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A good year for every kind of mite, fly and nasty wireworm.

Byline: Graham Porter

IT SEEMS that 2008 will probably go down as the year of strange garden pests.

Whilst I was on duty as the Plant Doctor at Armitage's Shelley Garden Centre a few weeks ago, Mr and Mrs Lennon came in with a plastic bag full of maple and sycamore leaves, the backs of which were covered in strange off-white patches.

They left these poorly leaves with me for an hour while they went off for lunch and walk round the garden centre, assuming that on their return I would have identified the problem and be able to give them a simple one stop solution.

Unfortunately I could do neither and had to send a photograph of the problem to the RHS Advisory Service at RHS Garden Wisley, where they have trained Entomologists (Bug experts) and Pathologists (disease experts) who can identify these problems much quicker than I can, as they are dealing with these types of problems every day.

It turns out to be a relatively rare gall mite by the name of Sycamore and Maple Felt Gall Mite (Aceria pseudoplatanii / A. eriobus).

Unfortunately for Mr and Mrs Lennon, there are no chemicals available on the amateur market that can stop this pest and the only way to reduce the problem is to continue to collect all fallen leaves and dispose of them by burning to destroy this minute insect.

Is this another indicator of climate change or has this pest been with us, unnoticed for thousands of years?

Mr Harman from Edgerton has enquired about an age old problem in established and neglected grassland - the wireworm.

He has recently started to clear and cultivate an area of grass in readiness for a new vegetable garden and has noticed dozens of the wireworms in the soil.

The wireworms are the larvae of two different species of Click Beetle and can live in the soil for up to five years before emerging in June to start a new life as a breeding adult.

The larvae can cause serious damage in potato crops, particularly if they are left in the ground too long after maturing.

They can also cause random dieback of stems of herbaceous plants and vegetables because they eat through roots.

Treatment of infested ground is no longer possible with chemicals but good cultivation often brings the larvae to the surface where birds will eat some of them.

The nematode, Heterorhabditis, that is available for the control of chafer grubs, has been found to give some control in wireworms (visit www.just-green-com for more details), and the use of buried potatoes on wires has also been found to help reduce numbers considerably, particularly if used in early and late season when the larvae are most active.

Lift the potatoes every week to check for the presence of the larvae and deal with them accordingly - repeat in various places as necessary.

Carrot fly must the biggest curse of any allotment holder and Mr and Mrs Matthews of Mirfield think they have the problem more than anyone else. I suspect not but I know what you mean.

This tiny little fly lays its eggs at the bases of the young carrot plants and other Umbelliferae host plants such as parsnips, parsley and celery during early June and the maggots then burrow into the developing tap root causing the telltale holes that we are all familiar with.

Another generation can lay eggs in late August and the maggots will then feed well into the autumn before pupating in the soil.

You can grow early carrots in cold frames that can be harvested before the pest arrives and you can do successional sowings in summer, some of which will not be affected.

Covering the bed with a fine horticultural fleece that has its edges buried in the soil is probably the best technique for summer crops and you can also try the resistant varieties such as Systan, Fly Away and Resistafly. There are no effective pesticides available for this pest.

If you have any questions or queries that you want help with or gardening related subjects that you would like to discuss, write to me at Gardening Questions, Features Office, Huddersfield Daily Examiner, PO Box A26, Queen Street South, Huddersfield, HD1 3DU.

You can grow early carrots in cold frames that can be harvested before the pest arrives and you can do successional sowings in summer, some of which will not be affected.

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DELICIOUS: But the carrot fly loves these yummy looking vegetables too and are one of the biggest headaches for allotment holders and those who have vegetable plots
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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Jul 19, 2008
Words:770
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