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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

An inexpensive, natural fire ant control. One that's safe and actually works!

fire ant mound
 About this time of year, subterranean insects (such as fire ants) resurface and start to build nests/mounds. This is also the time of year when lots of people get bit by fire ants. Small children, pets and wildlife too – a few of which are seriously and permanently injured by the ants OR by the poison that's meant to kill the ants.

 You’d think that birds would eat them nearly to oblivion; and in ten, twenty or thirty generations they might. But fire ants are a relatively recent introduction to North America, and our birds haven’t figured out yet how to eat them safely.

For now, I control fire ants by soaking their mounds with a non-poisonous liquid compost solution. I don’t claim to be an etymologist, but this safe, homemade solution works for me – and costs less than 10% of what I’d pay for an advertised poison. And, if you get the queen, fire ants won't return.

I recommend a mixture of 40% compost tea, 40% orange oil and 20% liquid horticultural molasses (mixed thoroughly). Then I mix a half-cup of this mixture with one gallon of water, and saturate the fire ant mound with it. Pour slowly, making sure it soaks into the mound, and doesn’t just run off. (I use a stick to quickly break through the mound’s crust)

This natural solution doesn’t poison the fire ants (or children or wildlife or pets), it instantly dissolves the insects’ exoskeletons so they can’t walk, dig or eat. In about five minutes, there’s no ant activity. A few days later I’ll add beneficial nematodes to the soil to control fire ants long term.

 

 

 

OWEN YOST, in addition to being a blogger, is a licensed Landscape Architect emeritus who has lived and worked in north Texas for over 30 years. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Native Plant Society of Texas, and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Federation of Landscape Architects, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. His office is at Yost87@charter.net in Denton.

 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Birdfeeders and windows; the danger zone


A lot of birds are killed by flying into windows. There are zones, however, where it’s OK to put a feeder near a window. A feeder closer to a window than 2 feet (including on the window itself) is safe. Also, a feeder farther away than 7 feet is OK. The “danger zone” of between 2 and 7 feet should be avoided. You may still have a few bird strikes, however, when birds just aren’t paying attention. Like if it's being chased by a hawk or something.

White-throated Sparrow
A White-throated Sparrow crashed into our large kitchen window early this morning. (it was probably migrating north, like all true sparrows) The lifeless body was on our deck. Putting pathos aside, it was an opportunity to examine it up close. It’s a beautiful  bird – black streaks, pure white throat, vivid spots of yellow, and tan and gray body. I felt a deep responsibility for seeing to the needs of these couple-of-grams creatures whose home we have chosen to usurp.



Cats belong indoors   Ordinary housecats are one of birds’ greatest dangers; natural predators. They’re naturally stealthy and excellent hunters, even if well fed.  Nobody knows for sure, but there may be 2.5-million outdoor cats in Texas. Each kills an average of 5 or 6 birds a year. That works out to 12½ to 15 million dead birds annually. (Cats live a lot longer when kept indoors anyway.)
We have a cat at our house. However we never let it outside. It stares longingly out the window at birds. Not only will it lives longer as an “inside cat”, but so will the birds in our neighborhood.

 

 

OWEN YOST, in addition to being a blogger, is a licensed Landscape Architect emeritus who has lived and worked in north Texas for over 30 years. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Native Plant Society of Texas, and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Federation of Landscape Architects, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. His office is at Yost87@charter.net in Denton.