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FORAGE ALERT: Frost Brings Potential for Prussic Acid Poisoning

Last night many areas of Kentucky experienced their first frost.  Prussic acid (hydrogen cyanide) poisoning can occur when the sorghum species (forage sorghum, sorghum-sudangrass, sudangrass, and Johnsongrass) are frosted.  Freezing causes plant cells to rupture and the precursors for prussic acid formation (cyanogenic glycosides) are released.  Please find below some frequently ask questions about prussic poisoning, a note from the UK Veterinary Diagnostic Lab, and a link to Dr. Arnold’s prussic acid publication.

Frequently Ask Questions:

Can I cut the sorghum species for dry hay after frost?

YES.  Make sure the hay is properly cured before baling.  

Can I make baleage from frost sorghum species?

In most cases the answer is YES. Hydrogen cyanide concentrations are reduced during the ensiling process. However, as noted below, if toxin levels are excessively high at ensiling, forage should be tested prior to feeding.

How long do I need to wait to graze freshly frosted sorghum species?

Freshly frosted sorghum species should NOT be grazed until the affected tissue has dried down. This usually occurs 5-7 days after frost. Since fields are often not uniformly frosted and several frost events can occur over several days, make sure and wait until 5-7 days after the last frost event.

Drs. Arnold and Gaskill also has an excellent publication on prussic acid poisoning that can be found at http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/ID/ID220/ID220.pdf.

Note from UK Veterinary Diagnostic Lab:

This note can be found at http://ruminant.ca.uky.edu/content/beware-prussic-acid.  

BEWARE OF PRUSSIC ACID

Prussic acid, hydrogen cyanide or hydrocyanic acid all are terms describing the same toxin or “poison”.  A number of common plants, including sudangrass, johnsongrass, sorghums and sorghum-sudangrass hybrids easily accumulate the “cyanogenic glycosides” in the epidermal or outer cells of the plant.  Further inside the leaf tissue in the mesophyll cells are the enzymes needed to convert these compounds to the actual poison.  When the plant undergoes a stressful event such as cutting, wilting, freezing, drought, crushing, trampling, chewing or chopping, the plant cells rupture which allows the cyanogenic compounds and the enzymes to combine and produce prussic acid.  Once consumed, the toxin goes immediately to the bloodstream and blocks a necessary step in the release of oxygen from hemoglobin in the blood to the cells.  The animal essentially suffocates from lack of oxygen.  Ruminants are much more susceptible to prussic acid poisoning because they have enzymes in the rumen capable of converting the cyanogenic compounds in the plant into hydrogen cyanide.

Clinical signs of cyanide poisoning can occur in as quickly as 15-20 minutes and up to a few hours after consuming the toxic forage.  Usually the affected animals are found dead but, if observed early, may show rapid, difficult breathing, frothing at the mouth, muscle tremors, staggering then collapse.  The mucous membranes (for example-the gums) are bright pink and the blood will be a bright cherry red color.  A definitive diagnosis is usually made by testing the suspect forage for high levels of cyanide.  This test can be performed at a diagnostic laboratory (the UKVDL in Lexington and Breathitt Lab in Hopkinsville both offer this) and forage samples should be immediately frozen and shipped frozen.  It is difficult to diagnose from blood, animal tissues or rumen contents because it disappears rapidly after death.  If prussic acid poisoning is suspected in a live animal, a veterinarian has treatments available that can re-establish oxygen transport at the cellular level. 

Prussic acid is most often associated with sorghums (forage and grain) and sudangrass but many plants can be cyanogenic including:

Plants with Cyanogenic Potential

————————————————

Apple                                Johnsongrass

Apricot                              Lima bean

Arrow Grass                      Peach

Birdsfoot trefoil                 Poison suckleya

Bahia                                Service berry

Cherry                               Sudangrass hybrids                                                                                                                

Elderberry                         Sorghum-sudangrass hybrids

Flax                                   Shattercane

Forage Sorghums             Velvet grass

Grain Sorghums                Vetch seed

Hydrangea                         White Clover

Indiangrass

Important Points to Remember:

  1. Leaves produce much more prussic acid than stems, especially young upper leaves.  New shoots often contain high concentrations of prussic acid.
    1. Never graze sorghums less than 18” in height (“knee high”) to significantly reduce the potential for poisoning.
    2. Feed hungry cattle hay or grain before allowing them to graze forages which may contain high levels of prussic acid therefore reducing the amount of cyanide consumed.
  1. Drought increases the chance for prussic acid because slowed growth and the inability of the plant to mature favors the formation of cyanogenic compounds in the leaves.
  1. Frost/Freezing is especially dangerous because the plant cells actually rupture allowing prussic acid to be released.  Do not graze until well after the entire plant and new shoots are killed and have turned brown.
    1. **  NEW FORAGE GROWTH FOLLOWING DROUGHT OR FROST IS DANGEROUSLY HIGH IN CYANIDE.  WAIT AT LEAST 7 DAYS TO GRAZE AFTER A KILLING FROST TO ALLOW CYANIDE TO DISSIPATE. **
  1. Plants grown in high nitrogen soil  (and low in phosphorus and potassium) tend to have more prussic acid potential.  Splitting nitrogen applications will reduce the risk of toxicity.  Herbicides such as 2,4 D can also increase prussic acid for several weeks following application.
  1. Chopping or ensiling plants high in prussic acid will reduce toxin levels if properly cured.  However dangerous levels of prussic acid may remain if extremely high before cutting.  If in doubt, analyze suspect forages before feeding.
  1. Johnsongrass and sorghum-sudangrass hybrids also have the potential for nitrate accumulation, especially during drought conditions.  Nitrate tends to accumulate in the lower stem, so cutting hay very short, or overgrazing so that cattle have to eat the lower stem bases ( the “stubble”) can cause more intake of nitrate and signs similar to prussic acid poisoning.

