Why Kill the Asian Lady Beetles?

A lot of people have told me lately that they are ‘saving’ the ‘ladybugs’ in their house to ‘help the farmers’. I am sorry, but are you nuts???

Like wine? Clean food and air? The roof over your head? Then read on!

Melissa Watkins's photo.

FYI folks: These are not traditional lady bugs, but a species known as Harmonia axyridis (Asian Lady Beetle, Harlequin Ladybug, Multicolored Lady Beetle, among others) that was introduced by the USDA and chemical companies into the Midwest in the 1990s. Reportedly, Asian Lady Beetles have heavily fed on soybean aphids (yet another happy little pest introduction from the USDA chemical companies), supposedly saving farmers vast sums of money. However, most farmers I have talked to never see them and neither do their crop scouts. But guess what they do see? Lots of aphids!  What do they do?   Spray just as heavily as before.

Er, ok, so where are the little Asian Lady Beetles if they are not in the field?

If you grow grapes, cherries, or any type of berry, you already have the answer…

images 2imagesIMGA0401

(Photos used with permission of the Universities of Illinois, Minnesota, and California Extensions, respectively)

To read more on this issue, check out Influence of Berry Injury on Infestations of the Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle in Wine Grapes over at the Plant Management Network site.

So now you are saying, well, Mertie, that’s great and all, but why should I kill them in my house?

1. They get into food, leave their waste products on your plates, and stain fabric. Eat one and you will never let another live.  As a person that has the misfortune of having them live in the home during the winter, I can tell you that we have at least a couple episodes happen each winter. Most recently I ate one in a grilled cheese. I had four sandwiches to make, and in that small window of prep time, one snuck in. YUCK!

2. They bite and many people have allergic reactions.  It’s like getting a mosquito bite if not allergic, but much worse if you are (a Facebook friend from MN recently had anaphylaxic shock from a bite).

3. Over years, they become a fire hazard. How? Check the insulation in your home. Believe it or not, their dead little carcasses (because most that come in die in your home) are very flammable. Chalk this up to life experience on the time my Grandpa swept them up by the 5 gallon pails and put them out on the burning pile…

4. The bacteria that lives on their dead carcasses is harmful to humans.  The substances cadaverine and putrescine are produced during the decomposition of Asian Lady Beetles and transported throughout the home via ductwork..  A 2005 study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Human Health found a fourfold increase in cadaverine and putrescine in homes in Iowa with high levels of dead Asian Lady Beetles (in excess of 100 bugs per cubic meter of the home; it is estimated that many homes in rural areas of Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota far exceed 100 bugs per cubic meter).  This would put the levels well above recommended levels within a home

Feel like saving those bugs now?


What roses to plant?

“What is the difference between, grandiflora, floribunda &hybrid tea roses? The areas that I have for roses, one area has sunlight from sunrise until around noon& the other area has sun form 2:00 until sunset, the roses I was looking at were, Rock&Roll,Twilight Zone, Sunshine Dream, Ketchup&Mustard,Angel Face,Champlain,Oso Happy Candy Oh, Double Knock Out, Smart& Sassy,Double Delight, Paradise Found, Red Drift, Home Run, Rainbow’s End, Ruby Ruby & Smoke Rings of these what would be best for Zone 5 with the amount of sunlight I discribed? Or maybe you have some other suggestion,I have places for 6 to 7 roses & also I’m looking for roses with not a lot of maintenance. Thank you,

John Zahn

Celina, Ohio”



Hi John,

Thank you for the email regarding roses.  First, let’s start with the different types:

