Evidence of a Warmer Winter

It’s been a warm winter. With the exception of the month of April (which ran almost 2 full degrees colder than normal–now there’s a switch!), January through March were exceptionally warm. I don’t think that’s news to anyone. It followed an exceptionally warm December with temperatures near 60 at Christmastime! Craziness!

So it should be no surprise to me that my pests and diseases are on an accelerated schedule this year. Insects that I normally expect to see at Memorial day are showing up a full 3 weeks earlier despite the fact that it’s been so cold and raw for the month of April and early May. Interesting how that works.

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The first insect I was shocked to see on May 6 was the larva of the pine sawyer. This black headed larva looks like a caterpillar and would decimate my mugo pine if I weren’t careful to notice its arrival. As it was, by the time I noticed what was happening, I had to prune off several dead shoots. That means the little critters had been ahppily munching away for some time already.

A spray of insecticidal soap (in the evening, after the sun leaves the plant, and after it’s cooler–not a problem for us right now, but for those of you with this problem where it might be warm. You don’t want to ever spray anything when the temperatures are above 80 degrees F) takes care of the living creatures but check back. More may hatch.

And sadly, my birds don’t seem to like these.

Also note, neem is not effective since these are not caterpillars!

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See the faint markings on these rose leaves? Evidence of yet another sawfly larva, this time the rose sawfly larva. Again, this is usually a “Memorial Day” problem. Insects are getting a head start this year. When I saw the larva on the mugo pine, I thought I ahd better check the roses, and I was right, sadly!

This year I am removing my beloved David Austins. They are too disease and insect prone for me to keep them. Or as I put it in my “Easy Care Roses” lecture, they require too many “inputs.” One of the reasons they have to go is just this problem.

So I will be pulling them out this week, letting the garden remain empty during the life cycle of this nasty pest (except for the roses that are already there that don’t get this pest–we’ll see if they move) and then I’ll plant some easy care roses there like the Drift™ series.

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This is the reverse side of the leaf. The tiny white “dots” you see along the mail mid-rib of the two leaves on the right two leaflets in the photo are tiny sawfly larva. Hard to believe that those little critters–which will grow into longer green caterpillar-like pests almost the identical color of the leaf–can do so much damage as to almost skeletonize the leaf, isn’t it?

So there you have it. My pests are very early this year–3-4 weeks earlier than they should be. Perhaps yours are as well. Get into the garden and have a look around!

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