Planting Peonies in the Garden

Peonies make a beautiful addition to the home garden and landscape! In Kentucky, peony blooms appear in spring around the month of May and their flowers have a richness unlike any other. Peonies add beauty with their wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes of blooms as well as their wonderful fragrance! If planted correctly, peonies can last a long time in the garden from 50 to as much as 80 years. The fall season is the perfect time for plant peonies in your home landscape. To get the full scoop on tips for planting peonies in the garden, make sure to stay right here for Episode 19 of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast!

Types & Cultivars:

There are three types of peonies for gardeners to consider for planting in the Kentucky garden.

  • Herbaceous/garden peonies are herbaceous perennials that reach 20 to 36 inches in height. This type is the most common peony used and is the least expensive compared to other peonies.
  • Tree peonies have woody stems that do not die back to the ground. They are a medium-sized shrub that reaches no more than 4 to 5 feet in height. Tree peonies are slow growing, so it may take four or more years to bloom well.
  • Intersectional peonies are a hybrid type produced by crossing a herbaceous peony with a tree peony. These peonies get the best of both worlds. They possess the hardiness of the herbaceous peonies with the attractive flowers and foliage of the tree peonies. Itoh peonies, named by the first hybridizer Toichi Itoh, are a type of intersectional peony.  

To hear more about planting peonies in the garden, make sure to check out the full episode on The Sunshine Gardening Podcast with host Kristin Hildabrand!

I hope that you enjoyed our discussion today on planting peonies in the garden! A big thank you to Dennis Morgeson for being our guest on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! To view the show notes for Episode 19, make sure to visit me on the blog at Warren County Agriculture! You can find us at warrencountyagriculture.com.

Thanks for listening gardeners! As always, keep digging into gardening and remember to add a little sunshine!

Tips for the Best Pumpkin

There is no better symbol for the month of October than the pumpkin! While pumpkins are widely used throughout the fall season to decorate the home, many people associate them with Halloween. Nowadays, pumpkins have expanded from the traditional orange Jack o Lantern pumpkin into a wide variety of shapes and colors. To find out more about pumpkins, I called up my good friend and co-worker Metcalfe County Extension Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources Brandon Bell. While talking to him, I discovered tips for picking the best pumpkin and how to properly store them at home. What I didn’t expect to learn was the better and more efficient way for carving my Jack o’ lantern! To find out this secret to carving pumpkins this season, make sure to stay right here on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast!



There are a lot of different varieties of pumpkins that are available to the public to purchase. Tell us about some of those varieties and what trends you might have noticed with some of those varieties.

  • Pink Pumpkin. The first pick pumpkin developed was called a ‘Porcelain Doll’. Growers had to sign a contract to give some of their proceeds back to breast cancer awareness.
  • Blue
  • Black
  • Large White Pumpkins
  • Green
  • Yellow
  • Orange
  • Red
Various Pumpkin Varieties

A lot of these pumpkin varieties that you can find in these colors are stackable pumpkins, especially the orange and burnt orange and red Cinderella pumpkins. Most retailers will sell you a stack of pumpkins.

Cinderella pumpkins were the original stacker pumpkin, and then later they started incorporating other colors.

Looking for texture? Warty pumpkins and peanut pumpkins offer some unique shapes on the outside of the pumpkin.


How should you select the best pumpkin? What things should we look for to buy a good pumpkin?

Stackables pumpkins- get pumpkins that match each other. the flatter they are they better, Cinderella on bottom

Jack o’ lantern is shape, and will sit up on its own. Hard texture as far as the rind. Make sure that it is hardened off. Firm, stout green stems. Avoid shriveled up and soft stem. Pick up the pumpkins by the bottom rather than from the stem. Look for an overall good shape and color.

Earlier in the season, the stems are still green. A good stem means a lot. A bad stem will cause decay to form earlier.


As far as helping these pumpkins last during the season, what things can we do to encourage a longer lasting pumpkin? OR are there things that we don’t want to do.

Wait as late as possible to carve the pumpkins. Keep them under cool, dry and shady spot. Keep them out of direct sun.

Clean the pumpkin with a 10 percent bleach solution to help them last longer.


What is the best way to carve a Jack o’ lantern pumpkin?

Anytime that you expose the internal flesh of a pumpkin, it will start to decay. I have learned over the years with Jack o’ lantern pumpkins is to not cut the top off of it. It is actually better to cut it from the bottom of the pumpkin. Whenever the pumpkin starts to decay, it easily moves down the pumpkin. Cut the part from the bottom. It makes it harder for decay to move up from the bottom.


