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August 18, 2018

QuestionI don’t know if this question is in your forte but perhaps you can help.  I have more chipmunks in my yard than Carter had little liver pills.  How do I rid my yard of them?  At first, we thought they were cute.  Now as I walk thru my yard, I feel the ground giving from all the caves they have dug.



I still think they are cute, and love to observe them running around the yard—squirrels I am not as enamored with!  I have many gardeners who complain about their damage, but other than holes in the yard (knock wood) mine are just added entertainment.   Holes in the yard of 1 ½ to 2 inches in diameter with no scattered dirt at the opening could indicate chipmunks. They eat seeds and nuts so typically plant damage isn’t a problem. (Occasionally they are reported to consume bulbs.) Their extensive tunneling can be of concern near foundations and decks.  Chipmunks are active and visible during daylight hours. That being said, you cannot kill chipmunks or squirrels in your yard or garden.  If they are eating bulbs you can use deterrents or repellants.  You can try using havaheart traps and relocating them, but that will take a while.  If you know where they are burrowing, you can try plugging their holes which will encourage them to relocate. Use hardware cloth with 1/4-inch (0.6-cm) mesh, caulking, or other appropriate materials to close openings where they could gain entry.  Hardware cloth may also be used to exclude chipmunks from flower beds. Seeds and bulbs can be covered by 1/4-inch (0.6-cm) hardware cloth and the cloth itself should be covered with soil. The cloth should extend at least 1 foot (30 cm) past each margin of the planting. Exclusion is less expensive in the long run than trapping, where high populations of chipmunks exist. I have also been told to get a good cat or dog who likes to hunt. 


August 12, 2017


I bet many folks are wondering much longer before these pests are gone for the season? And another point of interest is the low number of hummers, bees, butterflies this year even with all their favorites planted.



Japanese beetles are a huge pest problem in NW Arkansas, and they are definitely here to stay. For adults their normal feeding time is June through mid-August.   I just want them to stay out of central Arkansas!  I assume you are in NW Arkansas, but I have talked with agents up there and they are seeing no decline in butterflies, bees or hummingbirds. In Little Rock, I have had more butterflies and hummingbirds than last year by far.  There may be less at your feeders since many areas have had a mild growing season and almost ample rainfall, so our native flowers are blooming quite nicely and they have more choices to feed on.


August 5, 2017

QuestionPlease advise...Rabbits are destroying the hosta's recently planted in landscaping...what would help prevent this?  My daughter-in-law has tried sprinkling pepper around ground...not working...moth balls? 


With animals, you need to try a variety of tricks.  There are several animal repellants on the market-including Repel and Hinder.  You can also physically block them with fencing.  Some gardeners have luck by sprinkling blood meal around—it is a nitrogen source though so be careful that you don’t burn the plants. 


December 31, 2016

QuestionDoes dry pine straw repel ticks? I walk on pine straw for exercise and I hate ticks!


AnswerPine straw does not repel ticks, and some folks believe that it actually attracts them. I would not go that far, but think of where ticks reside-- you can usually find ticks where the animals they feed on live which includes wooded or grassy areas under shrubs and trees in the mulched areas. An adult tick positions itself in wait for a passing animal (or human) to come by so it can have the next blood meal.  Ticks thrive in damp environments and are less active in hot, dry, exposed sites.  That is why you get them when walking in the woods, but not walking along the beach.


December 19, 2015


While my wife and I were working in the attic of our house we came across what looks like lady bugs.  We were told they could be something else.   I have attached the pictures. What is your opinion? 

