Inez Castor

This time of year everyone wants to know what pest is eating their favorite plants, or how to destroy the pests they recognize.

andquot;The leaves on my roses look like chantilly lace!andquot; Morganna exclaimed indignantly. andquot;Last year they were beautiful, so I don't know what happened.andquot; I confess, neither do I.

But I do know that Safer soap is what I would spray on any plant I wanted to save from anonymous pests of the insect persuasion. It won't hurt pets or people, and can be safely used on food crops right up until the day before harvest. It can be found in most garden departments or ordered from seed catalogs.

Every season brings new pests and dilemmas, which keeps life interesting. And my guess is that there are insect pests here that have never been here before.

Little ants marching

If Guadalupe and Northern fur seals are washing up on our beaches, there are sure to be strange critters flying, crawling, and hitching rides on food, flowers and firewood.

I've had my own pest issues this week, and while I may not have won the war, I've definitely won this battle! It all started when I woke up one morning to find tiny ants in the sink and on the kitchen counter. I've never had ants in the house, and I wanted to stop the invasion before they establish a beachhead behind the bananas.

I don't have much in the way of an arsenal, since I usually let bugs take care of each other, so my options for immediate action were limited. I do have a hot glue gun and a bag of glue sticks, so I used it to fill the gaps around the old wooden window sill through which the little irritants were streaming.

It obviously confused them, but they're so tiny that as soon as the glue cooled, they found or created entrances under and around it. Commencing plan B, I covered the entire area with paper towels soaked in ammonia. The stench was horrific, but the ants didn't like it any better than I did.

For several days I sprayed the noxious stuff on the paper towels whenever they dried out, and there hasn't been an ant in the house since.

Fruit gnat strategy

Other folks are dealing with the premature arrival of no-see-ums, those little fruit gnats that usually appear in mid-August, during the height of canning season.

There are many ways to deal with them, and they all work sometimes and fail miserably other times. Flypaper strips almost never work, since the fruit flies are too tiny to make any impact on it.

You can try a bit of vinegar and a couple drops of soap in a glass. Fill it until the liquid dribbles over into a saucer, and when the gnat tries to land on the edge it slips in and drowns.

A better idea is to leave a half-inch of wine in the bottom of a glass. It may give the impression that you're a slovenly drunk, but your gnats will happily drink themselves to death.

Reach Inez Castor, a long-time Triplicate columnist, at