The master gardeners get a few new members every year. One job that is really fun is answering the questions that come into the office. The newbies are afraid they don’t know enough to take the job. Many questions are quite simple to answer, but there is an extensive library and a computer if one gets stuck.
One question from a few years ago still gets chuckles. A lady called and said she had a huge, black spider in her bathroom she wanted us to identify. “Capture it and bring it in so we can look it up.”
“I can’t, I just flushed it.” ??? Another gal brought in a beautiful white spider she had captured in her flower garden. She wanted to know if it was poisonous. There are no native spiders in Minnesota that are poisonous. It was suggested she take it home and release it back in the garden to do what she had been doing, eating bad bugs.
One of the local grocery stores brought in a huge black spider that had been doing the rumba in a box of bananas. We couldn’t find any pictures of this guy in any of our books. We sent several digital pictures to the Entomology Department at the university along with the spider. He was getting a bit dehydrated at this point. It turned out that it was a very poisonous spider from South America. Spiders seem to like to hitchhike in bananas.
A gentleman called wanting to know what kind of animal defecated on tree branches. Actually, it is a fungus often called scat fungus or black knot. The branch should be cut off at least a foot below the knot and either burned or bagged to prevent this very invasive fungus from spreading. It infectants the prunus family; cherries, including chokecherry and plums.
People often bring in beetles for identification. Unless they are doing some kind of damage, we don’t spend a lot of time attempting to identify them. God must have loved the darn things as he made so many of them.
Weeds are another thing we get in abundance in the growing season. You already know it’s a weed. Pull it out! Usually, people want to know what will kill it. The answer is most any broadleaf weed killer.
Another question we had was, “What kind of a snake is in my yard? It’s orange and white and digging 50 cent piece holes in my yard”. We gave her the phone number of the Bell Museum in Minneapolis. They have a number of experts available to answer questions about reptiles and animals.
One gentleman had gone to a local clinic with insect bites all over his face, arms and hands. He was referred to us to try to identify what kind of bug had done the damage. While we were talking, he mentioned he and his wife had been watching a bird that had nested on the windowsill of the bedroom. She had raised three babies and had just left. The bites happened right after she fledged her brood. That was the ah ha moment. What had happened was that the birds had mites and when they left the mites migrated to the nearest warm-blooded mammal which happened to be this unlucky fellow.
Master gardeners are amateurs, but we have a lot of information at our fingertips. If we don’t know the answer, we will do our best to find it. As a last resort, we can call the experts at the University or send pictures to them for answers. The only dumb question is the one you don’t ask.
Discuss the news on NABUR, a place to have local conversations The Neighborhood Alliance for Better Understanding and Respect ✔ A site just for our local community ✔ Focused on facts, not misinformation ✔ Free for everyone