Bleached Grass, Yellow Jacket Problems, and the Pesky Longhorned Asian Beetle

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Some excellent questions came into the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Caldwell County Center this week, and I’d like to share three of them with you. I hope you find these questions and their answers helpful. If you have a specific question not answered here, please contact the Caldwell County office.

white leaf grass

Q: Part of my yard looks like someone sprayed the grass with bleach. What would do that?

A: This looks like a disease known as white leaf. It’s very rare and is caused by a phytoplasma. A phytoplasma is classified in a group of similar prokaryotic organisms known as mollicute. The difference between normal bacteria and mollicutes, like phytoplasma, is no cell wall is present with mollicute organisms. Phytoplasma appears to be transmitted through leafhoppers which deposit the pathogen in the plant’s phloem. Nothing can be done about it other than letting it run its course. It doesn’t cause extensive damage. It is just a cosmetic oddity in the turf world.

Thanks to Lee Butler, Turfgrass Pathology Specialist at NC State University, for his assistance answering this question.

Q: I saw yellow jackets entering a small gap below the siding of my house. I’ve sprayed Wasp & Hornet Killer into the hole, but I’ve not controlled them.

yellow jacket nest

A: The eastern yellow jacket is normally a ground-nesting species, but occasionally they have been known to nest in wall voids and between floor joists. Yellowjackets are actually beneficial because they prey on many insects that we consider pests. However, when these critters invade your home, control is needed.

Insects such as wasps, bees, and yellow jackets like to enter their nests from the bottom. Your efforts have not been successful because the nest is above the entrance hole in the side of your house. When you spray into the hole, the insecticide moves downward with gravity and the yellow jackets are above the entrance hole.

Angling the spray upward may provide better results. If your situation does not allow this type of application, or you are allergic to stings, my suggestion is work with a pest control professional to address this situation.

Q: Is the Asian longhorned beetle in Caldwell County?

asian longhorned beetle

A: The Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) is thought to have been introduced into the U.S. in wood packing material from China. This beetle is a hardwood pest in China and appears to prefer maple species, birches, elms, horsechestnuts, and willows in the U.S., though there may be other hosts. ALB attacks lead to the eventual death of the host tree.

Since its first U.S. discovery in 1996 in New York, the ALB has been found in New Jersey, Illinois, Massachusetts, and most recently, South Carolina. The Asian longhorned beetle is not currently known to exist in North Carolina. Asian longhorned beetle adults are shimmery black with white spots. They have long antennae with white stripes. When these adults reach a suitable host tree, they gnaw pits into the bark to lay eggs. Once these eggs hatch, the immatures, called larvae, bore into the tree. The hungry larvae can bore deep within trees, reaching the xylem and heartwood to feed. Their feeding disrupts nutrient flow between the roots and leaves.

ALB exit hole

If you think you have spotted the beetle, contact the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Caldwell County Center immediately. If this pest makes it to North Carolina, early detection will be the key to control.

Any mention of trade, products, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by North Carolina State University. For answers to your agriculture questions, call the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Caldwell County Center at 828-757-1290 or visit us online any time.

— Seth Nagy is the Caldwell County Extension director. The N.C. Cooperative Extension, Caldwell County Center, 120 Hospital Ave. NE, #1 in Lenoir, provides access to resources of NC State University and N.C. A&T State University through educational programs and publications.