Do you have a favorite pumpkin? 

Old fashioned field pumpkin called ‘Autumn Buckskin’. People would refer to them as the cow pumpkin. Years ago, farmers would plant corn and mix pumpkin seed in with their corn for a companion crop. They would harvest their corn by hand and then also load the pumpkins on a wagon. Then, they would bust the pumpkin up and feed it to the cattle. Once the cattle acquire the taste of pumpkin, they will eat the entire pumpkin. It is basically the same pumpkin that you would find in a can of Libby’s pumpkin. Libby’s produces 85% of the US canned pumpkin.   


I hope that you enjoyed our discussion today on tips for the best pumpkin. Thank you to Brandon Bell for being our guest on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! To view the show notes for Episode 18, make sure to visit me on the blog at Warren County Agriculture. You can find us at warrencountyagriculture.com. Thanks for listening gardeners! As always, keep digging into gardening and remember to add a little sunshine!


Emerald Ash Borer Damage

Emerald Ash borer was discovered in Warren County, Kentucky back in July of this year 2021. Since Emerald Ash Borer was found in Kentucky in 2009, it has progressively spread throughout the state and destroyed several of our prized ash trees. The damage caused from Emerald Ash borer feeding brings on a lot of questions from Kentucky homeowners on: What control options are available? What trees can be replanted after the ash trees decline? These questions are all going to be answered in episode 17 of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! In this episode, I chat with University of Kentucky Forestry Health Extension Specialist Dr. Ellen Crocker to ask specifically what options are available for Kentucky residents. To listen to the full episode, make sure to stay right here on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast!

Tell us more about the emerald ash borer and what damage it causes to Ash trees in Kentucky.

The emerald ash borer is an invasive insect from Asia. It is actually a beetle. Our ash trees do not have a good defense mechanism to them. It can rapidly kill ash trees.

Since it was first discovered in Michigan in 2002 and since that time, it has swept through the country. It has killed millions of ash trees. Just this past year, especially in Western Kentucky there have been several new sightings. Larvae tunnel and kill the vascular tissue of the tree. Most homeowners will miss the insect damage. Less healthy tree? Missing part of the tree? Lots of damage done from the feeding. “D” shaped exit holes are found on the outside edge of the tree due to the shape of the abdomen.

In Kentucky, we have several varieties of ash. White and green ash trees are the most damaged. The blue ash have more natural resistance to it.


What homeowner options are available to help control this invasive insect pest?

Ask yourself “do you have ash trees on your property?”

You can apply yourself or contact a certified arborist in your area to apply the insecticide. There are several insecticides sold for control of emerald ash borer. Soil drench with imidacloprid to treat annually. Make sure to follow the label directions. Application amount is based on how big the trunk diameter is in size.  Treat annually with imidacloprid.

Certified arborists are paid professionals through the International Society for Arboriculture (ISA).

A few other things to consider about treating trees for EAB. Look at it as a protective insecticide application. The insecticide are systemic insecticides. So it may or may not be effective. Prioritize the trees that you want to save. Consider the costs associated with them. Time treatment according to the timing of the emerald ash borer.


What challenges does that bring to the woodlands or in the landscape?

Ash trees deteriorate rapidly. However, it doesn’t hurt the wood. Unfortunately, when they start to go downhill, they break apart. Other things start to happen when the tree can’t defend itself anymore. Ash are pretty hazardous to work with. Harvest your ash trees and offset the costs. In some properties, it can be 20-30 percent. Reach out to foresters in your local area. Consulting foresters will help you with making decisions.


Can you recommend other trees for replacing damaged ash trees?

Learn from the elm tree story. Replace with more than one species of tree. I recommend planting with a diversity of tree species. Consider a diversity of native species. We have an abundance of native plant species in the United States. Kentucky has over 100 native tree species. Pick the right tree for the right site. There is more than one choice. Take note of how wet the area and the soil type. Do you power lines overhead? Maybe you can choose something smaller. Looking for ideas? Visit a local garden or arboretum to get ideas.

A few of Dr. Ellen’s favorite trees:

Large shade trees: Oak species. Good shape. Good for wildlife.

Great fall color? Black Gum is an underused tree that has good fall color.

https://www.uky.edu/hort/Black-Gum

Statement piece for winter?

  • Kentucky coffee tree.

https://www.uky.edu/hort/Kentucky-Coffeetree

  • Catalpa tree.

https://www.uky.edu/hort/Northern-Catalpa

Smaller trees? Yellow wood. Serviceberry.

https://www.uky.edu/hort/Yellowwood

https://www.uky.edu/hort/Downy-Serviceberry

Laurie Thomas, Extension Forester with UK Forestry and Natural Resources spotlights a Native Tree of the Week during From the Woods Today program. To find out more information, go to https://anr.ca.uky.edu/tree-week-0.

KY Invasive Plant Council- native alternates to invasive plants

If someone wanted to learn more about emerald ash borer, what resource or website would be good for them to visit?

