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Winter bugs

Just when you thought your garden had gone to sleep for the winter, tiny critters begin gnawing on your plants.

Winter may be here, but so too are those infuriating little critters that chew and suck on your prized plants. Ruud Kleinpaste checks out what creatures are busy in your garden this winter.

Snails and Slugs

Snails and slugs can be devastating in your garden and can decimate entire plants if you are not vigilant about controlling them. Generally it pays to clean up debris where the slugs and snails can hide. Weed control also helps to eliminate alternative feeding and hiding places.

Baits or pellets are the standard control method. But beware, pets have been known to take a liking to slug pellets. Here's a pet friendly way to get rid of snails and slugs.

Making a snail trap 1) Find a plastic container with a lid.

2) Place a few large entrance holes in the side of the container, big enough for a snail to enter, drill a small hole in the top of the container and also the bottom.

3) Put some snail bait inside the plastic container and put the lid on.

4) Put a bamboo stake or stick through the top and bottom hole and place in the garden at ground level Snail trap so the snails can easily find their way inside the container.

5) Bricks may also be placed around the container to stop it moving. The idea with this trap is that the bait keeps dry in the container and pets cannot access it. Voila!

If pellets are not applicable then a liquid formulation such as Slug Off will work for 10 weeks or so.

Millipedes and Centipedes

Winter bugs

Millipedes and centipedes look similar but are actually very different. Knowing the difference between the two is very important. Some millipedes are troublesome pests, but some feed exclusively on rotting materials in the garden. Centipedes feed entirely on other insects, so they are beneficial in your garden. Encourage composting millipedes and predatory centipedes into your garden, but if you want to get rid of them, eradicate damp hiding places or go for a liberal application of lime.

Passionvine Hoppers

Passionvine hopper eggs

Passionvine hoppers are tiny moth-like insects with mottled wings that suck the sap from plants and cause your plant to lose its vigour. They can also cause honeydew and sooty mould.

They overwinter by laying eggs, so you can stop the cycle by finding and destroying their eggs and eliminating egg-laying sites such as tendrils, thin woody twigs and dying stems.

Soldier Flies

Soldier flies will be in the midst of a larvae period at present, and although they aren't very nice to look at they are useful in helping to break down garden waste. If you do notice a soldier fly in your compost heap, add some dry matter to it, because it's probably an indication that your compost is too wet.

Garden debris and weeds will provide a home for insects, weed seeds and diseases during the winter so give you garden a thorough clean to protect it over the winter. Proper fertility, mulch and adequate water at the right time will also help you in the never ending battle against bugs. Remember that healthy vigorous plants are a lot less attractive to bugs than stressed, unhealthy plants.

Reproduced with permission from NZOOM Home and Garden content,
from the previous website of  TVNZ News

The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the RNZIH

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Last updated: June 2, 2004