Saturday, December 31, 2016

Gold Dust Day Gecko



The Gold Dust Day Gecko, a native to Madagascar, sometimes referred to as the Madagascar Day Gecko, does well in a tropical climate. Unlike most geckos, it is a diurnal animal, active during the day. They are territorial animals; males are especially aggressive towards other males.

These geckos are very colorful, usually bright green or a yellowish green. Halfway down their backs, they have three red teardrop markings. A blue shade is present around the eyes with bright gold markings on the back and neck. They feed on various insects and other invertebrates and are capable of eating other smaller lizards. They also eat soft, sweet fruit as well as pollen and nectar from flowers.  But they don’t bite humans.

Although these geckos will come into the house, probably looking for food, they are an arboreal species, spending most of their time in trees. If exclusion is desired, treat them as you would mice, rats and cockroaches; make sure to screen all windows, doors, ventilation passages and any small openings into the house.

Another species of gecko is the House Gecko, residing with humans in homes rather than in the wilderness. Being aggressive, this pale brown gecko drives other species away from the house. They are primarily nocturnal.

There are over 900 species of geckos worldwide, but only seven or eight reside in Hawai`i. Geckos are the only lizards who are able to make sounds, other than hissing.  Feeding on cockroaches, mosquitoes, ants, termites and moths, geckos are beneficial to home owners.

It has been thought that geckos are able to run up and down walls and ceilings due to tiny suction cups on their toe pads. However, recently scientists found that geckos have a network of tiny hairs and pads on their feet. With millions of hairs on each foot, the combined attraction of the weak electrical forces allow the gecko to stick to virtually any surface, even polished glass.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Citrus Skirt Pruning




Occasionally citrus trees have been pruned up off the ground. Some have asked, "What is the reason for this?"

Skirt pruning of citrus has been around for a long time in those countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. The skirt of the tree includes those branches which hang down and touch the ground or are near to the ground.  In Italy, the skirts are pruned as high as the goats can reach.

In the United States, California in particular, skirt pruning done with clippers or a pruning saw, not goats, is a recent development and mainly came about as a means of controlling snails in the orchard.  By skirt pruning, usually 18 – 24 inches, snails as well as ants are denied easy access into the tree. Then the trunk is the only route.  Farmers can concentrate their pest control efforts on a small area, the trunk, rather than spraying the whole tree with pesticides. In the case of snails, copper foil is often banded around the trunk; snails will not cross the copper band. For ants a sticky material is sometimes applied.

Skirt pruning will also help control brown rot disease of citrus fruit. Since low hanging fruit is eliminated, the overall fruit quality will improve. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Yams or Sweet Potatoes?




What is the difference between yams and sweet potatoes?  Are they the same, yet by a different name?
 
Many years ago orange colored sweet potatoes were introduced to the Southern United States. In an effort to distinguish these from the traditional white-fleshed potato, producers called them yams, which is the Anglicize African word, nyami. Today, most of the starchy tubers consumed in the US and labeled as yams are in reality sweet potatoes. Yet yams and sweet potatoes are not the same; in fact, they are quite different from each other. 

As far as botanical order is concerned, they are at opposite ends. The sweet potato is a dicot, set in the morning glory family. The sweet potato, whose sweet and moist flesh varies in color from white to yellow and orange, is native to South America; the skin is typically smooth. Garnet, Jewel, and Beauregard are orange fleshed sweet potatoes that often masquerade as yams in the local supermarkets.



 Yams, on the other hand, are a monocot, closely related to grasses. In contrast, yams are dry and starchy and rather bland. While yellow or purple in color, the skin is rough and a bit shaggy. Yams are native to North Africa and Asia. They range in size from that of a small potato up to 150 lbs. Yams are a primary agricultural crop in West Africa, where 95 percent of the world's yam crop is grown.  Incidentally, both yams and sweet potatoes can be purple.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Black Witch Moth




"May I borrow your house?" is the Mayan translations for Mah-Ha-Na. This is the name for the moth which often rests at night under the eaves of the house. The common name is Black Witch Moth, Ascalapha  odorata.

Its wingspan can reach 7 inches.  The wings are dark brown, and both pairs are crossed by a series of alternating light and dark wavy lines. There is often an iridescent blue cast over the wings. Females have pinkish-white bands across the middle of both wings, whereas the males lack these pale bands.  In addition to the Hawaiian Islands, they are common in the Caribbean, South and Central America and migrating into the continental USA and southern Canada in the summer.  

This moth lives in the tropical and subtropical forests where trees of the pea family grow. This includes acacias, albizia, cassia and samanea (monkeypod). The caterpillars feed on the foliage of these trees. The moth often flies great distances in only a few nights, hiding by day wherever it can find dense shade, frequently under the eaves of houses.

While they mostly fly during the summer season, in the southern areas of the United States and in Hawaii, they are also known to fly during late October, hence the name Black Witch Moth. 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Why Leaves Turn Yellow


 

When the leaves of a plant begin to turn yellow, determining the cause will take some investigation. There are several possibilities:

         The first consideration is a lack of nitrogen, especially if a number of plants are affected and there has been no recent application of fertilizer.  Apply a high nitrogen fertilizer, and if after a week or so the plants begin to turn green, the problem is solved.

          If the plants don’t turn green, the problem could be a disease.  Plants can become infected with a fungus, especially when over watered, causing a root or crown rot.  Inspect the roots and the crown of the trunk.  Scratch into the bark of the trunk at the soil line and also into a piece of root.  If the tissue inside is brown or black, rather than light colored, a root or crown rot is evident.     

         Another common reason for a general yellowing is a lack of oxygen in the root zone.  This is due to too much water – over irrigation or too much rain.  As long as the soil drains well the problem is minimized.  But in clay soils, water does not drain well, resulting in a waterlogged condition.  Without adequate oxygen in the soil, roots cannot function properly, and the plant turns yellow.  If the condition continues, root rot will develop and the plant will die.  That is why so many planting instructions suggest to plant in a well-drained soil. 

         If plants are yellow and lack vigor, a soil analysis can identify nutrient deficiencies and/or a pH imbalance.  The pH reveals the acidity or alkalinity of the soil. Most plants have a definite acid/alkaline range in which they will properly grow.

         Although not common, there is always the possibility of persistent chemicals in the soil.  A soil sterilant or preemergent herbicide may have been applied to the soil.  These compounds can persist for many years.  Preemergent herbicides are those that are sprayed on the bare ground and become incorporated into the top few inches of soil.  At label dosages they affect only the target weeds and last from several months to a year.  But if an overdose is applied, the chemical will be there for many years and adversely affect many plants. 
         An infestation of microscopic round worms called nematodes (example, root knot nematode) can also cause plants to yellow and be stunted.