University of Kentucky Extension Entomology’s Department for Emerald Ash Borer: https://entomology.ca.uky.edu/entfact/kentucky-emerald-ash-borer-eab-resources-updates

Purdue University Emerald Ash Borer Cost Calculator: https://int.entm.purdue.edu/ext/treecomputer/


I hope that you enjoyed our discussion today on the Emerald Ash Borer and the damage it can cause. A special thank you to Dr. Ellen Crocker for providing her expertise and being a guest on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast!

If you would like to see the show notes from Episode 17, make sure to visit me on the blog at Warren County Agriculture. You can find us at warrencountyagriculture.com. Thanks for listeners gardeners! As always, keep digging into gardening and remember to add a little sunshine!

Caring for Fall Mums in the Garden

Welcome to Episode 16 of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! Thanks for joining me for this episode and I am your host Kristin Hildabrand, Warren County’s Extension Agent for Horticulture. I don’t know if you have been out and about lately but have you all noticed the bright and beautiful mum displays right now!? Mum is definitely the main flower that is in season and to be honest, it is the ray of sunshine in my life! I’ve been amazed at all the colors of mums being offered. One grower that I follow on Facebook, she offered a variety called ‘Darling Pink’ and another one called ‘Strawberry Ice’ mum. Both were absolutely gorgeous!

So, it is officially after Labor Day and home gardeners are planting gorgeous fall mums in their garden and landscape. Have you ever wondered what it takes to help these blooms last? Well, wonder no more because today, I am sharing 5 tips for caring for fall mums in the garden. These tips will help the mums last longer during the season and help them overwinter and come back for next year!


Tip #1: Select mums with more buds than flowers.

When selecting a mum to take home, choose a plant that has several tight buds on it. Over time, the buds will slowly open and help make the flowers last longer. Those buds that haven’t opened will last longer on your deck, patio, porch, or yard.

If you are looking for an instant pop of color to help dress up an outdoor event, go ahead and purchase mums with several flowers in bloom.


Tip #2: Choose the best location.

When choosing an ideal location for growing mums, select a site that receives at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight. Avoid garden spots that receive less than the recommended amount of sunlight hours, since it will dull the vivid blooms.

The next thing to remember about proper site selection for garden mums is to situate them in moist, well-drained soil. Mums are prone to getting root rot issues, so a well-drained soil helps in draining water around the root system. If your soil is less than ideal, incorporate 2 to 3 inches of organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure. By adding organic material, you are helping the soil drain better and improving nutrient holding capacity.


Tip #3: Plant mums in the ground early.

If your goal is to overwinter mums to get them to come back next year, it is crucial to get the ground prepared and plant as soon as possible. The other important part to this tip is that you need to make sure that the mums don’t have any blooms at time of planting. By planting mums with more buds and planting them early, this allows the root system plenty of time to get established in the soil.

Make sure to plant mums at the same depth that they were growing in their original container. I recommend digging the planting hole first and then adding the mum still in the container to the planting hole. This specific planting procedure allows you to be a better judge of how much more depth or width is needed. Once the planting hole passes inspection, take the mum out of the container and plant into the hole. Avoid adding any fertilizer at this time. If planting more than one mum, space plants 18 to 24 inches apart.


Tip #4: Apply water and mulch.

After planting, water in the mums by targeting the stream of water right at the base of the plant. Avoid splashing the foliage which can lead to foliar diseases. It is best to practice morning watering routines rather than late afternoon watering. The morning watering routine allows plenty of time for the plant to dry off before night-time arrives.

Apply 2 to 3 inches of organic mulch such as woodchips, shredded bark, chopped leaves, or compost to help conserve soil moisture. This step is also important for overwintering since it will help protect the plant’s root system from extreme cold temperatures in the winter.


Tip #5: Pinch when needed.

Lastly, most garden mums will benefit from pinching the plants 2 to 3 times in spring and early summer. Pinching produces a more compact bushier appearance with additional flowers. Pinch back plants when new shoots are 6 inches tall by using pruning shearers or hedge clippers. After pinching, new lateral shoots will begin to develop along the stems. Repeat this same process again when the new shoots reach 6 inches and continue pinching until early July.


I hope that you enjoyed our discussion today about caring for fall mums in the garden! To see the show notes from Episode 16, make sure to visit me on the blog at Warren County Agriculture. You can find us at http://www.warrencountyagriculture.com. In the show notes, I have also posted the link to our quick 5 minute on fall mum care if you want to check it out!

Thanks for listening to the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! As always gardeners, keep on digging into gardening and remember to add a little sunshine!


References:

NEW Farm Tax Exemption Changes

Agriculture Exemption Number Now Required for Tax Exemption on Farm Purchases

Author(s): Jerry Pierce
Published: July 19th, 2021

A new Kentucky law requires that farmers apply for an Agriculture Exemption Number to make
qualified purchases for the farm exempt from sales tax.

