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Japanese Knotweed is a beautiful plant when in full, white flower stage. Too bad it is such a thug and invasive. It also makes a nice hedge, but quickly overtakes the properties if used as a boundary plant. Colonies can be seen just about everywhere along roadsides, in meadows and yards as it spreads so freely.

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Japanese knotweed is also known as Japanese bamboo, American and Mexican Bamboo due to its hollow stems with nodes on them. The plant is known by three different Latin names of Fallopia japonica and Polygonum cuspidatum Siebold & Zucc.  And Reynoutria japonica Houtt, but it all the same plant. No matter what you call it, it is aggressive, invasive and extremely hard to kill once established.

The plant was brought to the United States during the 1890’s from Asia as a solution to erosion. It will grow in just about any situation from full sun to complete shade, rich or lean soils, and dry or soggy soils. It tends to make a colony of plants, out-competing any and all other plants resulting in a monoculture. Since it evolved on another continent, it has no native predators, insect or animal that eats it enough to control its spread.

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It reproduces vegetatively. If digging it out, any tiny piece of root left in the ground will quickly send up a shoot to get reestablished.  Control measures are difficult. Heavy machinery can dig out large infestations and monitor for a new sprouts to pull or treat with herbicides. Herbicides which contain Glyphosate or Triclopyr are the most successful and should be used before the plants flower or sprayed on cut stems. It has been reported that monthly mowing for five years will finally eradicate a large area.

 

-Carol Quish

What’s a butterfly garden without butterflies?  Roy Rogers

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Tiger swallowtail visits a butterfly bush

 

Planting a butterfly garden is a hopeful enterprise which often has its rewards in the future and not in the same year of the planting. Typically, a couple of years is needed to provide abundant blooms and the subsequent attracting of butterflies. In my experience, the best butterfly gardens are those that include, as much as possible, the host plants that visiting butterflies will use for laying eggs for their caterpillars. Try planting a few blueberry bushes as several hairstreak butterflies us this as a host plant.

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Striped hairstreak on common milkweed. Host plants for caterpillars include blueberry and oaks

When butterflies start to visit the garden, try to identify them and see if they may be laying eggs on already existing plants (like oaks and cherry, for instance, if tiger swallowtails are present). Having nectar sources nearby  the host plants for the caterpillars is a strong factor in what attracts butterflies to an area. So I say, if you plant it, they will come. Maybe. Sometime. They have to find it, so it can take time. If they are already passing through and laying eggs on suitable host plants, then nectar will keep their offspring coming back  to do the same.

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Black swallowtail caterpillar with egg just underneath the leaf- Cohen pollinator and butterfly garden in Colchester

I have planted a native willow for Mourning Cloaks that come through the property every year. A sassafras that appeared several years ago has now become a regular host plant for the spicebush swallowtails that visit the garden for nectar. When you see any butterflies, egg laying should shortly follow, if it has not already taken place. This is why host plants in the vicinity of nectar sources is so important when planning a butterfly garden.A lone tiger swallowtail visited my garden late this spring and three weeks later I found its tiny caterpillar on a small black cherry sapling I had transplanted earlier that spring. It was barely in the ground and already had become a host plant.

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The Cohen Woodlands Butterfly-Pollinator Garden in Colchester. Parsley in the foreground attracts black swallowtail females.

 

Three of the best butterfly gardens I have been to this year are the one at the Tolland County Agricultural Center in Vernon, the Cohen-Woodlands pollinator- butterfly garden in Colchester, and the Fletcher Library Garden in Hampton. The one thing all these gardens have in common is a good selection of three season nectar sources and nearby host plants. Four monarch caterpillars were on the butterfly weed in the Fletcher Library just two weeks ago, and one was on milkweed in the Cohen garden on September 5th. That is great news for the Monarchs which have suffered from devastating population declines in recent years.

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Monarch caterpillar on milkweed at the Cohen Woodlands butterfly- pollinator garden

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This Monarch caterpillar just left its butterfly weed host plant in search of a suitable spot to pupate at the Fletcher Library garden in Hampton

Plant parsley, fennel or dill if black swallowtails visit a garden. Small cherry and spicebush attract tiger swallowtails and spicebush swallowtails, respectively. Viceroys will lay eggs on willow and poplar and red- spotted purples lay eggs on cherry. Skippers for the most part prefer grasses for their larva, but the silver- spotted skipper, a frequent visitor to any garden, likes legumes. Pearl crescents like asters, and these flowers are visited by many migrating butterflies as most other nectar sources are going by in late summer.

