CO-Horts Blog

Monday, August 25, 2014

House Flies Bugging You Too?

Kurt Jones, Chaffee County Extension Director

County Fair has come and gone, and one of the left-over benefits from County Fair is a surge of house flies which descend upon our office.  One of the contests that we “enjoy” is to see who is better with the fly-swatter in our office.  I typically suck at it, but I blame the bifocals…

Several species of flies commonly enter Colorado homes. Most are merely nuisance pests.  Others are important because they can transmit diseases. House flies, face flies and blow flies develop in manure and garbage and are commonly contaminated with disease-causing bacteria, including those associated with food poisoning.

The most commonly observed stage of a fly is the winged, adult stage. The immature stage is a pale, legless maggot. When full grown, maggots wander from the breeding site in search of a place to pupate. Many flies complete development (egg, larva, pupa, and adult) in a short period, seven to 14 days, and produce many generations during a typical season.

Although flies most often are a nuisance during the warm season, indoor overwintering is common with cluster flies and face flies.

Blow flies are fairly large, metallic green, gray, blue or black flies found throughout the state. These flies tend to be more common than the house fly and sometimes are called the "house flies of the West." The adults spend the winter in homes or other protected sites but do not reproduce during this time.

Blow fly maggots feed on garbage. They occasionally can be found in homes that are near a carcass of a dead squirrel, rodent or bird they have wandered from. Blow flies breed most commonly on decayed carcasses and droppings of dogs or other pets. The adult blow fly is also attracted to gas leaks.

House flies are the best known of the house-infesting flies but are found infrequently in Colorado. House flies generally are gray, with the thorax marked with broad dark stripes. Most often there is some yellow coloring along the sides, which differentiates them from face flies.

House flies usually are found where humans are present. Larvae commonly develop in or near man-made sources of food and can be found in garbage, animal waste, culled fruits and vegetables, and spilled animal feed. The adult flies feed on a wide range of liquid waste but can eat solid foods, such as sugar. To digest solid foods, house flies liquefy food by regurgitating it. Because of this habit, house flies can pose serious health threats by mechanically transmitting disease organisms. During mild winters, house flies may fly and breed continuously, as temperatures permit.

Sanitation practices that remove breeding areas are fundamental to the control of filth-breeding flies, such as house flies and blow flies. Remove or cover garbage and clean spilled animal feed and manure. Face flies, which typically develop in pasture lands, and cluster flies (earthworm parasites) often are difficult to control by breeding area management.

Screening and other exclusion techniques can be an important management tool for several types of indoor fly problems. Caulk or cover all openings into a home to prevent flies from entering.  Do so before flies enter buildings.  Use insecticides only as a supplement to other controls. Serious problems exist with insecticide-resistant flies and many fly populations are now difficult to control with insecticides.

If I can get this fly to hold still, and figure out which lenses to look through, I may have won today’s fly-swatting contest.  I think he’s laughing at me as he buzzes by…

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Tomato Addict

Posted by: Alison O'Connor, CSU Extension in Larimer County

For those of you who read the title of this blog and saw my name as the author, I'm sure you're thinking I had a change of heart and now appreciate the "love apple" and all its glory. Nope. Sorry. I still don't like eating raw tomatoes. But someone in my family does. That someone is Willow, my 15-year-old beagle:
Hi, I'm Willow. I'm a tomato addict.
Willow came into our lives about 9 years ago. She was a research beagle, so we don't know much about her history. All we know is that she's a wonderful dog who's sweet, kind and LOVES TOMATOES. She loves tomatoes more than I love chocolate--and that's saying something.

Each spring, Willow gets her own tomato plant in a container on our back patio. By the end of the season, this plant is looking pretty ragged, since she sticks her face in it about 30 times a day and knocks it over all the time. When the plant blooms, her face is yellow with the pollen. She often has a faint odor of tomato. And no, it rarely fruits, since she picks off anything green in desperation to eat tomatoes. The ground of our patio is littered with green tomatoes.

