Fire ants, the connections are endless.

Buckle up folks, this blog on fire ants goes all over the place. From fine art and movies to music and poetry. Who knew fire ants would be so heavily covered in pop culture? But first, just know this… according to the Wikipedia page on fire ants, “Due to its notoriety and importance, the ant has become one of the most studied insects on the planet, even rivaling the western honey bee“. Rivaling the honey bee??? Wow. Let’s dive in to this intriguing pest, the fire ant (also known as the Red Imported Fire Ant, aka RIFA). 

In addition to this very easy to read list of fire ant facts from Mississippi State University, these were among the top four most interesting and least scientific (entertaining):

  • Fire ants are among the worst invasive species IN THE WORLD.
  • Fire ants are native to Argentina.
  • Fire ants invaded the US via the seaport of Mobile, AL by cargo ship sometime between 1933 and 1945.
  • Fire ants are about half the size of a pencil eraser and are really reddish brown in color. 

Before we get to the bad news, let’s have a little fun with fire ants.

Let’s go shopping for fire ants!

It’s just so hard to talk facts and science and stuff when there is so much material out in the Google bubble. First, fire ants as art. We have already covered the art of aluminum casting of ant and fire ant hills. Did you know you could purchase those fire ant hills as beautiful sculptures? What a conversation that would be in your lovely foyer. For just $321.07 this sculpture could be yours. Perhaps an aluminum sculpture is out of budget for you, here is a really cool handpainted vintage travel case in the theme of fire ants (Christmas is just around the corner, folks). 

Speaking of painting fire ants, did you take notice of the amazing fire ant illustration as our cover photo? It was created by Mississippi artist, Joe MacGown who works for the Department of Entomology & Plant Pathology at Mississippi State University as a Scientific Illustrator/Curatorial Assistant. Here is a really cool article about Joe and how he came to be an artist who of all things, draws fire ants for a living. Well, he does more than that, but how cool is that for an artists’ resume? 

Moving on, but there’s still two more pop culture references that can’t be missed.

  • First, the giant ant scene in Indiana Jones, 4. If you have ever seen it, I don’t need to remind you. If you haven’t seen it, please click here. Please. You will want to contact Lawn and Pest Services immediately to remove any and all ants for now and forever. Promise. 
  • Second, this song about fire ants. Please watch it for at least one minute. If you are entertained and also wondering, “what the heck did I just watch?” Here is the backstory on the fire ant song, and it involves the Christian standup comedian Tim Hawkins and a poem his son wrote about fire ants. 

OK. OK. Here’s the real blog about fire ants.

Fire ants are dangerous and sometimes deadly to those who are highly allergic. Though they are tiny and pretty easy to spot with their unsightly mounds in your lovely lawn, they can cover you up in the blink of an eye. Before you even realize you have disturbed their nest, they are all over you, your child, your grandchild, or your pets. The venom of a fire ant stings and turns into a white blister the next day (don’t pop it, it can spread infection). 

If you get stung, wash the area with soap and water, put some ice on the area, watch for swelling and redness. Those who are allergic should be extra careful and keep a close eye on the stings. There really are cases of hospitalization and even death from fire ant stings. 

Someone who steps on a fire ant mound will typically get a lot of stings at once. This is because the ants all live together and have been disturbed. Some mounds are small and fairly unnoticeable, so you can easily step on one and not even see it! Each sting starts as a red bump and will turn into an itchy white blister the next day.

Fire ants are better as art, not deadly pests in your lawn. 

Remember this quote, “fire ants are one of the most studied insects on the planet” ? That’s because they painful, dangerous, deadly to a few. Their unsightly mounds can sneak up on you or can stand out in your otherwise lovely lawn. There are plenty of examples of how they destroy property and crops. 

There are plenty of at home, do it yourself “treatments” for fire ants. As one Lawn and Pest employee said, “you are just chasing them around your yard with those products”. You may get rid of a few fire ant mounds for a while, but you really just made them move a little. They will be back. Our licensed lawn technicians can treat your lawn and win the battle against fire ants. Contact us here and let us help you ASAP so you can get back to that Indiana Jones movie. 

Crape Myrtle Bark Scale, it’s still here!