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Wild Indigo Duskywing on Salvia. Plant Baptisia for its caterpillars.

A must plant for pollinators, butterflies and hummingbirds is Caryoptersis, also known as bluebeard. This perennial blooms from late- summer until fall. Lantana is a terrific annual for all butterflies, providing blooms until frost. Combined with asters, these plants are ideal nectar sources for fall migrators. Goldenrods, spotted Joe-pye, liatris, zinnias, obedient plant, alliums, butterfly bush, milkweeds, obedient plant and veronicas are also good selections for butterfly gardens. And there are so many more.

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Silver-spotted skipper on bluebeard

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Tiger Swallowtail on obedient plant, a favorite of butterflies, bees and hummingbirds

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Spicebush swallowtail nectaring on a pink Coreopsis. Sassafras nearby is a host for the caterpillars.

Annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs should all be under consideration when deciding what to plant for butterflies. My garden has been redesigned for birds, butterflies, pollinators and, just a little bit, for me. Although, I guess, it really is mostly for me because of the enjoyment I get watching these little visitors getting some use from the plants that were selected with them in mind in the first place. Of course, woodchucks were not in the equation (as squirrels were not either when putting out the BIRD feeder) …

Pamm Cooper                              All photos copyright 2016 by Pamm Cooper

 

This summer has been, as they say, one for the books. High temperatures that went on for weeks and limited rainfall certainly did a number on our gardens, containers, and flower beds. Many calls to the Home & Garden Education Center were from gardeners bemoaning the sad state of affairs. Plants were stunted, didn’t set flowers or dropped them early when they did, leaves were scorched looking, and in general plants just performed poorly.

What a relief when the temps dropped into the 80s and rain actually fell in measurable quantities. Plants rebounded, lawns revived, and gardens began to produce once again. My window boxes and some hanging containers did not quite survive though and I refilled most of them this week with some beautiful flowering vinca and a plant that is new to me, evolvulus, a member of the morning glory family that produces tiny, bright blue flowers that last just a day.

Vinca and evolvulus 2

The squash plants that I thought were done for have now taken over their areas and are producing copious blossoms and fruit. I am happy to see that the Powdery mildew resistant variety (Success PM) has proven its worth as there are very few signs of the disease.

The squash bugs however have yet to give up the fight. There are still egg masses every few days and the odd grouping of nymphs that I am not sorry to say do not last long once I have spotted them.

The cucumbers and the eggplants are loaded with blossoms and have started bearing fruit. The tomatoes, which hadn’t suffered as much as some of the other plants, have been slow to ripen but they can continue to produce into October if they are covered at night.

I had moved some potted basil plants into a shady area a few weeks back and they have shown their appreciation by filling out nicely. I detect pesto in our near future! A second planting of arugula looks great as does the kale.

 

 

And we are not the only ones that are enjoying the kale. This differential grasshopper was munching away happily, not even caring that I was filming him. This species of grasshopper (Melanoplus differentialis) has been known to do some substantial damage to crops such as grains, hay, and alfalfa, especially during hot, dry periods which increase the likelihood of survival of the nymphs and adults. They will also feed on annuals such as sunflowers and perennials including one of their favorites: ragweed. Maybe they are not all bad. They don’t cause enough damage in a home garden to warrant insecticidal control.

 

A striped cucumber beetle (Acalymma vittatum) was also enjoying the kale even though the cucumber plants were not far away. The adult feeds on the foliage and the larvae feed on the roots but the biggest problem that they bring with them is the bacterial wilt known as Erwinia tracheiphila which can be fatal to cucurbits. The feeding of the adult beetle opens wounds in the plant but it is through the frass (excrement) that the bacteria enter the vascular tissues of the plant. As the bacteria multiply they block the xylem and prevent water and nutrients from reaching the shoots and leaves. The striped cucumber beetle is definitely a bigger concern than the grasshopper or squash bugs as they move so quickly that it is hard to just squish them out of existence like I do with the squash bug nymphs.

