Horrors! Gardens invaded by worms and snakes!

It seems that several readers have found that their landscape is being invaded by crawly things, from the quite tiny (but voracious) to the larger, reptilian variety!

This first one sounds a bit like a sci-fi horror movie...

QUESTION: "Please help!!! I have no idea what I just found on my bush outside.. The day before yesterday the bush was fine, but I saw these "things," almost 1 1/2 to 2 in. long, hanging from it that looked sort of like a pine cone. I just thought it was something new growing on the tree/bush. This afternoon, I went out to water the plants, and the whole side of the bush is almost gone, turned brown. I looked at the things that I thought were growing on it and saw that they moved!! I ran inside and got garden spray and there seemed to be worms trying to come out of them. This has really freaked me out. I want the bushes gone. I have always loved them because they grow like a tree, they look a little like a pine but with flowing needles that are really soft. They are a light green in color..I do not know what kind of bush it is. Please tell me what those things are, and what will get rid of them until I can get someone to cut them down for me. I don't even want them in my yard now. That one looks ruined anyway." - Darleen

ANSWER: It sounds like what you have are bagworms. They are common to the plant you are describing, the Arborvitae. What is needed is to remove the bagworms, put them in a little bag, and then burn them. After you have done this, you will need to spray your plants with Malathion. (Be sure to follow directions on the label). You should do this about once a month during the growing season. Just as I was preparing this column, I received the following message from Darleen: "Thank you so much!! It was bagworms. I went to a local plant store and he confirmed it, and showed me what to get. Thank you again for emailing me back." The next one isn't so much a question as a request. But it does "Biggie-Size" the problem from worms to snakes!

QUESTION: "I would love to see you do an article on snakes in the garden. Where I live there areis a lot of mines close by that they are working on reclaiming. With the increased activity in the pits comes an increase in the snake population in our residential area. I am not just speaking of your typical garden variety but also copperheads. We are all afraid to trim hedges (where one copperhead showed itself) as well as work in flowerbeds, etc. I tore out all of the plants that would provide the snakes a place to hide in my yard and am replacing then with more wispy, less foliage dense plants. "I tried to put the old mothballs out as I have read online that this works, but lo and behold, there was a snake lying on top of the mothballs! I would love to see this addressed since, with so many areas being developed that had been great natural habitats for the reptile community, this is a concern for many people everywhere. I have lived in a few states and everyone has faced this issue when natural wildlife habitats are developed for housing or industrial reasons.

"Please address this issue as one of importance. The wildlife will settle down again once they find a new home but in the meantime gardens are left to grow over and yards are being unused for fear of snakes which just provides a better chance for them to remain within the residential areas instead of moving on to more suited and remote areas. I am not a fan of snakes but do have members of the lizard families as pets so I am well aware that reptiles have to live too. We just have to learn ways to not cater to their needs within our residential areas since people immediately want to kill them instead of getting them to move on." - Jean Weingartner

ANSWER: Thank you for the suggestion, Jean. Like you, I appreciate the needs of wildlife without necessarily wanting to share my landscape with ALL of them! I'll get to work on a column on this subject. Meanwhile, here's a request from me to all you readers: Do you have any proven methods for making snakes feel unwelcome without resorting to killing them?


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