FINALLY… as I write this it actually felt like fall this morning! Our weatherman seemed to have gotten his months mixed up… no (or few) days above 90°F in August, but plenty of them in September. It really is a time of transition and with that comes a transition in activities on the farm and around our homes. Fall, with crop harvest, is one of the two busiest times on most farms… the other being planting time in the spring.
Harvest Is Underway
Harvest is just getting started in my area and the recent rains have put any field activity on hold for a few days or more (some local areas got up to 5” of rain). But once things dry out, I expect harvest will ramp up. Harvest may extend later into the fall this year because in many areas, planting was delayed last spring.
As anyone who has lived in the country knows, harvest brings some changes in rural areas. Probably the thing we notice the most is increased traffic on rural roads with harvest equipment including combines, tractors with grain carts, and semis hauling grain from the fields. Be particularly cautious when driving on rural roads and be prepared to give large equipment the right of way. You may also notice the sounds of fans running on bins to dry crops stored in bins on the farm.
Prepare for Fall Invaders
One thing my wife really notices (and frequently reminds me of) is with harvest, our house is inundated with lady bugs (Multicolored Asian Lady Beetles or MALB), that were in soybean fields are suddenly displaced by harvest. In their native range in Asia, these insects would fly to south-facing rocky cliffs and outcroppings. There they enter cracks and crevices to overwinter. Since cliffs and outcroppings are scarce in Nebraska, they look for the next best vertical surface, the south and west sides of our homes.
These insects are beneficial because they are a major predator on aphids and scale insects. They save farmers and homeowners thousands of dollars in insect control costs by serving as a biological control agent. However, this is difficult to remember when they get into our homes, looking for a place to overwinter.
They do not injure things in the home, but they can be a nuisance when attracted to bright lights like windows or the TV screen at night. In addition to the beetles biting (which they do), they exude a foul-smelling, yellow defensive chemical which will sometimes cause spotting on walls and other surfaces. Most people are only annoyed by the odor of these chemicals. However, some individuals have reported experiencing an allergic reaction to the defensive excretions.
Perhaps the biggest problem we’ve experienced was one evening my wife and I were watching TV with the lights turned down. Unbeknownst to her, one of the MALB landed in my wife’s coffee cup. The reaction was not pretty and it took me a long time to get the coffee stains out of our carpet. (Guys take note: it didn’t help that when I got past her initial shriek of terror and realized what happened, I started laughing.)
Block Them Out
Mechanical exclusion is the best method of control to keep MALBs from entering homes and buildings. Cracks around windows, doors, siding, utility pipes, behind chimneys, and underneath the wood fascia and other openings should be sealed with good quality silicone or silicone-latex caulk. Damaged screens on doors and windows should be repaired or replaced. Attics, fireplace chimneys, and exhaust vents should be covered with number 20 (or smaller) screen mesh.
Exterior applications of insecticides may offer some relief from infestations where the task of completely sealing the exterior is difficult or impossible. Unfortunately, because insecticides break down, the residual effect may not be much beyond several days to a week so reapplication may be necessary.
Once inside your home, using a vacuum cleaner is the most efficient method to collect beetles. The major complaint for this method is that the beetles become agitated and expel the yellow, foul-smelling repellent, which is then circulated into the air by the vacuum exhaust. To reduce the odor and to keep them from crawling back out, it is advisable to empty the bag and beetles after each vacuuming.
Another way to prevent the odor from being a problem each time you use the vacuum is to put a nylon stocking inside the tube of your vacuum with the top over the end of that section of tubing. Hold it place with the next piece of tube or the attachment on the end. This traps the beetles before they get into the bag and you can remove the nylon and dispose of them after you are done vacuuming them up.
Fall Weed Control
I know I’m running long, but there was one more important thing I wanted to pass along. If you don’t want your lawn to look like the image on the left next spring, October, after a light frost, is a great time to control perennial broadleaf weeds like white clover, ground ivy, or dandelions in your lawn. Herbicides applied then will be moved to the plant’s roots as it stores food for next year’s growth. You will get much better control than if wait to treat them next spring.
If your lawn does look like this, you can always tell your neighbors you are doing it for the pollinating insects! Dandelions do provide a source of pollen for insects early in the spring when not too many other flowers are blooming, so they really do serve a purpose. And speaking of pollinators, I just have to share this image that a good friend took at my place in some of my pollinator habitat. Based on this, I’d say it is working!
So until next month, enjoy this fall, cheer for the Huskers (they need all the help they can get!), and have fun on your acreage!