Small insects are also happy that summer is coming: they’re coming out of hibernation and are partying in your backyard. They’re happily feasting on your plants, your bushes and your trees and are demolishing the hard work you’ve put in to spruce up your lush garden. Since the damage caused by these invaders is not covered by your home insurance, here are some tips to reclaim your green space and push back against these small, but formidable, pests.
Pavement ants, which are brownish in colour and three to six millimetres long, are the curious little guys that typically show up when you settle down in the grass for a nice picnic.
To avoid their somewhat bothersome presence, scatter compost and topsoil on the ground: that will make pavement ants feel less welcome, as they like sandy soil. And to make sure you’re not attracting them, wash down kitchen counters daily, properly dispose of any food snacks after meals and snacks, empty the kitchen garbage in the bin outside the house every day, and store food in sealed containers. Already got an ant infestation? Pour boiling water on their nest, that little pile of sand outside, or pick up some ant traps from the hardware store.
Carpenter ants are far more destructive than pavement ants. They are black and much larger, almost a centimetre long. They love damp areas and bore into wood to make their home, weakening the structure of the host wood. To avoid a disastrous situation, store food in airtight containers, wipe down kitchen surfaces daily, don’t store wood near your home, cut any trees branches that are touching your home and install screens on every window. Don’t think twice about calling an exterminator if you’ve got a serious problem on your hands, like if you find little piles of sawdust on the ground.
Emerald ash borer
The emerald ash borer, a metallic green beetle about one centimetre long, has been ravaging Canada and the United States since 2002. This insect is highly destructive: in one region that has been dealing with an infestation for 10 years, only 1% of ash trees have been spared1.
Emerald ash borers destroy trees from top to bottom, making it hard to quickly notice an invasion, unless you’re extremely vigilant. Keep an eye out for telltale signs: thinner leaf cover and lighter green foliage, dying branches, bark turning pink in places, and cracking bark as the larvae chew their way through winding tunnels under the bark. It won’t be long until the tree dies: irreparable damage can be done in just one, two or three years2. Infected ash trees can be treated if it’s still early on, but if the deterioration is too far advanced, unfortunately the trees will need to be cut down.
In the face of such a deadly attacker, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The main tactic is never to transport wood from region to region. So if you want to make a bonfire or get firewood, be careful where you’re getting it from. At home, buy your wood at a hardware store or from a supplier near you. When camping, get your firewood onsite, as close as possible to your campsite.
For further advice on environmentally friendly emerald ash borer preventative treatments, contact a local arborist.
In their momentous journey from tiny egg to the magical moment when they enclose themselves in a delicate chrysalis to undergo a most masterful metamorphosis, caterpillars live a fairly idyllic life. They have a single goal in mind: the next step of their transformation into butterflies. To get themselves ready, they nibble on leaves and flowers to get the energy they need.
There are a few solutions to deal with unwanted caterpillars:,
- Put on gloves, remove the caterpillars one by one and reposition them to less valuable shrubs
- Cut off any leaf where you find them and throw it in the garbage or compost
- Scare them away by spraying your plants with garlic-infused hot water
- Attract birds that like to feed on them: set up a birdhouse on your property and enjoy their singing at the same time!
- Pick up products from the hardware store, or if all else fails, call an exterminator if they get out of hand
Other species of insects are probably also dropping by your garden for a snack; get rid of them as soon as you notice them—you don’t want them getting too comfortable on your property! Plant herbs and fragrant plants like garlic, lavender, coriander or mint: their scent repels insects. Scatter coffee grounds at the base of plants to keep insects away, and gently wipe leaves and stems with a cloth soaked in soapy water to remove any intruders.
But did you know that some insects are helpful for your garden? Discover the importance of bees in our ecosystems. Take a look at our other gardening articles in the Advice Zone, like this one on how to prepare your garden.
If you like planting flower bulbs in your garden, you're probably well aware of just how much squirrels love digging them up and feasting on them. To keep these rodents away, and also skunks and groundhogs, the landscape team at our head office in Quebec City recommends spreading blood meal on the ground. This is what they do to protect the thousands of bulbs planted each year on our property.
All in all, the best way to protect against the ravages of an invader in your garden is to regularly inspect your plants and be on the lookout for the slightest sign of activity so you can quickly intervene.
1 Natural Resources Canada, "Emerald ash borer"
2 Canadian Food Inspection Agency, "Emerald Ash Borer - Questions and Answers"