Flower may bring trouble

Published 6:14 pm Saturday, April 5, 2008

This is only my second spring living in Natchez, and I am more observant now with all the various landscapes and sights in our beautiful city.

The azaleas blooming across Natchez is certainly a reason to be proud of our city and a reason why so many people come here to visit every spring, along with many other plants blooming.

However, there are some common problems that come with all of these natural sights. Here are two common calls we received this week.

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Q. How do I eliminate the black mold on my gardenias and azaleas?

Sooty mold is the black powdery mold you may see growing on crape myrtles, azaleas, camellias, laurels, gardenias and other ornamental plants.

The good thing is they usually do not cause any great damage, they are just not aesthetically pleasing. Sooty mold fungi is usually present on the leaves and limbs of plants and often causes no visible damage at all.

It does not become a problem until it begins to spread and totally cover the leaf and reduce the plants ability to complete the photosynthesis process.

But the real problem behind sooty mold is not the mold but what feeds it. It is feed, but honeydew excretion typically from aphids or whiteflies.

Therefore the best way to control sooty mold is to control the pests which produce the honeydew, thus eliminating the food source. There are several control methods for controlling aphids and whiteflies. There are numerous oils and natural sprays that can help reduce numbers or increasing the lady bug population is a natural solution.

If low numbers of aphids are present using a strong stream of water from a garden hose can often knock most them off the plant. There are also several insecticides that can help eliminate these pests.

Once the bugs have been controlled the black sooty mold will gradually go way, however if you want to speed up the process you can use one tablespoon of household liquid detergent per gallon of water and spray on these plants. Wait 15 minutes and wash this material off with a strong stream of water from a garden hose. This may have to be repeated several times.

Q. Where do all the brown beetles that are out right now come from?

Where I live in the southern part of Adams County, I estimate that I could vacuum up over 5,000 of these beetles from under the lights around my house on any given night right now. These beetles — also known as May beetles, June bugs, or June beetles — are actually the larva of white grubs.

They cause more damage in the larva stage as a white grubs feeding on the roots of lawns and plants than as adults.

The adult stage of the white grub, the June beetle, feeds primarily on leaves of hardwood trees, oaks being a favorite.

So be aware because a lot of June bugs can lead to a lot of aggravating white grubs in the near future.

David Carter writes a weekly column for The Democrat. He can be reached at dcarter@ext.msstate.edu.