Guess Who’s Back

Community, Outdoors

Have you seen webs spreading throughout your trees? They can be unsightly and leave brown patches where the webs are. Those are webworms. They are very common so let’s talk about these little guys that are spreading from tree to tree.

We have two types of caterpillars that make webs in trees in North Georgia. Eastern tent caterpillars will make webs in the spring. Fall webworms will make webs in the late summer or fall, hence their very original name. Webworms will have one to four generations each year. There are many different tree species that they will use to make their nest. They generally prefer to make their nests on deciduous trees over evergreens. 

Webworms grow into a moth that has a one and a half inch wingspan. The wings are white and sometimes have black spots on them. The female moths will lay egg masses of up to 600 eggs. The egg masses are covered in hairs, which protects them from predators. When the caterpillars emerge from the eggs, they begin constructing nests on the ends of tree branches. The webworms will begin eating the new growth at the end of the branch. The webs that they construct protect them from predators and some insecticides. As the weather gets cooler, the caterpillars will burrow into the ground where they will pupate, the cocoon stage, and emerge as moths when the weather warms up again.

Webworms can heavily infest some trees. If a tree is heavily infested the webworms can completely defoliate the tree. Complete defoliation is not a common occurrence, but it is a possibility. Completely defoliating a tree leaves the tree bare and less attractive. However, deciduous trees are able to handle losing their leaves, because they will grow new ones back the next year.

In most situations, it isn’t necessary to remove the webworms from trees. The damage that they do is largely aesthetic. If there are some webs on lower branches that are easy to prune then physical removal of the branches is an option. If the branches are out of reach, it is possible to use a long pole or rake to knock the webs out of the tree. A pressure washer is also an option to remove webs from hard to reach places. Opening up webworm nests will expose them to the elements and enable predators such as birds, assassin bugs, and parasitic wasps to get inside and control the webworms too.

It is possible to use insecticides to control webworms, but I usually don’t recommend them because webworms rarely cause significant damage to the tree. If you decide to apply an insecticide one containing Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) or spinosad will kill the webworms and not beneficial insects that are also nearby. Broad-spectrum insecticides like pyrethroids, which are any insecticide with an active ingredient ending with –thrin, will kill any insects it meets. You will have to open the nest first so that you get the insecticide inside the web. As always, read the label before applying a pesticide so that you know how to properly handle and apply the pesticide.

If you have questions about webworms contact your county Extension Office or email me at [email protected]

Rosette Rose Disease

Community, Outdoors

Rosette Rose Disease is a serious disease that is infecting rose plants. It’s a viral disease that I’ve seen in Towns and Union counties. It can spread rapidly and kill rose plants within a couple of year of infection. Let’s talk about rosette rose disease, how to spot it, and what you can do about it. 

Rosette rose disease was first found in California and Wyoming back in 1941. Since then it has spread towards the east. Rosette rose disease also infects wild roses. This is most likely the way that the disease travels. It can infect all roses and is particularly lethal to multiflora roses, which are a species of wild roses.

Mites primarily carry the disease. The eriophyid mite will feed on an infected rose. That mite will then move to an uninfected rose and pass the pathogen onto the new rose plant. Once a rose plant is infected, the pathogen travels throughout the plant. The mites will often feed on new growth of buds, stems, and leaf petioles. These mites are so small that they’re not visible to the naked eye. They ride on the wind to spread from plant to plant. It’s also possible for humans to vector the disease through grafting and pruning with tools that have the virus on them. Therefore, if you are pruning roses it’s a good practice to clean your tools with alcohol between plants.

The symptoms of rosette rose disease are usually quite clear. The shoots and foliage will have an unusual red color; the stems will look thick and succulent with long shoots. There will also be an overabundance of small, pliable thorns on the stems. New growth on the plant may have a witches broom appearance, meaning it has many branches close together. 

Rosette rose disease only affects roses. However, it is a viral disease, meaning that if your rose bushes get it, they can’t be cured. There are no resistant varieties available on the market. There are some that are in research trials, so hopefully within a few years those will be commercially available. Since there is no cure let’s talk about how you can prevent your roses from contracting the disease.

The best place to start is by planting disease free material. Avoid buying plants that already look stressed and might be showing symptoms of the disease. When planting the roses leave space between plants so that the leaves and stems aren’t overlapping. This will make it a bit more difficult for the mites to travel between plants. Finally, if possible, remove wild roses from within 100 yards of your roses. This is not always feasible, but removing wild roses will decrease the chances of the disease being able to spread to your roses.

If your roses are already showing symptoms, the best course of action is to remove them. Infected plants will spread the disease to other nearby roses. The disease infects all the way down to the roots, so removing the roots is necessary to remove the virus. Bag up and dispose of all the plant material that you pull out. It’s not recommended to replant roses immediately into an area that’s been infected.

