Get answers early, keep roots safe

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You love your hollyhocks, Hibiscus, Lavatera, rose mallows and all the showy members of the malva family. So when these pretty flowers are subtended by seed pods crawling with bugs (below, left), snap a photo! Then, ask around so you know whether a problem's brewing that might affect next year's show. 

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to asking for help now regarding last year's mystery problems, via photo or description posted on the Forum. (As a for-instance, look how easy it is to get a name for that weed so you can empower your curses!) If you wait until spring, help may be slower to come because everyone is busy.

Problems that are new to us usually catch our eye only when they have progressed to advanced stages, when the time for fixes has passed for that year. So we learn each winter what those new insect or disease issues were and can act in spring when there's time to head them off before they do much damage.

Photos below!

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to the dilemma that results when family members evict our perennial roots from the refrigerator crisper drawer as "sprouts gone bad." We don't want to discourage others from taking the initiative on 'fridge cleaning now and then. Yet, drat their timing, as those perennial divisions were only going to be in there a few days more until we could break ground and tuck them in.

Below: Now, really. Do these look like bean sprouts gone bad, or celery gone limp? The neatnik who tossed these bare roots of turtlehead (Chelone obliqua, left) and queen of the prairie (Filipendula rubra, right) probably never even opened the plastic bag and parted the moist paper toweling to take a whiff or a feel to determine they were rotted. Ah well, we won't make them feel bad by telling them these plants are endangered (turtlehead) and threatened (Filipendula) species...

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About those mystery problems

We're glad B.W. took the photos below (©2009 care of this website), especially the one on the right, which caught the proboscis of one of the bugs and is a giveaway as a weevil snout.

With the notion of "weevil" to go on, a leaden gray color and the name of its host plant, we can search references for malva weevil, hibiscus weevil, hollyhock weevil, etc. From reports of the damage and images of the insect we come eventually, to the pest's scientific name. That name's the key to lots of information.

Aspidapion radiolus is a hollyhock weevil. The first generation of the year begins snipping edges of leaves, flower buds and seed pods in June and increases its numbers right through into fall so the plants can lose a lot of greenery. Seems to prefer hollyhocks and the low, weedy malva called "cheeses" over other members of the family.

It's not life threatening but putting the brakes on the weevil population growth is a good idea if you'd like to keep your plants looking good longer into summer. The eggs develop inside seed pods, so keep the plant deadheaded to interrupt that cycle.


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Below, left, fireblight can cause a cherry or peach branch to go suddenly dark, just as new growth is most lush.

Below, right: Four-lined plant bug makes distinctive pockmarks on mint, other members of the mint family and a great number of other plants. Damage is almost always concentrated on top, new foliage. Fortunately, this bug causes only cosmetic -- if infuriatingly ugly -- damage. It also tends to occur in boom-bust cycles. A year of heavy damage may be followed by several that are plant-bug free.

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Have a mystery of your own to solve?

Post it here at the Forum for diagnosis - if you are not yet a Forum member, first register as a Member so you are allowed to post. Membership is free and takes just a minute to obtain.

Help us keep helping

We want to stay current on this season's questions, keep learning more, and write new articles... yet there is a great deal from our archives yet to post. For instance, we have written about four-lined plant bug and fireblight before. Those articles are not yet posted because there were many others ahead of them which are not available anywhere else. (For information about fireblight and four-lined plant bug , see our CDs Asking About Asters and Potting Up Perennials; the index of either one will take you to several in-depth articles.)

So, this team of two can use your help. We have about 900 pages posted, with about 3,000 in queue.

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