March 1997 - Indiana Yard and Garden - Purdue Consumer Horticulture

March 1997

Q: For the last two years, in the fall, we have had an invasion of ladybugs. They covered the south and west sides of our house. It’s now winter, and we still have ladybugs flying around inside our home. I don’t want to use insecticides, as ladybugs are beneficial, but when there are so many they become a nuisance. Any suggestions or ideas to help us would be greatly appreciated. – Susan Healton, Kokomo, Ind.

A: Even the most beneficial insects are not the best roommates. The Asian lady beetle is fairly new to Indiana. It’s an important predator of scale and aphids, and probably helped control those pests in your garden last summer. In the fall, the ladybugs seek sheltered sites for hibernation and find their way into many homes. They don’t bite, sting or carry diseases, nor do they infest food, clothing or wood.

The easiest way to dispose of beetles inside your home is with a vacuum cleaner.

To reduce (but not eliminate) the invasion next year, seal all exterior cracks around windows, doors, siding, fascia board, utility pipes and other potential entry points, and repair damaged screens.

Insecticides are not generally recommended unless the annoyance can no longer be tolerated. They would have very little effect anyway, unless the beetles are actually crawling on exposed surfaces, where they could just as easily be removed by vacuuming.

As they wake up in the spring, put them outdoors to let them return to eating aphids!

Q: We are having a lot of fresh mole holes in our lawn and would appreciate the best info for moles. They are playing havoc with our lawn. We tried over-the-counter products, but to no avail. – Mr. & Mrs. Marvin Pretorius, Wabash, Ind.

A: I’ve answered the mole question many times, and my answer always causes a flurry of mail! I’ll answer it again since many of us will have our lawns riddled with mole tunnels as the temperature warms up.

Attempting to kill moles with poison or bait is usually ineffective. Trapping is the most reliable method of mole control, but it requires patience, practice and persistence. Traps must be set properly and checked often.

Begin by locating a main runway. Look for runways that: follow a fairly straight course for some distance; appear to connect two mounds or two runway systems; follow fences, walls or other artificial borders; or follow a woody perimeter, a field or yard. Poke small holes into the runway. Moles will repair these within a day or two if you have actually located a main runway.

Moles use deeper burrows when the ground freezes, so trapping is most effective in the spring and summer. Harpoon traps should be set on the main runways and checked daily. Tamp the soil down with your foot before placing the trap. Be sure the trap is centered over the runway and the supporting spikes do not cut into the tunnel below. Take care not to tread on or disturb any other portion of the runway system.

Home remedies, including plastic spinning daisies, chewing gum and moth balls, do little to reduce the mole population. Our dog is quite an effective mole hunter but the holes she creates are as bad as the mole tunnels!

Q: I’ve gathered a lot of asparagus seeds. We need a new patch. How should I plant them? How deep? At what time? How thick? For fertilizer, we have a lot of sheep manure. Can we use that some way? – Gertrude Goebel, Andrews, Ind.

A: Many gardeners plant asparagus cultivars like ‘Mary Washington’ or ‘Martha Washington.’ Seedlings may be inferior and highly variable in their characteristics, so it is usually best to purchase crowns from a reputable company. These are usually one-year-old crowns and have been carefully selected for vigor and disease resistance.

To grow asparagus from seed, soak the seeds in water overnight. Sow the seeds 1 to 2 inches apart and 1/2 inch deep. Transplant no later than the second year. Plant them 15″ apart, in rows 3 to 4 feet apart. Set the roots 2 to 8 inches deep.

Sheep manure can be used as a fertilizer but must be composted for one year or applied to the garden in the fall to avoid damaging plants.

Q: I would like to start some bittersweet bushes. How and where do I start and/or get the starts? – L. Yeoman, Morocco, Ind.

A: Bittersweet is a vigorous vine. It twines and can choke plants, so don’t allow it to twine around living shrubs or trees. You could root cuttings, but since you must get both a male and a female plant to produce fruit, it might be best to purchase them from a reputable nursery. If you want to try rooting cuttings, take them in the fall when fruits are actually on the plant to prove their sex. Male vines will never bear fruit. Plant them in a sunny location.

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