Swimming pool enthusiasts are just beginning to enjoy the hot weather of summer. Those who own a pool are keenly aware of the maintenance a pool demands and the intruders that must be removed.
Frogs, toads, moths and an occasional bee find their way in but are unable to escape. Some intruders are actually aquatic insects that are attracted to pools of water. A few of these bugs can inflict a painful bite.
Backswimmers are highly predacious and feed on other insects, an occasional tadpole and small fish. They frequently attack animals larger than themselves and feed by sucking the body juices from their prey.
Although they won't attack humans, they will bite if handled and the effect is much like a bee sting.
Backswimmers are a little over half an inch long, black and white, and their hind legs stick straight out from their sides.
The water boatman is a common insect in freshwater ponds, lakes and slow-flowing streams. Like all aquatic insects, they lack gills and must come to the surface to get air. Frequently they carry an air bubble against their body or under a wing when they dive.
Water boatmen feed on algae and other minute aquatic organisms, which they scoop up with their flat front feet. Unlike other aquatic insects, water boatmen will not bite humans. They are shorter than backswimmers (about one-third of an inch), have large heads and are a mottled gray and black color.
Water scorpions, on the other hand, will bite when handled and it can be quite painful. In nature they prey on small aquatic animals, which they capture with fierce-looking raptorial front legs. Some water scorpions are slender and elongate with long legs and resemble a walking stick or praying mantis. They move quite slowly.
Water striders are recognized by almost everyone. These are the skinny insects with long legs that sit on top of the water and skate haphazardly over the surface. Minute hairs on their feet are virtually waterproof and allow swift locomotion. They feed on insects that fall onto the water's surface. They do not bite humans.
Before these insects scare you from your pool, realize that they can easily be skimmed from the surface with dip nets. Pool skimmers do an adequate job of pest removal if used frequently.
Pesticides should not be used to control insects in swimming pools.
Proper lighting also can minimize pool pests. Mount lights 20 to 30 feet away from the pool and use them sparingly. Turn them off when the pool is not in use. Yellow lights are less attractive to insects than white lights.
In addition, light-colored pool liners are less attractive to insects, and well-trimmed grass and shrubbery eliminates hiding places for these natural invaders.
Q -- Do you have any helpful hints on growing carnations outdoors?
-- R.W., Cheektowaga
A -- Carnations (Dianthus caryophyllus) like a sunny exposure and well-drained soil that is nearly neutral in pH.
They are best started indoors six to eight weeks before planting outdoors or by purchasing plants already started at a local garden center. Seed can be directly sowed in the garden in May, but they will not bloom until July the first season.
Varieties that show hardiness can benefit by dividing every few years in early spring. Most varieties of Dianthus tend to peter out late in the summer but give a good show early.
Fertilize the bed early in the spring with 5-10-10 or a similar fertilizer at a rate of three pounds per 100 square feet.
Plant lawn in September
Q -- We just built a house in Grand Island, on what was a field with mostly clay for soil. We have no experience caring for a lawn, let alone planting one.
When should we plant grass? What should we do about the weeds? Should we do or add anything to the clay? All help is appreciated!
-- N.W., Grand Island
A -- The best time to seed a lawn is September, when temperatures are lower and rainfall is more abundant. If you decide to seed this summer, the soil must be kept continuously moist if the new grass is to grow.
Any perennial weeds should be controlled ahead of time with an application of Round-up herbicide. Seven days after applying the Round-up, till the soil to a depth of 4 to 6 inches, incorporating 20 pounds of 5-10-10 fertilizer per 1,000 square feet. Lime should not be required on Grand Island.
If the soil is very poor and your budget allows, 4 to 6 inches of topsoil spread over the surface would be very beneficial.
Applications of lawn fertilizers will be helpful in late November and again in late May.
For answers to your gardening questions, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Ken Brown, in care of the Features Department, Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240. Brown is a horticultural consultant specializing in integrated pest management.