Image of ladybugs     Hibernating ladybugs 

AnswerI think they are definitely lady bug beetles, and probably the Asian lady beetle.  During the 1960’s-90’s, large numbers of Asian lady beetles were released in several southern states to control agricultural pests.  During the spring and summer months, the larvae and adult insects feed mainly on aphids, consuming hundreds each day.  As cool weather approaches, the adults begin to look for a protected place to overwinter in.  This is when they begin to migrate into homes and attics and even mail boxes.  In a remote attic or out-building they do not pose much of a problem, but if they try to move inside with you they can be a pest.  As a defense mechanism against predators the beetles secrete a foul smelling yellowish fluid.  It can stain curtains or fabrics.  Some folks also complain about a slight biting sensation.  The adult Asian lady beetle is oval and about ¼ inch long.  Some have spots, and some don’t. The color can range from shades of red to tan or orange.  Most beetles also have a small dark M marking in the white spot behind the head.  If they aren’t bothering you, then I would ignore them


July 2012

QuestionThanks for the information on how to keep the worms from sweet corn; now please advise me how to keep the squirrels away.


AnswerIf only there was a solution for squirrels that was as effective as for corn earworms! Fencing, scare devices—a big dog, are all options, but squirrels are tenacious. Some gardeners trap the squirrels with hav-a-heart traps, but you would need a lot of traps in my neighborhood. Others have tried feeding the squirrels in an area away from the garden, but then you end up inviting more squirrels to your yard, and they may look at your corn as just extra food. Try a variety of approaches, and good luck!

March 2012

QuestionOne morning, after blooming for 4 weeks, all my pansy blooms disappeared...2 days later, all the stalks were gone. What kind of critter eats pansies? They were in a window box, that I have planted pansies in the last 4 years, where they lasted throughout the season. Also our horsetail (they are tall spikes of green with bands around them every inch or so) disappeared this winter, after surviving the last 2 winters outside. Could a creature have eaten these?


AnswerSince they are in a window box, I would have to assume squirrels or rats. Pansies can be eaten by deer, rabbits, squirrels and rats. Once they get the taste for them, they tend to revisit them annually. If the plants are eaten at night, I would bet rats did it, while squirrels would be more likely to eat during the day. You can put out a trap and see what you get. The horsetail (Equisetum) is a highly invasive plant. I can’t imagine it being eaten nor do I think it is gone. Give it time to green up this spring and my bet is it will return.

February 2011

QuestionWe have had a terrible time this year with squirrels eating the bark off our large, specimen Japanese maple tree (Bloodgood variety). They have stripped several large branches bare; we are concerned the tree may not survive. Is there anything we can do to ward them off or stop this? They may not actually be eating the bark, as we find lots of pieces of bark on the ground under each branch, but they do chew it off. Just in the last few days they have discovered a new smaller weeping Japanese maple elsewhere in our yard. The trunk of this one is now half bare.


AnswerFrom time to time squirrels, and occasionally raccoons will strip the bark off of Japanese maples. Usually the damage is more superficial, but it still looks pretty bad and is more damaging on young trees. For some reason this bark stripping tends to occur more in late winter to early spring. One theory—and that is all it is, is that female squirrels do this prior to giving birth to relieve the pain—I guess it takes their mind off of it! Another theory is that they use the bark in their nests or they are searching for food. Whatever the reason, once they start, they often come back and do more damage—much like a woodpecker has its favorite tree. Using a tree wrap in the area, hanging scare devices or spraying with a repellent can all give limited help. Using live traps and relocating the squirrels is another option. For the damage to the tree, clean up any loose bark and monitor it this growing season. If they have gone into the cambium layer it can cause some dieback on those branches and pruning will be needed. But wait and see what happens this spring.

October 2010

QuestionWe have a twenty-five foot magnolia tree which is 10 years old, in our yard that became a victim of wood borers this spring. All the leaves on the tree started turning brown and now are crispy but a few actually fell off. The tree and especially the borer holes (1/8 to 1/4 inch very shallow holes horizontally across the trunk) that could be seen were sprayed multiple times in the spring - early summer. During the last thirty days or so the tree has produced several new green leaves. The first ones were seen around the base of the tree on new branches and now there are two old lower branch that have sprouted new leaves. The branches further up the tree still seem to be dried up and dead. I was about to cut the tree down last week when I noticed all this new growth and I just noticed that there is more new growth now then last week. Is there any hope that the tree can/will return to its old self in a relatively short period of time and is there anything I could/should be doing such as spraying, trimming or taking off the dead leaves to help the tree? Or should I face reality and go ahead with the execution. I hate to lose the tree and have to wait another ten years for a new one to reach its height.


