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In a recent column you mentioned a publication called Avant Gardener. Is this publication available to everyone? Avant Gardener is published monthly by Thomas and Betty Powell, who dub their publication ''The Unique Horticultural News Service.'' It is a fine newsletter type of publication.
If you wish more information write to Horticultural Data Processors, PO Box 489, New York, N.Y. 10028.
We have a planting of hickory trees near our house. Recently our children discovered a greenish caterpillar, at least 5 inches long, with cream and black markings and black spines sticking out of each segment of its body. On its head were several long reddish spines tipped with black. The children put it into a box with soil and a screen on top. Now it appears to have pupated under the soil. What species of moth will it turn out to be?
Hooray for your children for their appreciation of the wonders of nature. They have found a somewhat uncommon caterpillar called hickory horned devil. The adult moth is called regal walnut moth or royal walnut moth (Citheronia regalis).
Because their numbers are few they do relatively little damage to the trees on which they feed, including hickory, black walnut, butternut, sycamore, sweet gum, ash, persimmon, lilac, sassafras, sumac, and cotton. They do pupate underground so your children showed good sense in giving them soil in one part of the box.
The wingspan of the moth that hatches will be between 4 and 6 inches wide, olive to reddish brown, and with yellow spots.
Hickory horned devil is our largest native caterpillar.
We would like to plant tulips and daffodils where we had marigolds and zinnias during the summer. The zinnias had mildew on their leaves. Will the mildew carry over to the spring bulbs after they come out of the ground?
Tulips, daffodils, and other spring bulbs are not susceptible to mildew, nor are they susceptible to Alternaria blight which causes brown, wilted leaves on zinnias. It's a good idea, however, to clean up any mildewed leaves and bag them for the dump rather than put them on the compost or work them into the soil.
Good sanitary grooming in late summer and fall helps to have a clean, problem-free garden next season.
The leaves of our chrysanthemum plants have round brownish spots and the buds are opening up lopsided. I've noticed several small light-brown beetles, about three-eights of an inch long, on the plants and wonder if these are the cause of the browning and bud distortion. If so, what can we do to get rid of them?
The brownish beetles are called tarnished plant bugs and, as you suspect, are causing the spots on the leaves as well as the distorted buds.
Malathion, sprayed according to directions on the bottle, will help to get rids of them. Also, we have found our homemade spray of 1 tablespoon each of Tabasco sauce and liquid dishwashing detergent, plus 1 quart of rubbing alcohol to 1 gallon of water, will discourage them.
You'll probably have to make several sprayings as new batches of beetles continue to show up.
The beetles are highly mobile, flying quickly from one plant area to another. They inject a toxin into the leaves or buds as they feed, thus causing a distortion and browning of the tissue.