Striped cucmber beetle

Over on the asparagus fern a red milkweed beetle (Tetraopes tetrophthalmus) stood out brightly against the delicate ferns. As with other insects that also feed on milkweed the red milkweed beetle accumulates alkaloid toxins in their flesh that protect it from predators. The black spots against that bright red-orange background are the insect equivalent of a large ‘Do Not Eat” sign. These can be picked off and dropped into a container of soapy water. Don’t use a spray or systemic insecticide on the milkweed as it will harm the beneficial insects that also visit, especially the Monarch butterfly.

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The Asian lady beetle has that same bright coloring and also uses a defensive chemical to deter predators. Some humans are allergic to this foul-smelling liquid that can be exuded from their legs. But this one was very busy doing what ‘ladybugs’ do best, munching on some aphids that were on the underside of a squash leaf.

 

The lady beetles may start to congregate both inside and outside of houses and can be a nuisance. Visit our fact sheet for information on the Asian lady beetle if you experience an infestation and consider the non-lethal ways to remove them, keeping in mind how beneficial they will be in next year’s garden. Although the nighttime temperatures can start to dip into the 50s as we progress into September the garden will enjoy the still warm days into October.

Susan Pelton

All images and videos by S. Pelton

 

 

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) is a beautiful native wildflower and a popular perennial garden plant.  Many different cultivars are available for gardeners.  While these flowering plants are hardy and do well in gardens, providing a reliable showy display of color by mid summer, there are a few pest and disease problems that can affect them. Two of these, one a disease and one an insect, can cause similar symptoms to appear during mid summer.  If the upper surfaces of the leaves develop small to large, angular shaped brown or purple lesions, the problem could be Rudbeckia downy mildew or Rudbeckia psyllid.

If the problem is downy mildew caused by the water mold pathogen Plasmopara halstedii, the lesions will tend to be more brown but can have a purplish color too.

To confirm downy mildew, flip the leaf over and look for sporulation of the pathogen on the lower leaf surface.   Whitish sporulation will be visible between the veins directly below the lesions that are present on the upper leaf surface, especially during or following wet or humid weather.

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Rudbeckia downy mildew sporulation. Photo by Joan Allen, UConn.

These spores can be rain splashed or wind-borne to new infection sites.  A film of water must be present on the leaf for the spores to germinate so keeping the leaves as dry as possible will help minimize disease.  This can be accomplished in a couple of ways.  First, avoid the use of overhead irrigation if possible.  If that’s your preferred method of watering, the best timing is afternoon for this problem. Studies have shown that the greatest spore germination activity for this pathogen occurs during the morning.   Also, space plants to allow for good air circulation that will hasten drying after a rain or dew formation.

Other control practices include sanitation and, if necessary, the use of fungicides.  Sanitation involves the thorough removal of plant debris from infected plants because that’s where the pathogen will be planning to overwinter.  If there is a summer with frequent periods of wet weather favorable for disease, and you’ve had a previous problem with downy mildew, protective/preventive fungicides may be a good choice.  There are a variety of products available including biological controls.  Biological control products may have active ingredients such as the bacteria Bacillus subtilis or Streptomyces lydicus.  Other options include potassium bicarbonate and copper products.  Always look for the plant type and downy mildews on the product label and apply as directed.

The Rudbeckia psyllid (Bactericera antennata) has a nymph stage whose feeding on the undersides of the leaves causes striking purple lesions on the leaf as well as purple discoloration of the veins, most notable on the lower leaf surfaces.  The nymph is also quite striking in appearance when viewed with magnification as it is multi-colored and fringed with hairs.

The adult psyllid is a very tiny insect that holds its wings over its back like a cicada.  References say either that the adult overwinters in protected spots like crevices or leaf litter or that the overwintering stage is not yet confirmed.  In a Michigan report of this insect on hibiscus, it stated that there was probably one generation per year so that would likely be similar here in Connecticut.  There is a tiny wasp that parasitizes the nymph stage and this is what happened when you find a nymph that looks like this:

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Parasitized nymph by Joan Allen, UConn.

