Garden Plot: To stave off stink bugs, act now

Stink bug prevention

wtopstaff | November 14, 2014 11:42 am

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Mike McGrath,

WASHINGTON – Now is the time to keep stink bugs out of your house.

Now that the nasty bugs are getting bored with violating our late season tomatoes, the stinkers are looking for ways to get into our houses to hibernate for the winter. But as we told you last year, Jody Williams, an amateur inventor from New Jersey, created a simple way to intercept them.

Jody’s trap is simplicity itself. He uses two thick pieces of cardboard, each about the size of an extra-large pizza box, and three long strips of wood, each about 5/16 of an inch thick. (To create the size space that stink bugs seem to prefer crawling into, he notes.)

He staples the three strips of wood lengthwise to the inside of one piece of cardboard, one strip down the center and the other two several inches from each edge. Then he staples the other piece of cardboard overtop and hangs it on the outside of his house, on the side where most of the stinkers are gathering. This will typically be the south-facing side of your home. Stink bugs always congregate on the warmest side of a home, and they prefer homes with light-colored siding, which warms up the most.

The stinkers enter the openings by the hundreds and then stay inside. You simply empty your catch into a plastic trash bag every day and then let the bag sit out in the sun. A single trap can capture thousands of the home invaders per year, making Jody from Jersey a true stink bug savior!

Here’s an excellent article from a New Jersey newspaper about the inventor that shows a photo of the trap.

Double down on stink bugs with indoor traps

If you really want to up the odds of enjoying a stinker-free winter, use indoor traps as well. Just hang a light trap in rooms where the stinkers typically congregate.

The Rescue brand outdoor (garden and landscape) stink bug trap that you see for sale in lots of grocery stores and home centers can be transformed into a light trap with the purchase of an optional LED fixture that can be plugged into a wall socket or powered by batteries.

Place it in the attic, basement, or whatever room of your home seems to be their entry point, and turn off all the other lights in the room. In the morning, any indoor stinkers will be trapped in the trap.

The flea traps I always recommend for home infestations (a small light suspended above a sheet of sticky paper positioned in an otherwise dark room) should also work well. They’re easy to make, and there are several pre-made brands available. Here’s one from the mail order firm Gardens Alive, and one from Victor (the mouse trap people) that can be found at some retail locations.

You can also try a “do it yourself” version. There are several YouTube videos showing how to make a trap similar to the Rescue device using a battery powered LED fixture (apparently sold at home stores for use in unlighted closets and such) and an empty soda bottle.

Or, get an old, working table lamp, wrap cardboard around the body of the lamp and then spray the cardboard with sticky stuff or cover it with double stick tape. Stink bugs attracted to the light on top of the lamp will get stuck on the body. When your cardboard is covered with bugs, cut it off and replace with fresh.

Although any kind of light will probably do, provided it’s the only light source in the room, researchers trapping stinkbugs in the field report that a blacklight seems to be the most effective. And I recently noticed blacklights in the shape of standard compact fluorescent swirly bulbs in a local home store’s ‘party light’ section. You can have a 60s flashback party and lure stinkbugs to their doom, all in one night!

Get rid of lawn grubs now with milky spore

Matt in Laurel, Md. writes: “I recently pulled up a few brown areas of my lawn and discovered an infestation of white grubs underneath. I had applied beneficial nematodes earlier this year, but I think my timing and application were not quite right. Anyway, what can I do now to prevent my lawn from being ravaged?”

It might not be your fault, Matt. Those are new grubs in your lawn, babies laid by this year’s Japanese beetles who often fly in from other areas. But your timing to take a different tack is perfect. Apply Milky Spore powder, available at all big garden centers, to your lawn right now, while the grubs are actively feeding. The milky spore, an all-natural organism that’s been used safely for half a century, will kill this run of grubs and inoculate your lawn against future grub attack. But it has to be applied now; Milky Spore doesn’t work in the spring.

Seeding a small lawn? Think sod instead

Tim in Springfield writes: “I read your column on WTOP every week, so I know that this is the perfect time to plant a new lawn. But I live in a townhouse where it’s impossible to get the ‘compost or high quality topsoil’ you suggest delivered in bulk. Can I purchase something in bags instead?”

Yes, Tim. Maryland’s own LeafGro and other high quality composts are available in bags at most independent garden centers. Finding quality bagged topsoil is a bit more dicey. I’d buy a few different types and examine the contents at home before buying in bulk.

But it also sounds like the area you have to work with isn’t all that big, and sod is a great alternative for small lawns. You can install sod in spring or fall, and you start out with a fully grown weed-free lawn. Just excavate the current area to the right depth to accommodate the height of the sod, rough up the soil with a garden fork or small tiller, lay the sod, tamp it down gently and water daily until it’s well rooted.

Your marching orders for the end of August

  • Get garlic cloves in hand now for planting next month. Mail order companies and local farmer’s markets are the best sources. Don’t use supermarket garlic, it probably won’t sprout.
  • Prepare to give your cool season lawn a big fall feeding. An inch of compost raked into the turf is ideal, otherwise use corn gluten meal or a bagged organic fertilizer labeled for use on lawns. Don’t use a “conventional” chemical fertilizer. Those concentrated salts are bad for your lawn, and they’re death-on- a-stick to our precious Bay and other waterways.
  • Reseed any bare spots in your lawn before the end of September, the sooner the better. And if you do spread seed, don’t use corn gluten for the fall feeding.
  • Keep an eye out for pansies to appear in garden centers and plant a flat for fall and winter color.
  • Sow a bed or big container with lettuce or salad greens.
  • Don’t prune anything from now until the dead of winter.

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