Crape Myrtle Bark Scale (CMBS) is still a “thing” here in North Mississippi and the surrounding areas. Just because we aren’t currently talking about “Crape Murder” (also still a “thing”) doesn’t mean this especially ugly and pretty gross scale insect isn’t making its’ presence known around here.

First of all, what is a “scale insect”?

Oh, you didn’t know either? Well, I googled that for us. If you just want a one click answer, here it is. The easy explanation is that they are insects that suck on a plant, they have a waxy and protective outer coating. They don’t have wings, so they can’t move and their outer coating eventually turns to a matted felt like texture. They secrete a fluid (called honeydew) that is sticky and attracts other insects like pests. The CMBS is tiny and about the length of the thickness of a dime. Once it lays eggs on your Crape Myrtle, it dies. 

So what’s the harm?

Crape Myrtle Bark Scale isn’t as harmful as some of the other things that might be lurking in your lawn, that’s the good news. But let’s be honest, the reason we all love a Crape Myrtle is that it is a beautiful tree. It is pretty tough, it grows back even when you try to murder it and it just exudes Southern charm. So, we don’t want our lovely Crape Myrtle to be covered in this gross, sticky, layer of life sucking scale insects, right? Not only does CMBS make the trunk and limbs of your tree look and feel yucky, it also tends to exude a black or gray sooty mold. This mold makes your tree dark and it also falls over everything under your tree. You may have noticed the black mold that appears on driveways, sidewalks, garbage cans, children’s toys, etc. 

Sooty mold isn’t the only problem.

Again, we planted this Crape Myrtle for the beautiful flowers…right? When the trunk and limbs are covered in scale insects that are slowing sucking life from the tree, guess what happens? It is going to affect not only the quantity of your flowers and blooms, but also the quality. It won’t kill your tree, but your tree won’t be living its’ best life covered in this pest. This expert from Oklahoma gives us a great up close view of Crape Myrtle Bark Scale and discusses ways a homeowner can treat it. Oh, and one last really gross issue with CMBS, when you crush it, a pink blood-like liquid is exuded. I couldn’t let that go without being said.

What can be done?

One of the zillion cool things about nature, is that sometimes, nature can try and take care of itself. In this instance, it’s the lady beetle . If you are so lucky to be visited by her, she can attack and eat up lots of Crape Myrtle Bark Scale. Before the Lady Beetles pupate, they can clean up a lot of problems, so if you see these friends, leave them alone! Let them do their job. Here’s a cool and short video of a lady beetle feasting on Crape Myrtle Bark Scale. 

If you like to think of yourself as a “Do it yourselfer” 

As mentioned above, you can wash off the trunks and limbs that you can reach. You can also cover the tree in dormant oil for the winter to kill off any remaining scale. You don’t have to commit “crape murder” and you don’t have to cut down your trees. If you decide to do just that, please be careful in the removal of the cuttings, as this can easily spread to other healthy trees and lawns if not handled properly. 

We can help you.

Climbing ladders and scrubbing your trees may not be in your fall plans, but saving your trees and lawns, it’s what we do.If you have determined that you have a tree or trees that are infested with Crape Myrtle Bark Scale, give us a call. These scale insects are laying eggs now, and now is as good a time as any to handle this problem. If you want the pros to help you, click here to leave a message with our office. If you call during regular office hours, we always answer the phone. If you want to get in touch with us after hours, leave a message on our easy to use Podium link (the photo of the girl in the bottom right corner) and you will be not be missed.

Can I be done with the lawn for the year?

Can I be done with the lawn for the year? Can I be done with the laundry for the year? No. Are we ever “done” with anything? Really done? Does the burden of summer heat and the never ending mowing and fertilizing and weed management have you ready to throw in the towel? Let’s think about your lawn in a different way, but not in a never ending list of things to do way. Your lawn is a major part of your home. It’s the first thing you see when you approach your home.

It’s an investment that must be protected.

When you buy or build a home, it is really exciting at first to spruce it up. Picking out paint and windows and doors that show off your style are part of your outdoor look. Landscaping is a huge investment that accentuates your home and it’s overall design. These are exciting times for a new homeowner! Fast forward ten years when the roof is starting to leak, the paint is peeling, the driveway is stained, and the front door is looking dated. Ugh. This is not the fun we remember from being new homeowners….

