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Ants, Unknown Plants, Sheds & Lady Beetles

Questions about ants entering the house in firewood; two unnamed flowers which remain that way (!); plans for a garden shed and where to get them; and those pesky ladybird beetles!
by Art Drysdale
by Art Drysdale

email: art@artdrysdale.com

Art Drysdale, a life-long resident of Toronto and a horticulturist well known all across Canada, is now a resident of Parksville, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, just north of Nanaimo. He has reno-vated an old home and has a new garden there. His radio gardening vignettes are heard in south-western Ontario over radio station Easy 101 FM out of Tillsonburg at 2 PM weekdays.

Art also has his own website at http://www.artdrysdale.com


February 20, 2005

At top: A typical Mimulus flower. Photo courtesy Graham Rice. At centre, two bidens cultivars: B. ferulifolia ‘Peters Gold Carpet’ on the left and B. ‘Goldie’ on the right. Photos courtesy Proven Winners. Below, three Asian ladybird beetles on a finger. Photo courtesy Lancaster Pennsylvania Intelligencer Journal, Dan Maischka, photographer.

Spring must be close, the questions are starting to come in heavier. For example, Sue Paiser wrote from un-known location, saying, “We burn wood in the winter and these black ants are coming out all over my house, counters coffee tables, we see them on the carpets. Where do I begin to try and get rid of these nasty creatures? Please help us. Thanks.”

Well Sue, there are two approaches to solving this problem. The immediate fix I would use is to get a can of Doktor Doom Total Release (High Pressure) Fumigator. You will need to keep children and pets out of the area sprayed for at least two hours, and aquariums and furniture should be covered. Obviously, pilot lights should be turned off as well. The product has no lasting residual activity. This should get rid of the ants now in the house, or affected rooms. An earlier control would be to get a can of (yellow label) Doktor Doom Residual Insecticide Spray. I would spray the ground outdoors where the logs are stored, and around the pile as well. Indoors, I would spray the floor beneath the area where you keep the logs.

Beatrice Chapman, from somewhere in the U.S. I believe, wrote to Donna Dawson at www.ICanGarden.com: “When I was in Jersey in the Channel Islands I saw two gorgeous flowers, but am having trouble locating them. One was like a daisy, but so bright it was almost fluorescent! The other is the Golden Monkey Flower. The trouble is I don't know their botanical name. Have you heard of them in Canada? Thank you.”

I have certainly been in this business long enough to know not to try identifying plants from people’s descriptions of them! Did she get a photo of a flower? Is it at all similar to Cineraria? As to the Golden Money Flower, the common name of Mimulus is Monkey flower, but I have not heard them called Golden Monkey Flower. On Jersey (and Guernsey too) they grow a lot of bidens (Bidens ferulifolia) and it is in bloom over a long period. It too is daisy-like. Check a site such as www.provenwinners.com for photos of many current popular annuals and perennials.

And, also from last week, Jo-Anne Eckersley, of Kimberley right here in B.C. wrote as follows: “My husband has promised that we will build a garden shed "this year" but I must provide a plan for it. I have accumulated a lot of garden tools as I pursue my love of gardening! I hope you can help us to find a shed plan with lots of storage ideas that can be constructed by builders with limited time and carpentry knowledge. Thank you in advance.”

Jo-Anne, you should try ‘Googling’! From my time in Niagara Falls, I immediately thought of Niagara Designs who are in both Canada and the U.S. Check their Website (www.niagaradesigns.com) and you’ll see shed de-signs for about US$20. However, that is not the route I suggest. I would go with your husband to the nearest Home Hardware (Building Supplies), Canadian Tire or Home Depot store (or equivalent) and take a pad and pencil. You could then make some notes on your ‘favourite’ shed you see there. You can also adapt what you see both size-wise, and in other ways.

A way back last October 10, Elisabeth Houghton wrote to me with a very short note of which I lost track: “Hello, what spray do you recommend for lady bug infestation? Thank you.”

It is a shame to have to think about killing lady bugs, or more correctly, ladybird beetles. They are excellent pest control officers out in the garden. However, when they come in by the thousands, which the more recently imported ones do, that is just what many homeowners wish to do. The imported ladybird beetles are known as Asian ladybird beetles (Harmonia axyridis), and for years, back in the early 80s, the United States Department of Agriculture tried with no success to get them established in the eastern U.S. Then suddenly they started appearing in Louisiana and all the way up the eastern seaboard to Canada. By the mid 90s, huge manifestations were being found by homeowners in many provinces. I am talking here about thousands getting into one house, usually at the end of summer. They tend to gather beneath carpets and other similar tight spots. Saving factor is that they eat nothing, and stay semi-dormant during the winter period.

As far as identification is concerned, it is relatively easy to tell the difference between the native ladybird beetles and the Asian species. Note from the photograph that the Asian guys have a widely varying number of dark spots on their yellow to orange coloured back. Some scientists, by the way, are concerned that the arrival of these Asian beetles may account for a great loss in numbers of the native Ladybirds.

The only ‘solution’ for Elisabeth and others is to seal cracks around foundations, doors and windows with silicone. And, if you do want to get rid of them, do NOT sweep them as that causes them to emit an unwelcome odour! Instead, vacuum them up and if possible, transfer them to a paper bag, and seal it up. If you keep the bag in a cool (not cold) location, you can then release them into your garden by mid-May and you’ll have a free pest control army!

Unfortunately, this response for Elisabeth Houghton is a way too late, as spring is now on its way, and the lady bird beetles will want to get outside to some food (mealy bugs etc.) as soon as they are available. Hope this will help others who may have this problem come October this year.

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