Garden Talk

with Rebecca Jordi


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Q: I have heard bats can carry rabies. Why would anyone want to have a bat house near their home if this is true?

Bat

Bat

A:  While it is true, bats have the capacity to carry rabies, like many other mammals, the possibility of them having rabies is small.  Common carriers of rabies are raccoon, skunk, fox, opossum, otter, bobcat and panther. If you find one hurt or on the ground during the day, it is most likely sick and you should leave it alone.  If you want to take it to your veterinarian, then be sure to wear heavy leather gloves to avoid a potential bite.  Most bats are highly and uniquely adapted to catch night-flying insects. Nocturnal bats locate their food and navigate by uttering ultrasonic cries that return as echoes off solid objects. The large ears and oddly shaped nose and facial configurations of some bats assist in detecting these echoes. This form of navigation is termed “echolocation.” This technique is also used by dolphins to detect prey and navigate in conditions of low visibility. Once bats detect prey, they use their wings, the wing membrane surrounding their tails, and their mouths to catch insects in flight or to pick them off vegetation. Although most bats are insect eaters, some bats specialize in eating other items such as fruit, nectar, and pollen, vertebrates, and even blood. All bats resident in Florida eat insects, but a few of the species that occasionally show up in south Florida feed on fruit, nectar, and pollen. Please note it is important not to pet, touch or capture wild animals without proper training and permits from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. We will be having a “Landscape Matters” class on bats on July 1, 2015 Wednesday and we will be assembling a bat house.  There is a pre-registration requirement so call our office for more information if you are interested in the class.  For more complete information on bats in Florida look over the University of Florida publication:  https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw203


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Q: I was watching a show about the Queen’s garden and they use garlic to kill aphids. It appears to work. What do you think?

Garlic

Garlic

A:   According to Clemson University, garlic is marketed in several products intended to repel insects, such as capsaicin.  Remember capsaicin is in pepper spray which is used to deter dogs.  It is derived from hot peppers.  Both garlic and capsaicin have shown an ability to deter insects and both products are labeled to repel a wide variety of pests on ornamental plants.  However, they also have been show to repel and harm beneficial insects such as bees. To date there is little research showing effectiveness of garlic insecticides. Products containing garlic or garlic oil include Garlic Barrier and Mosquito Barrier.


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Q: Do those mosquito plants work? If so, I am going to buy dozens of them.

Mosquito

Mosquito

A:  A Dutch botanist incorporated the genes of Chinese citronella grass into an African geranium resulting in a hybrid plant which has the growth habits of a geranium and the scent of citronella. It works best when leaves are crushed and rubbed on the skin. Mosquitos don’t like the scent of citronella and will avoid it. Be sure and “patch test” yourself for any allergy to these leaves by testing a small amount repeatedly on your inner forearm for a day or so; if there’s no irritating skin reaction or redness, then it should be safe to rub on your skin. The mosquito plant has also been called the “citrosa” plant after its chemical constituent. The leaves may contain up to 40% of the repellency of DEET, the active ingredient in DEEP WOODS OFF. Lemon thyme has 62% as much repellant ability as DEEP WOODS OFF! However, the plant as a whole is only about 0.09% citronellal, the chemical in citronella oil. “So,” Arthur Tucker Ph.D., a plant fragrance specialist from Delaware State College, says “the plant will do no good sitting there in a pot, the best chance of it repelling mosquitos if rubbing the crushed leaves on skin after testing a small patch for allergies.” Bottom line – you will need to protect your skin to keep the mosquitoes away.  However, a good supply of frogs, toads, lizards and spiders will help keep the pest at bay.  Plus, remember to empty any standing water in the bottom of flower pots, old toys or tires, etc. to limit the places for mosquitoes to breed in your yard. They need still, stagnant water for the larvae to reach maturity and remember only the adult female mosquito bites as they need blood to reproduce young.