Questions and Answers

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Excellent questions came into the Caldwell Extension Center this week. I’ve selected three questions and answers I hope you find helpful. If you have a specific question not answered here, please contact the Caldwell Extension Center directly.

Q: We found an insect in our garden all over our kale. I have never seen one like this. It almost looks like a “stink bug.” Is this something that will feed on anything in our garden?

A:  These are harlequin bugs. They are native to Central America and Mexico but can now be found as far north as the Great Lakes and New England. However, they are most damaging to growers in the southern states.

Yellow and black bug.

Harlequin bugs love to feed on kale, mustard, and turnip greens (photo credit Mark Jackson)

Harlequin bugs attack nearly all crucifers, including common weeds of the mustard family such as wild mustard, shepherdspurse, peppergrass, bittercress, and watercress. If infestations are heavy and food becomes scarce, harlequin bugs will also feed on squash, corn, bean, asparagus, okra, and tomato.

I would look for one of the permethrin containing products such as Bonide’s “Eight Vegetable, Fruit & Flower Concentrate” or Southern Ag’s “Natural Pyrethrin Concentrate” to use for control.

Q: Is there a place in Lenoir where can I donate extra produce from my garden?

A: Yes, there is! Caldwell County Yokefellow, Shelter Home of Caldwell County, Mt Zion UMC, and Lenoir Soup Kitchen all welcome fresh produce donations for their clients. Additional donation sites can be found through AmpleHarvest. This is a national project to connect garden excess with those in need. The website is AmpleHarvest.org.

Q: Is there a program to protect our native honey bees?

A: Although the honey bee officially became North Carolina’s State insect in 1973, it is not native to the United States. The honey bee, or European honey bee (Apis mellifera), is native to Europe. There are hundreds of pollinator species (native bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, and birds), but the honey bee is the most recognized pollinator in the United States.

Recently, the NC Department of Agriculture joined with 13 other states in a program called FieldWatch. This is an online mapping service to help prevent crop damage and bee deaths due to accidental or unintended pesticide drift. Producers of horticultural and organic crops can map their field location using the DriftWatch program. As a companion program, BeeCheck will allow hive owners to map the locations of beehives. Pesticide applicators can access both databases before treating a field to identify sensitive sites that are close to the spray areas.

This program is free, voluntary, and non-regulatory. Midwestern states have had great success with these programs. Growers, beekeepers and pesticide users can access DriftWatch and BeeCheck at http://www.ncagr.gov/pollinators. The website offers detailed instructions on how to sign up and use the mapping tools. Producers of high-value specialty crops, such as tomatoes, tobacco, fruit trees, grapes and vegetables can map their sites and provide contact information about their operation on DriftWatch. Using BeeCheck, beekeepers map their hives using pins and half-acre circles and can choose which details of hive information are displayed on the map.

As always, for answers to your agricultural questions, call the Caldwell County Extension Center at 828-757-1290 or visit us online anytime at https://caldwell.ces.ncsu.edu.