Q: I’ve got stinkbugs in my house. What can I do to get rid of them?
A: These insects, most likely brown marmorated stink bugs (BMSB), look for a warm protected site to overwinter, and end up inside our homes as a result. They are a pesky nuisance but don’t cause any real damage. Once indoors, there is no insecticide spray recommended for control; Penn State suggests that you sweep or vacuum up the bugs and dispose of them outside.
If you have a scattered few here and there, go on a daily “bug patrol” and knock them into a container of soapy water to drown them, and then dispose of them outdoors. Try to seal exterior cracks and crevices with good quality caulk to prevent BMSB from gaining access to the interior, although they also sneak in through open doors and windows.
There are some insecticides registered for exterior application to control bugs congregating on warm, sunny walls; Penn State recommends that these be applied by a licensed pest control operator. Unfortunately, because these insecticides break down in sunlight, they offer only temporary relief. Some people try pouring very hot or soapy water on masses of bugs to try and control them before they get inside.
Q: Should I cut my lawn shorter in the fall?
A: According to the turf specialist at Penn State, the most important factor in fall lawn mowing is to continue to mow regularly until the grass enters dormancy, and then to make a final cut before winter, once the top growth has slowed to a crawl, generally in mid to late November.
The height at which you mow is not as critical; between 2.0 and 2.5 inches is recommended for fall. Do not cut the grass too short (less than 1.25 inches) or too high (more than 3.0 inches). So a final mowing of the season at 2.0 inches is fine for the lawn.
When spring comes and you begin mowing again, our turf expert recommends mowing frequently enough to not leave a lot of clippings on the lawn; that may mean twice-weekly mowing. But do not remove too much leaf blade each time you mow. The rule of thumb is to cut off no more than one-third of the total leaf surface at any mowing.
Q:/b> The needles of my pine tree are turning yellow this fall. What’s wrong with my tree?
A: The needles of “evergreen” conifers don’t last forever, and older needles are shed in the fall after they turn yellow. This is a natural process. As long as the needles turning yellow are on the interior of the tree, and the younger needles on the outer part of the tree are still green and healthy, nothing is wrong with your tree.
This natural needle drop is most noticeable on Eastern white pine, which holds its needles for only two years. Other pine species may hold their needles longer, up to five years; and spruce trees generally keep their needles for five to seven years before shedding the oldest ones.
If entire branches or needles at the tips of branches are yellow, brown or dead, then something else is happening to your tree. This might be environmental or cultural stress, or insect or disease problems. I would need to see a sample and have more information to make a diagnosis in that case.
Q: A recent windstorm blew a large branch off my tree, leaving a large hole in the trunk. What should I do?
A: Basically, nothing. Anything you do that interferes with the tree’s natural healing process may lead to further damage. A tree “heals” wounds such as this by forming a layer of callus wood to seal off the damage; this process takes several years.
If you put concrete, mortar or bricks in the cavity, or drill holes in it to let water drain through, you are damaging the development of that protective callus layer and opening up the tree to further injury or decay.
You might want to call a certified arborist to look at the tree. A certified arborist can evaluate the tree for potential hazards it might pose to people or property, and can recommend proper measures that should be taken to correct those hazards.
Annette MaCoy is the consumer horticulture extension educator and master gardener coordinator for Penn State Cooperative Extension in Cumberland County. If you have garden questions, contact Annette at 240-6500 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.