the show

Wicked Bugs with Amy Stewart

air date: June 23, 2012

Author Amy Stewart tells spine-tingling tales of Wicked Bugs. On tour, visit Link Davidson’s small garden design that makes a big impact with re-purposed materials. Daphne explains the explosion of red katydids. Her Pick of the Week is Gaura, a drought-tough native perennial with wildlife attraction. Eric Pedley from East Austin Succulents shows how to multiply succulent plants with leaf divisions and beheading.

Question of the Week

What are these insects that are invading my garden?

These are red katydids, and yes, they are especially abundant this year. These insects flare up every three years or so and when they do, they can be a real nuisance. Factors this year include our 2011 drought that minimized predators. Then, we had a warm winter with lots of rainfall, which encouraged populations of all insects.

In “off” years, the normal, green coloration predominates, but in outbreak years, the red form of the insect is more prevalent. Katydids are quite voracious eaters, and these particular ones prefer oak trees. I noticed quite a few of my Mexican white oak’s leaves had been chomped, but it’s a larger tree, so it will recover quite easily. Younger trees, with fewer leaves and less carbohydrates in reserve, and stressed trees, may not recover quite as easily.

And with so many of them out there, your neighborhood likely sounds like a raucous jungle at night. The onslaught will continue through the summer, but will begin to subside over the next couple of months. The insects will eventually succumb to predators or their natural life cycle, and damaged trees will begin to recover and put on new leaves in the fall, if they haven’t already.

Visit Texas Entomology, compiled by Mike Quinn, for more about katydids and many common insects.

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Plant of the Week

Gaura Lindheimeri

Gaura Lindheimeri

Gaura lindheimeri

This native perennial adds a billowy shape to our gardens, topped by small white flowers late spring through summer. Gauras require very little water; in fact, they don't like to be overwatered. Like many of our drought-resistant plants, it prefers well-drained soil. It gets about 3 feet wide and 2 to 3 feet tall, with the flower spikes. They like a sunny spot but also can take part shade. They're also difficult to move once established, so try not to transplant them once they're settled in to your landscape. They have a very long taproot that is almost impossible not to break. The flowers open white and develop a lovely pink blush as they age. There are four petals, all on top, which fold back a bit, resembling a butterfly, and the plant is covered in flowers almost all summer long. There is also a pink one, 'Siskiyou Pink'. It's best to shear them to the ground in winter, so that all new growth emerges in the spring. The plants will be stockier and less floppy if you do. You may also want to shear it a bit during the growing season, if it starts to look a little scruffy.