Over 1.4 million Houstonians garden for a hobby or pastime, and GardenLine is where they listen for advice and information on gardening and landscaping.
Every Saturday and Sunday morning from 6 to 10, GardenLine's Randy Lemmon answers listeners' questions on everything from aphids to zoysias. He's Houston's absolute expert on lawns and gardens, offering help to listeners both with and without "green thumbs."
Randy's a Texas Aggie who truly KNOWS plants and flowers. He explains them with ease and candor, and is as competent a "plant person" as there is. He studies, and he practices. He embraces "new methods" as well as the "old" ways of dealing with problems. Call for Randy's solution for your question ... 713-212-KTRH (5874).
Like last week, I'm going to focus on an issue I have discovered at my new home in Tomball. Cicada killer wasps! The name sounds ominous, but I find them uniquely fascinating.
I realize not everyone will have this issue. Cicada killer wasps are not a widespread problem like fire ants. But I thought it would be cool to talk about them, especially since I have them for the first time. I learned I've got them when my son (who loves all things insects, like his dad) brought me a dead one, all geeked about the possibility that it was a hornet.
Over the years I've had occasional questions like, "Randy, there's this larger-than-normal wasp/bee hovering over my lawn, and he burrowed himself in a hole about an inch wide. How do I kill it?"
First, in almost all cases, there is no need to kill a cicada killer. Second, the reason it's called a cicada killer is because of what it does to cicadas. Cicadas, often misidentified as locusts, are those little boogers more frequently heard than seen. They are responsible for that cacophonous, screeching noise during hot, late-summer afternoons. By the way, only the males sing. (For more on cicadas, see www.cicadamania.com/cicadas/.)
Cicada killer wasps attract attention because they're so large, and because they burrow homes in our lawns. If you're ever blessed with one or more in your yard, you may find their buzzing, hovering flights equally fascinating. They are found in all states east of the Rocky Mountains and like to dig burrows in sandy, bare, well-drained soil exposed to full sunlight. Adults feed on flower nectar, while the immature or larval stage primarily eats cicadas brought to the burrow by the adult.
In spite of their large size, the wasps usually ignore people. Yes, they can sting, but only when forced to. A mound of fine soil surrounds the burrow of each cicada killer, and since colonies are common, infested lawns usually contain several mounds that can smother the grass. However, these insects prefer to nest in areas of sparse vegetation, and rarely infest thick, vigorous turf. (Translation: If you don't want 'em in your yard, follow my fertilization schedule.)
Cicada killers spend the winter as larvae in the soil. Pupation occurs in the spring, and the adult emerges in mid-June to early July. Females feed, mate, and dig burrows for several weeks before preying on cicadas. Excess soil thrown out of the burrow forms a regular, U-shaped mound at the entrance.
The females search tree trunks and lower limbs for cicadas. The wasp stings its prey, turns the victim on its back, straddles it, and drags it or glides with it to the burrow. Each cell in the burrow is furnished with at least one cicada (sometimes two or three) and a single egg before being sealed off. Two to three days later, the egg hatches. Depending on the number of cicadas in its cell, the larva feeds for 4 to 10 days until only the cicada's outer shell remains. During the fall, the larva spins a silken case, shrinks, and prepares to over-winter. Only one generation occurs each year.
If you just can't stand the idea of any kind of wasp buzzing around your property, remember that the first way to prevent them is with a healthy lawn. If you feel the need to spray something, any wasp/hornet/yellow jacket spray will work. Most of those jet some synthetic pyrethroid from a safe distance. Or, you can powder their hole with Sevin dust. Again, I don't recommend killing them, or even preventing them, but I also realize that some people simply can't handle something that big and menacing hovering around their yard.
I know it's still summer, but this is the first fall home and garden show of the season, and we will broadcasting live from the event on Saturday. While the doors don't open until 9 a.m., you can still stop by our broadcast table as early as 8 to snare some free goodies and get your hands on my book, "1001 GardenLine Questions."
Copies of the book will be $15 each, but if you buy two or more, the price comes down to $10 each. A good opportunity for early Christmas shopping. Also, with two or more books, you will get a big free bottle of fungicide or fertilizer. That's a retail value of over $50 for just 20 bucks.
I will also be conducting a seminar at 10:30 a.m., and it's free with your show admission. We'll likely be giving away products to those who ask really good questions. I'll open by talking all things "fall preparation," from vegetable gardening to dividing bulbs, to brownpatch-preparedness. If you can't make the seminar or get there early for the live GardenLine broadcast, at least come talk to me one-on-one or let me "get a pair of eyes" on that problem you have.
While this may not be the biggest home and garden show by square footage, I've always considered it to be one of the best, because of the vendor quality. Parking is free. If you want more info, see www.woodlandsshows.com.