If you have questions about rosette rose disease contact your county Extension Office or email me at the address below. On July 25, the Union County Extension is putting on a Well Water Program. It will be at 5:30 in the Union County Civic Center. If you would like to attend, please RSVP with Union County Extension Office at 706-439-6030 or email me at [email protected]


Community, Outdoors

As we get closer and closer to spring and plants begin to come out of their winter slumber, I’d like to talk about fertilizers. There are many different types out there. I’ll talk about some basics of fertilizers. Next week I’ll talk about some of the different types that are out there, so that you can make an informed decision about which kind fits your needs this spring.

First thing to talk about with fertilizer is what’s in it. Usually a fertilizer will have a series of three numbers on it, for example 10-10-10 or 16-4-8. These numbers are percentages. The first number is always nitrogen, the second phosphorus, and the third potassium. These can be abbreviated to N-P-K, which are the symbols for these elements on the periodic table of elements. These three elements are the most important for plant growth. That’s why we make recommendations based on them. If you had a 100 lb bag of 16-4-8, that bag is 16% N, 4% P, and 8% K. Meaning in that 100 lb bag you have 16 lbs of N, 4 lbs of P, and 8 lbs of K. Now, you make be thinking, “I paid for a 100 lb bag! Why am I only getting 28 lbs of nutrients from it?!” The rest of the poundage in that bag is probably going to be some other nutrients that are needed for planted growth, but in much smaller quantities, and other inert materials that keep those nutrients in a form that’s usable by plants; there could be a special coating on the pellets that make them easier to apply as well. But now that you have this knowledge it brings up an important point, that when purchasing a fertilizer it is good to look at how much N-P-K you are getting for your money, because it will vary.

Now let’s talk about when to apply it. It’s best to apply fertilizer when plants are actively growing. Fertilizer that is applied when plants are in a dormant state can be washed away before the plants wake up and need the fertilizer. Nitrogen is very mobile in the soil, meaning that when it rains your nitrogen will likely be leached out of the soil. Phosphorus and potassium will stick around a lot longer in the soil, but can be lost by erosion. Never apply fertilizer to a stressed plant. If the plant is wilted from lack of water applying fertilizer can do more damage to the plant.

Where you apply fertilizer is important. Don’t just dump all of it at the base of the plant, instead spread it around so that the roots growing out from the plant can reach out and receive it. Applying it too heavily in one spot can result in burn or keep the plant from properly taking up water. If you’re fertilizing trees remember that tree roots extend out beyond the canopy of the leaves, so you’re going need to make that application in a wide circumference around the tree. Fertilizer left on the leaves can burn the leaves.

Knowing how much to apply is very important. Under fertilizing can leave plants underdeveloped. Over fertilizing can result in a lot of young tender growth that is susceptible to disease or insect pests. Taking a soil test and bringing it to the Extension office, to send to the lab, will tell you exactly how much fertilizer you need for what you are growing.

If you have questions about fertilizers contact your local Extension Office or email me at [email protected]

Fire Ants


Fire Ants

Fire ants are very common throughout Georgia. Thankfully, we don’t have as many in the mountains as they do south of us. But, once you experience a fire ant bite, you won’t ever forget it. Another problem with fire ants is that you rarely get just one bite. Fire ants were first reported in Georgia in the 1950s. They’ve been found all the way from North Carolina to Texas, and down to Florida.

The summer after my first year of college I worked at an orchard picking peaches. We’d be going from tree to tree picking fruit. You’d look up into the tree when all of a sudden your leg would feel like it was on fire. That person would usually run off into the trees ripping their shoes and socks off trying get the fire ants off. Let’s talk about fire ants and things that you can do to control them so that they don’t take over your lawn or pasture.

If you can manage to get an up close look without being bitten and stung you’ll see that fire ants have two nodes between their abdomen at the end of their body and the thorax in the middle of their body. Fire ants generally like to stay in open grassy areas.

Fire ants are most active when temperatures are between 70 and 85. In the fall fire ants are most active because they are foraging for food. This makes Fall the best time to treat them. Treatment during the spring and summer is also possible, but effective population control will be less likely.

Using a bait will be the most effective way of controlling fire ants. Either broadcast the bait over the mounds, or in a four foot circle around each mound. There are a number of baits that can be used. Amdro B, Ascend, Distance Fire Ant Bait, Spectracide, Once ‘n’ Done, and Extinguish are baits recommended in the Georgia Pest Management handbook. If a few mounds remain after seven to ten days, a follow up application of Orthene will be effective against those problematic mounds. Take a long stick and quickly put a hole in the center of the mound. Then fill the hole with insecticide to eliminate those mounds. When applying pesticides always make sure to read and follow the label.

Pouring about 3 gallons of water onto a mound will usually eliminate the mound, if it is done in the morning when more ants are close to the soil surface. It is also possible to coerce fire ants to move from sensitive areas by continually knocking down their colonies.

There are not many natural controls for fire ants in the United States because they are an invasive species. Fire ants are native to South America and have many natural enemies there. Researchers have to be very careful about introducing a natural predator, because the effects of that introduced species are unknown on our ecosystem.

If you have any questions about fire ants and fire ant control, contact your local Extension Office or send me an email at [email protected].


Featured Stories


I think that most people enjoy eating a handful of blueberries. Eating them always reminds me of my grandfather because he always puts them on his cereal in the morning. Blueberries grow pretty well here, but there are a few things to be aware of so let’s talk about those so that you can have a successful blueberry crop.

Blueberry bushes can be planted in the early spring or in the fall. In North Georgia, the most common type of blueberry planted is rabbiteye. There are many different varieties of rabbiteye blueberries, ranging from early to late season in ripeness. If you plant a rabbiteye variety, it is important to make sure that you plant more than one variety, as they need to be able to cross-pollinate to bear fruit. Northern highbush is another type of blueberry that can grow here. They are self-fertile, but they require more maintenance. Rabbiteye blueberries are native to Georgia.

If you are selecting a site to plant blueberries, choose a place that will receive full sun for at least half a day. They can grow in shady spots, but the fruit production will be less. Blueberries like soil with a pH of 4.5 – 5.2. This trait makes them well adapted to native soils because most of our soils will naturally be in that range. Therefore, lime is probably not needed when planting blueberries. Rabbiteyes do best with 5 – 6 feet between plants in row and 11 – 12 feet between rows. When planting make sure you don’t plant too deep. After planting prune back 1/3 to ½ of the plant. This will cause the plant to focus on developing its root system. The first year you want to pick off any blooms, because you want the plant to put its energy into growing roots and not fruit. You can apply 1 oz. of 10-10-10 after the plant has begun to put on leaves the first year. The second year after planting put out 2 oz. of 10-10-10 in March and July. Make sure not to over fertilize blueberries, as that can harm them. After the third season, apply 1 oz. of 10-10-10 per foot of height on the bush.

Blueberry bushes do require pruning each year. Once plants reach 6 feet high you’ll want to start cane renewal pruning. This means removing 1 – 3 of the biggest canes each winter at ground level. Over a period of 5 years the bush will be completely renewed. New canes are going to bear more fruit than old canes so it’s important to maintain this pruning process. If you have bushes that haven’t been pruned for a few years, it might take several seasons to get bushes into the 5-year rotation. After you’ve picked the fruit, you can top plants if they are over 6 feet tall. This will keep bushes at a more manageable height.

Blueberries aren’t bothered by many insects or diseases. However, one disease to look out for is mummy berry. It will cause berries to shrivel up and drop. The berries that drop carry the pathogen over to the next year. Therefore, it’s important to keep the space beneath your bushes sanitary. Remove any old berries, wood, and leaves. Placing thick mulch around the base of plants will help prevent the disease from spreading as well. Captan is an effective fungicide at controlling mummy berry if it’s sprayed at bud break and first flower.

If you have questions about growing blueberries contact your local Extension Office or send me an email at [email protected].



Mulch is a very important tool in any gardeners’ toolkit. In addition, it does a lot more than simply make beds look nicer. Mulch serves a variety of different purposes that are beneficial to plants around your house. Let’s talk about the different types of mulch that are out there and how they can help you have healthy plants.

There are many different types of mulches out there. Some of the most common kinds of mulches are bark, compost, leaves, newspaper, pine needles, straw, and wood chips. If you are using bark for mulch usually small chunks is going to be better because large chunks are more susceptible to being washed away. Compost can be a very beneficial mulch. What separates compost from the other mulches on this list is that compost is capable of providing nitrogen to plants. Leaves are a good cheap source of mulch for many people. Many times, there’s nothing wrong with taking leaves that have fallen and applying them around the base of plants. The only time when applying leaves as a mulch is not a good idea is if the leaves have a disease in them. Those leaves should be removed to prevent the disease from spreading to the next season. It’s also good if you can shred the leaves before applying them so that they don’t become matted. Newspaper serves as a good undermulch. Placing pine needles or straw on top will keep the newspaper from blowing away. Pine needles look good as mulch. They can make the soil more acidic over time, but that is a slow process. Straw can be an effective mulch, but it’s not as long lasting as some of the other mulches described here. Straw will also sometimes contain weed seeds. Wood chips are a long lasting mulch. They can last two years.

One of the benefits of mulch is weed suppression. When it’s applied thick enough, mulch creates a barrier that blocks sunlight and creates a physical barrier preventing unwanted plants from growing. Once summer is in full effect mulch can go a long way to make your job of weeding easier. Mulch can help with disease suppression in the case of mummyberry on blueberries. Mulch will bury the disease.

Mulch also benefits moisture retention in the soil. When there are hot dry summers the mulch will serve as insulation against the sun and the wind, reducing the amount of water that is lost. The insulation from mulch also helps moderate soil temperatures. That doesn’t mean mulch can keep your soil from freezing, but it can give you a buffer of a few degrees if temperatures are fluctuating.

One thing to keep in mind when applying mulch is the carbon to nitrogen ratio. Most mulches are very high in carbon. For the microbes in soil to decompose mulch they need nitrogen. So, if you apply a lot of wood chips as mulch, those microbes in the soil will need all the nitrogen to break down the mulch, meaning your plants aren’t going to get as much nitrogen. So adding some extra nitrogen to the soil will be beneficial to the mulch and your plants.

Most mulch should be applied 3 to 4 inches. 5 inches for pine needles and 2 inches for wood chips. If you have any questions about mulches contact your local Extension Office or email me at [email protected].

Erosion Control


By: Jacob Williams, Towns-Union UGA Extension Agent

Georgia, along with much of the southeastern US, doesn’t have a positive past with erosion. Repetitive cropping of cotton in the piedmont resulted in seven inches of topsoil being washed away into the ocean. Soil takes hundreds of years to create, meaning that the loss of soil is something that will be
felt for generations. By the 1950s, new policies and programs began to change Georgia from endless
cotton fields to forestland and other uses that are less susceptible to erosion. In the mountains, there is
always a threat of erosion if we aren’t proactive with protecting our landscape. Let’s talk about why we
should care about erosion and some things that you can do to make sure that your land isn’t eroded

With the high amount of rainfall that we receive in the mountains, erosion caused by water is the
biggest concern that we have, so I’ll focus on that. Erosion is also caused by wind and gravity. According
to the US Department of Agriculture, 2 billion tons of topsoil are lost each year in the US because of erosion. The topsoil is the most nutrient-rich part of the soil, and so plants rely heavily on it for growth.
Therefore, losing topsoil is going to reduce your plant growth. Erosion can also lead to water quality
issues. Not only does the topsoil muddy up our lakes and rivers, but also the nutrients that the topsoil is
carrying can create algal blooms leading to decreased aquatic life. That is bad news for our lakes and the fish that inhabit them. Erosion can also create a hardpan that will repel water and increases surface

So let’s talk about what you can do to reduce erosion. Firstly, construction makes soil very susceptible to erosion. Removing all the vegetation from the top of the soil leaves it open to the rainfall. Whenever possible in construction, surround the project site with hay bales and silt fences, preserve the already existing vegetation, and keep any piles of loose vegetation or gravel covered.

Keep stream banks covered with vegetation and trees. Those plant roots will solidify that stream bank so that the natural erosion process will be slowed down. It will keep the stream from widening. In gardens and around the home use mulch or compost when possible to protect bare soil. This will improve water infiltration into the soil and reduce runoff.

Minimizing impermeable surfaces such as the driveway or walkway on your property will also reduce
erosion. Obviously, you will need some impermeable surfaces at your property, such as a roof for your
house. For cases like that, it’s important to design pathways for the water from those impermeable
surfaces to travel so that they can be deposited in a rain garden or pond. Rain gardens collect water
to allow the water to infiltrate back into the soil instead of having it run downhill. Usually, they have plants
that are adapted to living in damp soils.

If you have any questions about erosion or what you can do to prevent erosion at your property, please contact your local Extension Office or send me an email at [email protected]

Towns-Union UGA Extension offers spring gardening class

Towns County UGA Extension

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – University of Georgia (UGA) Agricultural and Natural Resource Agent Jacob Williams offered a class Wednesday, April 10, at the Towns County Civic Center, educating gardeners on several topics of interest. Soil health, plant diseases, and insects were the main points of discussion at the seminar. Williams began by explaining the purpose the UGA Extension serves in Towns and Union Counties.

The organization provides researched-based answers for agricultural and natural resource based-questions, serving as a cooperative between UGA and county governments. The local extension office offers basic soil and water testing, e coli and radon screening, while providing citizens with information on matters such as land management and cultivation.

Towns County gardening

Williams explained that most ladybug home invasions consist of the Asian breed

Williams explained the importance of organic matter in soil, the fine balance of pH levels, and the functions of mulch and compost. Common plant diseases discussed included mildew, Leyland Cypress disease, and root rot. “We’ve had two really wet years, back to back, and it’s been really good conditions for root rot to develop,” Williams said, adding that the best treatment is prevention by improving drainage and pulling mulch away from vunerable vegetation. Insects discussed consisted of aphids, ladybugs, Japanese beetles, and scale.

The class was interactive, and Williams answered numerous questions from those in attendance. Williams offered complementary soil testing via raffle to a lucky participant, a service typically priced at $10. Contact information for UGA Extension Agent Jacob Williams is available.

Fertilizer Part II


Fertilizer Part II
This week I’m going to continue talking about fertilizers, but I’m going to go into some more specifics of different types of fertilizers and their pros and cons. I’m going to talk about organic fertilizers, weed & feeds, slow release, synthetic fertilizers, and manures.

Let’s get started with organic fertilizers. There are a number of different organic fertilizers out there. Generally speaking, these fertilizers will have lower concentrations of nutrients in them. They can be less likely to burn plants because of the lower concentrations. They can be a good fit for perennial ornamentals or vegetable gardens. Plants that are heavy feeders, like corn, are going to need more organic fertilizers applied so that their nutritional demands are met. Milorganite is an organic fertilizer that studies have shown can reduce deer browsing. Milorganite can be effective but it does have an odor that comes with it. Compost is also an organic fertilizer. Again, compost is not going to be a very strong fertilizer, but it will help build the soil organic matter, improving soil health. This is going to be beneficial in the long term for your plants.

Weed & feed products can be useful if you have issues with weeds on your properties. They are usually a granular herbicide and a fertilizer mixed together. Using one of these products can make lawn management simpler because you can kill two birds with one stone. Most of the time the herbicide is a combination of 2,4-D, mecoprop, and dicamba. These are commonly used herbicides for lawn care and are effective on broadleaf plants. The only drawback to using a weed & feed product is that you are also fertilizing the plants while you are trying to kill them. As these products have a pesticide in them make sure you always read the label before using them.

Slow release fertilizers are a very good option in certain circumstances. Slow release will release its nutrition over a period of months instead of one shot like most fertilizers. This is beneficial for a lot of perennial plants. Trees typically don’t need a lot of fertilizer, and applying a strong fertilizer can actually stress trees. Slow release doesn’t cause stress on trees, and they last for a few months. If you have perennial ornamentals that need a little fertilizer but not a big shot all at one time, slow release might be the way to go.

Synthetic fertilizers are the most common ones used. These will usually have higher concentrations of nutrients, meaning you get a bigger bang for your buck. As I’ve already discussed, that may not be what you’re after. If you are doing some vegetable gardening or your soils are very deficient in nutrient synthetic fertilizers will give you the biggest boost.

Finally, I want to say something about manures as fertilizer. Similar to organic fertilizers, their nutrient concentrations will probably be low. Also, you may not know what you’re getting nutritionally if no analysis has been done. Manure can be really good for building organic matter in soil. It is easy to add too much phosphorus if you are solely relying on manure; this can lead to eutrophication downstream. Some people are concerned with weed seeds in chicken litter. Studies have been done showing that chicken litter carries very little to no weed seed in it.

There are pros and cons to many different types of fertilizers. If you have questions about fertilizers contact your local Extension Office or send me an email at [email protected]

Prevent Problems with Leyland Cypress

Outdoors, TeamFYNSports

By:  Eddie Ayers, County Extension Agent

Leyland cypress is a popular, fast growing hedge or border tree reaching heights of 50 to 100 feet and widths of 20 to 30 feet. Though Leyland cypress originally appeared pest resistant, problems have recently become apparent. Over use of this plant, improper site selection, improper planting, and stressful weather conditions have led to two disease problems.  They are cankers and root rot.

Cankers are infected wounds on limbs and branches that may ooze infectious sap.  The trees get the canker because of fungi entering the tree. Leyland cypress can actually get two canker diseases.  Botryosphaeria Canker is one type and it is commonly called Bot Canker which kills individual branches in the tree. The foliage may turn rust colored before it dies.  The dead branch will have darker bark and will have a sunken canker where the dead part of the branch begins. The other canker is Seiridium Canker. Limbs infected with Seiridium Canker turn yellowish and then brown when they die.  Limbs often die back from the tips. The cankers on the main stem are sunken, reddish and ooze sap profusely. There can be many cankers on a limb and unfortunately, there is no spray to control these diseases.  The diseases enter wounds and are worse during stressful conditions. The main control is to keep the plant in good health so it can resist these diseases. Extreme weather and improper watering can be big factors in the spread of these diseases.  Plants with roots that get too wet or too dry are more likely to get either these canker diseases or root rot.

Even though we have been getting plenty of rain lately, the tree has suffered through years of drought, poor sunlight, and above average rain.  Over a period of years this adds stress to the tree. If the weather turns into a drought, water plants deeply once every 7 – 14 days and wet the soil to a depth of twelve to eighteen inches when watering.  Soil must dry out between watering or roots may die. Avoid wetting the leaves and limbs when you water. Soaker hoses are better because they keep the foliage dry, which may reduce disease problems.

Selecting the proper planting site will go a long way in helping prevent disease problems.  Leyland cypress planted too close together, near paved areas, next to walls or other heat reflecting surfaces may need special care in watering and planting to get established and to grow well.  Plant Leyland cypress in well-drained soil in sunny locations. Mulch them after planting but mulches should be no deeper than two to four inches. Apply mulch from the base of the tree out to several feet beyond the reach of the branches.  Because it holds in water, do not use landscape fabric unless the soil is very well drained. Do not pile mulch against the base of the plant.

Do not plant Leyland cypress in wet soils or poorly drained areas.  They may respond to wet feet by developing root rot or dying. Check soil drainage before you plant or if the tree has problems.  Dig a hole about a foot deep and wide. Fill it with water. If it takes longer than three hours for the water to drain out, the soil is probably poorly drained.  Do not plant Leyland cypress closer than eight feet. As the plants get big enough for the limbs to touch, remove every other tree. As the limbs rub together, they cause wounds that can be infected by the fungi which causes the canker diseases.

If your Leyland cypress already has these diseases, first cut out the dead limbs.  Be very careful to make cuts into good live disease free tissue. Cutting diseased limbs and then good limbs may spread the disease.  While pruning you can periodically clean your shears with a towel dipped in rubbing alcohol. Leyland cypress generally does not respond well to cuts on the main stem, but if you have cankers on the main stem, remove the tree or cut below the canker and see if the tree recovers. Nothing can be done about the weather, but you can lower the stress on the tree.  If you experience a lot of problems you’re your Leyland cypress, you might want to consider using a different plant.

For more information view the publication entitled Diseases of Leyland Cypress in the Landscape on our web site at or contact me in the Gilmer County UGA Extension office.

An Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Organization

Voles or Moles?

Outdoors, TeamFYNSports

By:  Eddie Ayers, County Extension Agent

Are some of your plants suddenly dying?  Did the tulips forget to bloom this spring?  After you hunted for some bulbs, did you find little tunnels in and around your flower beds?  If so, you may be a victim of the pine vole.

Often confused with moles, pine voles can be found in underground tunnels.  In fact, they may use mole runs just to make it easier to move around. Pine voles are usually 4 to 6 inches in length and are covered with brown, dense fur with a bicolored tail.  Their under parts are gray.

Pine voles prefer areas with a heavy ground cover of grasses.  They like living in deciduous and pine forested areas, abandoned fields and orchards.  They will eat grasses, seeds, tubers, bulbs and any underground growing part.

There are 23 vole species across the country.  They can cause extensive damage to orchards, ornamentals and trees due to their girdling of seedlings and trees.  Girdling usually occurs in fall and winter. The easily identifiable sign of voles is numerous burrow openings of about an inch around shrubs and flowers.  Voles are active day and night, year round, and they do not hibernate during the winter. Their “home” range is usually ¼ acre or less.

Moles, on the other hand, are found throughout a lawn or garden.  They have runs and push up soil just like the voles, but they do not come out of the ground.  They stick to a diet of grubs and other crawly creatures found in the soil, and they will sometimes kill plants as their tunnels will create air pockets that roots cannot live in, so proper identification of the mammal is important.

After identifying the culprit, controlling these rodents can be challenging.  Keeping grass in an area short helps with control because they do not like to move across open areas because of flying enemies.  Frightening devices or repellents generally do not work and although owls, snakes and hawks are predators of voles, they seldom control vole populations.  However, trapping, using a mouse snap trap, is effective along an active run during the winter. Favorite baits are peanut butter-oatmeal mixtures or apple slices.  Place several traps around a hole and cover it with a box to fool them with shelter and prevent pets from getting in the traps and if by chance one gets into a home, setting a snap or live trap as you would for house mice results in successful control.

If you are seeing the pushed up soil runs made by moles, there are two basic types of control.  There are harpoon traps that can be placed over an active run, but these are very tricky to use.  The most effective control has been to apply granular insecticides labeled to kill grubs. These will limit the moles food source and they will leave the area if they don’t have anything to eat.  The down side to this method is that the granules will also kill the beneficial critters that live in the ground. Remember when using any insecticide to always read and follow the label directions.

For more information, contact me in the Gilmer County UGA Extension office.

Johnsongrass: Friend or Foe?

Outdoors, TeamFYNSports

Johnsongrass:  Friend or Foe
Plus Master Cattleman Program in Dalton this Fall
By:  Eddie Ayers, County Extension Agent

A common sight right now is thick stands of what might be confused for corn growing on roadsides, pastures, and hayfields. What you’re seeing is most likely Johnsongrass (Sorghum halepense.)  Two important questions often asked are “what good is this plant” and “is it a beneficial forage plant or merely a persistent weed?”

Johnsongrass is a summer perennial grass that belongs to the sorghum family and can serve as a good forage crop in our pastures and hayfields. Livestock will graze young Johnsongrass plants if given the chance, as it is relatively high in crude protein and highly digestible. The issues with Johnsongrass arise from its persistent growth and potential toxicity issues for livestock.  When stressed by drought or frost damage, the plant produces hydrocyanic acid which is a derivative of cyanide, also known as prussic acid. This compound can be very toxic and even lethal to cattle.

Johnsongrass grows from a very thick set of fibrous roots and rhizomes (underground root nodules that form new plants) that make the plant more difficult to kill because it can “fall back” on energy stores in these rhizomes whenever the plant is stressed, whether by grazing, mowing, or herbicides. These rhizomes can also form new plants if disturbed or cut (by plowing or leaving part of the root in the ground). These rhizomes overwinter and send out new shoots in the spring and early summer. Johnsongrass also reproduces by seed, with a single plant producing 80,000 seeds per year. Because of these tendencies, Johnsongrass can be very persistent in a field if not controlled early and often.

Even though the symptoms of poisoning from Johnsongrass look like nitrate poisoning, the prussic acid can dissipate over time within the forage. If a large field of Johnsongrass is cut for hay, the hay should be dried to a safe baling content (15 to 18%) to ensure the prussic acid content has dissipated. Young plants, plants killed after frost, or plants growing after a long drought are the most susceptible to high prussic acid levels.

Control of this plant is difficult if it’s allowed to take control of a field in large areas.  Tillage is not recommended as it will most likely make the problem worse by distributing more rhizomes. Pulling up of plants is possible, but making sure that all the root is dug up is important. Mowing or grazing to prevent seed head production will help keep the plant at bay, but it will not remove the plant from the field.

There are some herbicides available to control Johnsongrass, but most of them cannot be used in tall fescue, which is the major part of our hayfields and pastures in Gilmer County.  Treatment of plants with glyphosate (Roundup) will allow for translocation of the product into the root system. One good option to get the glysophate to the Johnsongrass and not harm the desirable forage is through a wick applicator.  Fortunately in our area the Limestone Valley Soil and Water Conservation District has one that can be rented. It is housed at Hinton Milling Company in Jasper. Contact them at 706-692-3626 to schedule a time to use it. You can also make or buy a wick applicator to try and control this (and other) pesky weeds.

I also want to mention that the UGA Extension office in Whitfield County is hosting a Master Cattleman Program this fall in Dalton from September 4th through October 23rd from 6:30 – 8:30 pm, which is every Tuesday for 8 weeks.  Paid registration before August 17th entitles participants to one free forage sample analysis; sample must be submitted no later than September 11th.  Registration is $85 per person and includes a dinner on the final night.  Pre-Registration deadline is August 24th and can be done on-line at: or for more information, contact me in the Gilmer County UGA Extension office.

An Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Organization

Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail takes root in Towns County

Community, News
Towns county 4H

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – The University of Georgia Towns County 4-H Extension has joined the Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail initiative, and a variety of plants known to beckon the insects are in full-bloom outside of the Hiawassee office at 67 Lakeview Circle.

Agricultural-Natural Resource Extension Agent Jacob Williams explained that the garden is a first-year project, planted by local 4-H students. The Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail, namesaked after former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, was founded in 2013 in conjunction with the Georgia Department of Education in an effort to bring awareness to the dwindling monarch butterfly population.

The project provides habitats suitable for butterflies to feed, nest, and repopulate. Numerous citizens and organizations throughout Georgia have partnered with the Trail, with over 350 gardens springing forth worldwide. A 2016 monarch count revealed that the butterfly population has decreased by 68 percent over the past 22 years, and those involved in the project hope to see the population strengthen.

Robin H. Webb

Monarch on a Butterfly Bush

The local extension garden boasts flora such as Blackeyed Susan, Stokes Aster, Purple Coneflower, Rattlesnake Master, Passion Fruit Vine, and Butterfly Bush. A shallow basin rests among the blooms, offering a convenient water source for visiting butterflies.

For further information on the Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail, visit


Eastern Tent Caterpillar

Outdoors, TeamFYNSports

By:  Eddie Ayers, County Extension Agent

As I ride through the county I’ve noticed some webs are back in the wild cherry trees but before you start having nightmares about the webbing we had last fall, you can rest assured that this insect is different.  This culprit is the Eastern Tent Caterpillar. The webs serve as a home to the newly emerged larvae or as we like to call them, caterpillars. The eggs are timed to hatch when the cherry buds unfurl as they need to eat to grow and complete their life cycle.

Older larvae are generally black, with long brown hair and a white stripe down the middle of their backs. Along the midline is a row of blue spots with brown and yellow lines. At maturity, the caterpillars may reach a length of 2½ inches. The adults are reddish-brown moths which have two white oblique stripes on each forewing.  These are harder to notice, but they are the final step in the life cycle.

The adult moths emerge in May and early June and lay egg masses that resemble chocolate-colored collars that encircle the smaller limbs of their host. Each egg mass is about 1 inch long. Eggs overwinter and hatch in mid-March of the following year to start the cycle again. From each egg mass, several hundred tiny feeding machines emerge, and for four to six weeks they hungrily strip the trees of their leaves. The larvae are gregarious and upon hatching they gather in the forks of the limbs and develop the web that can be seen in the trees.  This serves as their home for the larvae. From this mass of silk, the developing larvae move outward to feed on developing leaves, but they return at night and during rainy weather. The nest gradually becomes larger and larger as silk accumulates. Although the nests are most commonly seen in the forks of wild cherries, this pest can be found in other ornamental, shade and fruit trees, especially apples. While not a serious pest in the natural forest, the unsightly web insect can reduce the beauty and esthetic value of shade trees and other hardwoods in the landscape.

About four to six weeks after hatching, full-grown larvae will crawl away from their nests and accumulate on the sides of homes, on driveways and sidewalks and on various woody ornamentals in search of sites to complete the next phase of life, the pupae phase.  This phase is a shell or cocoon in which the caterpillar matures into a moth. There is concern that they may be attacking other plants, but when they do leave their web, the larvae are finished with their feeding and will do no damage to plants on which they are found. The caterpillars are primarily a nuisance and do not usually pose a danger to the overall health of a larger, well-established tree as the tree can produce another flush of foliage.  However, young fruit and ornamental trees may be damaged, so it is a good idea to remove the web from these trees.

Usually, no chemical controls are necessary or very effective.  One reason is that the web is water proof and insecticides that are applied usually do not reach the larvae but you can break open the web and apply an insecticide such as carbaryl (Sevin), BT or a pyrethroid if you would like. If you decide to use an insecticide, please read the label and follow the instructions.  In addition, the egg masses can be clipped from the limbs in late June to prevent nests from developing the following spring.

For more information about the webs in trees right now, contact me in the Gilmer County UGA Extension office.

Turfgrass Research Field Day is Thursday, August 9

Outdoors, TeamFYNSports

By:  Eddie Ayers, County Extension Agent

Whether you’re a new, beginner or veteran homeowner, landscaper (perhaps your own company) or golf course superintendent, you’ll find the latest research-based information on growing and maintaining Turfgrass at this year’s Turfgrass Research Field Day on the UGA campus in Griffin, GA on Thursday, August 9th.

The University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) researchers and UGA Extension specialists will present the latest information on how to care for residential lawns, commercial golf courses, athletic fields and any other space covered with Turfgrass.

Field day topics will include how to control weeds, insects and diseases, managing seed heads, heat and drought tolerance and an update on the UGA Turfgrass breeding programs.

A catered BBQ ribs and chicken lunch will be followed by product exhibits and demonstrations of the latest Turfgrass industry equipment. A self-guided research tour begins at 1:15 pm with at least half dozen programs to choose from. Guided tours will be offered in Spanish for Spanish-speaking attendees.

Registration is from 8:00 to 8:45 am followed by the welcome and presentations plus information regarding the available tours.  To view the Turfgrass research plots, the event is held outdoors, rain or shine, so dress appropriately and bring sunblock. The day concludes at 2:30 pm.

Pre-registration is required for the $65 individual fee ($25 for students) before July 17th. After that deadline, fees increase to $80 and $30. Receive a 10% discount for four or more registrants. The registration fee includes instruction, research tours, demonstrations and exhibits, Turfgrass research field day guide and lunch. You can register online at or via the Griffin location in person, by phone or fax, or snail mail.  Their telephone number is 770-229-3477. For more information, view or download the brochure at:  We also have a few brochures here in the office if you’d like to pick one up.

The event is sponsored by the UGA CAES, the UGA Center for Urban Agriculture, the Georgia Urban Ag Council, the Georgia Turfgrass Foundation Trust, the Georgia Golf Course Superintendents Association, the Georgia Golf Environment Foundation, the Georgia Sports Turf Managers Association and the Georgia Recreation and Park Association.

Please note: the field day is certified for private and commercial pesticide recertification credits in Georgia and neighboring states. A license number is required to receive the field day pesticide credits.

Also this summer, if you or someone you know enjoys the amusement parks in the area, buy the tickets on-line at a discount and support the Gilmer County 4-H Club.  Selling tickets to Six Flags and White Water has been a local 4-H fundraiser for nearly 10 years. Day passes and combo vouchers for season tickets including parking are available. For every ticket purchased through our partnership log in, the Gilmer County 4-H Club gets $1.00 so be sure to write down the following information; it is needed to access the site. A word of caution: the name, password and promo code are case sensitive. Our partnership link is and the name is:  GilmerOG and the password is:  SixFlags10 and the promo code is:  gilmer4h and if you need more information, call the Gilmer County UGA Extension office at 706-635-4426.

UGA agricultural agent lists services provided to community

Community, News

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Jacob Williams, the newly-hired University of Georgia (UGA) Agricultural-Natural Resource Agent for Towns and Union County, introduced himself to the Mountain Movers and Shakers at Sundance Grill on Friday, July 13, 2018.

Williams, a native of Birmingham, Alabama, and the son of Christian missonaries, spent his younger years overseas, learning appreciation for the position which he now holds. Williams, who graduated from Auburn University in 2016 with a Master’s degree in Agronomy, recalled time spent in North Africa, witnessing and participating in agricultural development, dairy goat projects, and equine clinics, designed to assist locals with self-sufficiency. Williams went on to work a large parcel of land in North Africa, tolling with oxen for wheat production, without the aid of modern machinery. The extension agent relayed that the experience bolstered his respect for the labor associated with agriculture. After acquiring a high school diploma in 2010, and returning to the United States to obtain a post-secondary education, Williams gained employment at Speedling in Blairsville, Georgia, a company which specializes in growning vegetable and flower seed plugs for transplant gardening.

“I heard about this extension position, it came open, and I was very excited so I applied for the position, and I was very excited that I got it,” Williams enthusiastically expressed, “I began June 1st as extension agent for Union and Towns counties. To me, it wasn’t something I was necessarily praying for at the time because I was very happy at Speedling, but it really does feel like I’m where God wants me to be.”

Williams educated the group on several of the services the extension office provides, such as soil and water quality testing, and plant disease identification. Samples are collected and shipped to the University of Georgia labratory in Athens, Georgia, for examination. Soil testing costs $10.00, plant disease determination costs $25.00, and testing of water samples for harmful agents – such as mercury or bacteria – amounts to $46.00.

In addition, the extension office offers plant identification assistance at no charge. Photographs of unknown plants can be emailed to Williams, or the plant can be brought directly to the office. Williams recommended the route of photographing plants that may be potentially poisonous.

Gardening advice is also available at no cost to residents.

Williams will divide his time between Towns and Union County, with the Hiawassee branch open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8 a.m. until noon.

Towns County Extension Office is located at 67 Lakeview Circle in downtown Hiawassee.

Jacob Williams can be reached by dialing 706-896-2024 or emailing [email protected]

Back to Top