Two-Spotted Stink Bug ~ Perillus bioculatus

imageI saw this little guy climbing around my Veronica ‘Purplicious’ and of course he’d be turned into a post!

Folks, I’d like to introduce Mr. Red and Black Two-Spotted Stink Bug or Perillus bioculatus for short. Peri here is a native North America soldier bug, and is a part of the Pentatomidae family with all the other stink bugs.

There are generally 2-3 generations of these guys a season, with the last generation hibernating over winter. Females can lay up to 100 eggs usually grouped in 10-15 on branches.

I won’t make you wait any longer for the obvious answer to the question floating in your head. YES! They do smell if you step on them or threaten them. So, basically, when he gets scared, he farts. I feel his pain….

Peri’s favorite food is the Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata). He doesn’t care how this beetle is being served up, sweet young larvae or adult.. . He eats them all. Don’t get me wrong. Peri won’t let a meal pass him by. No. He’s not a fussy eater and will plunge his sharp beak into any nearby meal, excrete some digestive fluid, and enjoy a bug juice cocktail.

The shape of the shield makes me think of cops out walking their beats. And these guys do serve and protect… POTATOES! These guys have been mass released near potato crops to help eradicate the potato bugs.

So, if you’re a fan of the spud, don’t give this guy too much flack about dropping SBD’s. He’s your ‘potato savior’!

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Mossy Rose Galls ~ Diplolepsis rosae

Plant galls occur in an intriguing variety of strange shapes, textures and colors. Some are asymmetrical, bumpy, or warty, where others are smooth and round. Some galls have thick growths of fuzz, hair or spines. Moss galls (or galls in general) do not harm the plant, unless there are quite a few of them. They need the plant to live to also be able to live.

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Galls result from a complicated interaction between two living organisms. The gall-maker (insect, disease or mite) causes the plant to modify its growth into a special dwelling that surrounds the gall-maker. In the case of mossy rose galls, it is a small cynipid wasp called, Diplolepsis rosae.

The Mossy Rose Gall Wasp emerge from the old galls in early spring (April to May) as the weather turns warmer. Females lay eggs for about 3 weeks in the dormant buds of roses, preferring the rugosa line. Larvae hatch and as they feed on the buds, chemicals in their saliva causes the leaves to distort and grow large galls. The larvae live within the gall, all the while feeding and growing to finally emerge the next spring. There is one generation per year.

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There’s really no pesticide that can cure this. If you can’t handle seeing them on your rose, prune them out.

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Ilex VS Woolly Aphids

Woolly aphids sure sound cute… Until you notice a flock of them has landed on your favorite plant, like this echinacea.

These guys are the size of a pencil lead, fluffy white and travel in large groups. You don’t usually see just one of these guys. The white fluff is actually a wax that protects the insect. They aren’t specific in their meals and can be seen feeding on foliage, buds, twigs and branches, bark, and even the roots.
If no action is taken damage materializes as twisted and curled leaves, yellowing foliage, generally poor plant growth, branch dieback, or even the development of cankers and galls.
Parasites, predators and even heavy rainfall will help reduce the populations naturally.  If you believe the natural population controls need your help you can use a forceful stream of water from the garden hose to dislodge the aphids or prune and remove selected, heavily infested stems and water sprouts.  I like squishing them. Spraying with insecticide is rarely justified.


These were lined up on my echinacea stem. When I moved in with my gloved hand, they jumped quite powerfully, out of the way of my squishing fingers. Ah, looks like I was going to have to be faster. Boom. I move in and wiped the stem in a swift motion. 6 down, with only two jumpers. Next stem fairs better with 4 casualties and no jumpers. I got this.

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There are numerous species of woolly aphids, and they feed on many types of plants. They usually require two separate food plants called the primary host and the secondary host. They live on the primary host plant during winter and spring, on the secondary host plant in summer, and then return to the primary host. However, there are several cycles between the start and end of the season. Their seasonal, breeding cycle is very strange. Let’s see if you can wrap your mind around these funny gals:


  • In fall, the eggs are laid on the primary host.
  • In spring, they hatch into wingless females.
  • These females give birth to live young without mating (parthenogenesis). Each female can give birth to hundreds more wingless females.
  • In late spring to early summer, the wingless females give birth to winged females that fly to the secondary host plant, where they give birth to wingless females again.
  • In late summer and early fall, winged females will again be born.
  • They fly back to the primary host plants and change things up a bit by cloning themselves as both female and males!
  • The males and females mate and the mated females lay eggs. Low temperatures kill the adult aphids while the eggs wait patiently under the mulch for the warmth to start the cycle again!