The day’s work is never done.

Keeping up the work around the house every season keeps us from being ten years down the road with thousands in repairs and sprucing up to do. Keeping up the lawn, the landscaping, the turf and plantings, these are all things we need to do year round. This continuous upkeep and management keeps a monster from growing. A weekly weed check is much easier to handle than a yearly weed check. Check out this story on Audible voiced by Kevin Bacon. It’s a horror story about a man who decides to tackle an unattended and overgrown piece of land. The comparison to a Steven King story is enough to make anyone want to listen. 

Don’t let your lawn become a horror story.

There are plenty of resources for homeowners who have great aspirations of beautiful lawns year round. A simple search for podcasts brings up this blogger from Utah who has great and simple suggestions for keeping on top of things, especially at the end of summer. Between videos, blogs, podcasts and audiobooks (even fictional horror stories about lawns) we are never short on information. 

Feed Me, Seymour.

A blog that references weeds and horror stories screams for a link to the unforgettable scene in “Little Shop of Horrors” when plant life becomes blood thirsty and violent. While dramatic to say the least, it is certainly a reminder that we should all do a little work in the yard every day (or week) even after a long summer. There are many small jobs that can be done year round, even in fall and winter that will give our lawn the best chance at being beautiful. 

To do list for the fall:

  • Keep mowing as long as the grass is growing, and don’t forget to take care of your lawnmower!
  • Just because it gets cooler, your lawn still needs water! 
  • Wet piles of leaves left to rot on your lawn are suffocating the turf.  Rake those piles up before the job is “monstrous.” 
  • Aeration and fertilization will pay off when spring arrives!
  • Never stop fighting the war against pests in your lawn. We have been covering these in our weekly blogs. Armyworms, moles, weeds…these need to be controlled.

So back to your question…

Can I be done with the lawn for the year? No. But you have unlimited free resources if you want to do the work yourself. You have the services of licensed technicians at Lawn and Pest Solutions if you want us to do the work. Definitely don’t let your lawn chores build up until you have a monster of a weed to battle on your own. Go outside and make a list, make a plan, do a little every day. And if you feel like that’s just too much, give us a call

Moles, Grubs and Armadillos

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly?

While calling moles “good” might be quite a stretch, there are some who say they do have their good qualities. No research on this end found grubs to be anything but “bad”, and just take one look at an armadillo and you will have to agree that it’s definitely the “ugly” of the three. This is another of those blogs that after doing a few hours of research, the writer feels the need for a shower. Moles, grubs and armadillos are some of the least attractive pests to study and today, we are talking about all three! 

One of these is not like the other

The grub is what hatches when a beetle lays an egg in your lawn. It is white, soft and has legs up near the head. Grubs eat on the roots of your lovely lawn causing patches to turn brown and die. Untreated, they will grow up and become beetles and lay more eggs in your lawn. You know what happens after that…more grubs to eat your roots. The best time to treat for grubs is mid to late summer and early fall. 

So what connects grubs to moles and armadillos?

Moles and armadillos like to eat grubs. If there are grubs in your lawn, moles and/or armadillos will dig into your lawn and feast on grubs. The easiest way to first attack a mole or armadillo problem is to rid your lawn of grubs. While this may not work all of the time, it is the first and easiest way to start. While most people can tell if they have been invaded by a mole or an armadillo, grubs might sneak up on you. Look for spongy grass, perhaps a brown patch. Pull up a piece of the turf, if it comes up easily with no roots attached (like a piece of carpet), grubs have been feeding there.

Is it a mole or an armadillo?

Let’s talk about moles. First, as any Chevy Chase fan would do, I had to read the difference in a mole and a gopher. “Caddyshack” featured a gopher, not a mole, so no best of Bill Murray clips today. At the introduction of this blog, the mole was the “good” of the good, bad and ugly. To be honest, there’s not a lot of good to be found here, especially if you are a homeowner with a mole problem. The only good is that they eat grubs and grubs aren’t good for lawns. Yes, it was a stretch. Moles can be fairly destructive, they live underground and create tunnels in your yard. Moles are small and have paddle like feet that help them dig under your lawn. Usually they leave a small mound of soil as their “entrance” to the underground and this is how you might discover your mole issue. Of course, the tunneling under your lawn is not good for the roots of your turf.