Products including Neem, insecticidal soaps and horticultural oils will control this pest.  Thorough coverage is important for success.  These products are kinder to beneficial insects that will eat or parasitize the psyllids.  Other reported host plants besides Rudbeckia are Echinacea and Hibiscus.

I hope your Rudbeckias are looking great and have no problems, but if they have a bit of discoloration on the leaves, look for evidence of these two culprits on the lower leaf surfaces.

Joan Allen

 

 

 

With the 2016 Summer Olympics comes the quest for gold. We may not all be athletes (at least of Olympian stature) but that does not mean we cannot enjoy the excitement and warmth of gold right in our own yards. Gold-leaved plants are in a category all by themselves. They are able to make our gardens shine especially in partially shaded areas where that touch of gold just illuminates a dark corner or monotonous stretch of green.

When considering that point of light to add to your gardens, keep in mind that gold coloration can be anywhere in the range from chartreuse to a deep gold. If you are searching for a certain hue, check out the plant at local nurseries before purchasing it and adding it to one of your gardens. While a hedge of the same golden leaved plant can be quite effective in some landscapes, keep in mind that gold foliaged plants are most useful as a focal point in the garden. Overuse may lessen their impact and even be a bit distracting.

While I see it time and time again, I really do not like any of the gold shades combined with pink but I think they look striking combined with purple or blue or even with fiery shades of orange and red. I also do not like golds with pure whites but with more vanilla colored blossoms like aruncus or filipendulas or white Japanese burnet (sanguisorba) or even those vanilla ‘white’ marigolds.

Azalea, vinca and cypress

Personally I find the combination of the light pink azalea and gold thread cypress not that appealing.

As a general rule of thumb, many plants with bright yellow or gold foliage have a tendency to fade to a more green color when exposed to hot, mid-day to late day sun. When planting these gold-foliaged selections in an all-day sunny site, look for varieties that claim they do not scorch.

Some of UConn’s Ornamental Horticulture Professors weighed in on their favorite gold-leaved plants. Dr. Jessica Lubell votes for Sumac ‘Tiger Eyes’ (Rhus typhina ‘Bailtiger’ Tiger Eyes). This 6 foot tall shrub has pinnate compound leaves that start out as chartreuse in the spring then mature to a clear yellow. ‘Tiger Eyes’ has notable fall foliage coloration as well adding in scarlet and orange tones. The plants has purplish fuzzy stems that contrast nicely with the lacy yellow foliage. Plant in full sun for best color and be aware that although slowly, it does spread by suckers.

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Rhus typina ‘Tiger Eyes’ from http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org

A favorite of Dr. Julia Kuzovkina is the golden pussy willow (Salix caprea), ‘Ogon’. The word ‘ogon’ means yellow or gold in Japanese so you can guess that this plant is from Asia. This plant grows as a small tree or large shrub. Soft catkins are followed by bright yellowish gold leaves that do become greener in color as the season progresses. It tolerates average to moist soils and should be cut back regularly to stimulate new shoots which have the best yellow color.

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Golden Pussy Willow. Photo by http://www.brokenarrownursery.com

Another plant, also called ‘Ogon’, rates high with Dr. Mark Brand. His choice for a gold accent in your garden is a spirea (Spirea thunbergii ‘Ogon’). This compact shrub grows about 3 to 5 feet high and wide. If it becomes a bit sprawly, cut it down to about 6 inches in early spring and it will grow back more compact. In the spring it is covered with small white blossoms attractive to butterflies. The foliage remains attractive into the fall and it tolerates full sun.

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‘Ogon’ spirea. Photo from http://www.ag.tennessee.edu

Two other species of shrubs that are better planted in a part shaded area to retain their attractive golden foliage are ‘Golden Glow’ dogwood (Cornus hesseyii) and ‘Little Honey’ oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia). Both are relatively small shrubs being 4 foot high and wide or less and both have white flowers. The dogwood has red twigs which also add some winter interest to the garden.

When it comes to listing my favorite golden leaved plant, I am torn between the many wonderful cultivars of coleus with leaves ranging from clear gold to lemon yellow to chartreuse to the soft, billowy, waterfall blades of Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra).