The application Form 51A800 is currently available on the Department of Revenue website
here: https://revenue.ky.gov/Forms/51A800%20(4-21)_fill-in.pdf


The application requires verification of agricultural activity. Any one of the following documents may be submitted with the application:
• IRS Schedule F, Profit or Loss from Farming
• IRS Form 4835, Farm Rental Income and Expenses
• Farm Service Agency number
• Other type of verification
Once approved, the Department of Revenue (DOR) will issue an Agriculture Exemption Number by letter. The number must be renewed every three years. The Agriculture Exemption Number does not exempt purchases from sales tax. It must be used with Form 51A158 Farm Exemption Certificate for farm purchases and machinery, and with Form 51A159 Certificate of Exemption for Materials, Machinery and Equipment for construction of farm facilities. These certificates must be presented to each vendor or supplier along with the DOR letter. Farmers may still use Forms 51A158 and 51A159 without an Agriculture Exemption Number through
June 30, 2022, by using their driver’s license number. Exemption Certificates without an Exemption Number will expire and no longer be valid as of July 1, 2022. Forms 51A158 and 51A159 both list specific items that qualify for exemption from sales tax on
purchases of farm-related items.

For more detail on exempt purchases see Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS) 139.480. KRS 139.481 was passed in the 2020 legislative session and became effective on January 1, 2021. It is intended to improve the way farmers register tax exemption on sales of qualified purchases with vendors and suppliers. Businesses will also have access to a database for use in purchases with vendors and suppliers. Businesses will also have access to a database for use in confirming the agriculture exemption number.

Check out this video for more information regarding this new law:

Pierce, J. “Agriculture Exemption Number Now Required for Tax Exemption on Farm
Purchases.” Economic and Policy Update (21):7, Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Kentucky, July 19th, 2021.

Watch out for Horse Flies

by: Lee Townsend, Extension Entomologist 
University of Kentucky College of Agriculture 

Horse flies and deer flies are bloodsucking insects that can be serious pests of cattle, horses, and humans. Horse flies range in size from 3/4 to 1-1/4 inches long and usually have clear or solidly colored wings and brightly colored eyes. Deer flies, which commonly bite humans, are smaller with dark bands across the wings and colored eyes similar to those of horse flies. Attack by a few of these persistent flies can make outdoor work and recreation miserable. The numbers of flies and the intensity of their attack vary from year to year. 

Numerous painful bites from large populations of these flies can reduce milk production from dairy and beef cattle and interfere with grazing of cattle and horses because animals under attack will bunch together. Animals may even injure themselves as they run to escape these flies. Blood loss can be significant. In a USDA Bulletin 1218, Webb and Wells estimated that horse flies would consume 1 cc of blood for their meal, and they calculated that 20 to 30 flies feeding for 6 hours would take 20 teaspoons. This would amount to one quart of blood in 10 days. 

Female horse flies and deer flies are active during the day. These flies apparently are attracted to such things as movement, shiny surfaces, carbon dioxide, and warmth. Once on a host, they use their knife-like mouthparts to slice the skin and feed on the blood pool that is created. Bites can be very painful and there may be an allergic reaction to the salivary secretions released by the insects as they feed. The irritation and swelling from bites usually disappears in a day or so. However, secondary infections may occur when bites are scratched. General first aid-type skin creams may help to relieve the pain from bites. In rare instances, there may be allergic reactions involving hives and wheezing. Male flies feed on nectar and are of no consequence as animal pests. 

Horse flies and deer flies are intermittent feeders. Their painful bites generally elicit a response from the victim so the fly is forced to move to another host. Consequently, they may be mechanical vectors of some animal and human diseases. 

LIFE CYCLE

The larvae of horse fly and deer fly species develop in the mud along pond edges or stream banks, wetlands, or seepage areas. Some are aquatic and a few develop in relatively dry soil. Females lay batches of 25 to 1,000 eggs on vegetation that stand over water or wet sites. The larvae that hatch from these eggs fall to the ground and feed upon decaying organic matter or small organisms in the soil or water. The larvae, stage usually lasts from one to three years, depending on the species. Mature larvae crawl to drier areas to pupate and ultimately emerge as adults. 

PROTECTING YOURSELF

Deer flies are usually active for specific periods of time during the summer. When outside, repellents such as Deet and Off (N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) can provide several hours of protection. Follow label instructions because some people can develop allergies with repeated use, look for age restrictions. 

Permethrin-based repellents are for application to clothing only but typically provide a longer period of protection. Repellents can prevent flies from landing or cause them to leave before feeding but the factors that attract them (movement, carbon dioxide, etc.) are still present. These flies will continue to swarm around even after a treatment is applied. 

Light colored clothing and protective mesh outdoor wear may be of some value in reducing annoyance from biting flies. In extreme cases, hats with mesh face and neck veils and neckerchiefs may add some protection. 

PROTECTING ANIMALS

Horse flies and deer flies can be serious nuisances around swimming pools. They may be attracted by the shiny surface of the water or by movement of the swimmers. There are no effective recommendations to reduce this problem. 

Permethrin-based sprays are labeled for application to livestock and horses. These insecticides are very irritating to the flies and cause them to leave almost immediately after landing. Often, the flies are not in contact with the insecticide long enough to be killed so they continue to be an annoyance. These flies will swarm persistently around animals and feed where the spray coverage was not complete (underbelly or legs) or where it has worn off. Repeated applications may be needed. Check the label about minimum retreatment intervals. Pyrethrin sprays also are effective but do not last as long as permethrin. 

