Monday, March 22, 2021

Springtime Codling Moth Control

A Codling Moth adult in front of an apple with a larvae in it showing the damage they do.
It doesn’t matter if you have two or 2,000 trees, the thought of codling moths in your orchard can keep you up at night. These fruit-damaging pests mainly affect apples, but they can also be found on peach, pear, plum, quince, and walnut trees. It’s not the adult moth part of the insect’s life cycle that is the problem here; it’s the larvae. Once they’ve emerged, they immediately start tunneling into and feeding on the nutrient-packed fruit your tree has provided. In order to prevent this, you have to keep the larvae from developing, and to do that you have to keep the adult moths away from your tree. None of this is easy - control takes several steps and diligent monitoring. And all of this works best when you start early, which means in these early days of spring the time is now.

Red & yellow apples in a wooden crate that says, "Gibbsville Orchard". Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash.
Sanitation and Environmental Controls

Do Spring Cleaning: Codling moths overwinter in cocoons that they place on/under tree bark, amongst leaf litter and other debris, in barns and storage areas, and even in unused wooden apple crates. As you get ready to head out into your garden or orchard this spring, clean thoroughly and inspect carefully in all these areas and destroy any cocoons you find. This cleaning/inspecting should continue all season long to keep subsequent moth generations away (they can have two or more generations per year- read more here).

A black and white chicken in front of a fruit-laden apple tree.
Get some chickens: While they may not eliminate all the grubs around your trees, they will happily devour any they can find. And provide you with some delicious eggs as a side benefit. For more on chickens in the orchard, read this

Wrap your trees: The use of tree wraps can provide a space for the larvae to place their cocoons so that they can be easily removed later. This works as long as you have wrapped the tree properly and no larvae can get under it, and if you are diligent in finding and destroying every cocoon. Or you can apply a sticky coating to the wrap and capture any and everything that tries to climb up the tree or land on it.  Here is our tree wrap selection, here is Tree Tanglefoot® Insect Barrier and Banding, and here is Stiky Stuff adhesive.

Surround and protect: Surround WP is an organic crop protectant made from Kaolin clay. It forms a barrier around trees and plants that repels pests and interferes with feeding and egg-laying. It also protects against sun damage and deters fungal growth and propagation on plant surfaces. This product is so helpful in so many ways for so many plants and trees that you may want to buy two bags. 

Close-up of a flowering pear tree. Photo by Volodmyr Tokar on UnsplashBeneficial Nematodes

Get some nematodes in the ground: These naturally-occurring microscopic roundworms survive by parasitizing insect larvae in soil and using them as a food source. So, as soon as your soil is above 42°, inundate your tree-growing area with these little helpers. We carry several species of beneficial nematodes, but NemAttack (Steinernema feltiae) is the best choice for codling moth control. An added side benefit of these guys is that they will go after all kinds of larvae, so you’ll be getting help for more than just codling moth.


Lure them in: Like most living things, codling moths emerge in spring with love on their mind. By using a lure that attracts the adults combined with a sticky trap that will hold them, you can gain an understanding of just how bad your problem is while preventing future generations. Many lures attract only the male moth, but our Scentry CM + PE Combo Lure works on both sexes. For that particular lure, you will need to purchase the traps separately. But we do have trap/lure kits as well. Please check out our Codling Moth page for lots of options.  

A man in a white shirt and hat tending to an apple tree.
Stop the mating: Mating disruptors use female codling moth pheromones to attract and confuse the amorous male moth by overwhelming the natural levels of pheromones produced by the female. He will simply not be able to find a female to mate with and will die trying. This product can be used all season long, but you will want to get them out there before the first moths start flying. Read more here.  

Horticultural Oils

Stop them where they are: Horticultural oils work well when you use them early in the season. They can be extremely effective against those insects that have used your trees to overwinter in. Even the most diligent grower can miss something and these smotherants are just the thing to provide that extra bit of control. We have a great selection here.

A cartoon worm approaching an apple gets stopped by a stick.
If you take even most of these steps early in the season, you should have an excellent chance of keeping codling moths at bay. And, just in case some slip past you, I will be back in June to go over other options for codling moth control. In the meantime, I encourage you to study our Codling Moth page for more information and product suggestions.

Take Care.

Submitted by Pam

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

What’s This Bug? The Asian Lady Beetle.

Close-up of an Asian Lady Beetle walking.
This little guy is the Asian Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis). They are a non-native species of beetle that was introduced to our country a hundred years ago in a well-intentioned, but not well-thought-out, effort to help soybean farmers control soybean aphids. They are voracious aphid-eaters, so they did that part of the job well. But, they have also aggressively pushed out native species of ladybugs. This is not only true in the US; they are taking over large parts of Europe and in the UK as well.

