Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Little Beetles in New Homes

In the past year, I have had several calls on a little beetle that before now, I wasn't all that familiar with.  A foreign grain beetle.  They are occasional storage pests, but puzzle homeowners and pest management professionals alike when the pop up in brand new construction.  I have learned, however, that this actually isn't uncommon of them.
Foreign grain beetle, ventral view.
Photo: S. Ciano

Foreign grain beetles are small beetles, only about 1/12 of an inch in length and brown in color.  They live in damp areas where fungus grows and get the "grain" in their name when found in moldy, wet grain.

While they may be alarming to find in large numbers, they aren't damaging to the structure of the house.  Foreign grain beetles are just a nuisance.  They will not infest other items of the house, but if moisture continues to persist due to leaky pipes, leaks in the roof, etc., they have no reason to leave.

Foreign grain beetles are common in new construction and remodels, when drywall doesn't dry properly or wood gets moist either due to excess rain (what we've experienced this spring and early summer!) or extreme humidity (something we often see in the South Central Texas area).

They can be found in older homes if moisture, mold or fungal growth are issues.

To manage them, you must dry things up!  Improve ventilation, use dehumidifiers, check for leaks in plumbing and excess moisture build up around foundations.  Once the moisture source is reduced, the beetles will clear up on their own.  Since they can be living inside walls, it is difficult for a pest management profession or you to manage them with residual pesticides alone.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Watch Out for Puss Caterpillars!

Asp or Puss Caterpillar
Photo: Martha Cray
Puss caterpillars, AKA Asps, are being seen in some pretty significant numbers this fall.  These small, fuzzy, blonde, almost cuddly looking fuzz balls can pack a mean punch.
Embedded within the hairy facade are venomous spines, which can result in a blister or burn reaction on the skin to more severe reactions such as vomiting or worse.  In general, it is believed that the severity of the reaction depends on the age of the larva and thickness of the skin it encountered.

Shrub with several asps.
Photo: Martha Cray
Puss caterpillars can be found on trees and shrubbery.  Usually where one is found, many are close by.  If you encounter one, avoid it - this is not something you want to experience!  If you have an outbreak on a tree or shrub, it would probably be a good idea to treat the foliage to avoid unnecessary stings.  Bt when they are actively feeding on foliage, spinosad or permethrin are recommended products.  Be sure to follow all labels carefully.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Rain Brings Ag Termites

Public Service Announcement!  This wet weather, following months of dry weather provides ideal conditions for Ag or Desert Termites to emerge to mating swarms.

It would not be uncommon to see 1/4 to 1/2 inch flying brown insects accumulated around light colored doors, garage doors, walls, or under porch lights.

Desert Termites should not cause major concern. They are not wood feeders, instead feeding on grasses. They may be an issue in an urban landscape or agricultural hay field, but generally their damage isn't worth the cost to treat them (although there are exceptions).
Desert Termite swarmers (reproductives)
A Desert Termite swarm.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Bug Banquet - A Culinary Experience You Don't Want to Miss!

Texas A&M AgriLife in Bexar County is so proud to announce a culinary even you won't want to miss!  Enjoy an evening of entomophagy prepared by expert chef's and Bexar County 4-H Food Challenge Teams. Dine under the stars at Clearwater Ranch and learn how raising insects is a sustainable form of agriculture and a surprisingly enjoyable culinary experience.  Our mission is to introduce you to a new way to thinking of obtaining your protein!  While this may be a novelty and maybe "odd" thing to consume, insects are a staple in the diets of many other cultures.  As our population increases, land and other natural resources decrease, it is imperative that we come up with better ways of feeding ourselves... insects may be the answer!

You will have the opportunity to delight in an expertly prepared four course meal made with delectable insects and paired with an appropriate cocktail, beer or wine.  Food prepared with insects can be pushed to the side for those not so inclined to partake.  Our goal is to introduce the idea and show how you can incorporate insects into the diet without relying solely on them.

November 6, 2015
Clearwater Ranch 
(24510 Clearwater Run, San Antonio, TX 78255)
$35 per individual/ $50 per couple

  • Fire Ant Queso (blanco queso seasoned with local peppers and fire ants); paired with Honey Bee Cocktails from local bees.
  • Candied Pear Salad Greens with Roasted Mealworms (mealworms add a nutty flavor to a sweet salad with local greens); paired with local craft beer, Texican Lauger.
  • Goat Cheese Quesadillas & roasted sweet potatoes and squash from local garden (tortillas made with high protein cricket flour, Texas goat cheese and locally grown sweet potatoes); paired with local craft beer, Texcian Lauger.
  • Chocolate covered strawberries garnished with toasted coconut cricket granola; paired with Cranapple Chardonnay from Helotes winery.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Fall Open House!

Insect and Horticulture Event

Join us for our Fall Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Open House - highlighting entomology and horticulture for kids of all ages!  Learn about insects, get your hands dirty digging for worms, millipedes, beetles, and plants.  Play games, do crafts, perform experiments, and have fun!  All while learning about insects and horticulture.

October 3, 2015
3355 Cherry Ridge, Suite 208 (Extension Office)
$2 per child (16 and under)

Cash or check only - we cannot accept credit cards.  Come anytime between 10am and 12pm for some amazing, educational fun and experiences with insects and plants you won't get anywhere else!

Booths and Activities include:
Digging for Life in a Rotting Log
Maggot Art
Build a Terrarium Necklace
Water Games
Pumpkin Crafts
Pot a Plant
Discover Parts of a Plant 

For more information, contact Molly at 210-467-6575 or

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Upcoming Beekeeping Course

Fall is the perfect time to get educated about bees!  No only does it give you a few months to prepare, this is also the best time to purchase your bees for the spring.  With a wonderful increased interest in beekeeping, suppliers are selling out before we even reach the first of the year!

We are hosting our semiannual Beekeeping Basics Program.  During this program, beekeeper and entomologists will teach you the basics of keeping bees from what you need to buy for equipment to what resources your land should have to help the bees survive.  Other topics include: where to purchase bees, using bees for your ag tax exemption, and what to plant to provide food.  We cover all you need to know to get started.

The course is October 9th from 9-3pm, with two options for a field day (where you will learn the most!) on Oct 10th in Adkins and Oct 11th in Leon Springs.  You choose which day and location work best for you.

Lunch is included, with special honey tasting treats!

We always fill up, so please register soon!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

When Insects Tell You Something....

Insects are indicators of all sorts of things. Some indicate good or poor water quality. Others are indicators of great soil rich in organic matter. Flies let you know decaying organic matter is close by and there are multiple other examples.

Esnsign wasps are one such example. This summer alone, I’ve had many send me pictures or samples asking what these little wasps are.  I've even noticed a few more of them resting on walls in buisness buildings and the like. Not surprising given that they parasitize American Cockroach egg cases (ootheca) and American Cockroaches love humid,moist environments - which we experienced earlier this summer.

Ensign wasps are blackish blue wasps that almost look like a hybrid between a wasp and a cricket.
They have an extension between the thorax (leg portion of the body) and abdomen.  They also have long hind legs, similar to a cricket.

Ensign wasps tell you that American cockroaches are close by. They parasitize the cockroaches by laying their eggs in the egg cases of American cockroaches, preventing the roaches from hatching.

Ensign wasps are actually good to have around, but usually mean you have another issue going on. If you find these inside the home, you can be pretty sure that you have American Cockroaches. Leave the wasps, they will help reduce the cockroach population!