That’s some crazy Shyt!!



© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Ilex VS Leaf Miners

Leaf miners can cause a fair amount of damage to a plant, if the gardener isn’t paying attention. A leaf miner is the larva of an insect that lives in and eats the leaf tissue of plants. Most of leaf-mining insects are moths (Lepidoptera), sawflies (Symphyta) and flies (Diptera), though some beetles also begin this way. This feeding action causes strange scribbles to appear on the leafs of some unfortunate plants.  I’ve always thought of the book ‘Charlotte’s Web’ when I observe these… Always wondering if I’m going to read,”Some Pig!” one of these days.

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It looks like a prescription from my doctor…

I spotted them in my Vervain Mallow (Malva alcea) this summer. This plant is considered a weed here, although I think its pretty and allow it to grow in my garden. With the weed title in mind, I can’t find much information on what fly causes these tunnels. Either way, it doesn’t matter. The way to get rid of them is the same for all miners. Squish or remove leaf. It is that easy. I try to find the newest feeding area and squish the leaf between my fingers, thus squishing the insect. If there are too many on a leaf, remove it and throw it away.

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Someone got confused and laid an egg on an annual   ||   Leaf miners on columbine

Miners overwinter as pupa in the soil, then morph into flies that lay eggs on the underside of leaves. The eggs then hatch into maggots and burrow inside the leaf tissue to mature. Three species of miners in the genus Phytomyza are associated with columbines.


© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Ilex VS Sycamore Anthracnose (Apiognomonia veneta)


Anthracnose is a fungus that has many forms and affects manyimage different species of trees. Some are fatal, some will just make the tree look unpleasant.

The most common signs of Sycamore Anthracnose are:

  • *Heavy leaf and twig drop in late spring
  • *A thinning crown
  • *Random, dead leaves in canopy
  • *Distorted limb growth
  • *“Witches’ broom” growth (dense clusters of twigs)
  • *Cool, wet, spring weather will aggravate the spread of this disease.

If the average daily temperature at the time of leaf budding is below 55 °F, anthracnose infections will be severe. If the average daily temperature is 60F or above during this time, disease incidence will be greatly reduced.

Sycamore anthracnose is caused by the fungus Apiognomonia veneta and is more serious than anthracnose on other shade trees. Sycamore anthracnose is common when cool, wet weather occurs during leaf development. Considerable defoliation may occur in late spring, however trees normally bounce back and produce a second set of leaves in early July that are disease-free. Leaves that are infected in early spring often turn brown and shrivel while still small, which can be mistaken for frost damage. Leaves that are infected may have brown foliar lesions that follow along the veins in V-shaped patterns. Leaves turn brown and may drop prematurely or continue to hang in the tree.


There are two other stages of this anthracnose: shoot and leaf blight and canker formation. Shoot and leaf blight results when the pathogen enters young, succulent shoots. It causes the rapid death of growing shoots and leaves. The pathogen overwinters in twigs and is active whenever temperatures are high enough in the fall, winter and spring. During winter, cankers form on infected shoots and kill the buds. Repeated infection results in deformed shoots and witches brooms. Although this disease can weaken the trees and increase their susceptibility to attack by other pathogens and pests, it is not lethal.

imageManagement: Dead twigs should be pruned as they develop throughout the growing season. Rake and discard fallen leaves to reduce the source of the fungus. It is impractical to spray fungicides on large trees, however for smaller, specimen trees, the disease can be controlled with fungicides applied at three intervals; just before bud break, during bud break, 10 to 20 days later. Systemic fungicide injections can also be used.

If you really want to plant a Platanus species and don’t want to worry about sycamore anthracnose, plant a hybrid planetree, which are resistant to the disease. These trees are mixed with a maple.