First, let’s get down to the naming thing (which, for some reason, many people get hung up on): Asian Lady Beetles and what we call ladybugs are both members of the insect family Coccinellidae. All members of this family are beetles, what we call them is simply a reflection of where we come from. In the US they are ladybugs; in the UK they are ladybirds and various places know them as lady beetles. Asian Lady Beetles can be referred to as a Harlequin Ladybugs/Ladybirds as well. So, any and all of these are species of one family, no matter what name you give them.

A side-by-side comparison of the Asian Lady Beetle on the left and the Ladybug on the right.
While what we know as ladybugs are very recognizable in their bright red and black spotted shells, Asian Lady Beetles wear a huge variety of different colors and markings. The white marking found at the base of the head (it looks like an “M” or a “W”) can be a good way to identify these insects, but not all of them have it. Asian Lady Beetles, which can have spots, no spots, or even stripes, have an orange and black color palette as opposed to the red and black of ladybugs. 
A display of the many variations of Asian Lady Beetles.

Many people point to two things that set Asian Lady Beetles apart from ladybugs - that they bite/are aggressive and that they smell. Both of these assertions are a bit hyperbolic.

Yes, Asian Lady Beetles have pincers and can bite when disturbed, but they do not attack. And their pincers are tiny, so their bite can’t really harm a person. However, some people do have an allergic reaction to the bite that can cause everything from cough to hives. People who are sensitive to these creatures may not even need to be bitten, touching a beetle then touching one’s eye has been known to cause pink eye.

 Asian Lady Beetles are often said to have a noxious odor. While they do secrete a goo that has an unpleasant odor when disturbed, this behavior is common throughout the ladybug world. It’s a defense mechanism known as reflex bleeding and is meant to discourage predators. The excretions of Asian Lady Beetles may be particularly gross to many people, but they no worse (or no better) than other ladybugs. That said, their particular goo is known to stain surfaces like walls, furniture, or fabrics. This all becomes a problem only when they begin to gather in large numbers, particularly inside structures.

Asian Lady Beetles crammed into a crevice of a house.

As winter approaches in temperate climates, Asian Lady Beetles begin to aggregate in ever-growing clusters to keep warm and seek out winter quarters. This is usually when they come into conflict with people because they tend to like the snug shelters that humans have made (why they choose human habitats is still under debate, this article gives some explanation). Once the beetles have chosen a spot to overwinter, they send out a pheromone trail that attracts others to their spot. This is why hordes of insects “suddenly” appear. These scent trails can last years, meaning some homes experience invasions every year. 

What’s a poor, beleaguered home-dweller to do? While the sight of large numbers of beetles in or around your home is disconcerting, they will not actually do any harm (unless disturbed, as previously mentioned). They do not bother food or belongings inside a house and they are not breeding either. They are simply hibernating for the cold months, after which they’ll move on to breed and feed. You should vacuum up the ones you can, but your best bet is to take action to keep them out, to begin with. During the still-warm days of fall, clear vegetation away from your house and seal it up well to keep Asian Lady Beetles and more out. Check out my blog on winterizing your home here.

Close-up of a ladybird beetle eating an aphid. Photo by Alexandre Debieve on Unsplash.
It’s important to not view Asian Lady Beetles as “bad”. Yes, they are invasive, but they are here to stay and they are extremely effective at controlling pest insects on crops. Supplies of the type of ladybugs we sell (Hippodamia convergens) are dwindling rapidly. Some of this is due to invasive species, but the ones we get nest in the mountains of the West Coast and the devastating fires of the last few years have nearly wiped them out. It’s time to embrace other types of ladybugs that have the exact same eating habits. This includes not only the Asian Lady Beetles but lesser-known native species. Here is a fun project that helps educate people on the different species and locate “lost” species.

Asian Lady Beetles swarming.

Take Care

Submitted by Pam




Wednesday, March 3, 2021

It's Ootheca Time!

A green praying mantis on the right and a mantid ootheca attached to a branch on the right.
Every year at this time, we get Ootheca Fever here at ARBICO. We have been carefully stockpiling the Praying Mantid egg cases (oothecas) that we’ve been receiving for weeks and now we’re ready to share them with our customers. It’s always interesting and exciting to follow their journey to us and we want to make sure that they are as carefully cared for when they leave our building. Enlightening and informing our customers is something that we are happy to do; so in this blog, I’ll be answering some FAQs.


