Pumpkins, Spiders, and Mums

Halloween Pumpkins

Now that October is here, we begin to get prepared for Halloween, a day which I personally enjoy. Pumpkins, spiders, and fall flowers are all part of this festival. So, I won’t miss the chance to help you with your holiday decorations and traditions.

Pumpkins

2017-10-28 19.10.50Pumpkins can be used for so many things including carving, decoration, pies, and many other food products. If planted later in the summer growing season, your pumpkins should just be maturing, or have matured within the last couple of weeks. If you are unsure, pumpkins are mature when the rind is hard and can resist penetration from a fingernail.

Pumpkins do need to be harvested prior to a hard frost. They can be ok out on the vine for a light frost, but a hard frost will damage the pumpkin and can damage storage potential and more likely cause the pumpkins to rot. They should be cut off the vine. Do not cut the vine too close to the pumpkin, this can also cause the pumpkin to decay sooner.

If you didn’t grow the pumpkin yourself, check over the pumpkins you are purchasing. Look for good rind with no puncture wounds. Ensure that the pumpkin has a bit of stem attached to the top and choose the correct pumpkin for the use you have in mind for it. Pie pumpkins are best for baking while jack-o-lantern types will be better for carving and for decorations.

Spiders

Wolf Spider, UNL ENTO
Wolf Spider photo by Jim Kalisch, UNL Entomology

Spiders always come to mind at Halloween as a decoration and because they become a problem inside our homes with the cool fall weather. The most common spider that people bring into my office to be identified is the wolf spider. These are one of the largest species of spiders that we will find in Nebraska. They are quite hairy and often times will have 2 white or lighter brown colored stripes down the back of the spider. There are some wolf spiders that can be the size of a half dollar or more, legs and all. These spiders are not poisonous, but they can bite. Most often, a wolf spider will not bite us, but if they do the reaction is usually similar to a large mosquito bite.

Spiders are actually beneficial, but not often desired. They feed on other insects and pests that can move into our homes. The best way to control a spider population indoors is through habitat modification, meaning to seal up all cracks and crevices in your home foundation and around windows and doors to ensure that the spiders don’t move into your home. You can also use the indoor/outdoor barrier sprays to spray around the foundation of your home and around the windows and doors to reduce spider populations inside your home. Also, sticky traps are a great way to manage spider populations indoors. 

Mums

orange mum, pixabay

Mums are not the scary holiday tradition that spiders and pumpkins are, but they are a common decoration for the fall, including Halloween. Garden mums grow up to 18 inches tall and 30 inches wide and grow into a clump. The flowers are 2-3 inches across and can be found in many colors including white, yellow, orange, pink, purple, coral, and deep burgundy red depending on the variety. Mums need to be pinched back in the early summer to help keep the plants to a compact and uniform size and shape and to help flowering. Pinching should be done 2-3 times in June. It should begin when the plants are 5-6 inches high and it should be discontinued around the 4th of July.

Many gardeners struggle with maintaining their mum plants over the winter due to repeated freezing and thawing cycles through the growing season as well as wet, heavy soil or lack or snow cover. Longevity of the plants can be enhanced by planting them in a location that is more protected from north winds, discontinuing fertilization by the end of July to reduce new growth at the end of the season, adding several inches of mulch to the soil around the plants through the winter months, and cutting the plants back in the spring rather than in the fall.

Fall Invading Insects

Photo by Eric Berg, Associate Forester for the Nebraska Forest Service
Photo by Eric Berg, Associate Forester for the Nebraska Forest Service

Fall is my favorite season of the year. The weather is much more enjoyable, the trees turn fantastic colors, and football begins again. With all the fun of fall, however, comes the not so enjoyable entry of insects into our homes.

Most people see the same insect pests in their homes each year. The majority of household pests that we tend to see most often in the fall invading our homes for warmth and food are boxelder bugs, Asian multicolored ladybeetles, and spiders. None of these really warrant any control by a pesticide, they are fairly easy to control and do not do any real damage to your homes or to you.

boxelderbug
Boxelder Bug

Boxelder bugs, or Democrats as some people call them, are a common nuisance pest to enter homes in the fall and they are often seen leaving the home in the spring. These are the insects that are black with a reddish-orange X on their backs. They are a type of a true bug that is found feeding on many trees but they prefer boxelders, ash, and maples.

MultiAsian
Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle

Multicolored Asian  lady beetles are a nuisance pest as well, that we often see in the fall. These are the ladybugs that we find in our homes in the fall. These ladybugs can bite and it can cause pain, but they don’t cause any medical issues. The biggest problem with these lady beetles is that they get in the house and are found all over your home. They are just trying to find a place to hide out for the winter.

Spiders are common in our homes throughout the year, but tend to be found more during the fall and winter. The most common spider that people bring into my office to be identified is the wolf spider. Wolf spiders include one of the largest species of spiders found in Nebraska. They are quite hairy and often times will have 2 white or lighter brown colored stripes down the back of the spider. There are some wolf spiders that can be the size of a half dollar or more, legs and all. These spiders are not poisonous, but they can bite. Most often, a wolf spider will not bite us, but if they do the reaction is mild.

brown_recluse1-Dept of Ento
Brown Recluse Spider

Brown recluse spiders are becoming more common in southeastern Nebraska. These spiders are about the size of a quarter, legs and all. They are a brown color with a darker brown fiddle shape on their back. They can cause a bad reaction in some people, not all people are as sensitive to the bites as others. If you have brown recluse spiders in your home or office, just take the time to look around things that have been stored before you move them. Most of the time, if a person gets bit it is because they accidentally trap the spider between themselves and either an article of clothing or a box. The best way to ensure you do not get bitten is to shake out items when you take them out of storage and watch where you put your hands when you pull boxes out of storage.

Household invading insects and spiders, generally, will not cause any damage to your homes or yourself. The only problems with these insects being in your homes is that they can come in swarms and they have an “ick” factor as most people do not enjoy insects, especially in their homes. The best control for these insects include:

  • Sticky traps around the home
  • Step-on or smash any you see
  • Vacuum or flush any found
  • Seal up all cracks and crevices on your home and door and window screens
  • Indoor/Outdoor barrier sprays can help reduce the population of some home invading insects and spiders
  • Do NOT spray a population of insects found in a wall void, this can lead to a secondary insect population that comes in your home to help decompose those dead insects left in the wall void