–Grandiflora:  Grandifloras (Latin for “large-flowered”) were the class of roses created in the mid-20th century to designate back-crosses between hybrid teas and floribundas that fit neither category – specifically, the ‘Queen Elizabeth’ rose, which was introduced in 1954. Grandiflora shrubs are typically larger than either hybrid teas or floribundas, and feature hybrid tea-style flowers borne in small clusters of three to five, similar to a floribunda. Grandifloras maintained some popularity from about the 1950s to the 1980s but today they are much less popular than either the hybrid teas or the floribundas. Examples: ‘Queen Elizabeth’, ‘Comanche,’ ‘Montezuma’.
–Floribunda: Rose breeders quickly saw the value in crossing polyanthas with hybrid teas, to create roses that bloomed with the polyantha profusion, but with hybrid tea floral beauty and colour range. In 1909, the first polyantha/hybrid tea cross, ‘Gruss an Aachen,’ was created, with characteristics midway between both parent classes. As the larger, more shapely flowers and hybrid-tea like growth habit separated these new roses from polyanthas and hybrid teas alike, a new class was created and named floribunda, Latin for “many-flowering.” Typical floribundas feature stiff shrubs, smaller and bushier than the average hybrid tea but less dense and sprawling than the average polyantha. The flowers are often smaller than hybrid teas but are carried in large sprays, giving a better floral effect
in the garden. Floribundas are found in all hybrid tea colours and with the classic hybrid tea-shaped blossom, sometimes differing from hybrid teas only in their cluster-flowering habit. Today they are still used in large bedding schemes in public parks and similar spaces. Examples: ‘Anne Harkness’, ‘Dainty Maid’, ‘Iceberg’, ‘Tuscan Sun’.
–Hybrid Tea:  the favorite rose for much of the history of modern roses, hybrid teas were initially created by hybridising Hybrid Perpetuals with Tea roses in the late 19th century. ‘La France’, created in 1867, is universally acknowledged as the first indication of a new class of roses. Hybrid teas exhibit traits midway between both parents: hardier than the teas but less hardy than the hybrid perpetuals, and more ever-blooming than the hybrid perpetuals but less so than the teas. The flowers are well-formed with large, high-centered buds, and each flowering stem typically terminates in a single shapely bloom. The shrubs tend to be stiffly upright and sparsely foliaged, which today is often seen as a liability because it makes them more difficult to place in the garden or landscape. Hybrid teas became the single most popular garden rose of the 20th century; today, their reputation as high maintenance plants has led to a decline in popularity. The hybrid tea remains the standard rose of the floral industry, however, and is still favored in formal situations. Examples: ‘Peace’ (yellow), ‘Garden Party’ (white), ‘Mister Lincoln’ (red) and ‘Double Delight’ (bi-color cream and red).

Roses do like to have full sun, so neither of the locations you have is ideal.  However, the better of the two would be the one that has afternoon sun.

Of the rose you have picked, the Knock Out series of roses is probably one of the easiest and most forgiving type of roses on the market.  Other than that, the others you have listed would all do equally well.  No matter which type you go with, you are going to want to make sure that you have a good spraying cycle set up — roses that are in shade tend to have more disease problems.

I hope this information helps you out.  If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact me.


© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

5 Garden Resolutions from National Garden Bureau’s

Reprinted with permission of the National Garden Bureau:


A new year traditionally brings about resolutions right? Be they for losing weight, being more organized or simply an overall “being better” wish, resolutions are good goals to have. Gardeners are no exception to wishing for the better: better gardens, better planning, better harvests, better record-keeping, etc.

Following are five resolutions that we wish every gardener, no matter their level of expertise, will embrace in the new year:

1. I will embrace nature and garden for the birds, the bees and the butterflies (and the bats too!). One of the most enjoyable benefits of having a garden is being able to enjoy the beautiful creatures who visit it. So plan your flowers and vegetables with that in mind then sit back and enjoy the show! Remember, planting a pollinator-friendly garden is good for the pollinators, good for the earth, good for your veggie garden and good for you!
You can help replenish the population of pollinators by planting a pollinator-friendly garden. Choose appropriate plants for your local area then click here to register your garden.

Help us reach 1 million new pollinator gardens!

2.  I will not blame myself for gardening failures. Oftentimes, Mother Nature is not our friend when it comes to gardening. Or life gets in the way. We do not want you to despair! Simply try again and learn from experience. Your garden, and your gardening friends, are both extremely forgiving.
3. I will not be afraid to ask questions. How else can you learn? Take advantage of the experience of your neighbor, your aunt, the garden center employee or the local extension agent. If they are like typical garden fanatics, they will appreciate your interest and be flattered that you want to learn from them. And learn you will! Click here for a long list of website and blogs that you can use as resources.
4. I will share my passion. We have all seen the studies that show many of today’s gardeners got their start by learning from someone else, usually a parent or grandparent. Can you be that mentor? Will you be the reason your son or daughter serves homegrown vegetables to your grandchildren? Can you be the reason your neighbor plants window boxes for the first time?
5. I will try something new. This is kind of a no-brainer, right? Have you ever met a gardener who didn’t want the newest of the new, for bragging rights if nothing else? But what about really new…like a new growing style or completely new crop of vegetables. Cruise around our NGB member’s websites (a selection of some are below) and we guarantee you’ll find something irresistible that’s out of your usual comfort zone. Look to the AAS Winners for trialed and tested varieties or try a few of the new varieties from our member below!
Johnny's Selected Seed
Territorial Seed Company
Select Seeds 2016 new variety
Brett & Becky's 2016 Bulbs
Park Seed
Bonnie Plants Organic Fertlizer
Looking for all the best in Gardening Products?

