Many homeowners dust off their mowers and start its engines early in the month of April to mark the first mowing of the spring season! Before taking off, follow a few of these basic rules when mowing to guarantee the best looking turf for the home lawn.
Make sure that mower blades are sharp. A dull mower blade causes leaf bruising and tearing of the grass which results in a rugged appearance that favors turf diseases. Dull blades even increase fuel consumption and put wear on engine parts. Homeowners can sharpen the blades at a mower repair shop or with a few simple tools from the garage. All mower blades should be sharpened several times during the year.
Set the mower blade at the correct mowing height for the specific grass species that is grown in the home lawn. For a cool season tall fescue lawn, the ideal mowing height is between 2 inches to 3.5 inches tall. See table 1 below for optimum mowing heights recommended for Kentucky lawns according to turf type species being grown. Once the correct mowing height is set, this amount will also determine how often the lawn is mowed. For example, if the lawn is mowed at 3.5 inches, it may require mowing once a week. If the height is lowered, mowing will occur more frequently.
Remember to only remove one third of the leaf blade at one time. For example, if the desired mowing height is 2 inches, the lawn should be mowed when it reaches 3 inches tall. Removing more than one third of the leaf at one time leads to clumping of dead clippings which blocks sunlight to the living grass underneath. This lack of sunlight causes yellowing on the blades to the living grass and can result in plant death.
In spring, while the grass is actively growing, homeowners can lower the recommended mowing height to help remove the dead grass leaves. By removing this debris with low mowing, sunlight can reach the soil surface and encourage earlier growth in the grass. When disease pressure is increasingly higher in the summer, homeowners should raise their mowing heights. If different mowing heights are desired, it is recommended to reduce mowing heights gradually rather than in one mowing.
Table 1: Mowing Heights for Kentucky Lawns
|Grass Species||Optimum Height (Inches)|
Kristin G. Hildabrand is the horticulture extension agent in Warren County, Kentucky. She loves helping clients answer horticulture questions and can be reached at email@example.com.
Orchids are a popular and colorful addition to any home setting. In this episode of the Sunshine Gardening Podcast, I called up Dr. Rick Durham, Extension Professor and Consumer Horticulture Specialist to have him answer common questions about how to properly care for orchids in the home! To get the full scoop on showing orchid love in the home, stay right here for more on the Sunshine Gardening podcast!
Tell us about some of the common orchid types for the home.
Phalaenopsis – Moth Orchid – Southeast Asia
- Often considered easiest to grow
- Require moderate light and good moisture
- Temperatures of mid 60s night, 70-80 days
- Flower spikes often produce new buds after flowering
- May bloom anytime of the year, many flowers
- Individual flowers last from a few days to a month or more
Dendrobium – many resemble Phalaenopsis, Philippines, Australia, East Asia
- More light than Phalaenopsis
- Temperature variable, most require nights of 55-60, daytime in 70-80.
- Somewhat forgiving of dry medium –pseudobulbs, some like a dormancy period
- Seasonal bloom periods
- Flowers may last for 6 weeks or more
What kind of care is needed to keep orchids happy at home? Tell us more about the cultural requirements needed for orchids such as light, growing media, and humidity.
• Orchids generally need bright, often indirect, light
• Those listed above will grow in the home under proper conditions
• Southeast or south exposure window is best for those needing lots of light: Cattleya, Oncidium, Dendrobium, close to window
• East or west exposure window is best for lower-light species: Phalaenopsis and Paphiopedilum
• No mid-day sun for any, may benefit from summers outdoors but no direct mid-day sun
• Also – possible to grow orchids under lights
Epiphytes – grow on trees
• Light, airy growing medium
• Tree fern fiber, fir bark, sphagnum peat, vermiculite, redwood fiber, lava rock, mounted on cork
• Pots should have ample drainage
• Pot-in-pot systems may increase humidity around root system, avoid standing water
• Repot every 2-3 years as medium breaks down and plants out grow their pot
• The presence of aerial roots is normal and healthy
• Soft, dark colored roots are a sign of too much water
• Many orchid species are native to tropical rain forests
• Home humidity levels can be quite low (both summer
• Avoid drafts of forced air (hot and cold)
• Use room humidifier, group plants together, or place plants on pebble-filled trays with water
• Spraying plants with water is less beneficial
• Orchids may benefit from summers outdoors
– protect from mid-day sun
– step up watering and increase fertility
How often should you water orchids? How often should you apply fertilizer?
• Water often enough so that medium stays moist, brief periods of dryness is ok
• Pots will become light – indication that water is needed
• If water accumulates in saucer or outer pot, pour it out soon after watering
• Ice can be used as a substitute for watering, I prefer to do so only occasionally
• Note pseudobulbs – They should be plump and firm, naturally shrivel with age
• Fertilization is most crucial when new growth is occurring (after flowering)
• Orchids are not heavy feeders
• I fertilize about once a month with a ¼ strength soluble house plant fertilizer
• I generally fertilize more in summer when I also water more
If someone wanted to learn more about orchids, what resources are available?
For more information, check out these resources:
• American Orchid Society, http://www.aos.org
• Wikipedia, http://www.wikipedia.org – search for various types of orchids
• Various on-line forums and web sites including YouTube videos of how to….
