Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Why Don't All Mosquito Bites Itch?

There are an identified 85 species of mosquitoes in Texas.  Not every single mosquito species feeds on humans, but that still leaves A LOT of mosquitoes that can!

The thing that itches from a mosquito bite is the saliva.  The female mosquito "backwashes" into you when she feeds.  The saliva contains substances that prevent the blood from clotting so her mouthparts don't get clogged up.  The saliva is what we have an allergic reaction to, causing the itching.

Every species of mosquito has potentially different enzymes, proteins, and substances in their saliva that we can react to.  Therefore, in one individual, you can have multiple reactions.  And each person can react differently from the next.

You see this when one mosquito bite itches like the Dickens, but is gone by morning.  Whereas others may not start itching until hours later and can last for days!  You also see this when a child has a terrible reaction to a mosquito bite and swells up considerably but you react with just a small welt.

Remember to avoid mosquito bites, avoid mosquitoes.  And since this is nearly impossible, the next best option is to use insect repellent.  The CDC and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension recommend three active ingredients based on the length of repellency they provide for mosquitoes vectoring diseases.  DEET, Picaridin, and Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus.

Also be aware that each product may act different on different species of mosquitoes, so don't give up if one active ingredient doesn't seem to work - it may be working just fine... just not against the mosquito bothering you at the moment!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Backyard Basics

Get all the information you've been craving for your backyard homesteading!  See many experts under one roof and more information that you know what to do with!!!  Plus, the change to win some GREAT door prizes like farm fresh eggs, gardening books, organic fertilizer, and honey!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

All you need to know about Zika and preventing mosquitoes!

Roaches in the Lawn

This post is a little late, given that we've now had some good rain and your lawns should be drinking up that good soak and looking a little better.

But, in the past several weeks, I was getting samples and pictures into the office for identification of a cockroach called a Surinam cockroach.  These cockroaches are burrowers and when you water in dry, dead spots of the lawn, they come running out.  The coincidence of an insect and dead grass in the same spot, naturally makes one think that the insect is causing the problem.  In fact, it is not.

Surinam cockroaches are eating decaying organic matter and scavenging.  They really aren't interested in your lawn so much.  There is no reason to worry about them in the landscape, they are a very normal insect to find.  Especially when its really dry and their burrows aren't so comfortable to live in.

They can be found occasionally indoors, but they are searching for water or cooler temperatures.  They are not a structurally infesting cockroach and their presence in the bathroom is no more worrisome than finding a grasshopper who accidentally made it's way indoors.

Photo courtesy of J. Woods

Monday, March 28, 2016

Zika Virus and Mosquito Management

What you Should Know About Zika and Mosquito Management, How To Protect Yourself.
Wednesday, March 30th
Hardberger Park, Urban Ecology Center
8400 NW Military

Zika is all over the news lately and may have you worried.  This is a new virus to the US and something that you are risk for contracting regardless if you travel to Mexico or the Caribbean.  Learn the facts of Zika and what you can do to reduce your chances of any mosquito borne disease from entomologist, Molly Keck from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.  This a FREE seminar, located at Hardberger Park, NW Military Entrance (8400 NW Military Hwy).

Please RSVP by registering at

Monday, February 29, 2016

Don't Miss the Fun! Spring Insect & Horticulture EXPO and Plant Sale!

Texas A&M AgriLife Spring EXPO

We had so much fun in the fall, we had to do it again!  Come out and join us for our Spring EXPO and Plant Sale.  We'll have experiments and activities for the kids, an ask the Master Gardener booth for questions about your garden, and a plant sale to fill your veggie garden and add some color to the landscape.

We will also have partners from UTSA and the Mayor's Monarch initiative as well as Nature's Exquisite Creatures.  Learn about the importance of monarchs, purchase some plants to help feed the butterflies, and learn how the milkweed is essential to their lifecycle.

You'll also get the chance to get up close and personal with spiders, roaches, tarantulas, and even snakes from Nature's Exquisite Creatures!

Kids will play pheromone games, build butterfly crafts, play with painting worms, dig through dirt to hold creepy crawler, pot your own plants to fill the garden, color your own carnations, and so much more!

March 5th
@ the A&M AgriLife Extension Office
3355 Cherry Ridge, Suite 208 (north court)

Cost - $2 for youth ages 16 and under
Adults free
Cash or check only, please, we do not have access to a credit card machine

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Best Gift Ideas for the Entomologist in Your Life

Are you wondering what to buy the entomologist on your list ....  here are a few ideas that are sure to make your little (or big) entomologist a happy one this holiday season!

1 - Insect Collecting Kit.  Bioquip ( sells a couple of these, ranging from around $42 to $120.  These collection kits have everything you need to collect and mount insects for amateurs to professionals.  Both basically contain the same materials, one is just a better quality and "really fancy".  They have the basics you need: pins, insect net, forceps, a spreading board, and a collection box.

2 -Display Case for Collections.  Every entomologist loves to show off their collections and there are a number of options out there, in various sizes.  Glass covered display cases can be mounted to the wall or placed on tables as art work - everyone loves to look at an insect collection!  Craft stores sell shadow boxes with a fabric backing that insect pins fit into.  You can find these are Hobby Lobby or Michaels.  While these are great to hang on walls because they already have the hardware and are an inexpensive option, they are not air tight, so you'll need to remember to use moth balls or ??? to prevent dermestid beetles from ruining your collection.  Bioquip, hobby stores and scientific stores may carry more airtight boxes.

Shadow box with burlap backing.

3 - A Professional Insect Net.  Dinky nets can be found at the dollar store, but a real entomologist needs a good net!  Hobby and science shops and Bioquip sell a range of nets.  You can find various diameters for the nets and various lengths of the stick.My personal favorite is the dual net - they are strong enough to take a beating in some brush, but light enough to catch butterflies out of the air. Heavy Duty Aerial Net.

4 - A Good Identification Field Guide.  There are soooo many out there!  My suggestion is to try to find one that is local to your region or state.  At the very least, chose a field guide for insects found in North America.

A Field Guide to Texas Insects by Drees an d Jackman

5 - A LIVE TARANTULA!  Every entomologist has some live arthropod they keep as a pet.  You can find suppliers everywhere, even pet stores.  I enjoy shopping from breeders.  They generally know more about the specimen they are selling you and can help you choose the right species for you tastes: something you can handle easily versus something flashy and pretty.  You can find breeders at reptile and exotic shows or online.  My suggestion is to ask to hold the tarantula first - that way you know if you are comfortable with it before you take it home.  You'll also know if its too fast or skitzy for you.