Check out What’s New at our Updated 2016 NGB Member Garden Products List HERE


100+ New Varieties Featured by National Garden Bureau Members

Reprinted with permission of the National Garden Bureau:


The National Garden Bureau’s New Varieties program is quickly becoming the single online, all-encompassing, go-to source for exciting new varieties for the home gardener. Every year, NGB’s members submit their best new varieties for inclusion in this exclusive assortment of annuals, perennials, edibles and other plants that are new to consumers for their 2016 gardens. 

Stunning images along with descriptions and growing information of over 100 exciting new ornamentals, flowers and edibles are now available on the National Garden Bureau website.
This annual program is an important service to garden communicators, garden retailers and home gardeners as NGB’s New Varieties program brings many of the best new varieties from NGB members all together in one easily-accessible location. Gardeners and those who aspire to be gardeners are sure to find many inspiring varieties for 2016 that will appeal to their need for something new.  Garden communicators have one easy-to-use source for both images and descriptions needed for spring blogs, articles, features and shows. To make it even easier to share these new varieties with various audiences, NGB has created a PowerPoint presentation you can download from the SlideShare account.

“I rely on the NGB New Varieties page for several things. It’s my go-to source for new plants for consumers. I know I can find accurate growing info, along with press-ready photos in a variety of sizes & settings. I love that I can search all new intros or just hone in on veggies or flowers, whatever the need may be. Large thumbnails make it easy to select a photo without clicking through multiple pages. It’s a one-stop shop that makes my job easier. When deadlines loom, I appreciate any time savings. Thank you for having such an accessible, user-friendly source!”

Julie Martens Forney
Words That Bloom

Besides being featured on the NGB website these new varieties will also be highlighted over the next twelve months in bi-monthly NGB e-newsletters under “New Varieties” so keep an eye our for upcoming e-newsletters!  In addition, these varieties will be grouped in assorted sets to be featured on Social Media and in various gardening columns and blogs. Pinterest users should look for these New Varieties as they are pinned to our Pinterest boards.

“I have been writing a weekly garden column for The Indianapolis Star since 1989 and the All-America Selections and National Garden Bureau websites have been my go-to places for photographs to illustrate articles and learn what’s up and coming in the garden. First, it was 35mm slides, and now it’s online images, which allow on-deadline downloading, a writer’s and editor’s dream. The photos also are wonderful for PowerPoint presentations.”

Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp
The Hoosier Gardener

A current list of NGB members who have submitted their most-interesting new varieties can be viewed here

SHOP OUR MEMBERS! This feature on the National Garden Bureau website is an easy way for site visitors to view and shop NGB retail members. Many of these new varieties will be available on member websites as well as in local garden centers.

SHOPPING LIST! NGB website users can select any flower or vegetable variety of interest, and with just one click, add that variety to My List, a printable and exportable wish list right on the NGB New Varieties page. This list is designed to help users keep track of their favorite new varieties and use that list as an aid on their next shopping trip to their favorite online or brick and mortar garden retailer.

Gift Ideas for the Gardener in your Life!

Reprinted with permission of the National Gardening Bureau:

