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Plant clinic can ID small insects on lawn

When I walk on the grass in my backyard, tiny little white insects fly up. They only fly about a foot off the ground, then settle back down.  A lawn guy told me they are damaging the grass, and I do see some yellowing in places. However, I don't want to use chemicals because we have a small pond with goldfish in the backyard. Any idea what the bugs are and how to get rid of them, if we need to?

— Gayle S., via email

Your question sparked something of a wager here at Since You Asked headquarters, Gayle. Some thought the bugs you were describing were gnats, and another thought you were describing whiteflies. 

But when we read your question to entomologist Rick Hilton at the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center, he refused to even guess. There are thousands and thousands of insects that can be described as "tiny," and he didn't want to spread false information.

We'll never know, we suppose, but you can still get an answer. If you bring samples, experts can identify insects at the Master Gardeners plant clinic from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Fridays at SOREC, 569 Hanley Road in Central Point. Master Gardeners also hold plant clinics Tuesdays at the Ashland growers market and Thursdays at the Medford growers market.

You can also try emailing your question with photographs to sorec.plantclinic@oregonstate.edu, or call them at 541-776-7371 ext. 204.

— Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. To see a collection of columns, go to mailtribune.com/youasked. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.