Horse flies and deer flies like sunny areas and usually will not enter barns or deep shade. If animals have access to protection during the day, they can escape the constant attack of these annoying pests. They can graze at night when the flies are not active. 

CONTROL

It is difficult to impossible to locate and/or eliminate breeding site of horse flies and deer flies. They breed in environmentally sensitive wetlands so effects of drainage or insecticide application on non-target organisms or water supplies is a concern. Also, these insects are strong fliers that can move in from some distance away. Breeding sites may be very extensive or some distance away from where problems are occurring. 

Fortunately, horse flies and deer flies are sporadic problems for specific times of the year. Some adaptation in behavior or use of repellents can allow enjoyment of the outdoors. 

Issued: 01/00 
Revised: 01/00
 

CAUTION! Pesticide recommendations in this publication are registered for use in Kentucky, USA ONLY! The use of some products may not be legal in your state or country. Please check with your local county agent or regulatory official before using any pesticide mentioned in this publication. 

Of course, ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW LABEL DIRECTIONS FOR SAFE USE OF ANY PESTICIDE! 

Be on the Lookout for Late Season Stinging Insects!

As we head towards Labor Day and the unofficial end of summer, people are noticing some our different species of stinging insects. The inquiries we have received have all focused on these insects being Asian giant hornets (aka the “murder hornet”), an insect not known to occur in the state. Thus far, that species has only been found in the Pacific Northwest.

What we do have in Kentucky are things like yellowjackets, paper wasps, and European hornets. Some of these are aggressive in their own right, and others do resemble the Asian giant hornet. Here are some tips on identification and advice on managing these insects, if necessary.





Yellowjackets

Yellowjackets are some of the most encountered stinging pests. These bright yellow and black-colored wasps are usually around a half inch long. The workers of a colony are the ones we encounter most often. In the earlier part of summer there are fewer workers, and they are on the hunt for meat, which they can obtain as prey items such as caterpillars or as scavenged material from garbage and roadkill.

Yellowjackets build papery, football shaped nests in the soil or in shrubs and occasionally trees. These nests expand over the course of the summer and by the end of the growing season can commonly contain thousands of workers. The workers switch from looking for protein to looking for more sugary materials. This means fruit, pop, fruit juices, and frozen treats. These workers and the original queen will all die when winter sets in though. Only new queens produced by the original will go into the next season to produce the next round of nests. The switch in diet and need to protect the new queens can mean more encounters with humans and an increased defensive nature when nests are discovered.





Paper Wasps

There are several paper wasp species that can be encountered. They tend to be 1/2 to 3/4 inch long and have smoky-colored wings that you can’t quite see through. Some species are brownish, others red, with some being black and yellow. One of the more common species, the European paper wasp, has coloration that looks very similar to a yellowjacket except their antennae are orange at the tips.

Paper wasps get their name for building umbrella-shaped nests that are constructed out of paper they make by chewing wood scrapings into a pulp. These nests are often found on trees, shrubs, eaves of homes, rafters, railings, and other semi-protected areas. Paper wasp nests don’t get as large as other stinging pests and as a group they tend to be less defensive of the nest than things like yellowjackets. They will sting though, and it can be quite painful. The nest is annual and the insects will die out by fall, with new queens produced overwintering to found their own nest the next season.





European Hornets

This species is the one that has been most confused for the Asian giant hornet. They are also a non-native species, but are slightly less famous than their larger cousins from Asia. Workers of this species are around an inch long, with queens reaching 1 1/2 inches in length. They have a pattern on their abdomen that resembles a yellowjacket’s and is also black and yellow. Their thorax and head are a mix of yellow with patches of dark red, which helps to differentiate them from the Asian giant hornet as well.

They build large paper nests that they will defend by stinging. These large insects are predators; they will consume almost anything they can catch and will eat honey bees (though not quite as aggressively as the Asian giant hornet). They are also known to steal prey from spider webs to eat for themselves. One other interesting feeding habit they demonstrate, in the fall, the workers will girdle tree branches and small trunks and then drink up the sugary material that leaks out.

Management of Stinging Insects

If folks are dealing with a nest of stinging insects, they should consider contacting a professional to help them eliminate the problem. Of course, that might not be feasible for some, so it is important to note the ways that these pests can controlled by homeowners on their own.

First and foremost, they will need to discover the entrance to the nest. Treating individual workers will not eliminate the problem.

Once the nest or entrance has been discovered, an aerosol wasp and hornet product (examples include Raid and Spectracide Wasp and Hornet) can be applied into and onto the nest. These are quick acting products, often needing just seconds to eliminate the nest. The application should be done at dusk or after dark to maximize control and minimize the chances of being stung. The person making the application should also have an escape route planned in advance and a place of safety to retreat to, just in case.