The pest so legendary they made a movie about it.

Again, a stretch. But who doesn’t remember the wedding cake scene from the southern classic, “Steel Magnolias” ? Please pardon one word at the end of this clip, but the armadillo shaped cake with the red velvet cake inside most likely gave (formerly silenced) grooms a voice in the wedding planning process.  We will never know how many horrified brides had to consent to an armadillo grooms cake after this movie came out. So what makes us so fascinated with armadillos?

Leprosy or quadruplets, where should we start?

Whether naming your new craft beer brewery, looking for the perfect new recipe for a cookout, or just researching one of the strangest and yes, ugliest animals ever, you can’t go wrong with going down the armadillo “rabbit hole”. This young girl gave a very intriguing (slightly annoying) presentation on armadillos with lots of cool info. Who knew that handling armadillos frequently or even eating them could result in leprosy? (Rare, it’s rare!) Heck, even prolific songwriter/singer Robert Earl Keen, Jr. wrote a song about armadillo hunters. The fact that the only armadillos in the US are the 9 banded variety and that they always give birth to identical quadruplets is really just enough for us to make a reality show about them. 

Now back to armadillos in your southern yard…

  • They thrive in warm, moist climates
  • They prefer loose and porous soil
  • They live underground, specifically under your lawn
  • They are nocturnal and forage for food at night
  • Those quadruplets? They become independent at around 6 months, so they multiply quickly 
  • They will destroy your lawn looking for grubs, earthworms, food. 

The good, bad and ugly…moles, grubs and armadillos. 

There are a lot of links in this blog that you should definitely click. Funny, gross and a bit frightening. One thing is certain, if you are suspicious that you may have moles or armadillos, you need to act now. Remember you can start just by lifting up a piece of turf to look for grubs. If you are ready to get help, our licensed lawn technicians can come evaluate your situation. We answer your calls promptly. In fact, our website has an instant chat that can get you the quickest service possible. Look for it in the bottom right corner, just type in your email address and your cell number and you will get an instant reply. Lawn and Pest Solutions of New Albany, MS is not afraid of the good, the bad or the ugly. Let us help you in the battle against whatever that may be digging a tunnel under your yard! 

Why is nutgrass so hard to get rid of?

Sometimes you feel like a nut…

Have you ever heard someone use a quote and wonder, “who said THAT?” When writing about nutgrass/nutsedge and why it’s so hard to get rid of, the need to search for quotes using the word “nut” was too much. And after researching the power of nutgrass or nutsedge, this quote just seemed to make sense. “Today’s mighty oak is just yesterday’s nut, that held its ground.” And here is where it would be better if you didn’t know too much about “who said THAT?” But if you really need to know, this quote is attributed to author David Icke, who if you click this link, you will discover is truly, a nut.

But back to his quote…

“Today’s mighty oak is just yesterday’s nut, that held its ground”, is so relevant to the underlying conditions of what makes nutgrass so persistant. The most prolific way that nutgrass reproduces is through underground tubers which are also called “nutlets”. These extensive root systems can reach up to four feet deep. 

Does your lawn really need the competition?

Nutgrass typically breaks out during really wet springs, especially in lawns with poor drainage. However, it doesn’t take much moisture to thrive afterward because nutgrass can withstand drought. Because it doesn’t need much moisture to survive, nutgrass beats out grass that is starving for water and nutrients. 

There are two types of nutgrass, yellow and purple. Even though the purple nutsedge produces more tubers, the yellow is still able to produce thousands of nutlets with patches several feet wide. As these spread underground, shoots pop up and become new plants. 

They really are nuts holding their ground!

While underground at depths of 6” to 18” nutlets might hide and survive for up to 10 years before emerging again. Buried at depths like that, they are protected from cold weather and common treatments for killing nutgrass. Some people like taking on the battle against nutgrass on their own like this guy .

Now we see why nutgrass is so hard to get rid of!

