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Virgina Creeper Leafhopper and

ash leaf cone roller
by Jerry Filipski
by Jerry Filipski


Gerald (Jerry) Filipski is the gardening columnist for the Edmonton Journal, a position he has enjoyed as a freelance writer for the past 12 years. Jerry also writes for Canadian Gardening, the new Alberta Gardener as well as for the lifestyle magazine of P&O ferries. Jerry also does numerous public speaking engagements including some major gardening conferences and workshops as well as question and answer sessions for Wal-Mart and Rona.

August 29, 2010

Q: I have a couple of problems I am hoping you can help me with.

I have Virginia creeper in several locations in my yard. For the last two years (starting in August) I've had a problem controlling a small aphid-like fly. It is tiny, two millimetres long, and is whitish in colour. Leaves appear to turn red and slowly start to drop. What are these tiny insects, and how can I control them? When is the best time to wage my war, when they first appear, or now, before the vine leafs out?

I have either an elm or a green ash in my yard. It is a beautiful tree, about 7.5 metres tall. Each spring, shortly after it leafs out, the leaves start to roll. Inside each rolled leaf there is a tiny larva. I often see several chickadees unrolling the leaves and feeding, but this biological control barely makes a dent in their population. What does this larva mature into, and how and when should I control this pest?

A: Your first problem is likely the result of the Virginia creeper leafhopper. These insects suck the sap from the undersurface of the leaves.The symptoms include stunting, whitening, general yellowing, leaf-curling, crinkling, browning, tip burn, and general decline in vigour. The leaf margins are often rolled upwards also. I had some terrible leafhopper problems myself last year. What works best for me is Doktor Doom House and Garden spray. When I spray I try to get as much as possible under the leaves as well as coating the tops. One application is enough to do in the invaders but you may have to reapply to take care of future hatchings. The best time to do this is at the first sign of the invaders.

The second problem could be from a few causes. It might be the cottony psyllid, but from your description it is likely the ash leaf cone roller.The adult of the larva is a small gray moth with a 12-millimetre wingspan.It is native to North America. The City of Edmonton does not recommend spraying for this insect. The rolling of the leaves has little effect on the health of the tree. There is a small parasitic wasp that attacks and kills large numbers of the larvae.

The city believes that the numbers of this wasp will increase over the years and that the wasp, along with the other natural enemies of the roller, will help to control the problem. The thinking here, and the idea is a good one, is that spraying will damage more natural enemies than the larvae themselves since those larvae are protected in the leaves they roll.

The University of Alberta is currently doing research to develop a "bait and kill" station, which employs a mating pheromone to draw male moths to their death.

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