Coleus, of course, are annuals in our climate but they can be used so effectively in containers and in garden beds. I like ‘Spiced Curry’ with its striking gold and maroon leaves and chartreuse ‘Wasabi’ the best but many local garden centers have other intriguing cultivars as well.

Japanese forest grass is just perfect for a gold flowing plant to put a spotlight in shaded areas. It does best in at least part shade and gets about one and a half feet tall and wide. Clumps spread very slowly and it is quite drought tolerant when established.

Blk Mondo Grass & Hakone grass Elm Bank

Japanese forest grass and black mondo grass. Photo by DMP

There are so many more golden foliage plants out there from trees to shrubs, vines to groundcovers, and annuals to perennials. Check out ‘Sweet Kate’ spiderwort, caryopteris ‘Sunshine Blue’ and the chartreuse sweet potato vine. There are too many gold leaved hostas to name but look for the 2016 hosta of the year, ‘Curly Fries’ at your local garden center. Think about where that bright spot might just liven up a dull planting and consider how gold can be a winning strategy in your garden. And feel free to share your favorite gold leaved plant with us.

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‘Curly Fries’ 2016 Hosta of the Year. Photo from Walters Gardens

Dawn P.

 

Cracks in tomatoes, black rotten spots on the bottom of tomato fruit, and a hard yellow or white area on the inside walls of ripe tomatoes are all physiological problems, not caused by insects or disease.  It is a sad sight for gardeners investing so much time and energy to see the actual fruits of their labor turn into less than perfect tomatoes.

 

cracking of tomato, joey Williamson HGIC,Clemson.edu

Cracked Tomato

Let’s start with why tomatoes crack. Higher moisture levels after a dry period, such as lots of rain after a time of drought, will cause the inside cells to swell and grow faster than the outside skin will grow, resulting in splitting of the skin. To prevent cracking, keep soil evenly moist by watering, and use a mulch to prevent evaporation and keep soil cooler. Cracked tomatoes are still very edible, but not so pretty. Sometimes the cracks are deep, allowing rot to happen inside the meat of the fruit. Plan to use split tomatoes before rotting happen.

Blossom End Rot on Tomatoes, J.Allen Photo

Blossom End Rot, photo by Joan Allen.

Blossom end rot is expressed by a black, sunken area on the bottom, the blossom end, of the tomato. It is caused by a lack of calcium reaching the fruit. The soil could be lacking calcium which can only be determined by having a soil test done for nutrient levels. UConn does a basic soil test for $12.00 at soiltest.uconn.edu. New England is not usually lacking calcium in its soil, it is more likely the cause of blossom end rot is an interruption in the delivery of calcium from the soil to the fruit via water uptake. This is caused by irregular watering, letting the soil dry out, then watering or having a big rain event. Occasionally, high levels of potassium or magnesium fertilizers will compete with calcium uptake by the plants. Only use a balanced fertilizer to avoid an excess of individual nutrients and provide even water levels to the soil to avoid blossom end rot. Portions of the tomato not rotted are also still edible if you cut away the bad part.

yellowshoulder, hort.purdue.edu

Yellow Shoulders, hort.purdue.edu

Yellow shoulders disorder occurs on the top part of the tomato when areas never turn red, but stay yellow. The flesh underneath can be tough and corky. It can occur only on the top portion or can occur as a grey or white wall just under the skin around the whole fruit.This problem is caused by a number of different circumstances or combinations of them. We do know it is a problem at the cellular level that happens very early as the fruit is forming.  Cells in the area are smaller and not aligned normally, and the green chlorophyll areas do not develop red pigment. Causes are thought to be high temperatures over 90 degrees F at time of fruit formation, and possible pH levels over 6.7, and potassium, magnesium and calcium competition among each other. Again, a balanced fertilizer is needed.

tomato with white walls, yellow shoulders, photo by Becky M.

Tomato with white walls, yellow shoulders, photo by Becky M.

 

The take away message for all of these physiological problems are to have an adequate soil fertility and soil pH without over fertilizing, and have even soil moisture. Hope for summer temperatures to stay at or below 90 degrees F and your harvest baskets will be full of beautiful, delicious tomatoes.

