Evergreen azaleas in many gardens in this area may be infested with lace bugs. This is indicated by several specimens of foliage sent in for diagnosis. In each case it was lace bugs. If you have azaleas, better check them immediately to see if they are infested. Big healthy plants can be seriously damaged in one season by lace bugs.
These tiny creatures feed mostly on the underside of the leaves, causing grayish mottling. With a serious infestation, all of the foliage may appear light gray to whitish. Plants growing in full sun are much more likely to be attacked.
Specialists recommend spraying with Sevin for lace-bug control. Directions on the label should be followed closely. It's important to spray the underside of the leaves also, because that's where most of the insects feed.
Northeastern Regional Pesticide Coordipators, made up of entomologists and plant pathologists of 12 land-grant universities, rate Sevin as relatively non-hazardous if label directions are followed closely. Sevin, however, is highly toxic to bees and should not be used at times and places when they are active. Bees seldom visit azaleas when they are not in bloom.
The azalea lace bug overwinters in the egg stage. There are several generations a year, and depending on weather conditions, eggs may hatch as early as late April or early May. Eggs are laid on the underside of leaves and covered with a thin coat of brownish-colored secretion. It's a good idea to give your azaleas a thorough inspection in early December and to pinch off leaves with eggs on them.
Aphids (plant lice) have been found feeding on the foliage of kale, turnip, mustard and other fall greens in several gardens. Natural controls, such as wet weather, low temperatures and lady beetles, often hold down the aphid population but never destroy them completely.
Malathion (sprayed) is effective against aphids when the temperature is above 50 degrees, but you should wait seven days before using the greens. Directions on the label should be followed closely. Thoroughly cover the underside of the leaves. A drop of household liquid soap per gallon of water will cause the spray to stick better.
Wash the greens thoroughly before cooking.
At this time of the year, when the autumnal increase of spiders is under way, some gardeners worry about black widow spiders. Almost any black spider is suspected of being a black widow, and particularly those found under watermelons or squash.
The black widow is about half an inch long when full grown, with a leg spread of about 1 1/2 inches. The abdomen is shaped like a large black bead or a shoe button - in fact, one of its common names is the shoe button spider.
The name black widow comes from the story that the female kills and eats the male after mating. This probably is not the general rule. There are cases on record when the male killed and ate the female.
According to specialists, like most spiders the black widow is shy and is much more likely to flee from you than to hite you. Entomologists have handled them with bare hands without being bitten, but one was hitten, was in severe pain for a few days and had completely recovered after about five days. Hot baths are recommended for anyone who has been hitten, and, of course, a physician should be consulted.
There are two wasps that kill many black widow spiders. Both are mud-daubers. One is yellow and black, the other blue. Severe winters probably reduce the black widow population more than any other factor.