Need some last minute gift ideas for the gardeners on your list? No need to look any further then these National Garden Bureau members who have a garden’s worth full of great inspirations. To shop all of NGB’s retail members, click here.
Botanical Interest Healthful Living Garden
Give your favorite health nut everything they need to grow sprouts all year with this easy kit from Botanical Interests
Cook's Garden Rosemary in Clay Pot
Pretty, flavorful and fragrant, the potted Rosemary is a delight for your senses from The Cook’s Garden.
Edmunds Roses Beeworks Cabin Kit
Help the bee population by giving your favorite gardener their very own Mason Bees to raise from Edmunds’ Roses
Gardener's Supply Co. Branch Plant Stand
Glass and Metal Branch Plant Stand Brings the Outdoors In for any plant lover, an exclusive from Gardener’s Supply Co.
Jung Seed Flavor Favorites Herb Seed Disk
In the garden or containers, indoors or outdoors, these Favorite Herbs Disks from J.W. Jung grow anywhere.
Lake Valley Sandwich Mix Sprouting Seeds
Add some home-grown heathly sprouts to your sandwich with these sprouting seeds from Lake Valley Seed
All the tools for success in the garden from Park Seed
A Gardener's Notebook
A book is always a special gift, order this new one about the healing powers of the garden written by a cancer survivor from St. Lynn’s Press
Seed Tapes from Vermont Bean Co
Easy to Sow…Easy to Grow, seed tapes are the perfect gift for any gardener.  Lots of different seeds available from Vermont Bean Company
Micro Eco-Farming
Your favorite gardener will learn to prosper in partnership with the earth when reading this book from Willhite Seed Inc.
Windowsill Herb Garden from American Meadows
Create your own indoor herb garden with this Windowsill Herb Garden Kit from American Meadows
Make your gardener’s cultivating easier with the CobraHead® Weeder and Cultivator from CobraHead
Bird Feeder, squirrel defeater
Feed songbirds, not squirrels! This birdfeeder is the perfect solution from Earl May Garden Center & Nursery
The Garden Patch Growbox
Small gardening isn’t a problem with Garden Boxes from The Garden Patch
Soil Test Kit from Harris Seed
The Electronic 4-Way Analyzer is a must for all gardener to test their soil for optimize growing from Harris Seed
Johnny's Seeds Butterfly and Hummingbird Mix
If your favorite gardener wants to have a summer filled with Butterflies and Hummingbirds, order this collection from Johnny’s Seeds
The perfect gift for anyone on your Holiday List. Amaryllis Flowers from Longfield Gardens
ProPlugger Tool
The Proplugger 5-in-1 planting tool from ProPlugger.
Tomato Beefmaster Totally Tomatoes
For the tomato lover gardener in your life, Totally Tomatoes “Top 10 Collection” of Seeds
Carrot Ornament
Bring good luck to any gardener’s kitchen with this glass carrot ornament from Burpee Seed.  A perfect addition for our 2016 NGB Year of The Carrot!

Cytospora Canker on Spruce

“Help!!! I have been trying to get help from Jung Seed, but I don’t seem to get anywhere with their customer service.  Here are the emails I have exchanged with them:

Me on 10/17/15:

I think we have a fungus that is killing our blue spruce trees we bought from you this spring at the Sun Prairie Garden Center.  The staff at your store directed me to contacting customer service.  Is there a treatment or spray that we could do to try to save the trees. Thank you for any help/suggestions.

Lori in Customer Service on 10/23/15:

Are you sure this is a fungus?  What does it look like and exactly what is happening to the trees?  What part of the tree is being affected?  I need more information in order assist you.  You cannot treat the symptoms without accurately without being sure what you are dealing with.  We will wait to hear from you.

Me on 10/23/15:

Thanks for the reply.  I suspect it’s a fungus because our area has had a problem with it.  I’ve attached some pictures.  The needles are dropping – seems like from the inside out and bottom up.

Cytospora 1 Cytospora 2

After this, I never heard anything back.  I resent the above email twice during the next week, and then called.  The person that answered the phone named Rachel seemed as clueless about spruce trees as anyone I had ever spoke to and told me that it was not a fungus but me not taking proper care of the tree.  If I had further questions about tree care, I should go ask the extension agent in my county.

We don’t have one in our county anymore and the local Master Gardeners field the questions until the vacancy is filled.  From my past experience, they don’t know much at all.  When I asked and explained what I had been told by Jung’s, the Master Gardener lady said she agreed with them because the people there are so knowledgeable and would not be wrong.  Sure…  So, I come to ask you since Jung’s thinks I am nuts and Master Gardeners are inexperienced and naive at best.

Thank you!


Hi Myrna,

Thank you for the email regarding your blue spruce trees.  It looks like they are suffering from a fungal disease called Cytospora Canker.  Cytospora Canker is observed most often on older trees, especially those that are planted in poor sites. Trees weakened by environmental stresses, such as drought, freeze injury, or high temperatures, also are more susceptible to canker diseases. The Cytospora Canker fungus may attack many different species of hardwood trees, conifers, and shrubs.

Spruce trees infected with the Cytospora Canker fungus typically show scattered branch dieback, often starting on the lower branches. A close look at the dead branches usually reveals the presence of sticky white sap. Infected trees produce this resinous sap in response to the infection by the canker fungus.

The Cytospora fungus gains entrance into branches or twigs of trees through wounds or branch stubs. Over time, the fungus encircles or girdles branches, causing death. Brown needles can be observed on killed branches, but they eventually fall off, leaving bare branches.

As with many diseases, the best control for Cytospora Canker is prevention.  Plant trees in a good site, one that is well-drained and allows unrestricted growth as the tree matures. Adding mulch around trees increases overall health in many ways, including reducing competition from turfgrass. If dry conditions occur, water deeply if feasible. Any cultural practice that promotes good tree vigor helps prevent canker diseases.

