MSU Extension Service
Home Grown is an educational,
entertaining, question-answer column seen weekly in "News from
the Genesee MSUE Office," a weekly newsletter for Genesee
County Master Gardeners. Special thanks to the Genesee, Oakland and
Livingston county MSU Extension offices for providing this service.
01-13-05 Fungus gnats; deer protection
01-19-05 After cutting down trees: to
chip or not to chip? Also: starting seeds indoors for spring
01-27-05 Excessive plant growth in ponds;
problem trees and/or problem sites
02-11-05 Diplodia Tip Blight on Pine
trees; caring for African violets
This week's HomeGrown
HOME GROWN 287
My grandmother moved to an apartment in October and took her weeping fig houseplant with her. At the beginning of January, the plant began dropping older leaves. My grandmotherís friend told her that it was dying because it was in shock from being moved three months before. My grandmother is really upset because she had had this plant for over ten years. Whatís going on?
A dumb friend is whatís going on. If falling leaves have no spots or insects galloping around, this seems more environmental. If the loss of leaves is confined to only old ones and the new ones stay and look perky, thereís no death warrant tacked to the apartment door. There is an excellent chance that this is a temporary rather than a fatal problem. Weeping figs have a scientific name of Ficus benjamina. They are all sensitive, emotional souls that are upset from a change in lifestyle. Why does ficus loose its leaves? Oh, let me count the ways. Over watering is the usual problem but if grandma is the caretaker and is watering the same, it doesnít seem too likely. Moving from one house to another or one window exposure to another in the same house can cause problems, but the leaf drop begins very soon after the move. Other possibilities are low winter temperatures like being in a room that is way colder than usual or getting a cold draft from opening doors that causes leaf drop. Over fertilizing can cause leaf drop. A real likely possibility is lack of light. If grandmaís new place has less light and the plant is dependent on window light, December is going to bring the shortest days and the weakest light of the year. Using a plant light on a timer can supply missing sunshine. About 14 to16 hours of light would be ideal. By the end of March, light levels are coming up nicely and it may cure itself. You may have to assist grandma in doing the detective work but with any luck, grandma and ficus should have some more miles in them.
I was cleaning out my pantry and found some old dry dog food. There were a couple of holes in the bag and a bunch of dog food crumbs underneath. There were also two different insects. There were little black beetles with tan stripes that went from side to side and there were some segmented insects with bristly hairs. This is horrible. What do I do?
Let me offer a bit of comfort. You donít have two different kinds of insects. You have one. The bristly guys are the kids and the beetle guys are the adults. So that makes it only half as bad. Iím sure you now feel much better. Your dog food eater is an insect called a Larder Beetle. They feed on yummy, high protein items like dry cat food and dog food, dried meat or dried cheese and dead insects. This could be an insect collection or dead insects in an exterior wall void. They would prefer to get into undisturbed, forgotten products and your dog chow qualifies. Toss the food right out of the house and vacuum well. Vacuum the cracks and crevices well. If you feel compelled to spray something, be extremely careful around food and make sure the product is labeled for indoor use. A good vacuum and using a damp cloth to remove any food residue is usually enough. If you have any additional dog or cat food, put it into an airtight container. Keep the super-sucker handy. There are probably a few more around. But if the food is gone, so is their opportunity to raise baby beetles. Tiny larvae die without a food source.
Gretchen Voyle, MSU Extension-Livingston County Horticulture