Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Managing Wildlife in Your Backyard Webinar

eXtension - an online resource of various topics from experts all over the nation - is hosting a FREE webinar on Managing Wildlife.  While the webinar is meant as a Master Gardener Training, I believe anyone can register and attend.

The webinar is being offered on April 10th at 1:30 central time.  If you have been having issues with wildlife in your yard, this would be an excellent opportunity to learn what to do in the comfort of your own home.

If you happen to miss it - it will be recorded and you can view it later.

The link for the webinar and to find it later is: https://learn.extension.org/events/1568   

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Spring Has Sprung!

It may not quite be spring just yet, but there are some definite signs (despite the cold weather) that spring is around the corner!

My very favorite tree has started to bloom in some parts of town - Mountain Laurels.  If you love Mountain Laurels as much as I do, start watching out for Mountain Laurel Mirids and Genista Caterpillars, which will start to feed on the new growth of the trees.  If you see caterpillars, you may consider using Bt or Spinosad to eliminate them and allow that new growth to come out.  Your tree will not be harmed by the caterpillars, but it won't get any larger.  Mirids aren't as damaging - just know that those little red and black bugs aren't killing the Mountain Laurel and let them have a snack!

Another sign that it will start to warm up soon is that my grass has finally started to come out of dormancy in some spots in the yard.  I can see pretty green below the straw colored sleeping parts.  Now, I just need to wait for some more rain to wake it up a little more.

And, the ultimate Ground Hog of the entomological world is the Crane Fly!  I saw my first crane fly the other day (then it froze and the crane fly has been too cold to move ever since!). 

Contrary to popular belief, crane flies are not giant mosquitoes or insects that eat mosquitoes.  In fact, they probably don't even have functioning mouthparts as an adult.  Crane flies can be found active through the summer, but early spring is their hayday.  Expect to see many of them at your porch lights at night.

No reason to be scared of them.  They can't bite, they don't hurt, and they will not infest your home.  If they bother you, consider turning off all outside lights to prevent them from coming close to the house.

Enjoy the spring!  I, for one, cannot wait for the warmer weather!

Monday, January 27, 2014

If Flowers are Restaurants to Bees, then What Are Bees to Flowers?”

Want to learn more about pollinating insects?  eXtension has a fantastic opportunity for you, coming up February 7th ... and you don't even have to get out of your house to participate!



The eXtension All Bugs Good and Bad Webinar series is set to begin Feb. 7. Dr. Kathy Flanders, an entomologist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, says the series is a continuation of the Don’t Bug Me Webinar series with an emphasis on good and bad insects that affect people every day.
“This webinar series will feature insects that affect homeowners and gardeners,” says Flanders. “These insects fall into two categories and we hope to provide information that is beneficial when treating your gardens or crops and pest-proofing your home, yard, family and pets.”
Webinars will be held the first Friday of each month at 1 p.m. Central Daylight Time. The first webinar in the 2014 series will highlight pollinators, which are good bugs. If Flowers are Restaurants to Bees, then What Are Bees to Flowers? will be Friday, Feb. 7 at 1 p.m.


Honeybee on flower. Photo courtesy of Jerry A. Payne, bugwood.org.
Dani Carroll, a region Extension home grounds agent, will be moderating the Feb. 7 webinar. She says it is imperative to know the importance of the role pollinators play in the world around us.
“Bees and other pollinators are essential in production of more than two-thirds of the world’s food crop species,” Carroll says. “The necessity extends beyond things we grow in our back yard, like squash and apples. Alfalfa is instrumental in the meat and dairy industries and its growth depends on pollination.”
Upcoming webinar topics include pollinators, termites, ticks, spiders and fire ants.

Flanders says The All Bugs Good and Bad Webinar series is designed to provide useful tips for those interested in solid, research-based information.

More information can be found at All Bugs Good and Bad 2014 Webinar Series including how to connect to the webinars.  On Feb. 7, participants can use this link to connect to the webinar. Webinars will be archived and can be found on the All Bugs Good and Bad 2014 Webinar Series page.
All Bugs Good and Bad webinars are an extension of the seven webinars in The Don’t Bug Me Webinar Series, which spanned most of 2013, and included five webinars discussing fire ants, tramp ants, bed bugs and insects that invade homes.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Will Texans Soon Kiss Their Ash Goodbye?

Texans, be on the lookout for an invasive beetle to ash trees: The Emerald Ash Borer.