AnswerIf it is putting on new growth, then there is hope, but it doesn’t sound good. It sounds to me like the tree actually is dead at the top, but there is life in the base. This summer was tough on many plants, but do continue to water. I question whether you actually have borers or woodpeckers. Magnolias can be a favored host tree for woodpeckers. Are the holes in a circle around the tree or in rows up and down? If so, that is birds not borers. Something has stressed the tree, so continue to water and assess how well it starts growing next spring before removing it. If it kicks into high gear next spring it might be worth salvaging, but if it struggles, a new tree might be a better option.

October 2007

QuestionThe vacant lot right next to my west property line fence has four huge pecan trees. They are 25 to 30 years old or more, with no one taking care of the pruning. When Oklahoma storm winds blow hard (45-60-70 mph) from the west and southwest, large and small limbs fall. My question is about the concentric circles going completely around the trunks (2 to 3 inches apart) and going all the way up into the high tree limbs. Do these rings mean anything? Are they slowly weakening the trees and will it kill them? I have heard about girdling, but do not know what that means. I do not know anything about pecan trees.


AnswerConcentric circles of holes in pecan trees is fairly common. Certain trees become favorites for woodpeckers or sapsuckers and they return again and again to the same trees. Usually the damage is mainly cosmetic with little actual damage—especially if the trees are large and well established. If you want to deter the birds, try hanging an inflatable eye from a branch or you can band them with Tanglefoot—an extremely sticky substance. You would put the Tanglefoot onto a band that you wrap around the tree, don’t paint it directly to the tree of you will end up with a mess. Once you deter them for a while they may move on, but it also may be a temporary fix and they will return. The holes should not have any bearing on the dropping branches, which is a common problem with old pecan trees.

October 2005

QuestionI bought two camellia plants, planted them as directed, approximately six feet apart. One is dark green, setting blooms, and thriving. The other is, losing leaves, turning yellow, and (here's the kicker) has small white blobs on the stems and leaves. These blobs feel a bit like popped pop corn but definitely have something living inside them. When I squished one, it made a crunch sound and a red liquid oozed out. Really quite "Alien" if you ask me. So that's why I'm asking you. What do you think?


AnswerIt sounds like scale insects to me. The most common scale insect we have on camellias is the tea scale—but they are small and look almost like grains of salt coating the stems and leaves. Since yours are larger, I would guess probably oyster scale, which has a white waxy feel to it, and can grow quite large. Mealy bugs are soft bodied scales that have a white cottony growth covering them. Scale insects suck the sap out of the plants and with a heavy enough build up, can cause damage, even death over time. Systemic insecticides are quite effective but take time. Dormant oils can be used to smother out the insects, but thorough applications are needed on all parts of the plant—upper and lower surfaces of leaves, stems, etc. Do keep in mind that once the insects have died, they will still be present on the leaves, but you should see new growth that is healthy and the plants should appear more thrifty. Also, if the plants were newly purchased, you might also contact the nursery or garden center and see about an exchange.

July 2010

QuestionI live in the Village and have an empty lot next door with lots of little critters (bunnies, deer, etc). When planting last fall I found my Indiana remedies didn't quite work here in Arkansas as your deer and bunnies really like hot pepper (must be the southern in them). At any rate, this spring I began to use a deer repellent spray. Once the sprinklers had to be used daily, I discontinued the repellent. I use a hose to water plants the sprinklers don't reach -- and being the lazy gardener that I am, I refused to roll my "black hose" up every evening when done. Low and behold, the bunnies and deer have moved from the empty lot next door. My hosta garden is absolutely beautiful. Could they actually think my black hose is a snake?


AnswerI suppose it is possible, but I wouldn't bet the farm on it! Lots of people try using rubber snakes as a deterrent and after a few days, that doesn't work. But as I always say, if it isn't broke, don't fix it--but do stay diligent and watch for signs of animal encroachment. It could be the deer repellent that deterred them earlier and they just haven’t made it back.


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