Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Spring of Caterpillars

Forest Tent Caterpillar
Photo by: G. McIlveen Jr.
This spring, it sure seems like we're experiencing more caterpillars than we have in the past.  There are two types of caterpillars on trees (seems more of the sightings are on oaks) you may encounter and what to do about them:

Forest Tent Caterpillars.  These guys do not actually make a tent, but they may appear to "wrap" your tree trunks with silk, while they hang out on the inside.  During spring, new growth means tender, juicy food for caterpillars.  While these guys will not damage the overall health of the trees, they may be a nuisance, unsightly, and may congregate in massive amounts on lawn furniture, fences, or other objects.

Oak Leaf Rollers.  It has been several years since these guys have exploded in massive populations, and while this year it isn't a huge explosion, I am getting some calls on them and seeing them drop from trees.  Oak leaf rollers rarely defoliate or even cause any noticeable defoliation of trees, but they are annoying.

Oak Leaf Rollers in oak trees
Photo by: Bart Drees
Oak leaf rollers are usually green in color with a black head. They drop from a single silk strand from trees when they are dislodged.  The silk can cover windows and cars, and when the populations are huge, it can make spending time outdoors unpleasant.

Should you feel the need to manage these caterpillars, they can be treated as any other caterpillar.  Bt and Spinosad are my two favorites.  Bt  is organic and specific to only caterpillars, you will not kill anything else but caterpillars, so be careful around your butterfly host plants.  Spinosad is also organic and may give you a faster knockdown.

I suspect these caterpillars will be around for another week or two, but they will soon die off on their own and treatment really isn't necessary.  Think of them as bluebonnets.  While there are a lot when there are a lot, they won't last long.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Termite Season

Termites are probably the most feared insect to humans ... especially homeowners.  They portray a vision of a house falling down, circus tent fumigations, a torn up yard, and major expense.  Your home is usually your greatest investment, so naturally, an teeny insect that hides underground and eats wood inside you home is a scary thing!
Subterranean termite mud tube and activity.

February and March are considered termite swarming season in Texas.  Although the weather has been up and down and its hard to predict when they may actually swarm, we have gone a few years without a good swarming season, and I imagine if not this year, at least next, will have some good swarms.

A termite swarm is when there is usually extreme humidity (often associated with rain) and the winged termites emerge from the nest to mate and start a new nest.  The females will become queens and start a new colony.

Termites are still active at all times of the year, not just during swarming season.  In fact, with the extra moisture and warmer weather, they are probably doing just great.  Cellulose material from stumps, buried logs, lumber, landscaping timber and firewood are all examples of food sources for termites that most of us have somewhere in the landscape.  The closer that is to your house, the more likely they are to start feeding on cellulose in the house.

The good news is that finding termites or termite damage should be mean that you need to take immediate action.  Take some time to get some BIDs and figure out the best management options for your situation.  You will know if the house is in danger of collapse!

For much more information about termites and management options, a fantastic webinar is being provided by Dr. Robert Puckett, an urban entomologist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension on April 3rd at 1pm Central.  He has extensive experience in termite field and lab research.  Be sure to tune in for a rare opportunity to learn more about termites that you probably ever thought you would learn!

The link to the webinar is:

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Backyard Basics EXPO

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension is hosting an AMAZING program, Saturday March 28th at Madison High School.  This EXPO happens only once a year, and we pack the place to the gills!  We bring in specialists of all sorts of expertise to speak about various agricultural programs you can do in your own backyard: beekeeping, gardening, canning, aquaponics, rainwater harvesting, chickens and poultry and so much more.  There is something for everyone.  The presentations will go on throughout the day in concurrent sessions and vendors will be present to answer questions and/or sell goods (Alamo Area Beekeepers Association, Bexar County Master Gardeners, etc).  This EXPO is geared for those who garden, enjoy agriculture as hobby, and those who want some self-sustaining projects in their backyard.

If you are interested, we still have some spots.  Be sure to register at http://agriliferegister.tamu.edu/BackyardBasics before the date of the event.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

30 Bugs Every Gardener Should Know

As I do every Spring and Fall, I will be hosting an educational program all about the "bugs" you can expect to encounter this spring in the garden and landscape.  See actual specimens along with pictures and be sure to bring any damage, pictures, or insects you need identified!

When - Tuesday, March 24th from 10am-12pm

Location - Bexar County Extension Office, 3355 Cherry Ridge, Suite 208, SATX 78230

Cost - $10, payable at the door (credit cards not accepted)

Space is limited, please RSVP to Molly at mekeck@ag.tamu.edu or 210-467-6575

Monday, December 22, 2014

Cool Things Happening in Extension!

