leaf and petiole from the plant. Take a mature, healthy leaf. The petiole is the stemmy thing attached to the leaf. Dampen your potting mixture until it is as damp as a rung-out sponge. No soupy puddles. Put the mixture into a small pot with a drain hole. Use a plastic pot because it will not absorb moisture. Or, you can use a cut-down Styrofoam cup that you have punched holes into the bottom of. Take your leaf and petiole and nestle them into the damp soil, no deeper that one-fourth of an inch. If they are sunk too deeply, they rot. Lean the leaf and petiole against the side of the pot for support to hold them off the soil. Make sure the soil is evenly moist and stays that way. Itís ready to grow roots in a few weeks. Or, you can tent the pot loosely with a clear plastic sandwich bag the does not touch the leaf. This will keep moisture in the soil. No water vapor should collect on the inside of the bag or the leaf will rot. Put the pot in a warm, bright area. That means no windowsills in the winter. The leaf and pot should not be in direct sun. Now wait for tiny plants to form around the base of the petiole. Be patient and wait for your African violet enlightenment.

Gretchen Voyle, MSU Extension-Livingston County Horticulture
Agent 517/546-3950


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