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Preventing insect infestations

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Posted: Wednesday, August 15, 2012 11:58 am | Updated: 12:02 pm, Wed Aug 15, 2012.

By Kathy Van Mullekom

Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)

No one really likes spiders, ants and other creepy crawlers invading their homes and yards.

But, they are a natural part of our environment and there are some best-practice ways to deal with them.

"An essential aspect of landscape maintenance is insect control," said Doug VanGundy, an entomologist with Central Life Sciences, which includes Amdro pest-control products.

"Problem insects can affect the vigor of plants and landscapes, either through disease, insect feeding or other destructive activities. Insects can also invade the interior of a home in search of food, water and shelter, becoming a general nuisance."

Here are VanGundy's tips on preventing insect infestations on your property:

Choose plants wisely. Native plants are less likely to attract unwanted pests.

Combat insects with essential nutrients. One of the best defenses from problem pests is a strong, actively growing, well-maintained plant. Proper fertilization is essential to maintaining landscape beauty and plant development, helping sustain optimum plant growth and resistance to insects, diseases and environmental stresses.

Be an insect detective. Often, the evaluation of plant symptoms can provide an effective indication of the insect type.

There are three common types of problem insects:

Sucking insects and mites cause damage by removing a plant's life-sustaining sap from plant tissues. Symptoms include: wilting of plant tissues; stunting, curling or distortion of new plant growth; rust coloration of the upper leaf surface; or sticky substance followed by black sooty appearance on the upper leaf surface.

Chewing insects consume plant tissue, such as leaves, stems and roots, or burrow into plant tissue. Symptoms include: silvering of leaf tissues; complete removal of leaf tissues; and holes in and around plant leaves, stems, branches and trunks.

Boring insects target the trunks, stems, bark, buds and roots of woody ornamental shrubs and trees. These insects damage plants through their tunneling activities. Symptoms include: holes in the bark; tunneling activity in leaf tissue; dead terminal growth on a plant; or the complete removal of strips of bark.

Create a line of defense. Use a bait formulation such as an ant barrier to create a deterrent around your home. The bait kills a range of ant species outside so they are unable to infest interior areas. Foraging ants bring the granules back to their mound, resulting in the entire colony, including the queen, being destroyed.

Clean up debris. Remove loose debris from around the home and at the foundation of plants, including fallen leaves or dropped fruit, because pests often use this debris for nesting and feeding.

Protect beneficial species. Within every landscape and garden, there are pest predators that are beneficial to the health of plants — either by feeding on problem pests or by helping with soil aeration and drainage. Examples include: earthworms, spiders, ladybugs and praying mantises. Attract beneficial insects to your landscape with plants that provide nectar, pollen and other food sources.

For more information about Amdro pest-control products, which are sold at Lowe's and Home Depot, go to www.amdro.com.

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