-Carol Quish

 

 

 I love insects. They are amazing.”  Andrea Arnold  

The UConn Bug Week programs were held over the last week of July this year and for our particular Bug Week event on July 30, we started early on in the season acquainting ourselves with the world of insects and searching high and low for specimens we could find and then bring home with us to raise. While rearing insects, you learn a lot about what they do, what they eat, how they behave and what their life cycles are.

Some of the fabulous volunteers -Bug Week 2016 Amy Estabrook photo

Some of our Master Gardener Volunteers- Amy Estabrook photo

We had several bug hunts from early June on and went to specific areas searching for specific insects and any surprises that might turn up. Volunteers from the Master Gardener program spent two months looking for and raising insects in the hope that they would be available as live specimens for our event on July 30. Of course, many pupated and that was that. But we still had a lot of wonderful specimens to show all the people that attended our program. We had display boards that our volunteers made for their particular insects, and with the live specimens, people got to see insects up close and personal.

Bug Week 2016 Suzi Zitser photo of Debbi Wright's display board

Debbi Wright’s fabulous display for the Virginia Creeper sphinx moth- Suzi Zitser photo

Our event was held at the Tolland County Agricultural Center, home to the Tolland County UConn Extension Office. There are over 35 acres of woodland, wetland and open environments, plus pollinator and butterfly- friendly plantings all over the property, so we were able to go outdoors and take advantage of all the gardens and wood lines to search for insects.

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Volunteers show visitors our insects. Photo by Earl Parent

Among the insects we had for specimens and displays caterpillars of the clear dagger moth, mottled prominent, Virginia creeper sphinx, milkweed tussock moth, Monarch butterfly, stink bugs of all kinds, Imperial moth caterpillars (just hatching that day), tobacco hornworms on their favorite tomato host, beetles, John Suhr’s moth and butterfly collection plus the UConn Natural History Museum brought some specimens from their fabulous collection. Other specimens included red-lined panapoda caterpillars and orange-striped oak worm caterpillars. We also had two walking sticks which were found in early June when they were the size of a thumbnail.

walking stick and friend bug week 2016 Earl Parent photo

One of our walking sticks out for a walk- Earl Parent photo

AMy Estabrook photo of Leslie and friends and a walking stick Amy Estabrook photo

Amy Estabrook took this photo of Leslie showing our walking stick to two small guests

We had three bug walks as well, and found interesting insects of all kinds- a Buffalo treehopper, leaf-footed bug nymph, silver-spotted skipper caterpillar, an apple maggot fly, a salt marsh tiger moth and a chickweed geometer moth just to name just a few. Many butterflies were also floating by  as we did our walks and we ended up seeing them again  when we got to the butterfly garden.

Bug Hunt with Jean Laughman

Jean Laughman finds some good insects on her beating sheet

 

The TAC Center has one of the best butterfly gardens going, and has been well maintained by Tina Forsberg and Jean Laughman. It has a spicebush in the center of one side and on it we found 6 spicebush swallowtail butterfly caterpillars, one of which was only a couple of days old. Hummingbird moths, swallowtail, crescent, skipper and, brush foot butterflies were there, and we even found a tiger swallowtail egg on a small black cherry.

chickweed geometer moth Bug Week insect hunt Pamm Cooper photo

Chickweed geometer moth Pamm Cooper photo

Butterfly garden walk with Tina Forsberg

looking for bugs in the butterfly garden

saltmarsh tiger moth Estigmene acrea found resting in the butterfly garden

Salt Marsh Tiger moth found in the butterfly garden- Pamm Cooper photo

Thanks are in order for all our Master Gardeners and Master Gardener interns for a job well done. Without your efforts, this would not have been a success, nor as interesting an event as it was. Also, thank you Joan Allen, for your talk on vegetable insect pests, and Dave Colbert for bringing terrific specimens from the UConn Museum of Natural History.

Euthochtha galeator leaf footed bug nymph 7-30-16 Bug Week hunt Pamm Cooper photo

Leaf- footed bug nymph found on a bug walk- Pamm Cooper photo

 

After all our hard work raising insects and running around finding host plant material to feed them, and after many long insect hunts in 90 degree weather, I guess we were all happy, in a way, to see Bug Week draw to a close. My dining room table is no longer a laboratory and that is how it should be. And yet, I do miss the pitter-patter of tiny little feet…

 

Pamm Cooper