Praying mantids have a fairly simple life cycle, especially for an insect: Adults grow and eat from late spring through the summer, then they mate and females lay their eggs in an egg case in the fall. The egg case is called an ootheca and it begins as a white, foamy mass that hardens into a fibrous brown case resembling a walnut. After mating and producing the oothecas, the adults will die of old age or cold. The eggs, however, will snuggly overwinter inside their case until warmer weather sends the cue for them to emerge as nymphs. These nymphs look like tiny adults and those that survive (about 1/5th of them) will grow rapidly. For more on all of this, check out this articleand here’s a video of a mantis laying her eggs. 

A graphic showing the life cycle of a praying mantis, from the soft ootheca (upper left) to the hard ootheca (upper right), to the nymphs (lower right) and the adults (lower left).


The oothecas we sell are gathered in the wild in and around the Allegheny Mountains (which straddle Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia). We work with people who have been picking for many years – some more than 30 years. These are people who take great pains to safeguard this valuable resource, not only because they depend on the revenue year after year, but because they do their picking in their homelands. 


Although there are three main species of mantids found in North America (Carolina, European, and Chinese), the Carolina is the only one that is native to our continent. However, these are not the predominant species found in the area where we get our oothecas. The egg cases we have are Chinese mantids, with a Carolina appearing every now and then. You can tell the difference by their shape – the Chinese ootheca is round, while the Carolina is longer and more oblong or rectangular-shaped. If you want more on identifying between the species, this article has some excellent tips and pictures.


A praying mantis perched on top of a snail in the water.

Many people consider the Chinese mantid invasive, and it inarguably was at one point. However, now that they have been in North America for at least a century, they have become naturalized in the region that we are supplied from. They have dominated (and most likely eaten) the native species, causing them to decline, but otherwise have caused no harm to existing ecosystems. 


The best answer for this is would be “Who knows?" because the number is hugely variable and dependent on things like weather conditions and species. There’s simply no way to determine what’s going on in there until they hatch. There may be as few as a handful or more than 300, but 50-200 is a safe bet. The size of the ootheca in no way determines the number of eggs inside; in many cases, the smaller ones will produce more nymphs than larger ones. 

Nymph praying mantids emerging from the bottom of an brown ootheca on a branch.

They can be kept indoors or outdoors, but we recommend indoor hatching so they are less vulnerable to predators and the weather. You can keep the ootheca in the vial it comes in, but if you have more than one you’ll probably want to separate them. They do not need a lot of air, a simple, tight (but non-airtight) lid will do; if you do poke holes in a lid, make sure they are tiny. Observe your ootheca closely and often. The emerging mantids will need to be released as soon as they start hatching or they will begin to eat each other. Once you see the hatching, take them to your desired release area and sprinkle them out. You can leave the egg case outside in the event that there are still some mantids inside waiting to hatch.


This is another mystery that only Nature is sure of. In the wild, hatching is all about the seasonal change in temperature. When you purchase an egg case, you have a little more control in when they hatch. To keep them in a dormant stage, store them around 41° (no lower) until you are sure warmer weather is arriving. At that time, keep them between 60-80°F (no higher) and they should hatch in 2-6 weeks. Here are two tips to get them to hatch faster from our Bug Wrangler, Christina, who handles many, many oothecas every year: Keep them right at the 80°F mark and hang them pointy-side down.


A tiny praying mantis sitting on top of an open beer bottle.
Some cases will hatch fast and some take more time. If you order more than one case, the oothecas you will receive will come from the same location/picker, which means they should hatch close to the same time. So, if one has hatched the other(s) should follow fairly close behind. If you are hatching outside, it is easy to mistake a hatched and abandoned case for an unhatched one. When hatching, the nymphs push out between fibers in the case, which will then close up behind them and leave no evidence of their departure. There is also the simple truth that sometimes an oothecal is not viable. 


A close-up of a praying mantis eating a gecko.
The nymphs will eat each other if they’re not released into the wild. This is the reason that you must monitor your egg cases regularly for hatching and release them when it happens. However, if you want to observe them for a while, you can hold them for a day or two, but it's risky. Mantids in general will eat anything that moves and that they can kill. This includes beneficial insects and pollinators. Don’t release desirable insects into an area where you have previously released mantids. This eye-opening video shows just how bold they can be in search of a meal. They even eat murder hornets - watch the video here.

If you’d like more information on Praying Mantids and their oothecas, check out my other mantid blogs here. And if you’d like to order some, you can do so here.

A GIF showing a mantis on a branch knocking another one off.

Take Care                                                           

Submitted by Pam


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