Thursday, February 2, 2017

2017 Spring Break Nature Camp

Looking for something fun for your kids to do during Spring Break?  We are hosting our annual Spring Break Nature Camp, sure to be a fantastic time for the outdoor, nature loving kids in your life!

This year, the kids will be learning about Texas Snakes & Reptiles, Birds of Prey from wildlife experts, Tarantulas and Insects, Horticulture, and do some birding with an ornithology expert.  We’ll perform experiments with owl pellets, insects, and some microbiology, and get to hold live animals, insects, snakes, reptiles, and get up close and personal with some birds of prey.will have

We can only host 24 campers, so be sure to sign up soon.  We are already half full!


Spring Break Nature Camp
Presented by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension’s horticulture & entomology programs

March 13-16
9am-2:30pm
$115











Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Gnats Driving You Crazy?

You are not the only one!  I have no idea why, but it sure seems like San Antonians are being plagued by gnats.  Most of the issues people are dealing with are fruit flies. Fruit flies are smaller than house flies, and have red eyes.  They appear tan in color and are no larger than an 1/8 of an inch long.  In the photo of small flies above, the fruit fly is on the far right.

Fruit flies are attracted to ripened or decaying fruit and vegetables, but they are also known to breed in drains, dirty mops or rags, recycling bins, trash cans, soil, and other areas of moisture and decaying or fermenting food.

In order to manage fruit flies, you truly have to find the source.  Once you have eliminated the source, its important to keep fruit and veggies either in the refrigerator or a brown bag for a couple weeks or you will attract them back into the home.

If you're still seeing flies, check the drains.  An easy trick is to put tape over half the drain overnight.  If flies are stuck to it, you know they are breeding in the organic matter that lines the drains.  There are drain cleaners that will eliminate that "gunk" using enzymes.  Bleach, boiling water, and other products will only kill the larvae in the drain now; it does not keep the adults from laying more eggs.

If you have potted plants, they may breeding in the soil.  Check by digging, or placing the plant in a small space overnight.  Its easier to re-pot the plant, but at the minimum, don't over water and allow the soil to dry out.

I'm noticing a correlation between the new green compost bins the city has provided us.  Its wonderful that we are composting and reducing our trash, but we are also keeping our rotten food longer in the home, which is attracting and allowing fruit flies to breed.  If this is your issue, remove the food regularly, if not immediately.

Again, finding the main source is the key.  Recently, we had a MAJOR issue in our office.  I'm a little embarrassed to admit, I was the cause!  I had placed an apple in an insect cage and allowed it to rot and ferment.  Removing those rotten apples almost immediately (within a weekend) got rid of the problem!  It may not be as easy as that, but searching for "ground zero" will make your problem less of a problem.

*Photo credit - Dr. Bart Drees, Texas A&M University

Monday, January 30, 2017

HELP! Fleas!

Seems like this year, fleas have been especially difficult for some pet owners this year... and even later into the winter than we usually see.

We had a good wet spring, summer, and fall, which probably helped their populations do better than during our normally droughty years.

There is not real silver bullet for flea control, but there are some tricks that will help!

1 - Treat inside, outside, and the pet at the same time!  Otherwise you are just chasing the fleas around.

2 - Visit your vet for a good flea control medication.  Generally, the over the counter and topical medications don't work as well as the newer oral flea medications.

3 - Vacuum inside like crazy!  Studies have show that vacuumind and immediately dumping the canister will reduce fleas as much as 80% or more.  That is a substantial reduction!  Vacuum pet bedding, carpet, and ANYWHERE the pet rests, sleeps, or spends time.

4 - If you have fleas but no pet, use an Insect Growth Regulator like methoprene or pyriprofyfen.  This keeps the eggs or larvae from becoming adults and reducing the population.  You may not be able to control the stray animals or neighbors, but this will help reduce the flea populations over time.

5 - Treat today and again in 10-14 days.  The first treatment doesn't often kill the eggs or pupae.  10-14 days is enough time to allow those eggs to hatch to larvae and pupae to adults and your second treatment will help really get them under control. Otherwise, all seems well for about a month and then they explode again.

As always, be sure to READ AND FOLLOW THE LABEL.  Don't use products meant for outdoors in your home.  Don't ever use off label.  You can probably recall a terrible accident where a family died due to improper use of pesticides for fleas.  Even things that seem harmless, like diatomaceous earth, should not be used inside if the label does not specifically state that it can be used indoors.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Odd Bee Activity

Have you noticed more bee activity lately?  You aren't alone and it isn't necessarily an odd occurrence.  We have had warm temperatures, after all, and wonderful sunny days.



Honeybees can forage year round if the temperatures and weather is nice enough for them.  Consider how much rain we've received.  Wildflowers and other plants are confused and starting to bloom in odd spots, which gets the bees excited.  Even if you don't have anything blooming, the bees may be more active around your home searching for anything sweet from trashcans, pet food, or standing water.

Even if bees have enough honey stored up for the winter, if the day is nice enough to forage, they'll take off!  They also use water to help maintain the temperatures in their hive, so finding bees around standing water isn't unusual this time of year, either.

Honeybees are most aggressive when they are protecting their home, so as long as you avoid the home, they'll probably leave you alone.  If they do bother you, consider putting some sugar water far away from where you'll be spending time to draw them away.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

5 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 (bioquip.com) 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.
Bioquip.com
Bioquip.com
  











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.

Bioquip.com. 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.
If you are local to San Antonio a good breeder with various sized tarantulas is Nature's Exquisite Creatures.  Look them up on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/NaturesExquisiteCreatures/

Friday, December 9, 2016

Bexar County 4-H Club Swept District!


The Bexar County 4-H Entomology Clubs took home the blue ribbons this past weekend at the District 10 Fall Round Up Competition.

For Juniors (grades 3-5) and Intermediates (grades 6-8), this was THE competition for the year.  They studied hard for several months and their hard work paid off!  Two Junior teams took 1st and 2nd, with three individual placements.  The Intermediate team took 1st, with two individual placements.  And our Bexar County Seniors took first and will head on to state!  Two individual seniors also placed.

Bexar County took first in all team categories and all individual categories!  These kids are SMART!

If you are interested in joining 4-H to compete in entomology, learning all about specific insects, their orders, mouthparts, habitats, and more, join us for 2017!  The next competition will be December 2017, but you can compete in the collection contest in June 2017.

To join, contact our office at 210-631-0400 and ask to speak to someone about joining 4-H Entomology. Or contact me at mekeck@ag.tamu.edu.

We'll start collecting and organizing our collections once the weather warms up again... around March.









Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Nature's Exquisite Creatures Meet and Greet - Wonderful Opportunity for some Christmas Shopping for those Entomologists on Your List!!!

Don't miss out on this opportunity to see some cool tarantulas and arthropods!  This is a great chance to do some shopping for those entomologists and insect lovers on your list.  If you already have tarantulas, you can sell, trade or do a breeding loan. 

Hope to see you there!!