Photo: WSU Spokane Extension Master Gardeners Levi Strauss, left, Wayne Green and Brigitta ozefowski discuss a strategy for dealing with a caterpillar outbreak. (Photo courtesy of WSU Extension Spokane)
By Robert Frank, WSU Today
Spiders and beetles and flies. Oh my!
Eggs and bugs in my food! Oh yuk!
‘Tis fall, and along with a bounty of fresh fruit and vegetables, the autumn temperatures also can usher in a multitude of bugs and critters. These insects thrive in the surrounding fields, trees, soil and grass, and can be transported indoors on clothing, produce, pets, firewood, etc. Or, they can simply reside in and around a house.
When Washington’s homeowners, farmers and businesses find themselves inundated with bugs, they often turn to WSU for help. For homeowners, the primary responders for questions are the 4,153 volunteers who are certified Master Gardeners.
If the Master Gardeners get stumped, or if the question is commercial in nature, the challenge is passed on to entomologists at the Plant & Insect Diagnostic Laboratory at WSU’s Puyallup Research and Extension Center. And, if Puyallup can’t nail down a solution, the query is passed on to WSU Pullman’s entomology department.
Working together as an extended statewide team, “we perform these services for pretty much anyone that has a problem,” said Richard Zack, chair and associate professor of entomology. “And, if the problem is significant enough and we can’t help, we may go out to someone else — another university, the U.S. Department of Agriculture or whoever is the leading expert.”
“The Master Gardeners are really the front line for this,” said Zack. “They do a marvelous job and it’s hard to overestimate their value.”
Carrie Foss, coordinator for the WSU Urban Integrated Pest Management Program, agrees. She said a family of websites has been created — including Hortsense and Pestsense — that make the management of insect and plant problems enormously easier.
Together, these sites draw about 278 visitors a day. It’s little wonder why — no matter where people live, they invariably have issues with insects or plant diseases.
“These websites are a tremendous resource,” said Zack, they cut down on a lot of personnel time that otherwise would be involved in identifying (insects or plants or diseases).”
Master Gardener Cathi Lamoreux identifies spider specimen sent in by homeowner. (Photo courtesy of WSU Extension Spokane)
Questions about insects often come in waves, generated by massive hatches, migrations and media coverage.
“There are ebbs and flows to these things,” said Foss. “When people suddenly get spiders in their home, it is usually when they bring in firewood. In the springtime, one of the common problems on the west side is slugs.”
Zack agrees: “In the Moscow-Pullman area, this has been a big grasshopper year. And in mid-October, we’ll have a big aphid breakout, with clouds of them in the air.”
The Tri-Cities area recently had an invasion of beetles, with one resident couple noting that they “swept their driveway and sidewalks three times each day, sucking up the black bugs with a shop vacuum cleaner.” Another homeowner said, “It can look like the ground is moving.” (To see the article, go ONLINE @ www.seattletimes.com
and search “Beetlemania.”)
Avoid grease spots
If people can’t identify an insect they can bring or mail a specimen to their local extension office. However, there are some tricks to doing that as well. Sometimes, people simply throw the specimen in an envelope and mail it in. But when it arrives, Zack said, it may “look like spot of grease with a leg or a wing.”
To find out how to properly submit an insect or plant specimen, go to the WSU Puyallup Plant & Insect Diagnostic Laboratory website — ONLINE @ www.puyallup.wsu.edu/plantclinic
— and follow the instructions.
Meanwhile, keep in mind that there are about 10 million species of insects in the world, and many live regularly in your house. Oh my!