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home : features : real estate & home life May 25, 2016

12/7/2012 6:00:00 AM
In preparation for winter, ants actually get fat
A Datura stramonium or Jimson weed.
A Datura stramonium or Jimson weed.
Marge Martinovic
Kingman Area Master Gardener

Q: How do ants spend the winter?

A. In the winter, ants go into hibernation. The body temperature of ants changes in response to the atmospheric temperature. In winter, their body temperature falls so greatly that their movements grow sluggish. They hibernate in relatively warm places, such as under soil or under the bark of trees. Most species of ants eat a large amount of food in autumn to put on fat. This allows them to go without food through the winter. The entrance to ant nests are closed as a natural slowdown and stoppage of ant traffic. Soil accumulates around the entrance. When spring comes and it gets warmer, the ants become active and open up the entrance of their nest to venture outside.

Q. What is the name of the plant I see along the road and in empty lots? It has large white flowers and the plant can get quite large.

A. This plant is Datura stramonium or wrightii, common name Jimson weed or datura or thornapple. All parts of the datura plant contain dangerous levels of toxins.These plants show up everywhere and are thought to be carried by birds and spread by their droppings. Flowers can be all white or have lavender edges.Plants may reseed and can become invasive.

Datura grows all over the world in areas where it is warm. People who discover it in their yards and are concerned about its toxicity are advised to dig it up or have it removed.

Q. What is diatomaceous earth?

A. Diatomaceous earth is commonly called DE. It is an off-white talc-like powder that is the fossilized remains of marine phytoplankton. When sprinkled on an insect that has an exoskeleton, the diatomaceous earth gets caught between their exoskeleton joints. As they move, the diatomaceous earth acts like razor blades and cuts them up. It doesn't hurt mammals. In order for it to work, you must keep it dry. Gardeners will mix diatomaceous earth in their gardens to control insects.

ICT - Dr. Mohtaseb

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