Keeping out the bugs & organic gardening

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I bought a house recently and moved in about four months ago. It has a door wall in the walk-out basement. I’m finding dozens of dead bugs in the basement in the last couple of weeks. My friend said that they are either sow bugs or pill bugs. Is there something bad with this house that they are all dead? Am I in danger from something in the basement?

The only thing that you are in danger of is an overactive imagination. You aren’t concerned that you are giving aid and shelter to the enemy or they are coming in by the gross; you are worried about what unspeakable evil may be lurking downstairs.

As fall grinds on and the temperatures drop, many insects are looking for a location that is more pleasant than where they currently are. This includes insects that don’t traditionally spend the winter indoors. The cold night-warm day weather triggers a basic response to find warmer living conditions. And those warmer conditions are in your basement.

When you look at houses in general, the best place for something insect-sized to gain access to the interior of the house is a sliding glass door. To slide, there has to be some space. As the door ages, weather stripping gets compressed or wears out.

Your handy-dandy Professional Insect Intrusion Monitoring Gauge comes in an envelope with an offer to buy a credit card. The company sends you one of those plastic dummy cards with “your name here” so you can imagine it in your hand. The thickness of a credit card is all that is required for an insect to wiggle in. Save one of those “your name here” cards and put it to use.

The first place to check is the sliding glass door. Also check around windows and where gas lines or a dryer vent enters the house. Insects don’t create places to get in. They take advantage of what’s already there.

As you may have noticed, these insects aren’t really intelligent. They squeezed through the crack to find warmth but have no idea how they got in. With no food, they eventually die from equal doses of no food and stupidity. Your sow bugs or pill bugs feed on decaying organic plant matter and hopefully, there is nothing in your basement that qualifies.

Seal up the openings and stop worrying.

I have two apple trees and every year, my fruit is inedible. It has spots and rots and bug holes. I spray these trees but because I want to be organic, I only spray twice. So how do I produce fruit that we can eat?

Growing fruit organically and having it be good involves using some kind of control methods for insects and fungal problems. By declaring your fruit to be organic does not make the insects or fungi stay away. Only using conventional sprays twice a season is also not going to give you any control over pests.

If your desire is to grow fruit with organic methods, begin by researching what you have to do. Organic does not mean less work or ignoring pests. Organic control is going to require you to know more about insect and disease cycles to be successful. Either consider purchasing books or doing some looking on the internet to determine what you need to do.

If the choice is to use traditional methods, use dormant oil on the trees in March or April before any green growth. The temperature needs to be 40 degrees or above for 24 hours with no rain or snow. Choose an all-purpose orchard spray that contains both insecticide and fungicide. Follow the label directions, especially when to stop spraying before harvest. Apples have tough skins and the sprays do not penetrate. Just wash them before using.

Contact Gretchen Voyle, MSU Extension-Livingston County Horticulture Educator, at (517) 546-3950.

About Gretchen Voyle 51 Articles
Gretchen Voyle is the MSU Extension-Livingston County Horticulture Educator. She can be reached at (517) 546-3950.