By Jonathan L. Larson, Entomology Extension Specialist

Extension Master Gardeners Make a Difference with a Certified Monarch Waystation

In 2017, the Monarch Joint Venture organization reported that the iconic monarch butterfly has steadily declined by approximately 90% over the last 20 years. Warren County Extension Master Gardeners wanted to make a difference so they designed and installed a certified Monarch Waystation to provide habitat and to help increase the population of monarch butterflies.  A monarch waystation is a garden that includes milkweed plants which serve as the host plant for the monarch butterfly and a variety of nectar plants that the adult butterfly can use as a nectar source. This garden was situated on the Warren County Extension Office grounds to serve as an educational demonstration plot  so the general public would be encouraged to plant more native and pollinator friendly plants in their home garden and landscape.

A Monarch Waystation committee was formed to assist with the installation and timeline for the project. Committee      members worked closely with the agent throughout the 2020 – 2021 year to plan the certified Monarch Waystation. The committee secured a $1500.00 grant from the Warren County Soil Conservation District as well as other community donations. Other committee members contributed by checking and securing material costs and marketing for the project.

Extension Master Gardeners Interns from the virtual 2020  Master Gardener class were given the task of submitting      garden proposals for the future design of the Monarch Waystation. Completed proposals were reviewed by the     committee at the end of January 2021 and the final design was selected. The final design consisted of a combination of multiple designs submitted from the Master Gardener Interns with several native plants arranged in seven 4×8 feet raised beds. 

Warren County Extension Master Gardeners and Interns worked diligently together throughout the spring 2021 season to construct the Monarch Waystation gardens. Volunteers worked on different parts of the project to build the raised bed garden frames, add soil media components to the beds, plant hundreds of pollinator friendly plants, install the water feature and small bubblers for water sources, mulch plants, and water throughout the week. Visit the Warren County Extension Office website at www.warrencountyextension.com/monarch-waystation to see the entire process from start to finish. 

To highlight their efforts, Warren County Extension Master Gardeners received recognition through local media outlets. Their story was featured on WBKO-TV Channel 13, Spectrum News, and in the Bowling Green Daily Times newspaper.    Another TV segment appeared on the Extension Farm and Home Show during National Pollinator Week.

Warren County Extension Master Gardeners have also registered and certified their waystation through Monarch Watch which is the non-profit organization that manages the waystation. By registering their waystation, Warren County Extension Master Gardeners are supporting monarch conservation efforts and the preservation of the monarch      butterfly.

Master Gardeners have donated a total of 218 volunteer hours to the certified Monarch Waystation. According to the National Independent Sector, the value of volunteer time for the state of Kentucky is $23.10 per hour for 2020. If you multiply the hours donated by the hourly rate, Warren County Extension Master Gardeners have given a total of $5,035.80 to the Warren County community.  Plans are currently being made to install other features for the Monarch Waystation in the fall 2021 season.

Garden Spiders in Kentucky

If you have walked through the garden lately, you may have noticed several spiders. Now for some people, the thought of a spider makes them want to jump out of their shoes! But interestingly enough, spiders play an important role in a healthy ecosystem and there are benefits to having them in the garden. To help explain more about spiders, I called up Dr. Ric Bessin, University of Kentucky Extension Entomologist to discuss more about the specific types of spiders found in Kentucky. I was amazed to learn about all the different types of spiders and the benefits that they can offer in our environment! So, make sure to stay right here on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast to hear the full interview!  

Introduction

  • Spiders are known as “arachnids,” and they all have 8 legs, 2 body parts (cephalothorax and abdomen), and no antennae.  
  • Arachnids also have fang-like mouthparts called “chelicerae” which insects do not have.  Insects and arachnids both belong to the same Phylum (Arthropoda), but insects are not arachnids, and arachnids are not insects.
  • Spiders can be distinguished from other arachnids in Kentucky by the connection between the abdomen and the cephalothorax.  In spiders, the connection between the cephalothorax and the abdomen is a narrow stalk.  In other Kentucky arachnids, the connection between the two body regions is broad, so that the distinction between the cephalothorax and abdomen is not obvious.

(Newton & Townsend, 2010)

There are many different types of spiders found in Kentucky. Here are a few types mentioned in this podcast episode.

Types of Spiders

Wolf spiders

Size: Wolf spiders range in size from tiny (the size of a pencil eraser) to about the size of a U.S. silver dollar, with legs outstretched 
Color: There are many species of wolf spiders in Kentucky, but most are dark or light brown, usually with contrasting spots or stripes. 
Features: Wolf spiders are fast-moving and they are typically seen running on the ground. They are not web builders. 
Notes: Wolf spiders often wander into homes. Because they are brown in color, wolf spiders are often mistaken for brown recluses. Like most Kentucky spiders, the bites of wolf spiders are harmless except to allergic individuals. Wolf spiders are among the most common kinds of spiders in Kentucky.

(Newton & Townsend, 2010)

Funnel web/grass web spiders

Size: About the size of a U.S. quarter, with legs outstretched.
Color: Brown with prominent longitudinal gray or tan stripes. 
Features: Prominent hind spinnerets: these are two, small, finger-like projections on the end of the grass spider’s abdomen (used to spin the web). Many other spiders have spinnerets, but they are very large and distinctive in grass spiders. 
Notes: Grass spiders are very common in Kentucky lawns where they build large, funnel-shaped webs. They also occasionally wander into homes. Because they are brown and of a similar size, grass spiders are often mistaken for brown recluses. Like most Kentucky spiders, though, the bites of grass spiders are harmless except to allergic individuals.

