1. Q. My family has always dusted vegetables rather than spraying them and we have always debated the question as to how long is the insecticide dust effective. Sometimes, unless it rains, the white dust residue will remain for weeks.

A. Garden dusts are only effective for 5-7 days regardless of how long the actual dust particles applied remain visible. This is why it is so important to apply only a very thin - almost transparent - layer of dust when spraying. If you pour it on as many people do, after several applications you will have a "white-washed" plant which can actually be damaged by the excessive accumulations. Such accumulations should be removed by washing or brushing off with a broom.

2. Q. Why do people use so many poisonous pesticides? Don't they know people are being killed daily by these man-made poisons?

A. Not necessarily! The average number of lethal pesticide accidents in the United States is decreasing, according to reports from the U.S. Office of Vital Statistics. Though exact records were not kept until 1968, more than 100 annual lethal accidents were estimated during the 1950's by personnel at Vanderbilt University's Medical School. Between 1968 and 1970, 55 were reported to the National Center for Health Statistics, but between 1980 and 1982 there were just 28. The National Center also reports that, of 4,293 lethal poisonings in 1983, just 22 were the result of agricultural chemical ingestion.

3. Q. Is there a product which is completely organic yet effectively controls fleas. Please tell me how to control these horrendous pests.

A. Every pet owner has a severe infestation of fleas. The two most common fleas in this area are the dog flea and the cat flea. They infest our pets, and the rodents that live around us such as squirrels, rabbits, mice and rats. For this reason we cannot ever rid ourselves of these fleas.

A female flea can lay several hundred eggs during her lifetime. The eggs are laid off the host in the dirt of bedding. Occasionally, they are laid on the host and later fall off. This is how most homes become infested.

The flea is an intermittent parasite of the host. That means that they get on the host, take a blood meal and then may leave the host only to get back on later for another blood meal. Because the fleas get on and off their host, you must control them outside, in the house, and on your pet also. Otherwise, you are only chasing them back and forth. To control fleas outside, water the yard thoroughly first. The fleas live in the loose dust that is found at ground level. The grass actually acts as a protection--sort of a thatch roof for fleas.

Pump-up and garden hose type sprayers put out a very low volume of water. By watering the yard thoroughly first, the fleas are driven up into the grass and are controlled easily by the insecticide spray. Insecticide sprays containing diazinon or Dursban are most effective and readily available.

You will probably have to treat again in 30 to 45 days. If you do, use a different chemical than the one that you used the first time. This prevents the fleas from creating an immunity to certain insecticides.

For controlling fleas inside the house you have several choices. One is the commercial fogging bombs available from some stores, veterinarians, and pest control companies. Another indoor approach is the new room sprays that are coming on the market. These are designed to be sprayed directly on the carpets and floors. These types of indoor controls usually contain an insecticide to kill the fleas and a material to prevent the fleas from maturing to the next life stage. Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is composed of a multitude of microscopic, sharp-edged particles which stick and kill insects which come in contact with it. A DE formula named D21-1892 (Permaguard) contains pyrethrins. DE products are available from, feed stores, Ace Hardware and nurseries.

For control of fleas on your pet, use one of the many commercial sprays, dusts, or dips, or consult your veterinarian.

4. Q. When is the best time to treat for grubworms in this area, and are they really a problem? I heard someone say that grubs won't harm plants if the plants are healthy and growing well.

A. I would recommend a net for anyone who doesn't realize that the grubworm problem can be a serious one. If they doubt my word, check with the vegetable farmers who have lost millions of dollars worth of productivity to these pests which eat the roots of fall crops. Grubs are especially worrisome in areas which have been covered with grass or weeds during June. This is why lawn areas should be treated in July with Oftanol, Dursban, granular Diazinon or granular Sevin insecticide whether you see damage or not. Damage usually becomes visible in late fall or early spring when it is too late and control of the grub is impossible. The grubworm is the larvae of the June beetle (hard- back bug around lights in June), and it must be controlled when small. That's NOW, folks! Also beware of those who recommend the "safe" yet totally ineffective Milky Spore Disease as a control. Milky Spore spray IS NOT effective at all! Milky spore disease is very specific for the grub of the Japanese beetle but does not work for the grub of the June bug in alkaline soils which we have in Texas. Organic growers and researchers have tested this compound in Texas and find it worthless in our conditions.

5. Q. Every winter rabbits feed on some of our landscape plants and cause severe injury. Could you please recommend some methods to control this problem?

A. Rabbits can multiply in large numbers from summer to fall and can cause extensive feeding damage to a variety of landscape plants, particularly during winter time when the food supply is limited. The best method is to use one-inch mesh chicken wire up to 30 inches high. Trapping is effective to reduce the rabbit population by using any box-type trap containing bait such as apple or carrot. Rabbits are active from twilight to early morning and generally hide during the day. Trapping during winter is most effective.

6. Q: I'm having problems with local tom cats spraying around ornamentals (yellowing/killing them) and leaving little surprises for my 2 year old grand child to find in the grass. Any suggestions on what I might be able to do?

A: There are some commercial sprays such as Scram that are said to work and last for about a week -- hopefully the critter changes his potty habits after several weeks of spraying. If the cat is digging in flower beds -- a common complaint -- you can bury chicken wire an inch or so beneath the surface. You will still be able to plant through the chicken wire but the cat won�t be able to cover the feces and will look for a more hospitable facility. If these don�t work, warn the neighbors of your intent then trap the critters with a Have-A-Heart trap. You can then turn the cat into the local animal shelter.

7. Q: I have a problem with skunks digging numerous holes in my lawn and am currently looking for a solution to this problem.

A: Skunks, for the most part, are not that big a nuisance to Texas homeowners. I am confident that you know for sure that you have skunks as they leave a very specific calling card. However, usually it is armadillos which can cause a lot of grief to one's yard, although in reality they are doing the grass a favor.

The best way to get rid of the skunks is to deter them from entering your yard. This amounts to removing the food supply, ie. maybe your pet's food, the water supply and trapping. Of course fencing would be another possibility. The biggest problem with trapping, of course, is the odor. However, there are now traps on the market which not only catch and contain the skunk, but the odor as well.

Also, putting a cover over the cage to darken it often avoids frightening the trapped skunk into spraying when the cage is moved.

If you or a pet is sprayed by a skunk, the odor can be eliminated by using such products as Skunk Odor Eliminator by Outright Products (Bramtom Company in Dallas, Texas (Tel: 214-438-0397). Such products can be found in pet supply stores and contain a natural beneficial bacteria/enzyme formula. A home remedy to eliminate skunk odor can be made by mixing a quart of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup of baking soda and one teaspoon of a liquid detergent.

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