The Emerald Ash Borer has recently been found just outside our doorsteps in Colorado in late 2013.  In fact, the Emerald Ash Borer may very well already be in Texas, as most experts believe there may be as many as three years time between introduction and detection!
Photographer: David Cappaert
Source: Michigan State University

Emerald Ash Borers lay their eggs in the crevices of the bark of the Ash and the larvae hatch and burrow into the outer sapwood of the Ash and feed on the phloem, stealing nutrients from the tree.  Eventually they will kill the tree, which is a major cost to communities for tree removal.  Decreased property value, threat to public safety, decrease air quality, detriments to wildlife and the ecosystem, and loss of trees are all reasons we would rather not have the Emerald Ash Borer in our area!

EAB spend the winter into the tree as the larvae, feeding.  They will pupate in the spring and emerge around late April (in parts of the world where they are currently found, although we may find this not to be the case in our warmTexas).

Signs that your Ash tree has EAB include: thinning at the top, splitting bark, and sucker growth at the base of the tree.  All signs that the tree is dying.

Like most boring beetles, they do prefer stressed or weakened trees, so be sure to care for your Ash trees during our ever present drought.

If you suspect that you have EAB, collect a sample.  We cannot verify that they are present in Texas, unless we have an actual specimen!  Collect a sample and contact your local Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service or Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

For more information on EAB, check out this website: http://texasinvasives.org/pest_database/detail.php?symbol=5

The adult Emerald Ash Borer is a strikingly green, metallic beetle, approximately .5 inches in length.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Monarchs on the Decline

I was recently interviewed by a journalist with PBS who wanted to do a story on the decline of Monarchs.  Now, as an entomologist, I will be the first to admit, that while I enjoy collecting and looking at butterflies, they really aren't my favorite insect.  And I will certainly admit that I don't know as much about them as I should.  So, knowing that I would be questioned on one of my entomological weaknesses, I started doing some research and found Monarchs are really very interesting insects! (That's one thing I love about entomology - just when I think I know it all, I come to realize there is still so much more to learn!)

Nearly all Texans know Monarchs as our state insect and for their beautiful orange and black coloration.  However, Monarchs are not found in just Texas.  They can be found nearly all over the United States.  Monarchs are a migratory butterfly and we tend to find them travelling down from the NE United States into Texas toward their winter hideout in Mexico around September through November.  Monarchs cannot make the cold winters up in the northeast, so they make their down to Mexico to spend the winter in warmer temperatures.

When spring comes, they pick up and leave, heading back to the northeast.  They arrive, tired, hungry and beat up.  Its a long hard trip and they've now done it twice!  Amazing!  They will lay their eggs on milkweed plants, where their larvae will feed and the life cycle starts again.

Now, not every single Monarch will make this trek.  Certainly, there are many who stay in one spot and complete their lifecycle there, but their story isn't as interesting as the migrating Monarchs.

In recent years, it has been well documented that the Monarch populations have been declining.  We can see this in Mexico, where they overwinter.  I have been told the millions of Monarchs on a single tree in Mexico, fluttering their wings, is a breathtaking thing to see, but I have never seen it in person.  It is one of the many things on my bucket list!

In 1997, Monarch populations were at their peak - they occupied 50 acres in Mexico while overwintering.  In 2012, they only occupied less than 3 acres.  That's a huge decrease!

There are many reasons that have been listed for the decline of Monarchs.  Likely all have some impact, but each one combined is causing big problems.  I don't think one reason is the main reason.  As with all things, there are many variables.  Monarch decline has been contributed to anything from increased traffic on highways to deforestation in Mexico to a decrease in milkweed.

What can you do if you love Monarchs?  Plant some milkweed!  Give them what they want.  But also remember that this is only the food source for the larvae.  Adults need nectar producing plants, so be sure to plant those in the landscape as well.  Those migrating butterflies will need some energy and those that stay in Texas will need a reason to stay!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

30 Bugs Every Fall Gardener Should Know!

Fall gardening means fall bugs!  If you are interested to know which insects and related animals you may come across this fall in your landscape, veggies, or ornamentals - this is the program for you!

I will be covering the 30 bugs I predict or know will be abundant in the landscape!  Good, bad, or otherwise.  Get to see actual specimens as well as pictures of specimens and how to either encourage them or management.  Bring any insects or damage you have questions about or would like identified!

 

30 Bugs Every Gardener Should Know

September 24th, 2013

2-4pm

Cost - $10 (payable at the door)

 

Please RSVP to Molly at 210-467-6575 or mekeck@ag.tamu.edu

Friday, August 30, 2013

Become a Beekeeper!

Its all over the news - bees are dying, disappearing and in general stress.  If you have ever thought of keeping bees, I will be hosting a Beekeeping Basics Program, Oct 11 & 12th.  This is a unique program in which you will learn the basics and get into an actual hive, put on a suit and see what its like to deal with bees.  If anything, its an excellent experience!

We are filling up quickly - if you are interested contact me at mekeck@ag.tamu.edu to see if we still have room or for a registration form.