No. 7/July 13, 2020

Cicada Killers
Cicada killers (Sphecius speciosus) are large wasps, about 1.5 inches long, with red-brown heads, black bodies and yellow banding on their abdomens. The size of these wasps can be distressing but they are unlikely to sting passers-by. Males establish and patrol an aerial territory where they attempt to mate with passing females. When a person or another cicada killer enters that territory, the male may approach in a way that seems aggressive. While this behavior is intimidating, the males are incapable of stinging and they only intend to harm other male cicada killers. They will leave when they realize you are not a threat or a potential mate. Females dig into soil or sand creating a burrow (1/4 – 1/2 inches in diameter) where they rear their young. Females sting and paralyze cicadas, which they carry back to the burrow to feed their young. Females may sting people but this typically only occurs if someone attempts to handle them or if they are stepped on.

Carpenter Bees
Carpenter bees (Xylocopa virginica) have gotten a bad rap because of their tendency to construct their nests in exterior wood structures.  However, they are extremely beneficial in their pollinating services. They visit large open-faced flowers with abundant nectar and pollen like asters, coneflowers, sunflowers and blanket flower but visit many species. They use a long tongue to get nectar, but will occasionally rob nectar from small flowers like penstemon and salvia, by chewing a slit at the base near nectar. They use buzz pollination on some of our favorite garden vegetables like tomato and eggplant.

Plantains Noticeable with Drought
We could use a little rain at my house. The grass has stopped growing which always gives my husband a little reprieve from this weekly chore. What does not seem to stop growing however, are certain weeds. With their tall seed stalks, the plantains are notorious for making an otherwise decent looking lawn appear ragged within a few days. So out comes the mower just to tidy things up a bit. Typically, however, I subscribe to the “as long as it’s green who cares” school of thought. Weeds in a lawn really don’t bother me too much, but I’m not the one doing the mowing at my house.

Oak Wilt
Oak wilt is a serious fungal disease which continues to kill oak trees in residential areas, parks, farm woodlots, and forests throughout Illinois. The oak wilt pathogen was first detected in Wisconsin in 1944 and has slowly spread throughout the central and eastern United States, including Illinois. Oak trees are the only known host. Oaks trees within the red and black group (pointed leaf lobes) are more susceptible than oaks in the white oak group (rounded leaf lobes).

Controlling Moles in Turf
We may never actually see a mole, but we sure know when we have one in our yard. A person will notice mounds of soil (molehill) and surface tunnels in the lawn, as these are good indicators that moles are around. Moles live most of their lives underground. They are built for an underground lifestyle with very small eyes that are sealed by fused eyelids, allowing them only to distinguish between light and dark. Their ear canals are concealed in fur with no external ear. The forefeet are long and broad, with palms wider than they are long. The toes are webbed at the base of their claws. The hind feet are small and narrow with claws. The snout is light pink colored and nearly hairless. Their average length is approximately 7 inches with dense grey or brownish color fur. The hands and feet make it very easy for them to push and move dirt as they are searching for food. In Illinois, we typically deal with the Eastern Mole.