Clatskanie Grows: Termites on the wing | Neighborhood

Clatskanie Grows: Termites on the wing | Community

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Oregon State University Extension Service – Columbia County

505 N. Columbia River Highway

St Helens, OR 97051


Flying termites do not indicate that your home is termite infested.

The insects are part of our wood decay cycle and very common. They have certainly been out and about in this landscape for much longer than humans. Termite reproductive forms fly to mate at this time of year. Fertilized queens fall to the ground, shed their wings and seek a suitable home. Matching is the key.

A wetwood termite needs wet wood all the time. If your house doesn’t have dirt piling up or leaky pipes piling up in the walls, you don’t have to worry about wetwood termites. You can’t live there. The underground termite is sneakier. It must have moisture. But it can pull moisture out of the ground and into your house structure through mud hoses. Once a year, crawl under your house to look for these tubes. If you find them, you will need to hire an exterminator.


It’s interesting to see how many creatures look forward to this annual termite flight. These include many birds, particularly swallows and Steller lizards, bats, tree frogs, alligator lizards, wasps (I’ve seen them grabbing wingless queens and dragging them to the nest), mound-building ants (they attack in groups), spiders, and such many more. This festival is probably millions of years old.

But don’t get too complacent. Carpenter ants are our number one wood destroying pest in Columbia County and they are very dangerous. They don’t need wet wood, although they infest it easily. But that’s a story for another column. If you suspect a carpenter ant infestation, you should have your home inspected and develop a treatment plan.

Hollow centers are a peculiar disorder (not a disease) of potatoes. It often hits the largest, fastest-growing tubers. However, you won’t realize the problem until you actually cut into the potatoes while preparing dinner. The heart of the potato is either striped brown or is actually hollow, hence the disorder’s names, “brown stripe” or “hollow heart.”


Older books say that a hollow heart is caused by uneven potato watering, especially on lighter (sandy) soils. That’s part of the story, but not the whole picture.

Recent research implicates my favorite mineral, calcium, in the disorder. Calcium is very important for cell wall integrity in plants. In addition, it is a mineral that is not easily transported from the soil, up through the stems, and into the various parts of the plant. Eventually, the roots and shoots compete for the available calcium, with the shoots generally winning.

This is how it works with the potato: During the rapid tuber growth, the plant is still trying to put out new leaves. Calcium is taken up by the main plant roots and most of it goes to the leaves. Even watering tends to encourage more calcium absorption. The tubers also have some roots that feed them directly.

Calcium these roots and it will absorb the developing spuds. If you can add some soluble calcium to the tuber roots at the time of the fastest tuber growth, you can dramatically reduce hollow heart. Commercial growers use calcium nitrate as a soluble fertilizer that is pumped through their irrigation systems at this critical stage of tuber formation. Home gardeners can use drip tubing and drop calcium nitrate alongside it to get the same results.

Other possible solutions include using wood ash around potatoes, applying gypsum before planting to add calcium without changing soil pH (which increases potato scab), and avoiding cultivars that are more prone to hollow core are, like Russet Burbank and Kennebec.

Registrations are being accepted for OSU Master Gardener™ for the 2022-23 course at St Helens

The OSU Extension office in Columbia County will be offering largely in-person OSU Master Gardener™ training beginning this fall at the OSU Extension office in St. Helens.

This year we are trying a new schedule that allows people who work to attend. Classes are held every second Saturday from September 10th through Thanksgiving, starting at 9am. Then winter break. The courses start again at the beginning of February and last until the end of April.

There are courses on vegetable gardening, fruit growing, plant identification, soil understanding, insects, diseases, plant propagation, composting, household pests, dealing with deer and other animals in your garden, plant and weed identification and much more. The cost of the program is $100 including a large resource book. Scholarships are available. OSU Master Gardeners™ are responsible for volunteering to work on horticultural educational projects in order to partially repay the education.

If you think you may be interested in the program, call the Extension Office at 503-397-3462 for more information or email Chip Bubl, OSU Extension Agent/Columbia County, directly at

Many extension publications available online

Are you pitching salsa, saving seeds, or thinking about planting kiwis? OSU offers a large number of its publications for free download. Just go to Click on publications and start exploring.

• Donate product and/or money to the food bank, senior centers, or community feeding programs. It will be greatly appreciated.

• The counseling service offers its programs and materials to all people equally.

• The OSU Extension Office is fully open from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm

If you have questions about any of these topics or about other home gardens and/or farms, please contact Chip Bubl, Oregon State University Extension Office in St. Helens at 503-397-3462 or at The office is staffed Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Free Newsletter (What a Deal!): The Columbia County Office of Oregon State University Extension publishes a monthly newsletter on gardening and farming issues (called County Living) written/edited by you. All you have to do is ask for it and it will be mailed or emailed to you. Call 503-397-3462 to be added to the list. Alternatively, find it online at and click on Newsletters.

Oregon State University Extension Service – Columbia County

505 N. Columbia River Highway