This may have nothing to do with insects, but Texas A&M AgriLife Extension is planning some pretty neat programs for 2015!

David Rodriguez, our horticulturist in Bexar County will be putting on a program about home brewing!  Backyard bees, chickens, gardening, canning and other self sustaining activities are of more and more interest to folks lately.  And now home brewing can certainly be added to the list.

Along with David, Joey Villarreal, Proprietor and Brewer of Blue Star Brewing Company, Todd Huntress, Operator of San Antonio Homebrew Supply & Home Brewer, and Bexar County Master Gardener and Home Brewer, Lou Kellogg will present this program on January 14th from 6:30-8:30pm.

The basics of what you need to know:
·         Held at Blue Star Brewing, The Blue Star Arts Complex, 1414 S. Alamo St, San Antonio, TX 78210.  
·         2 CEUs.  Fee: $20.
·         RSVP to Angel Torres 210 467-6575 or email matorres@ag.tamu.edu.  
·         Must be 21 years of age or older.

Monday, December 1, 2014

If You've Ever Wanted to Grow Olives....

Olive production, management seminar slated for Dec. 15 in San Antonio

SAN ANTONIO – The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service will present an Olive Production and Management Seminar at the dairy barn located on the San Antonio Livestock Exposition grounds from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 15.
The dairy barn is closest to the West Gate/Gate A entrance at 3201 E. Houston St.
Registration is from 8:30-9 a.m. and the program is open to commercial olive producers, small-acreage farm operators and the general public.
The cost is $30 and lunch and light refreshments will be provided.
A seminar on olive production and management in Texas will be held Dec. 15 in San Antonio. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Kathleen Phillips)
A seminar on olive production and management in Texas will be held Dec. 15 inside the dairy barn on the San Antonio Livestock Exposition grounds. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Kathleen Phillips)
“The Texas Olive Oil Council is helping sponsor the event, which will be helpful for anyone already involved in or interested in olive production and how to manage an olive orchard,” said David Rodriguez, AgriLife Extension agent for horticulture, Bexar County. “We have some well-known experts in Texas horticulture as presenters, and they will share their expertise and give insights into the pros and cons of olive production in Texas.”
Rodriguez said topics and presenters will include:
– The current status of Texas olive production, site selection and cold mitigation, Monte Nesbitt, AgriLife Extension horticulture program specialist, College Station.
– Comparing the advantages of growing olives in California and Texas, Jim Kamas, AgriLife Extension fruit specialist, Fredericksburg.
– The challenges of harvesting and milling olives, Dr. Larry Stein, associate department head and AgriLife Extension horticulture specialist, Uvalde.
– Current and past research projects by Texas Tech University, Dr. Thayne Montague, Texas Tech University associate professor of horticulture with joint appointment to Texas A&M AgriLife Research, Lubbock.
– Proposed Texas A&M AgriLife Research projects, Dr. Raul Cabrera, AgriLife Research horticulturist, Uvalde.
– AgriLife Extension variety and site selection trials, Nesbitt.
Presentations will be followed by a question-and-answer session.
To register and for more information, contact Angel Torres at 210-467-6575 or matorres@ag.tamu.edu. The registration deadline is noon Dec. 12.

Friday, November 14, 2014

It's Crazy Ant Season!

This morning when I came into the office, I found my first black crazy ant crawling across my desk.  Then, no sooner had I set my bags down that I received a phone call on how to get rid of these "black, crazy running ants."  It is certainly Black Crazy Ant season!

Every winter, our office becomes overrun with black crazy ants.  These ants are not native to the US, but have been here for decades.  They are certainly not the Rasberry or Tawny Crazy Ant that you may have heard horror stories about.

My office tends to have more crazy ants than the others because I have "pet" insects and tarantulas that are housed in cages with soil or bedding.  The ants love to move in out of the cold, into the heated building, and start nesting in my insect cages.  My simple solution is to move the insect to a new container and set the old one outside until the crazy ants move out.  You may find crazy ants inhabiting your potted plants in the winter months.  Simply set the pot outdoors for a day or so to discourage the ants.

Black crazy ants do not come to baits very readily (or at all!).  The best solution to managing them if they are causing your grief is to apply a barrier insecticide such as permethrin to window sills and door entries - places where the ants may squeeze in.  This will be short lived, so don't be inclined to overapply and expose yourself and your family to too much pesticide.

The black crazy ants will eventually move back outdoors when the weather warms up and even on warmer days.

Photo by Dr. Bart Drees