Get the dirt on the good and the bad Hill Country bugs

Squash bug eggs send shivers up the backs of all gardeners as the pests are tough to get rid of once they infest a garden. But not all insects are bad. In fact, quite a few play beneficial roles in gardens. On Feb. 6, retired Burnet County AgriLife Extension agent Wade Hibler will go over the good, the bad and the others when it comes to Highland Lakes insects at the Kingsland Public Library, 125 W. Polk St. in Kingsland. The program ‘Identifying and Dealing with Hill Country Bugs’ is part of the Kingsland Garden Club meeting at 1 p.m. Everybody is welcome. File photo


KINGSLAND — Wade Hibler knows the value of a subject that makes your skin crawl — or, in this case, something that could crawl across your skin.

But before you start having B-movie nightmares, Hibler, the retired Burnet County agriculture extension agent, isn’t spinning yarns of horror but sharing gardening tips during a workshop on Hill Country bugs when the Kingsland Garden Club meets Feb. 6.

The program is 1 p.m. at the Kingsland Branch Library, 125 W. Polk.

“I’m going to be talking about the effects bugs have on your lawns and gardens,” Hibler said. And when he says “bugs,” he means both the beneficial and the, well, downright outlaws. You know the ones we’re talking about: the bugs that come in uninvited and strip the leaves right off your young tomato plants or cut their way through your squash.

After several decades as an Texas AgriLife Extension agent, there probably isn’t a bug in the Highland Lakes that Hibler hasn’t dealt with.

“I’ll talk about the bad guys, but I’ll also highlight some of the good ones, too,” Hibler said.

Some of the good guys include the ever lovable ladybug and the reverent praying mantis. Both feed on the bugs that can make your garden and landscape trouble spots.

Hibler said he’ll go over methods to encourage the habitation of beneficial insects while discouraging those that want to eat you out of peppers and squash. Two of the more notorious bugs in the Highland Lakes that Hibler plans to cover are the pecan nut casebearer and the squash vine borer.

For pecan growers, the casebearer can be worse than anything Stephen King could ever conjure up (unless it’s a giant, clown-face pecan nut casebearer).

“If a pecan grower finds in the fall that they don’t have any pecans, and it’s supposed to be a good year, it’s because the pecan nut casebearer got them all earlier in the year,” Hibler said.

For backyard gardeners, the squash vine borer causes some of the worst problems. These buggers get on squash plants and similar vines and wreak havoc. And once they get them, gardeners often have little recourse. But Hibler might have a few tricks up his sleeves that he’ll share during the Feb. 6 program.

“I’m going to try to make everything as chemical-free as I can,” he said regarding the ways of managing insects. “But I will talk about when you should go nuclear and press the red button.”

One of the main topics of the program includes insect identification. Hibler pointed out it’s hard to know what you have unless, well, you know what you have crawling, creeping and flying around your garden and lawn.

“We’re going to learn to identify things like the lacewing, which people see flying around their lights at night and think, ‘What is that?’” Hibler said. “Well, we’re going to answer that question and more.”

The meeting is open to the public. And don’t worry, no insect repellant is needed for this program.

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