In order to feed her appetite, we also plant tomatoes in our garden. Her favorites are Sungold. And my little beagle can tell when the tomatoes are ripe. They say dogs are colorblind, but not Willow. She knows when they turn orange. A few nights ago she was outside just before bedtime and she started to bark. No, she wasn't barking at neighborhood cats or rabbits--she was barking at the ripe tomatoes. She wanted to eat them.
Willow and the glory of Sungolds.
We indulge in Willow's addiction, primarily because we think it's the cutest thing ever. And a couple tomatoes never hurt anyone (we checked with our vet). But last night was the mecca of the tomato heists...

We have a tomato plant on the back patio from a client's yard. I am trying to determine if my city water changes the growth of the plant. It also had a large green tomato on it, about the size of a softball. For some reason, we didn't think Willow cared about this tomato. She was happy stuffing her face in her own patio plant and eating the ripe Sungolds from the garden. We were wrong.

The softball-sized tomato was just starting to turn color. And that's when Willow, in the stealth of night (around 8:30pm), picked it off and ate at least half before we caught her. Willow! A partially eaten, mostly green tomato in her jaws. And she had never been happier. She was awfully proud of herself.

Honestly, I've never known a dog to be so passionate about a fruit. I could understand if the plants grow Pup-a-roni, but Willow clearly thinks that tomatoes are better than any manufactured dog treat out there. And I love her for it.
I love tomatoes!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Things that make you stop and say "Huh!"

Posted by: Tony Koski, CSU Turfgrass Specialist

As seen on the CSU Campus...What is causing the pine needles to stand upright in the soil? Any guesses?

Monday, August 11, 2014

August 11, 2014
Posted by: Mary Small, Jefferson County Extension

Got Mushy Raspberries?

They’re here and they’re gross. I’m talking about the spotted wing drosophila (SWD) in our Research and Demonstration garden’s raspberry planting.
SWD ovipositor, serrated and sclerotized

Of course, these little gems have to be different than other fruit flies. The females have a sclerotized (hardened) serrated ovipositor, (egg-laying structure) just right for laying eggs in intact, still-ripening fruit. They couldn’t be like their relatives who are more interested in fallen or overripe fruit, no!

What’s so disgusting about the whole thing is that the larvae rapidly turn raspberries into a liquid mess. One morning, a staff member collected a small bag for a snack later in the day. When she went to eat them, the now liquefied fruit was infested with tiny white maggots.

Liquified raspberries with maggot (just above center)

While they will damage many types of small fruit, peaches and cherries, they prefer the volatiles of raspberries. To add insult to injury the insects feed on other soft- fleshed fruit found in our landscape – elderberries, chokecherries, mahonia and honeysuckle. So there’s plenty of food to keep them hanging around, even if it’s not their favorite!

We first found SWD late last summer and began a sanitation program: keeping fruit regularly picked and collecting fallen fruit from the ground. We started a trapping program in July using a yeast-sugar water bait placed in red-lidded empty peanut butter jars. (Thanks to my dedicated family for eating all the peanut butter!)  While we’ve collected mostly male and female SWDs, it is interesting to see who else likes the bait. So far, we’ve also collected sap bugs, earwigs and other fruit flies. 
Trap for SWD 

This year we’re using sanitation and trapping to monitor the population and sort-of manage it. Being a garden on public property that can be accessed virtually any time of day, we’re a bit reluctant to introduce pesticides.

One of the benefits of the infestation is that we have a living laboratory for training our volunteers.  The clinicians will also be able to identify the adults after an upcoming workshop, so they can better assist customers.

