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In an issue of his “Pest Talks” e-newsletter not long ago, entomologist Dr. Juang-Horng Chong wrote something that I really loved.

“I often consider ignorance the most serious pest of plants,” said J.C, as he is known, who has worked at Clemson University since 2007 and is an associate professor, running its Turf and Ornamentals Entomology Research and Extension Program.

J.C. also writes the “Pest Talks” newsletter that’s part of the suite of magazines and e-newsletters from Ball Publishing, geared to horticulture industry professionals. That’s where I first got to know his work. I called J.C. to ask how he advises us to become smarter observers ahead of when trouble is brewing in our gardens, and we got to talk in real life—about volcano mulching (don’t!); about asking your county or state cooperative extension for help with a diagnosis (do! and send samples, too), and how obvious clues like what time of year we see an insect and on what plant can really help in ID. 

Other subjects we talked about include spotted lanternfly; biological control and the bigger topic of integrated pest management; whether winter chill really does reduce pest populations, and more.

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