I hope that you enjoyed our discussion today on showing orchid love in the home! A special thank you to Dr. Rick Durham for being our guest on the Sunshine Gardening Podcast!
To view the show notes for Episode 21, make sure to visit me on the blog at Warren County Agriculture! You can find us at warrencountyagriculture.com.
If you enjoy listening to the Sunshine Gardening Podcast, I would love if you could take a quick minute of your time to leave a review.
Leaving a review is simple! Just pop open that purple app on your phone, share your biggest takeaway from an episode or what you would like to hear featured in the future!
Thanks for listening gardeners! As always, keep digging into gardening and remember to add a little sunshine!
Show love and support for local flower farmers this month by purchasing a seasonal bouquet subscription! With a seasonal bouquet subscription from a commercial cut flower grower, consumers ensure that their monies go back to the local economy to support farmers and their families.
A bouquet subscription is similar to a CSA which stands for Community Supported Agriculture. With this system, the consumer invests early in the growing season to assist the cut flower farmer with upfront costs such as seeds, soil amendments, and other materials and supplies. In return for the investment, the customer receives beautiful, seasonal, and locally-grown flowers from their fields.
Each bouquet looks different throughout the growing seasons. Spring bouquets are filled with stems of tulips, ranunculus, and poppies. Summer bouquets have stems of bright warm season flowers such as zinnias, sunflowers, celosia, and basil. Fall bouquets contain several other varieties of sunflowers and other fall themed blooms. Since the subscription lasts the entire growing season, they make wonderful gifts for that special someone in your life!
Every cut flower grower operates their bouquet subscription service a little differently depending on what works best for their farm. Some may offer delivery and others may have a few designated locations on specific days for customers to pick-up.
In South Central Kentucky, we are fortunate to have several cut flower growers to consider. Below is information about each cut flower grower in the south central Kentucky area and ways to contact them about their bouquet subscription service.
· Warren County- Davida’s Flowers in Oakland, KY and Starry Fields Farm in Rockfield, KY
· Allen County- The Maple Yard and River Bend Blooms in Scottsville, KY
· Barren County- Thornless Thistle in Glasgow, KY
· Logan County- Old Roots Farm in Russellville, KY
To discover other cut flower farmers in Kentucky, check out this map from the center of crop diversification website. It lists commercial cut flower farms and the services that they offer throughout the state. To check it out, click here: https://uk-horticulture.github.io/KY-Cut-Flowers/.
Here is a short video to learn more about flower subscription services as well.
KCARD is working with the Kentucky Farm Bureau Education Foundation and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture to develop the Kentucky Agriculture Disaster Relief Program. This program will help farmers in Kentucky access needed farm supplies from local farm retailers following the disasters experienced in many areas of Kentucky on December 10 and 11, and on January 1. Farm retailers in the program will receive funds to offset the costs of such supplies for farmers.
How does the program work? The participating retailer will set up an account in their sales system to record sales of eligible supplies to eligible farmers up to $1,500 per farmer. They will provide records of those sales to the program and receive reimbursement (up to $30,000/store, subject to change) for those sales.
What supplies are eligible under the program?
- Fencing supplies- wire, staples, fence chargers, testers, etc.
- T-posts and wooden posts
- Tools, such as hammers, rakes, and shovels
- Rope and bungee cords
- Livestock mineral and mineral feeders
- Hay and livestock feed
- Work gloves
- Chain saws, bar oil, and sharpeners
- Hay rings
What farmers are eligible? Farmers will have to certify that they have farm property in one of the following counties and experienced farm damage from the storms on December 10 and 11, 2021, and on January 1, 2022: Barren, Caldwell, Calloway, Christian, Fulton, Graves, Hart, Hickman, Hopkins, Logan, Lyon, Marion, Marshall, Muhlenberg, Ohio, Taylor, and Warren. Farmers will sign a form at the retailer and provide their contact information. How do I become a Participating Retailer? Participating retailers must be located in or near the affected area, be locally owned and operated, have the necessary inventory on hand or be able to secure it, and agree to maintain the necessary records for the program. If you meet these criteria and are interested in the program, you can contact KCARD staff member, Mattea Mitchell at 270-681-0163 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our first priority is to get at least one store in or near affected counties. Additional stores will be added as funds are available.
What Retailers are currently participating?
55 Wyatt Street, Fredonia, KY 42411
1428 Cuba Road, Mayfield, KY 42066
1406 Hedgepeth Road, Canmer, KY 42722
515 Nebo Road, Madisonville, KY 42431
209 North Bethel Street, Russellville, KY 42276
836 West Main Street, Lebanon, KY 40033
501 Popular Street, Benton, KY 42025
599 Arnold Road, Campbellsville, KY 42718
640 Plum Springs Loop, Bowling Green, KY 42101
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!
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.
- Large White Pumpkins
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 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.
Statement piece for winter?
- Kentucky coffee tree.
- Catalpa tree.
- Bald cypress. Deciduous conifer. https://www.uky.edu/hort/Bald-Cypress
Smaller trees? Yellow wood. 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!
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!
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 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.
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.
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
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!
- 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
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)
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)
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)
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)
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!
Thanks for listening to the Sunshine Gardening Podcast! As always gardeners, keep digging into gardening and remember to add a little sunshine!
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.