Vernonia's voice. (Vernonia, OR) 2007-current, June 17, 2021, Page 7, Image 7

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    In Other Words
June 17
Diggin’ in the Dirt: Keeping Pests Out
By Chip Bubl
Oregon State University Extension
Service – Columbia County
Things that go bump in the night
Houses can be very friendly
places for wildlife. Squirrels, skunks,
opossums, raccoons, rats, mice, birds,
and bats are relatively common tenants
in our dwellings.
They are attracted by
food and/or shelter. Whenever
I get a call about rats, raccoons,
or opossums, my first question
is about feeding pets “free-
choice” outside. Invariably,
that has been the practice. Bird
feeding can encourage chip-
munks, squirrels, rats and mice
as well. Naturally, the first line
of defense is to remove the
food. As one might expect,
this can be highly irritating for
the animals. It is not uncom-
mon for squirrels and raccoons
to get rather testy and scold
the humans they meet. Rats
become a lot more visible as they are
forced to make a more energetic search
for food.
Sometimes, removing food
leads to their voluntary relocation.
However, most of the time, they will
stick with the familiar territory to bed
down and simply travel a little bit fur-
ther to find dinner. Sometimes food re-
moval needs to be a neighborhood ef-
fort. This is especially true in cities but
rural towns are not immune to “commu-
nity raised” rats.
If you plan to trap any of the
critters, this is a teachable moment.
Their need for food is higher than their
caution, until they see some of the clan
trapped. Live traps can be used for rac-
coons and opossums but typically only
capture one of the troupe. They usually
are not a great solution and there are le-
gal restrictions about their release. Call
or email me for details.
Kill traps are excellent for mice
(who never seem to figure out traps) but
need careful management for rats to be
effective. They are generally ineffec-
tive for squirrels. Baits have their place
but can lead to serious non-target injury
and/or the smell of a dead rat or two in
the wall void. Not at all pleasant. Con-
tact me for advice on baits.
So what can you do? First,
find out where they are getting in. Look
for gaps in the foundation, particularly
around vent openings. Close up all but
one opening after you’ve removed the
feed. They may leave on their own. Am-
monia soaked rags or mothballs under
decks have proven effective for many
people in getting animals to leave. Un-
der foundations, there would be con-
cerns with the ammonia or mothball
chemicals entering your living space.
Some people have used one way doors
to allow large animals to leave but not
return. But that poses the risk of a clutch
of young ones being left behind to die
and decay.
When you have finally removed
the animals from your house, tighten it
up. Crawl under your house and look
for light coming through places without
screening. Often these gaps are missed
in an outside inspection. Fix them with
steel wool or something similar. An
ounce of prevention… well, you know
the rest.
Organic insecticides
We have had an early aphid season
and seemingly high numbers of flea
beetles damaging seedlings. There may
be times when you might want to use
an organically certified insecticide to
manage certain pests. Here is a sum-
mary of the strengths (and weaknesses)
of the currently available organic in-
Neem/azadirachtin: Feeding deterrent
and repellent. Slows insect molting.
Fair on beetles. Weak on aphids. Mixed
on caterpillars.
Pyrethrum: Quick knockdown, little
residual. Good on aphids/whiteflies,
thrips, and beetles. Mixed on caterpil-
Bacillus thuringiensis (Btk): A bacte-
rial derived toxicant for use on caterpil-
lars. Btk is very effective if reapplied
often and coverage is good. Bti works
on mosquito and fungus gnat larva and
there is another Bt active on several
Spinosad: Newer product from a fun-
gal fermentation. Very good on caterpil-
lars and thrips. Pretty good
on beetles. Fair on aphids.
Better residual activity than
most organic products. Has
been rapidly adopted by
commercial organic grow-
ers. Several trade names
including Monterey Gar-
den Insecticide and Captain
Jack’s Dead Bug Brew.
Soaps and horticultural
oils: Good on soft-bodied
insects if directly sprayed.
Good on thrips and mites.
Can damage plants so read
labels. Short-lived.
Essential oils: These work
a bit like the soaps and also act as feed-
ing deterrents. Good mite and aphid
activity. Rosemary and citrus based
products are available. Also some plant
damage potential. Short-lived.
Check the labels of the products
you are considering to find out what is
in it (in the active ingredient portion of
the label) and for information on how
and what it can be used on. Reading
and following label instructions is im-
portant in the safe use of any pesti-
cide, organic or conventional.
The OSU Extension office is starting
to re-open for face-to-face public con-
tact. Appointments are still needed.
The best way to reach me directly is
with the email below.
Free newsletter (what a deal!)
The Oregon State University Extension
office in Columbia County publishes a
monthly newsletter on gardening and
farming topics (called Country Liv-
ing) written/edited by yours truly. All
you need to do is ask for it and it will
be mailed or emailed to you. Call (503)
397-3462 to be put on the list. Alter-
natively, you can find it on the web at
bia/ and click on newsletters.
Take excess produce to the food bank,
senior centers, or community meals
programs. Cash donations to buy
food are also greatly appreciated.
The Extension Service offers its pro-
grams and materials equally to all
Contact information
Oregon State University
Extension Service – Columbia County
505 N. Columbia River Highway
St. Helens, OR 97051
(503) 397-3462
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