And frankly, when I check the raspberry fruit I am amazed at how many thrips are wandering around in them. I wonder how many I've consumed over the years.  Maybe I should just view SWD in the same way – extra protein, anyone?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Earwigs: A case of "Ewwww"

Posted by: Alison O'Connor, CSU Extension in Larimer County

There are certain insects that seem to like to jump out at you and say "Boo!" Earwigs are one of those--they hide in small spaces and make their appearance known by quickly crawling away. And they always seem to show up in unexpected spots--like tucked in the bloom of a peony. The species we see in Colorado is the European earwig (Forficula auricularia). Even though my BFF Carl Linnaeus named this species back in 1758, it doesn't mean I have to like them.
European earwig (photo courtesy of Whitney Cranshaw)
Earwigs, characterized by their rear-end "pincers", cause damage to a wide array of plants, including ornamentals and edibles. Their pincers, by the way, are not dangerous--they use them for mating. These insects pose no threat to humans (except for increasing your heart rate when you come across them in damp, dark areas), but they are a nuisance both indoors and out. It has been reported that if handled, their bite is mildly painful. So don't handle them. Why would you want to handle them??
Boo! Earwigs in a peach.
(photo courtesy of University of Nebraska Dept of Entomology)
It's been a darn good year for earwigs. At the farmers' market, it seems we get at least one or two questions each week on "Something is eating my plants, but I don't see any bugs!" That's because earwigs are nocturnal feeders. They come and munch on your garden buffet at night. And mid-July to mid-September is the prime season to see damage. Why are they so rampant this year? My guess is it's because of our wet weather.
Earwig damage on common mallow
(photo courtesy of Whitney Cranshaw)
Earwig injury to peaches
(photo courtesy of Utah State University Extension)
So if you're seeing feeding injury on plants, but aren't sure what might be causing it, try setting out earwig traps. This is a fun and enjoyable project for the entire family. You can use rolled up, moistened newspaper or corrugated cardboard. Place in the garden and unroll in the morning to see if you caught any (or just throw in the trash if you're squeamish). Another option is to put a small cup of oil (vegetable, canola) in the garden, in a shallow hole. Make sure the oil is at least 1" below the soil surface. The earwigs will fall into the cup and drown in the vat of oil.
Earwig newspaper trap
(photo from
Dr. Whitney Cranshaw, our state entomologist, is doing some research this summer using various oils and other condiments. For now he recommends using oil (vegetable, canola, mineral) and even add a dash of soy sauce. A couple years ago he caught over 500 earwigs in one evening using his canola-oil trap!
Canola oil earwig trap. In one evening,
Dr. Cranshaw caught 535 earwigs!
If you're not into trapping, consider cleaning up around the house or in the vegetable garden where debris and mulch may be piled. Seal cracks near doors and windows. Insecticides can be applied as a barrier. For more information on European earwigs and the control options, refer to CSU Extension Fact Sheet #5.533.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Golf Course Wildlife

Tony Koski, Extension Turf Specialist

Those unfamiliar with golf courses (only a little over 9% of the U.S. population plays golf) often think of them as wildlife-unfriendly, chemical-laced, overwatered lawns. Nothing could be further from the truth. While some courses are more attractive to wildlife than others, every golf course can be a haven for birds, mammals, native pollinators, amphibians, reptiles and all other sorts of wildlife. The Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf program teaches member golf courses how to become more wildlife-friendly. You might be interested to know that 42 of Colorado's approximately 250 golf courses are Audubon Sanctuary courses.

Sandhill cranes at Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes Club.
This last week Alison and I attended the American Society for Horticultural Sciences meeting in Orlando, where we were able to take a few "field trips" to area golf courses. While playing the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes Club (an Audubon Sanctuary course), we watched a flock of sandhill cranes feeding and playing in a sand bunker on the 18th hole following a thunderstorm. It's not easy to get so close to these beautiful birds.

Anhinga (water-turkey) at the Waldorf-Astoria Golf Club

 While playing the Waldorf-Astoria Golf Club, we found a very tame anhinga (commonly called the "water-turkey") sunning itself on a golf cart bridge. And I found this rather large snail alongside one of the tees.

Croquet ball-sized snail!
And while we never saw any alligators at any of the golf courses, we found this guy outside of our hotel, just across the street from the Orlando Convention center.