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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.


2004 Editions

01-13-05 Fungus gnats; deer protection for trees
01-19-05 After cutting down trees: to chip or not to chip? Also: starting seeds indoors for spring planting
01-27-05 Excessive plant growth in ponds; problem trees and/or problem sites
02-11-05 Diplodia Tip Blight on Pine trees; caring for African violets
02-14-05 Caring for Ficus in winter; indoor pests: larder beetles
02-14-05 bonus! Fertilizer for gardens - designer vs "regular"; why gardenias don't like our houses 
02-21-05 vole damage in lawns & woody plants; how to root cacti and succulents
03-04-05 tree-climbing vines; hibernating insects
03-08-05 deer pests in the landscape; grain moths in kitchens

This week's HomeGrown

Extension web sites:












I have been seeing some big ants walking around my kitchen in the last couple of weeks. I see five or ten a day. Sometimes they are in the sink. I don't get a line of ants walking, I get just individuals wandering around. They won't take the ant bait that I bought. What are they doing?

They are enjoying your hospitality. Because they are big and wander individually, it sounds like Carpenter Ants. Since you are seeing them when it is too cold to be an ant outdoors, they are living somewhere in the house. Since you are seeing them now, it is probably a location that is usually unheated but the sunlight is now warming the wall or roof where they are living. Let's take a short course in Ant Parts 101. Catch one of your wanderers and dump it into a small container on rubbing alcohol. To get a good look at an ant, it needs to be a dead ant. Get your magnifying glass and look at the formerly living ant. There are several different kinds of carpenter ants but they are all built with the same parts. The ant could be black or red and black. Black is most common. Workers are anywhere in size from three-sixteenths of an inch to half an inch in size. Like all ants, there are three body parts: the head, the thorax and the abdomen. In between the thorax and the abdomen is a small connecting piece called a petiole. There will be one node or bump on the petiole. The thorax will have an evenly rounded upper surface. The abdomen may have a scattering of golden hairs. Occasionally, there is a tiny tuft of hairs at the tip of the abdomen. Carpenter ants are associated with wood damage. They do not eat wood. They chew wood into coarse sawdust in the process of creating galleries and tunnels in the wood. The chewed out wood is transported away from the galleries and dumped. The sawdust resembles shavings from a pencil sharpener. You may never see this. They first look for places in the house that have had water damage. Indoors, this could be in a kitchen, bathroom or laundry room where water has leaked. It could be a roof leak. Sometimes the roof gets repaired but there was other damage in the walls from the leak. It could be a doorsill that is decaying or water that has run into an exterior wall around a poorly caulked window. The ants that you see in the sink are gathering moisture. It is almost impossible to get them to feed on baits. The ants are actually an indicator of the bigger problem of wood decay. If you can find the source of the decayed wood and replace it, the ant problem should cease. If you find the wood that they are in, you can spray the ants with an aerosol ant spray that you buy in the store or you could hit them with a shoe. Replacing the damaged portion of the house is the important part.

Someone told me that I can buy some kind of apple tree that never needs to be sprayed and produces great fruit. This person can't remember what the name of the tree is. What is it?

This belongs on the same page as that really tall lumberjack traveling with a big blue ox.

If it is an apple tree in Michigan, it needs protective sprays for both insects and fungal damage. It depends on the quality of fruit you want to produce. If trees aren't sprayed, count on making lots of cider with livestock damage, spots and rots. If you aren't interested in the work that goes into producing apples, please consider one of your local orchards. You will be spraying a number of times during the season. If you are still interested in growing apples, visit you closest MSU Extension Service and pick up the fruit spray bulletin for homeowners and other fruit tree information.

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


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