EXCLAMATION LONDON PLANETREE Platanus x acerifolia  ‘Morton Circle’ Zones 4-8

OVATION LONDON PLANETREE Platanus x acerifolia  ‘Morton Euclid’ Zones 5-7



© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Ilex VS Eastern tent caterpillars ~ Malacosoma americanum

imageThese guys are often confused with fall webworms, and bag worms, although all three are quite different. Tent worm nests are active early in the season while webworms are active late season. Tent worms like to make their tent nests in the forks of branches, while webworm nests are located at the tips of branches. Fall webworms also enclose foliage or leaves within these nests. Tent caterpillars do not. Bag worms are single worm homes made of the foliage from the tree it has decided to call home. They mostly evergreens like junipers or arborvitae. I like to remember the difference like this… A bag can hold one, but a tent can hold many.

imageEastern Tent worms like wild cherry, other ornamental fruit trees, ash, willow and maple trees. They tend to make their tents on the eastern side of the canopy to take advantage of the early sunlight to warm them and start their digestive systems. After a about five instar, they fall from the tent, make a cocoon and after two weeks, the moth emerges. Mating occurs and the female deposits her eggs on the tree bark. Soon the eggs change into larvae, without leaving the egg and overwinter this way. In the spring, they emerge from the egg.image

Other than their webs making trees appear unsightly, tent caterpillars rarely cause major problems unless their numbers become high. They are easy to control by waiting until nightfall, when they tend to go back to the tent and pruning the branch off. It can be disposed of via the garbage or campfire. If pruning is not an option, maybe these are:

  • Scrape off, discard overwintering egg masses.
  • Tear the protective tents out by hand before the larvae start to feed.
  • Control caterpillar movement and restrict access to feeding areas with Sticky Tree Bands or Tanglefoot Pest Barrier.
  • Apply Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt-k) or Monterey Garden Insect Spray (Spinosad) to the leaves to kill feeding caterpillars.
  • If necessary, spot treat with plant-derived insecticides as a last resort. Spray must penetrate silken tents for effective control.


© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Four-Spotted Sap Beetle ~ Glischrochilus quadrisignatus

Four-Spotted Sap Beetle (or ‘picnic beetles’, ‘picnic bugs’, or ‘beer bugs’) feed on sap from injured trees, decaying vegetables or fungal matter. They love ripened fruit, as well as beer, wine, fruit juice and fermented beverages. The beetles like to party in large numbers when these beverages are present, often drowning while enjoying their libation. Then I get to enjoy protein in my wine =-P

They can be a nuisance to farmers, however they don’t generally bother crops until something else causes the crop to be damaged in some way. Once damage is done, like Japanese beetles nibbling on tomatoes do they come from miles around. They aren’t strong fliers, however scientists have tested marked beetles by placing a basket of rotten tomatoes 200 yards away, and the beetles found the prize in less than two hours.

Researchers have also found that their favorite food is beer mixed with bananas. Hmmm, I do peanut butter and bananas.. However, I wouldn’t think to down my meal with beer, yuk.

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© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Ilex VS Aphids on Basil

I follow a really cute fellow called Mongo. He is an adorable yellow lab with a veracious appetite which usually gets him in trouble. If you need a great laugh, be sure to catch the Howl-o-ween post about how Mongo got into the Halloween candy. You’re in for a treat…

When Mongo’s Dad isn’t cleaning up after Mongo, he likes to grow basil. Unfortunately, his basil got a case of aphids. =-O

Aphids on basil

Mongo’s Dad’s Basil

Unlike white fly, which tends to like to hang-out on the underside of leaves, aphids like to enjoy the topsides.

Aphids are  tiny-tiny (1/16″ – 1/8″) semi-transparent green, (or other colored) insects that suck the sap from leaves, stems and flowers. Aphids mainly feed on tender new growth, causing the leaves to appear puckered or twisted. They multiply rapidly and can destroy a plant quickly, however the good news is that they are very fragile.

Aphids have been called the mice of the insect world, because they multiply so quickly and provide food for so many creatures. These guys are usually not a problem when they are outdoors. In a well balanced environment, there are enough predators out there to keep their numbers down. Other creatures want aphid poop, better known as honeydew. Ants have been know to ‘farm’ aphids and harvest the honeydew. Pretty darn crazy sounding, until you seen it.