If you are interested in the DIY pesticide application, you will probably also need to do some research on the difference between “sedge” and “grass”, this video is very helpful. While DIY is enticing for many projects, taking on pesticides is probably best reserved for those who are a little more “tried and true”. If reading the instruction manual is not your strength, then you probably should call Lawn and Pest Solutions to fight nutgrass, nutsedge or any other weeds that are taking over your lawn. Our licensed technicians can evaluate your lawn and use the correct treatments to not only treat current outbreaks of weeds, but also to prevent them from ever taking root.  Our Lawn and Pest trucks can be found from Memphis and Oxford to all over North Mississippi. Give us a call and let us start helping you today!

Is The Very Hungry Caterpillar really based on Armyworms?

Do you remember how this popular children’s book goes?

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (an excerpt)

In the light of the moon, a little egg lay on a leaf.

One Sunday morning, the warm sun came up and pop! – out of the egg came a tiny and very hungry caterpillar.

He started to look for some food.

On Monday he ate through one apple. But he was still hungry.

By Sunday he wasn’t hungry anymore, so he built himself a cocoon,  took a big nap, and two weeks later he was a beautiful butterfly!

Or was he a moth? There are a LOT of similarities when you start reading….

Armyworms aren’t really worms at all

Armyworms start out as night flying moths that arrive in swarms after a cool, wet spring. You might notice them flying around the lights on your porch at night. The gray moths will arrive en masse and cover your lawn while you sleep. There they can lay up to 300 eggs per night for 3 nights, meaning each moth can lay up to almost 1,000 eggs. (Are you starting to see how they got the name “Army” worms?) Seven days later, they hatch as “very hungry caterpillars” and start feasting.

He ate and he ate and he ate.

The caterpillars or Armyworms will spend the next 20-25 days eating everything green, yellow or red. They can destroy lawns or crops almost overnight. Their only objective is to eat as much as possible. After the feast ends, they rest for about 2 weeks before emerging as a moth. The cycle continues….with the possibility of three generations of Armyworms in just one summer through fall. This newscast from 2018 shows how crops in Texas were devastated by an invasion of Armyworms.

This “very hungry caterpillar” isn’t so cute anymore.

If you aren’t convinced this is a pest instead of a cute little caterpillar, look for these signs:

  • Little bits of chewed up leaves
  • “Skeletonized” leaves 
  • The presence of birds (who like to feast on Armyworms)
  • Moths swarming around your outside lights at night

How do you stop the invasion?

Because they arrive at night and hide themselves so well, you may not even know you have been invaded until the damage is done. You can be on the lookout, you can read up about Armyworms here but whatever you do, if you THINK you have them, act immediately. Just remember after the eggs have been laid, you have 7 days before the feasting begins. The feasting on your lawn. 

Every story doesn’t end like this…

“Then he nibbled a hole in the cocoon, pushed his way out, and…he was a beautiful butterfly.”  Now that you know more about Armyworms, you definitely know better. If you see any signs of an Armyworm attack on your lawn, please give us a call as soon as possible. Let our licensed lawn and pest technicians evaluate what is happening and plan an attack on these pests. Our Lawn and Pest Solutions crew will help you recover your lawn and protect it from future invasions. We send our trucks all over the Memphis and Oxford areas as well as all of North Mississippi.

We are not in a drought

Chill out, we are not in a drought. 

Just because rain is not flooding your lawn every single day, we are not in a drought. 

However, your lawn may be in a bit of distress. Between the heat and lack of rain, you may be seeing some brown appear. That is ok, most of our grass species can take three to four weeks of dormancy without dying.

What does “dormant” mean?

Dormancy just means your grass has gone to sleep. You can tell if your grass is dead or dormant by tugging on the plants. If the plants pull out from the ground easily, they’re probably dead. If the roots hold fast when pulled, the plants are dormant. Brown grass is not the only sign of stressed out grass,  another sign is “footprinting”. 

Simmer down, Archie Bunker.

Have you become “that” guy? The grumpy, old man yelling “get off my lawn” as the neighborhood kids cut corners across your yard? Here’s your pass…You have invested a lot of time, sweat, energy and let’s be honest, money in this lawn. To many, their lawn is a prized possession and a source of great pride. When the kids on the block start stomping on your yard, it is going to bring out your inner Archie Bunker. I would post a link to the scene in Gran Torino where Clint Eastwood famously grunts “get off my lawn” but it’s not super appropriate. If you are that guy, don’t feel bad, even Prime Ministers get accosted for walking on the lawn.