(Newton, Townsend, 2010)

Fishing spiders

Size: A little larger than a U.S. silver dollar, with legs outstretched.
Color: Brown with contrasting, darker brown patterns. 
Features: Very large brown spiders; sometimes seen running on the ground or sitting motionless on tree trunks. 
Notes: Fishing spiders are common near streams and wooded areas in Kentucky, and they sometimes wander into nearby homes. They are among the largest spiders in our state, but they are not considered dangerous. Like most Kentucky spiders, the bites of fishing spiders are harmless except to allergic individuals. They are sometimes mistaken for brown recluse spiders, but adult brown recluses are smaller and lack the fishing spider’s distinct dark brown patterning.

(Newton & Townsend, 2010)

Jumping spiders

Size: Typical jumping spiders are about the size of a U.S. dime, with legs outstretched. 
Color: There are many species of jumping spiders in Kentucky. Many are gray or black, while some are vividly colored. 
Features: Jumping spiders have distinctive, large eyes and a “flat faced” look. They are characterized by quick, herky-jerky motions and they do not build webs. 
Notes: Jumping spiders are common on the outsides of homes and buildings and they often wander into homes. Because some are brown in color, jumping spiders are sometimes mistaken for brown recluses. Like most Kentucky spiders, though, the bites of jumping spiders are harmless except to allergic individuals.

(Newton, Townsend, 2010)

Crab spiders

Size: Typical crab spiders are about the size of a U.S. nickel, with legs outstretched. 
Color: There are many species of crab spiders in Kentucky. Some are brown or tan, but most common species are bright white or vivid “neon” green or yellow. 
Features: Crab spiders are low and flat and their front two pairs of legs are very long. Crab spiders are not web builders. 
Notes: Crab spiders are very common in Kentucky flowers (where they hunt for bees), but they sometimes wander into homes. Because some crab spiders are brown in color, they are occasionally mistaken for brown recluses. Like most Kentucky spiders, the bites of crab spiders are harmless except to allergic individuals.

(Newton & Townsend, 2010)

Orb web spiders

Size: Orb weavers range in size from tiny (the size of a pencil eraser) to a little larger than a U.S. silver dollar, with legs outstretched. 
Color: There are many species of orb-weaver spiders in Kentucky. Some are solid tan or brown, while others are colorful with vivid patterns. 
Features: Orb weavers are distinguished by their webs: no other common Kentucky spiders make organized, circular, grid-like webs. Orb weavers are almost always encountered inside their webs. 
Notes: Orb weavers are commonly found on porches and gardens in Kentucky, especially in late summer. Occasionally, they will wander into a home and build a web in a doorway or windowsill. Some orb weavers are very large, but, like most Kentucky spiders, the bites of orb weavers are harmless except to allergic individuals. The Yellow-and-black Argiope (pictured below, top left), one of the largest spiders in Kentucky, is a type of orb weaver.

(Newton & Townsend, 2010)

Harmful Spiders

There are two Kentucky spiders that can cause harm to humans: the black widow spider and the brown recluse spider. Tan to dark brown, a brown recluse’s abdomen and legs are uniformly colored with no stripes, bands, or mottling. The legs are long and thin and lack conspicuous spines. They have a dark violin-shaped mark on their back, with the neck of the violin pointing toward the rear of the spider. This feature is consistent in adult brown recluses, but is less obvious in younger spiders.

Their bites are serious and require immediate medical attention, but brown recluses are timid and unlikely to bite unless handled. These spiders are common in all areas of Kentucky. They tend to occur in hidden locations indoors and outdoors, such as piles of cardboard or paper, stacks of cut wood and wall-voids of buildings.

Black widow spiders are also common throughout the state. The female black widow is about a half-inch long and is glossy black with a variable number of red markings on the top and/or bottom of her abdomen. Adult males smaller and are similar in color, but with a few added white markings. Juveniles are highly variable. Their bites are very serious and require immediate medical attention, but the spider is timid and unlikely to bite unless handled. They tend to hide out in concealed outdoor locations such as piles of rocks or firewood and dark corners of garages and out-buildings. Females are common; males are very rarely encountered.

If interested in learning more information about spiders found in Kentucky, check out the Critter files that are posted on the University of Kentucky Extension website. Find the link to these files posted below in the references section. Field guides can also be a useful tool to keep on hand.

I hope that you enjoyed our discussion today with Dr. Ric Bessin on Garden Spiders in Kentucky! A big thank you to Dr. Ric Bessin for being our guest!

Dr. Ric Bessin, University of Kentucky Extension Entomologist

Thanks for listening to the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! As always gardeners, keep digging into gardening and remember to add a little sunshine!

References:

Newton, B. & Townsend, L. (2010, January). Urban spider chart. University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. https://entomology.ca.uky.edu/spider-chart#widow.

Bessin, R. & Newton, B. (2016, May 18). Kentucky Critter Files. University of Kentucky Department of Entomology. http://www.uky.edu/Ag/CritterFiles/casefile/casefile.htm.