When your basil is indoors, it doesn’t have the Lady Bird Brigade protecting its leaves. It has to rely on you for support. Aphids are pretty easy to take out, just a jet of water can wipe out a good majority. Having the plant soaked every once-in-awhile is no problem. I would also toss up a yellow sticky card to trap any white fly that may come by.

If this doesn’t work, then I would step-up to Horticulture soap* or Neem oil, in that order. I just think sometimes Neem can change the taste of leaf veggies. This is just my opinion.

Thanks again for the post material Mongo’s Dad!

*Just for the record, using dish soap is not acceptable for a cheap substitute for horticultural soap. Now-a-days, the dish soap is not soap anymore, detergent is the main ingredient and modern soap lacks the fatty acids that are helpful in killing the insect. All you will do is dry out your plant!

Ilex Farrell

Ilex VS Scale (Again!)

As I was preparing my houseplants to come inside for the winter, I noticed a bad case of scale on my palm.


Crawlers & Female Scales

You are seeing a range of ages of scale in these photos, as scale can have one or two generations per season. The nymphs are hatched from under a female scale and ‘crawl’ to a new location. This is the only time the insect will ever move, so the nymphs are often called ‘crawlers’. Females will find a suitable location and honker-down. She will loose her legs and live under her shell. Male scale develop wings for to get around to all the women, however in most cases, he only lives for a few days.


Scale insects are divided into two categories:

Soft scales (Cottony maple scale, for example) produce a soft, thin, cottony, powdery or waxy layer over themselves that cannot be separated from the insect body.  These scale insects often produce copious amounts of honeydew.

Armored scales (like these in the photos) have a hard, shield-like cover composed of shed skins and wax that conceals the body but is not attached to the body of the insect.


Treat with horticultural oil or organic insecticidal soap. If you’re going with soap, spray the plant down with water first, as the longer the soap spray stays liquid, the better job it will do smothering the pests.

Just for the record, using dish soap is not acceptable for a cheap substitute for horticultural soap. Now-a-days, the dish soap is not soap anymore, detergent is the main ingredient and modern soap lacks the fatty acids that are helpful in killing the insect. All you will do is dry out your plant!

Another few good tips to aid the recovery of your plant from scale:

  • Don’t over-water.
  • Don’t fertilize – forcing fresh growth is stressful on the plant and the pests like the new stuff better!
  • Place in sunny location.
  • Try to remove the honeydew, as sooty mold will grow on it.
  • Don’t be afraid to prune when needed – I cut many branches down to just lessen the surface area.
  • About once a week, spray off the plant and reapply the soap or oil.


Both new and old scales are seen in this photo

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Ilex VS Chlorosis


Silver maple ~ Note the dark green veins and the bright, limey balance of the leaf.

Chlorosis is starting to rear it’s ugly head on a number of plants in the Midwest. Chlorosis is a yellowing of the leaf due to low levels of chlorophyll (the green pigment in leaves). It starts by leaf tissue appearing paler green; however the veins of the leaf stay green. Leaf tissue progressively turns yellow, and may turn white in advanced cases. Leaf margins may develop a scorched look with symmetrical brown spots between veins. Trees that commonly show chlorosis include:

Pin, Red and White oak ~ Quercus varieties

Red and silver maples ~ Acer rubra or Acer saccharinum

River birch ~ Betula nigra

Tulip-tree ~ Liriodendron tulipifera

Sweet gum ~ Liquidambar styraciflua

Bald cypress ~ Taxodium distichum

White pine ~ Pinus strobes




There are many causes of chlorosis. The most common cause of chlorosis in the Midwest is due to iron and manganese deficiencies resulting from alkaline soils. High soil pH causes iron and manganese that is present in the soil to become unavailable to the plant.

Where soils are alkaline, avoid planting trees that do not tolerate alkaline soils. For existing trees, fertilize soil with a nitrogen and sulfur-based fertilizer from early spring through mid-May, use chelated iron which is not affected by soil pH (this is best used in spring), or have the tree injected with iron or manganese.

Anything that negatively impacts the root system (physical damage, flooded soils and dry soils) can also lead to chlorosis. The abundant rains this year are starting to affect the ability of roots to take up nutrients, so a treatment of iron to the soil may not work in all cases. The best management practices is in dry seasons, be sure to provide enough moisture to plants and when the season is wet, there is not much to do but wait for drier weather.

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl