Tag Archive: Benefit

Benefit from Beneficial Insects

Adult Ladybug. Photo Credit: James Castner University of Florida

A number of summers ago, I noticed whiteflies on a confederate rose plant in my landscape. I considered using an insecticide to control the whiteflies but decided against doing so after taking a closer look. What I found was a population of ladybugs – eggs, larvae, pupae and adults.

Ladybug adults and larvae eat whiteflies, as well as other soft-bodied insects such as aphids. So, I waited to see what would happen.

At first I was seeing mostly adult whiteflies, which look like tiny white moths. Adult whiteflies mate and then lay eggs on the underside of leaves. The eggs hatch into flat translucent scale-like nymphs that suck the “juice” from the underside of the leaves.

Eventually, some of the leaves developed a black coating called sooty mold. As certain insects (primarily aphids, some scales and whiteflies) feed, they excrete plant sap that coats the leaves. Sooty mold then grows on this sugary sap. It’s not a pathogen. It just makes the leaves look ugly.

Knowing that the whiteflies would not kill the confederate rose, I was willing to tolerate the sooty mold and allow the ladybug population to build.

Allowing whiteflies to live on your plants may not always be the best option. But in order to have beneficial insects in your landscape, there must be some “bad” insects for them to eat.

Insects such as ladybugs, lacewings and praying mantises eat many pest insects. Encouraging these beneficial insects can allow you to reduce the amount of pesticides applied.

It’s important to learn to recognize the adult and immature stages of these beneficial insects. Ladybugs have larvae that look nothing like

Ladybug larva. Photo credit: Aristizabal University of Florida

the adults. Some ladybug larvae look like small orange and black alligators. Others may resemble mealybugs. Many gardeners that would never kill adult ladybugs mistake their larvae as pests and kill them with insecticides.

The following UF/IFAS Extension website will help you learn to recognize many of our beneficial insects. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_beneficial_insects

Once you find beneficial insects in your landscape, reduce or eliminate the use of insecticides. When an insecticide is needed, use environmentally friendly options such as insecticidal soaps, horticultural oils and products that contain Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt).

Sometimes a heavy stream of water from a water hose is all that is needed to remove pest insects from plants and reduce their numbers to an acceptable population.

Remember, leaving a few pest insects is a great way to attract beneficial insects. Tolerating a minor infestation and a little plant damage will benefit the helpful insects, your pocketbook and the environment.


Author: Larry Williams – llw5479@ufl.edu

Larry Williams is the County Extension Director and Residential Horticulture Agent for the UF/IFAS Extension Office in Okaloosa County.

Larry Williams

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/05/12/benefit-from-beneficial-insects/

Your Christmas Tree Could Benefit Winter Wildlife

Your Christmas Tree Could Benefit Winter Wildlife

A christmas tree decoration hanging upon a Christmas tree at a tree farm

Christmas trees can provide benefits to wildlife long after they have served as holiday decoration indoors. Credits: IFAS photo database.

Americans purchased approximately 30 million live Christmas trees last year. If you plan to have a live tree this winter, and you’re wondering what you could do with your tree once it has finished its role as holiday decoration in your home, read below. Rather than simply dragging your tree to the curb for the waste disposal truck to pick up, you could prolong the life of your holiday tree by repurposing it to benefit wildlife.


Many of the needles may have dropped from your Christmas tree as it dried out while indoors, but the branches should still be intact. This means your tree could be used as a frame to present food for wildlife. After removing your indoor decorations, consider propping the tree up in your yard (perhaps using the same stand you used indoors), and adorning the branches with food enjoyed by wildlife visitors. Some low-budget options include mesh bags filled with bird seed (black oil sunflower seed, safflower seed, and thistle (nyjer) are favorites of many common backyard birds), pine cones smeared with peanut butter, home-made suet cakes, and strings of fruit such as apple slices, orange slices, or grapes. If you choose this option, beware that you may attract not only birds, but mammals such as squirrels, raccoons, opossums, and others.

If you’d like to watch your wildlife visitors, be sure to attach the food items with string so that the animals must eat the food at the site of the tree rather than carrying it away to eat or store elsewhere out of view. Consider using a biodegradable string (i.e., cotton) to secure the food items to your tree so you can eventually compost the tree without worrying about needing to remove the string.


If you’re tired of seeing your holiday tree in its upright position, consider taking it outdoors, laying it down, and heaping other vegetative debris loosely on top to form a ‘brush pile’. Brush piles are mounds of woody vegetation created specifically to provide shelter for wildlife.

The lower portions of a brush pile can offer cool, shaded conditions that allow small mammals such as rabbits to hide from the weather and from predators. Meanwhile, the upper portions can serve as perch sites for songbirds. The entire pile may be used as resting sites for amphibians and reptiles. In yards with few understory trees or shrubs, and at times of year when many trees and shrubs have limited foliage, these brush piles can provide much-appreciated cover for many kinds of wildlife.


Your retired Christmas tree could be used to make long-lasting habitat improvements for fish. In artificial ponds with little submerged vegetation, the addition of one or more Christmas trees could upgrade the quality of refuge and feeding areas for fish. Small fishes may hide among purposely submerged Christmas trees for protection, and larger fishes may follow them. If you’ve got an artificial pond on your property, consider adding discarded trees to create a place where fish can hide and find food, and also to concentrate fish for angling. Simply secure a cinder block to your holiday tree using heavy wire or thin cable and place it far enough from shore that water covers the top of the tree by a couple of feet. When constantly submerged, Christmas trees can persist for many years underwater.

Not only can your tree offer enjoyment to you when decorated with lights and ornaments indoors, but it can also allow you to provide post-holiday gifts to the wildlife and fish on your property.


Author: hollyober – holly.ober@ufl.edu


Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/12/16/your-christmas-tree-could-benefit-winter-wildlife/

Muscadines Benefit From Timely and Artful Pruning

Muscadines Benefit From Timely and Artful Pruning

Muscadine cluster Credit: Peter C. Andersen, UF/IFAS Extension

Muscadine cluster Credit: Peter C. Andersen, UF/IFAS Extension

Muscadines are a terrific grapey treat this time of year ’till fall throughout North Florida. To grow muscadines well in the home garden, care must be taken when pruning to maximize spatial efficiency and yield.

August is the very beginning of the muscadine harvest in the Florida Panhandle, which may last until October. Therefore it is also the time to begin thinking about pruning.

Once harvest concludes, it is usually a gardeners’ natural inclination to immediately prune their muscadine vines. This fast action is not the best for plant condition and next year’s yield, especially if there is an early frost. Early frosts surprise the plant before sugars have been moved to the roots for storage during dormancy. Therefore, waiting to prune in mid January to mid March will ensure that the vine has had adequate time to go dormant and acclimate to the winter season. A good rule of thumb is to wait to prune until bud swell or even first leaves emerge. This will greatly reduce the chance that vines are damaged by late frosts.


K.T. Kelly and JH. D. Gray, MREC/ UF/IFAS Extension 2003

K.T. Kelly and JH. D. Gray, MREC/ UF/IFAS Extension 2003

Muscadines flower and fruit on shoots from current, not previous, years growth. These new bearing shoots arise from the leaf axils of the previous years’ growth. Pictured above is the bi-lateral cordon training system. This is the most popular system for muscadine production. Pruning must be performed to maintain this configuration. If vines are too vigorous, it is acceptable to prune lightly throughout the growing season.

Vines must also be trimmed before herbicide application at least 2 feet from the ground. Nonselective systemic herbicides don’t harm tissue with bark, but must not come in contact with green tissue or it will be translocated to the roots and damage the plant.

Using a bi-lateral cordon system, there are two main branches or “cordons” of the vine. Along each cordon, fruiting spurs should be spaced approximately every six inches. Each fruiting spur should contain 2-4 nodes.

If fruiting spurs become more than one foot from the cordon, it is time for spur renewal. This is typically done every 3-6 years. Entire spurs can be removed if they lose productivity and replaced by new shoots. Additionally, cordons may lose productivity or die off after 5 to 10 years of production. If this occurs, simply remove the cordon and train a new or existing branch into a new cordon.

Pruning with a design in mind and at the proper time will enhance performance and longevity of muscadines in the home garden.


Information from this article was derived from HS763 The Muscadine Grape

Peter C. Andersen, Timothy E. Crocker and Jacque Breman

Also see Basic Considerations for Pruning Grapevines



Author: Matthew Orwat – mjorwat@ufl.edu

Matthew J. Orwat started his career with UF / IFAS in 2011 and is the Horticulture Extension Agent for Washington County Florida. His goal is to provide educational programming to meet the diverse needs of and provide solutions for homeowners and small farmers with ornamental, turf, fruit and vegetable gardening objectives. Please feel free to contact him with any questions you may have.

Matthew Orwat

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/08/03/muscadines-benefit-from-timely-and-artful-pruning/

Winter Burns Benefit Bermudagrass Hay Fields

Winter Burns Benefit Bermudagrass Hay Fields

Controlled burn of a Bermudagrass Hayfield

Controlled burn of a Bermudagrass Hayfield – Photo by Shep Eubanks

Now is an excellent time to begin planning controlled burns of bermudagrass hay fields in north Florida.  Weather conditions in late January and February are typically our best for getting a good controlled burn, especially with the recent hard cold weather that we have experienced. Burning provides many potential benefits to management of bermudagrass hay fields including thatch removal which helps generate a clean first cut of hay, reduction of leaf spot, and reduction of spittlebug levels for the new season. Burning is an inexpensive, labor efficient means of removing unwanted residues prior to green up versus mowing or using herbicides. The optimum time to burn is just before spring greenup.


It should be noted that some more stoloniferous and less rhizomatous varieties of bermudagrass such as Tifton 85, Tifton 78, and Coastcross, may be damaged by fire, especially a backfire, so it may be safest not to burn these particular varieties of bermudagrass. Most other varieties including Coastal, Alicia, Russell and others seem to tolerate fire very well.

Planning is essential to an effective and safe burn! In your planning you will need to take time to plow or disk fire lines around the fields to be burned. You will also need to obtain a burn permit from the Florida Division of Forestry field office in your area.  You can find the contact information here at the FDACS Division of Forestry field operations website.  You will also want to insure that you have adequate manpower to control the burn so that you mitigate the chances of an escaped fire. In all likelihood you will not need to conduct a burn every year. Every 3 to 5 years is probably a good rule of thumb for most operations.

Drip Torch

Drip Torch – Photo by Shep Eubanks

UsingFlapper for Controlling edge burn

Using flapper for controlling edge burn – Photo by Shep Eubanks

As far as basic tools go I would suggest a drip torch, flappers for controlling small flames on the edges of fields, and enough tractors equipped with a disk to patrol the perimeter of the fields to immediately control any unexpected escaped fire.

With adequate planning you can safely conduct an effective controlled burn on your hay fields with many positive benefits to your hay production.  For more information contact your UF/IFAS Extension Agent.

The following article by Retired Auburn University Forage Agronomist Don Ball  Use of Fire in Bermudagrass Management is also an excellent reference.


Author: Shep Eubanks – bigbuck@ufl.edu

Shep Eubanks is the County Extension Director and Agriculture Agent in Holmes County.

Shep Eubanks

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/01/24/winter-burns-benefit-bermudagrass-hay-fields/

How Dead Trees Benefit Wildlife

How Dead Trees Benefit Wildlife

This dead oak tree was trimmed up to make it neater.  It is ready for wildlife!  JMcConnell, UF/IFAS

This dead oak tree was trimmed up to make it neater. It is ready for a wildlife resident!   Photo: JMcConnell, UF/IFAS

One of the management issues that any landowner will face at some point is what to do when a tree dies in the landscape.  The logical response is “cut it down,” but depending on the location and the size of the tree, that may not be necessary and you could be removing potential wildlife habitat.

With any other major decisions about your landscape, always consider safety first.  If the tree is in a location where it could damage property or cause harm to people or domesticated animals then it should be properly removed.  But what about those trees that are along wood lines or in the far reaches of the yard and not threatening person or property?

Consider leaving the entire tree or modifying it to make it more aesthetically pleasing yet still useful to wildlife.  Weak branches or unstable tops may be removed to make the snag less of a risk or to look a little neater.

Some examples of animals that may use dead trees in the landscape are birds, bats, squirrels, frogs, and lizards.  Besides the obvious cavity dwelling creatures such as woodpeckers, owls, and bats that are attracted to decaying trees, other animals will be drawn for other reasons.  Dead trees in the landscape will become inhabited by insects and fungi which are terrific food sources for birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles!

To learn more about providing wildlife habitats in your landscape, please see the EDIS publications listed below or contact your local extension office.

Helping Cavity-nesters in Florida

A Birds-Eye View: How Birds Select Habitat

Dead Wood: Key to Enhancing Wildlife Diversity in Forests



Author: Julie McConnell – juliebmcconnell@ufl.edu

UF/IFAS Bay County Horticulture Extension Agent I

Julie McConnell

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/01/13/how-dead-trees-benefit-wildlife/

Food Plots Can Benefit Deer and Hunter

Deer feeding in test plots at the NFREC in Quincy.

Deer feeding in test plots at the NFREC in Quincy.

Visit your local UF/IFAS Extension office to get soil testing supplies and information.

Visit your local UF/IFAS Extension office to get soil testing supplies and information.

The shortening days and cooling temperatures serve as a reminder to many area sportsmen that deer hunting season is just around the corner. As the season draws near many hunters will be planting winter food plots. These plots generally consist of a variety of cool season crops, most often small grains and legumes. These plots are beneficial for both hunter and deer. Food plots provide a source of nutrition for deer through the winter when green browse can become harder to find. By providing a concentrated food source in a known location the hunter increases his or her likelihood of encountering a deer. When done correctly winter food plots can provide the deer herd with much needed nutrition well into the spring after the end of hunting season.

There are several factors to consider prior to establishing food plots. The first factors to look at are the size and location of the plots. There is no solid rule on how big a food plot should be. However, it should be noted that excessively large plots are often wasteful because deer tend to stay closer to cover associated with the edge of plots, rarely venturing out into the middle of very large plots. Generally speaking, multiple smaller plots, 1 – 5 acres, are more effective. Obviously, the more total acreage devoted to food plots the more the nutrition will be provided to the deer herd.

When selecting plot location look for areas that receive adequate sunlight, the more direct sun the better. If using a road or pine row for the plot location be sure the opening is at least 50ft wide to ensure adequate sunshine. Areas that have very sandy soils and areas that are prone to hold standing water should be avoided if possible. Additionally, when selecting a location for a food plot try to utilize areas where multiple types of habitats intersect. For example where hardwoods meet planted pines or where a cutover area meets tall timber. These “edges” are frequented by a variety of wildlife species.

Food plots are often more effective when located on "edges" where habitats change.

Food plots are often more effective when located on “edges” where habitats change.

Once the food plot location(s) have been determined the next step in the process is to assess and maximize the productivity of the soil in the area. The best way to do this is to have a soil analysis performed. In order to have an analysis performed, samples must be collected and sent off to a lab. The University of Florida Extension Soils Laboratory will analyze a soil sample and send back crop specific fertilizer and liming recommendations for only $ 7. Contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office for details on how to correctly take soil samples and to get the forms and packaging materials need to send samples to the lab. Correctly following the recommendations provided by the soils laboratory will greatly affect how productive and nutritious the crops in your food plot are.

Selecting the correct crops to plant is also key to a successful food plot. Crops being planted this time of year must be able to grow well in cooler weather. The most common crops used are small grains (oats, wheat, rye, rye grass) and clovers (red, white, crimson, etc.). These crops and others can all be productive if planted correctly and varieties suited to Florida are used. It is very important to choose varieties that have been bred and selected for production in Florida. Using crop varieties intended for use in other parts of the country will almost certainly result in crop failure. UF/IFAS Extension complies a list of recommended food plot varieties every few years. These recommendations are based on test plots grown here in the panhandle. Variety recommendations and other resources to help insure the success of your food plot are available at your local UF/IFAS Extension office or online at UF/IFAS Forages of Florida – Wildlife

A little additional planning and work up front combined with following the available fertilizer and variety recommendations can greatly improve the success and productivity of your food plot. Successful food plots can have lasting positive effects on the deer herd. Helping to make your hunting seasons more enjoyable this year and for years to come.


Author: Mark Mauldin – mdm83@ufl.edu

I am the Agriculture and Natural Resources agent in Washington County. My program areas include livestock and forage, row crops, and pond management.

Mark Mauldin

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2013/10/05/food-plots-can-benefit-deer-and-hunter/

Walton County’s New Weather Station will Benefit Producers

Walton County’s New Weather Station will Benefit Producers

DeFuniak FAWN

A FAWN (Florida Automated Weather Network) weather station was recently installed at Brown Pit off of Brown Road in North Walton County.  The University of Florida provided Walton County with the $ 15,000.00 weather station.  

Anyone can access the data collected by this and other FAWN weather stations at: http://fawn.ifas.ufl.edu/.  Once on the website you will see a map of Florida showing temperature readings in counties where FAWN stations are located.  Click or hover the pointer over the temperature readings and you will see additional information like soil temperatures, dew point, rainfall, humidity, etc.  As you can see on the FAWN website there are now three stations in the Florida panhandle west of the Apalachicola River.  Walton County’s newest weather station will benefit farmers and gardeners in Walton and surrounding counties by providing data to help make decisions such as when to plant, spray pesticides, and water crops. This station is the northernmost site in Florida.  

Other resources on the FAWN website include aerial maps, and links to publications from University of Florida on agriculture, horticulture, and turf grass.  Take your time on the FAWN website to discover all the information that is available.  The network of weather stations across Florida is near completion, with a total of 40 towers planned.

Check out the current weather conditions, updated every 15 minutes:

DeFuniak FAWN Weather Station Data


Pictured above: Mike Goodchild, Walton Co. Extension Director and George Braun, FAWN Program Engineer installing the new Weather Station.

Pictured above: Mike Goodchild, Walton Co. Extension Director and George Braun, FAWN Program Engineer installing the new Weather Station.


Author: Michael Goodchild – mjgo@ufl.edu

Michael Goodchild County Extension Director Walton County (forestry)

Michael Goodchild

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2013/06/13/walton-countys-new-weather-station-will-benefit-producers/