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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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Wednesday - April 20, 2011

From: Brierfield, AL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Pests
Title: Aluminum foil disorienting insects under plants from Brierfield AL
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Does covering the ground under plants frequently attacked by flea beetles with aluminum foil really disorient the insects? But does it also disorient beneficial insects?

ANSWER:

Okay, you've caught Mr. Smarty Plants (or this particular member of the Team) up short. Not only did we not know what flea beetles were, we had never heard of using aluminum foil as any sort of insect control. Since we are neither entomologists nor plant pathologists, we will try to learn as we find answers for you. From this article, Flea Beetle: Organic Control Options, we learned that it is mostly a pest of food crops. Since most food crops are either so hybridized or known to originate in other countries, they will fall out of our realm of expertise. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflowr Center is dedicated to the growth, propagation and protection of plants native not only to North America but to the areas in which those plants are being grown, because of the benefits of not needing as much supplemental watering and fertilizer.

One source we read said that aphids could be controlled to some extent by putting aluminum foil on the ground to reflect light back up on the undersides of leaves where aphids like to congregate. For aphids, we usually recommend a water spray to dislodge the insects and eggs. The University of California Integrated Pest Management site on Flea Beetles mentions both aluminum foil and sticky tape as deterrents.

Since there are so many different kinds of flea beetles and so many crops they visit and soils they can infest, we suggest that you contact the Alabama Cooperative Extension System for Bibb County and get their take on this subject.

 

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