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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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I know that you have written about kitchen moths but I have some kind of moths that got into a big, closed basket of wool yarn. There is all this crumbly junk, some white worms, little eggs and little silvery moths mixed in the damaged yarn. Some of the yarn is good but I donít want to spray it with bug spray. Can any of this be saved?

The Yarn Rescue truck is pulling up in front of your house as we speak. This is speaking metaphorically, of course. Your dinner guests are called Clothes Moths. We actually have two kinds. There is a webbing clothes moth and a case-making clothes moth. Not to worry, what you do for one, you will do for the other. These guys can be regarded like old, faded rock stars. They used to be wildly popular but now, hardly anybody even thinks about them. When they were young rockers, everybody had wool carpets and many upholstery fabrics were wool. The blankets on the bed and a lot of winter clothing were wool. These guys toured all over and everybody knew their names. Then, the new age of synthetic fibers crashed their careers. But they are still around, although not working often. Mommy moths can lay anywhere from 100 to 300 eggs which hatch in four to eight days. The larvae feed on items like wool, mohair, fur, feathers, down and hair. They will also feed on stained spots on other fabrics. The stains would be tomato juice, soft drinks, body oil, sweat, beer or urine. I told you they were rock stars. Start by sorting the yarn and disposing of everything not fit to use. The crumbly stuff is frass. In this case, the frass is yarn that has been processed through the mothsí digestive systems. Toss any good yarn into a bag that you make out of nylon net and throw it in the dryer. Heat it up well to cook any possible eggs or larvae that you havenít detected. Swat or spray any adult moths. They are the potential egg factories that are flapping around the ceiling. Check any other wool items in the room. Check anything outside the room to make sure that your problem hasnít gone on to a new venue. Use repellants like mothballs, cedar, lavender, rosemary, thyme, cloves, sage, mint or any of the strongly scented artemesias. The next few days or week should be devoted to a determined search and destroy mission for adults, larvae or eggs. Retire these bad boys with extreme prejudice. 

Every July and August, I get hundreds of Japanese beetles eating my roses, grapes and other flowers. Someone told me that I should buy a bunch of the Japanese beetle traps and this will take care of them. Is this true?

The only thing that Japanese beetle traps control is how much money is in your pocket. Generally speaking, insect traps are not designed to control or eliminate. They are designed to monitor for the problem. Monitoring means that you want to know if you have a problem or not. You already know the answer to that one. The traps will attract hundreds or thousands of beetles to your yard that would not have found you on their own. The traps exude a siren-call scent that will bring them from a huge distance. The beetles wonít necessarily go directly into the traps. They will feed and party among your precious plants. Then they mate. And then they lay eggs in the turf grass areas on your property. Next yearís expected party crowd will be bigger than ever. Are you willing to volunteer for that one? Spray with appropriate pesticides or hand pick your eating machines. Just deal with the regular crowd rather than a mob.

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


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