Question: We were out cutting our winter's supply of firewood this past weekend and noticed there was evidence of insects in the wood. Now we are worried that these insects will infest our home when we bring the wood inside to be burned. What should we do?

Answer: Wood boring beetles, such as bark beetles and long horned beetles, are commonly brought into houses in firewood. Metallic wood-boring beetles, carpenter ants, termites, deathwatch beetles and horntail wasps may also be found in firewood. Most of these insects bored into dead, dying, or injured wood and were probably present in the wood before it was cut up into firewood.

Some insects may also enter firewood if it is freshly cut and stored outside. During cold weather, the insects which were inactive outside, can become active after the wood is brought into the house. They may begin to crawl or fly in the house. Often they are attracted to windows or lights.

Most insects found in firewood should not damage the house or its contents. Exceptions are carpenter ants, termites, and deathwatch beetles; they can damage the house or its contents, and wood containing such pests should not be stored in or near the house or other buildings. Also, the Golden Buprestid, a metallic-colored wood boring beetle may occasionally re-infest the untreated or unpainted wood of a building. However, this is a rare occurrence. WSU entomologists recommend that insect infested firewood should not be stored in or against an outside wall of the house. Placing the firewood in the sun during summer months and covering it with plastic for several weeks may help to kill the insects in it.

Question: Now that our strawberries have finished producing for this year, can we just let them go dormant?

Answer: Next year's strawberries may be the furthest thing from your mind now, but this is a critical time for the crop. It's in August and September that the cell size of the spring fruit bud is determined. The more favorable the growing conditions now, the bigger the cells this fall, which means bigger berries in the spring. Just a week without water can stress the plants. A University of Missouri study showed that it took only two late summer irrigations to increase yields in the spring by more than 5,000 quarts per acre!

It's also a good idea to fertilize your strawberries in August. On plants set out this spring, apply 4 to 6 ounces of ammonium nitrate (33 percent actual nitrogen) or 12 to 18 ounces of 10-10-10 per 25 feet of row. Spread the fertilizer uniformly in a band 14 inches wide over the row when the foliage (not the ground) is dry. Brush fertilizer off the leaves to avoid leaf burn.

For plants in the second year of growth, increase the application rate to 6 to 8 ounces of ammonium nitrate or 18 to 24 ounces of 10-10-10 per 25 feet of row.

EDITOR'S NOTE: For answers to local gardening questions, contact Master Gardener Rachel Gana at 642-8723 or e-mail her at: baiter1@pacifier.com.

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