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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
03-15-05 ants in the kitchen; mythological apple trees
04-07-05 spring care of ornamental grasses; little beetle in basements
04-13-05 Preventing crabgrass; flies on the wall 
04-18-05 Buying perennials in boxes; care of perennials in early spring
05-20-05 Dogs and lawns; winter injury on evergreen trees
05-27-05 Sawfly larvae on Scotch Pine trees; rabbit-eaten  Burning Bushes
06-07-05A Dead spots in the lawn; grow your own maple field?
06-07-05B Insects on your mint plants;  don't till the rose garden!
06-07-05C Sick garden phlox - look for spider mites; strange grass in the lawn
06-25-05A Maple petiole borer - no need to spray; water for lawn and trees & shrubs

This week's HomeGrown

Extension web sites:












My maple leaves have become disgusting freaks. There are these things on the leaves. They stick up like tiny pencil points and are yellow green and some are becoming red. When I try to pick them off, it rips a hole in the leaf. This is a big tree. I canít pick off all the bad leaves and I canít afford to have it sprayed. I just canít loose this tree.

This is a perfect example of go back in the house, have a cold adult beverage and relax. There are no sprays or hired monkeys picking leaves that will make any difference. You are seeing our tiny mite friendsí handiwork, creating Maple Spindle Galls. These growths are caused by tiny mites. They bite into the back of the leaf early in the spring and inject their tiny, but powerful growth hormone into the leaf. The new generation of gall mite eggs are laid inside of the developing gall. Pretty soon, youíre seeing little points. Make that little, harmless points. This is a mite that isnít worth trying to control. The leaf is still operational in making food for the tree. The only parts that donít operate are the little points. If you pruned off one small branch, you have done more damage than all of the dinky gall mites combined. But wait. Yes, there are more gall mites that you could find this season. Maple bladder galls are red bumps on maple leaves. Similar mites, same non-damage. Some leaves could end up looking like a cheap beaded sweater. There are other leaf galls seen on oaks, elms and wild cherry trees. All should be regarded as fascinating and harmless. Next year, you may not see as many. Last yearís wet season let more tiny mites live. This year, weíre reaping the benefits. Just wait for the continuing story next year.

My ash tree has very few leaves, dead branches and cracks in the bark. When I pulled up the loose bark, there were hundreds of insects. They are dark brown and have pinchers on the rear end. They are eating my ash tree to death. How do I stop this?

You donít, because they are not the problem. Youíre got a bunch of earwigs living under the loose bark. They are opportunists. That means that they are taking advantage of a fantastic, loose-bark-for-rent housing opportunity. They didnít create the tree decline, loose bark thing, they are just making the most of the treeís bad situation. Maybe you might have heard of the Emerald Ash Borer. There have been articles in newspapers, magazines, television and radio news stories about this Michigan terrorist for the last three years. This insect is rapidly destroying all the ash trees in twenty counties and many other scattered sites around the state. Canada, Ohio and Indiana, just to name a few places, are recipients of our disaster. Killing the little-loser earwigs is not going to fix the real problem. If your ash tree looks this bad, there is no fixing it. The tree is dying. Cut it down. There are no successful treatments for a tree in this bad of condition. The earwigs hide in cracks and feed on organic matter and small insects. They donít kill or really even injure, trees. The rush to judgment has implicated the wrong insect. You must acquit.

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


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