Question: Are those cicadas or katydids that I hear singing in trees?

Answer:  Cicadas sing in the morning and throughout the day. Katydids sing at night. You are listening to an all-male chorus of annual dog day cicadas and not the periodic cicada. Periodic cicadas appear every 13 and 17 years. Count your blessings that the periodic cicadas are not in your neck of the woods this year. There are 13 species of dog day cicadas in North Carolina. They appear in early summer and last until fall. Cicadas feed on the sap of tender tree twigs but are not considered a pest. After mating (males sing to attract the females), the female lays her eggs in the ground where they remain as grub from 2-10 years feeding on tree roots. Eventually the young nymphs emerge from the ground and shed their shells as adults. Those nymphal shells can be found abandoned on tree trunks. My grandchildren love to collect them. 

I find it interesting that female cicadas are mute. However, I do not envy this species because the males have to sing to attract a female. 

 

Question:  I sprayed my 3-year-old Alberta spruce for spider mites because it is covered in spider webs and the needles are turning brown.  Do you think I can save it?

Answer:  Spider mites can be a pest of Alberta spruces but are very difficult to see with the naked eye. They will create small webs, but the mite usually require a 10x lens to see. However, the webbing could be from harmless garden spiders that live in shrubbery. Depending on where the brown needles are located, this could be normal needle shedding due to lack of light within the center of the plant. Therefore, those internal needles will turn brown on evergreen trees including pines, spruces, leyland cypress, arborvitaes and cryptomeria. This is normal. If it is normal, there will be green needles on the tips of each branch that is browning. My advice is to take a broom and brush the plant vigorously to force the brown dead needles to let go. Brooming the plant will dislodge the spider webs too.  If the spider webs return in the morning, then the webbing was made by harmless garden spiders and not mites. Spider mite damage causes the needles to become speckled and yellow.  Horticultural oil is advised as the remedy, spraying twice 2 weeks apart if mites are truly present.

 

Question:  Most of my fescue lawn is dead.  How soon can I plant more fescue?

Answer:  It is too early. We have a lot of hot weather left and a possible dry spell. History has taught me that one extreme follows another when it comes to rainfall. Although your grass will germinate now, it is subject to the summer diseases of turf that are still active. In addition,  hot weather limits growth. With that said, you should be lining up a lawn care service to appear sometime between September through mid-November. That line is getting longer day by day. If you intend to do it yourself, rental equipment should be secured in the next few weeks for the same time period.

 

Question: We have been on vacation and missed 2 weeks of your columns. Where are they archived?

Answer: The Times-News used to archive them but I was told that stopped with new ownership. Therefore, I would suggest you go to ‘New Leaf Society-Facebook’ to find them.  They are posted there each week and you do not have to be a Facebook member to see them. More photos are posted there too. Thanks for being a dedicated reader. I am flattered.

 

NEW LEAF CIRCLE

I have received many compliments about the tricycle circle at Alamance Crossing shopping center.  The circle is owned by the City of Burlington. However, with their permission, New Leaf donated the tricycle and maintains the plantings each spring and fall. This has become one of our signature projects. This year's plantings include New Guinea impatiens (Sun impatiens) along the path and setcreasea (tradescantia) at the top.  Thanks to Living Landscapes in Graham for installation and maintenance. 

 

Rett Davis is a retired Alamance County Extension Director and certified arborist. You can email your questions to him at Rett_Davis@ncsu.edu