Pruning out diseased branches is the primary means of treating trees showing symptoms of Cytospora Canker. Scout declining trees closely for cankers.  Prune at least 4-6 inches below any visible cankers. Some branches may need to be pruned back to the trunk. To minimize spread of the disease, prune only during dry weather. The fungal spores of Cytospora can be easily spread when conditions are wet. Fungicide sprays are generally not effective at controlling canker diseases.

For more information, I’ve included the local extension brochure on Cytospora Canker.  It can be found here:

I hope this information helps you out.  If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.



© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Expert Tips for Growing Amaryllis

Reprinted with permission of The National Gardening Bureau:

An amaryllis may be the easiest and most impressive plant you’ll ever grow. No gardening talent or experience is required because everything that’s needed to grow a living bouquet of big, beautiful flowers is already right inside the bulb.

Amaryllis are tropical bulbs and in frost-free climates (zones 9-11) they can be grown outdoors year-round. In most of North America the bulbs are planted indoors for winter blooms.

What to Look for When Buying an Amaryllis
“As with most flower bulbs, the larger the bulb the better the results,” says Hans Langeveld, co-owner of bulb supplier Longfield Gardens in Lakewood, NJ. “With a jumbo, 34/36 cm amaryllis bulb you’ll get 3 stems with 4 to 5 flowers per stem. A 26/28 cm bulb is about half the size and will put out 1 or sometimes 2 stems with 3 to 4 flowers.”

For best selection, purchase amaryllis bulbs in early fall. Ordering a number of different varieties will give you staggered bloom times and flowers all winter long. When you receive the bulbs, they can be planted immediately or can be stored for several months in a cool (40-50°F) dark, dry place.

When Will the Bulbs Bloom?
Most amaryllis bulbs sold in the U.S. come from Holland, Brazil, Peru, South Africa or Israel. Bulbs that are grown in the southern hemisphere usually flower in early winter, between December and January. Bulbs grown in Holland flower a bit later, from January through March.

“Some amaryllis varieties have a shorter dormancy period than others,” adds Langeveld, “so this also has an effect on when the bulbs will bloom.” For early season flowers, he suggests growing Minerva, Sweet Nymph or Evergreen; for midseason, plant Apple Blossom, Double King and Exotica. Late season varieties include Red Pearl, Amorice, Red Lion and Lagoon.

Indoor Growing Instructions
“An amaryllis bulb needs very little moisture,” says Langeveld. “In fact, the bulbs can bloom with no water at all. Overwatering is one of the only ways you can go wrong with an amaryllis.” Growing the bulbs in pots (rather than in water) helps protect them from excess moisture and also encourages strong root growth.

Choose a pot that’s just big enough to accommodate the bulb. There should be at least 3” of space under the bulb for the roots, and 1 to 2” on the sides. When amaryllis bloom, the flowers are top heavy, so using a sturdy pot will help anchor the plant.

Fill the bottom of the pot with pre-moistened growing mix and settle the bulb on top. Tuck more growing mix around the sides, leaving the shoulders and neck of the bulb exposed. Water to settle the bulb in place and put the pot somewhere that’s cool (60-70°F) and bright (direct sunlight isn’t necessary). Water sparingly.

Bloom Time Tips
You can tell that the bulb is waking up, when you see a green tip emerging from the neck of the bulb. “The flower stalk usually comes out before the foliage,” says Langeveld, “but this varies. Sometimes the foliage comes first and sometimes it comes out at the same time as the flowers.” The timing of the flower stalks can be equally variable. Two stalks can come out at the same time or there may be several weeks in between.

As with all indoor flowers, the blossoms will last longer if you can keep them away from direct sunlight and heat. As the individual flowers fade, snip them off with scissors. Eventually the whole stalk can be cut back to about an inch above the bulb.

“Many people don’t realize that amaryllis are great cut flowers,” suggests Langeveld. “Though it’s daunting to cut that big stem, the blossoms will last just as long.” Langeveld recommends a tall, clear glass vase to accentuate the elegance of the stem and flowers. “Another option is to make a tabletop arrangement by cutting the stem to about 4” and displaying the flowers in a low vase – with or without greens.

Most people treat amaryllis bulbs as annuals, but with proper care you can get them to bloom again the next year. After flowering, cut off the stems and put the pot near a sunny window. Treat the bulb as a houseplant, watering lightly and fertilizing regularly so the leaves stay lush and healthy.

In summer, the potted bulb can be moved outdoors to a sunny, protected location. Continue watering and fertilizing. Bring the pot back indoors in late summer or early fall, moving it to a relatively cool (55-60°F) location with low light and no water. The leaves will dry up and the bulb will go dormant. After 2 to 3 months, you can repot the bulb and start over.