So what it is about walking on your grass?

Walking over the same areas of lawn compacts the grass and compacted soil can’t absorb water.  On a lawn that is already parched, these are the areas that suffer first. When the kids run over your parched lawn their footprints don’t disappear right away. This is called “footprinting”. 

The footprints left by the kids can be remedied, just do some spot watering on those areas, it will all be okay. If this is happening all over, or maybe you notice some brown spots, your lawn may just need some extra watering.

If this isn’t a drought, then how much should I water my grass? 

We posted a blog that covered all of this earlier, you can click here and read all about it. But if clicking that link is just too much, here’s what you need to know in the simplest of terms:

  • Your lawn needs about an inch of water or rain per week to thrive. 
  • If using a sprinkler, that means about 20 to 30 minutes/three times per week.
  • Skip at least a day between waterings. 
  • Move sprinklers around to cover all areas of your yard.
  • Water in the mornings, between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m. 

If you are concerned about the state of your lawn, and maybe a little concerned about stressed out grass, give us a call at Lawn and Pest Solutions. Before you become this generation’s new Archie Bunker or go into Eastwood mode on the neighborhood kids, let us come out and share our expertise with you. We can get your lawn looking better than ever. Our licensed technicians can be found all over North Mississippi, the Memphis area, Tupelo, Oxford, Fulton, Water Valley and beyond. 

Should I treat this fungus on my lawn?

Should I treat this fungus on my lawn? Of course you should! If you are reading this blog, you have probably invested plenty of time and money into your lawn.  Why would you NOT treat a fungus that could destroy your beautiful lawn?

Never stop learning

A fungus. The fun never ends when you are writing a blog about lawns and pests. Especially when you know nothing about lawns OR pests! So it goes without saying that an easy way to start a blog about something you know nothing about is to “Google it”!

Fungus or Fungi?

While googling may not get what you really need at first, you always learn something new and usually find something to laugh about. For instance, the plural of fungus is fungi and what better way to remind us of that than this scene from Seinfeld

Just one more random reference.

Let’s go ahead and get this obvious fungus connection over with, but how could I write so much about fungi and NOT mention this very gross and hard to erase memory?  Yes, it’s the commercial for Lamisil (the animated toenail fungus who climbs underneath the big cartoon toenail). I am so sorry. Moving on to the real mission here. A fungus can be easily treated by our trained lawn technicians. You just need to watch for it and call us if you see the signs. 

What type of fungus is growing in my yard? 

The main types of fungus that tend to grow in our popular grass types include:

  • Dollar Spot/Bermuda grass: can cause spots of brown or straw-colored that start as small as a grapefruit. Beware, they can grow to take over your whole yard.
  • Rust/Zoysia grass: to check for rust fungus, take a white tissue and rub a few grass blades. If an orange color comes off on the tissue, you have a rust problem.
  • Gray Leaf Spot/St. Augustine grass: leaves large gray spots on your grass blades that grow larger as the infestation gets worse.

Why now?

Sometimes fungi become a problem when we have had too much rain, sometimes when we haven’t had enough. A common cause for fungi trouble is mowing our lawns too low. Even having a dull mower blade can be an issue or irritant for fungi. Some sources even suggest that if you have a really large lawn that you sharpen your blades a second time mid season!

What can be done to rid my yard of this fungus?

Our techs will come by and investigate and determine the best plan of treatment. A fungicide can be applied to your lawn and have the fungus problem under control in no time. All healthy lawns contain millions of fungi spores at all times. Most fungi will never cause problems , but we never know when one is going to decide to show off. 

As with all lawn issues, when you are working with professionals like Lawn and Pest Solutions, we are only a phone call away.  If you see something going on in your yard, and you know it’s not right, let us know so that we can address the issues before more damage can occur. Your lawn is your investment and we want to help you not only maintain it, but allow it to thrive.  If you aren’t already a customer of ours, consider contacting us here, we serve the areas of Memphis, Oxford, Tupelo and all of North Mississippi.