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Ask Dr. Hort: Readers want those tent caterpillars gone

Readers want those tent caterpillars gone

Q: In 32 years I have never seen so many tent caterpillars with such invasive webs! Is this a particularly "good" spring for tent caterpillars? Is there anything one can do to help stop the invasion? Barb

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Q: I have those awful caterpillars dangling from my house, my trees and my bushes. I can't walk out the door without getting wrapped up in the webs. Is there any way to get rid of them and keep them from coming back next year? Gail Ramsdell, Safety Harbor

A: Barb and Gail, there is little that can be done. Every few years they hatch like crazy, for unknown reasons, and dangle from everything.

However, if the webbing is very thick, you may burn it, which will eliminate the web and the caterpillars inside. Use a lighter, the type used for starting gas grills. They are about 8 inches long. Keep a garden hose ready, just in case.

And Barb, based on your photograph, above, you win the prize for the most webbing from tent caterpillars in a single yard.

Birds balk at soggy soil

Q: My bird of paradise is about 20 years old but no longer produces "birds." The past two or three years I might have had one bloom but that's it. Any suggestions? It receives full sun. I've had it since it was in a 2-inch pot. I'm much annoyed to have friends tell me, "Oh, we have 15 (or 25) blooms," and I have one! Colleen B. Belski

A: It is bound to be a cultural problem. Check irrigation first (if irrigated) for a leaky sprinkler head; too much water or soggy soil discourages blooming. If it has been repeatedly mulched, it may need to be dug and reset level with existing ground. Fertilize with a quality palm fertilizer with 50 percent slow-release nitrogen and potassium in May and October and a micronutrient dose in July or August. If you are using a turf fertilizer (high nitrogen, the first number on the label) you'll get growth but no blooms. Also keep turf grass 3 feet away from the clump. Turf competes heavily for water and nutrients. Two to 3 inches of organic mulch is good, but keep 3 to 4 inches away from the clump. Hopefully by following these tips, you'll have your bird back bloomin' in no time!

Nutritional comes in different formulas

Q: I saw your article about Southern Ag EME and when I looked on the Southern Ag website (, I found two. One is EME Dry Nutritional and the other is EME New Granular Formulation. Does it make any difference which one I use, or should I get whichever one is available at the nursery? The percentages of the elements are different. Martha Orchard

A: You are very observant! The granular product is new and may not be available in all stores. The new product has 1/2 percent less magnesium, manganese and zinc, but has 1 percent more iron. I think the trade-off is okay. The major change is that the new product will be much easier to work with and spread. If the new granular formulation is available, that would be my choice.

Need help? Dr. Hort (Greg Charles) answers questions about garden problems. E-mail him at [email protected] or mail questions to HomeLink, Features Department, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Describe problem in full, and include your name, city of residence and contact information. If possible, include a good-quality photo. Fuzzy ones won't do. Photos cannot be returned.

Ask Dr. Hort: Readers want those tent caterpillars gone 03/26/11 [Last modified: Saturday, March 26, 2011 4:30am]
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