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 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 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  
·         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 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

Monday, November 3, 2014

8 Things to Know about Bed Bugs

The holiday season is upon us and increased travels can mean bringing bed bugs home for some. Here are the top 10 things I think you should know about bed bugs!

1. Bed bugs are not microscopic.  You can see bed bugs with your eyes, they are not imaginary and they are not too small to see.  Bed bugs are about the size, shape and color of an apple seed.  Of course, the little babies are much smaller, but I can still see them with my eyes.  I can even find the eggs if I'm looking close enough and have a good flashlight - you can see bed bugs in all their life stages!
Bed Bug life stages, egg, nymphs (3) and adult.
Photo by: Dr. Bart Drees

2. Not everyone reacts to bed bug bites.  I get this comment all the time: wife calls in about having bed bugs and complains that she's the only one who's being bitten.  Her husband never has bites.  Well, he's being bitten... he's just not reacting.  In fact, Orkin did a little test on about 500 volunteer employees, and they found that only about 5% reacted to the bed bug bites.  So, don't rely on bites as your sign that you have bed bugs.

3.  Bed bugs are not found only in the beds. While the majority of bed bug infestations are on the bed and box spring, they will spread to peripheral areas of the room.  Bed bugs can be found on popcorn ceilings (one of their favorite spots), behind outlets and plugs, on the bed frame, on side tables, in curtains, between the carpeting and baseboard, my list can go on and on.  In fact the absolutely WORST thing you can do if you have bed bugs, is leave the room and start sleeping somewhere else. 

You run the risk of taking bed bugs into the new room or house on your belongings (sheets, blankets, pillows, teddy bears) AND bed bugs will travel to find you.  When placing traps in homes, we collect bed bugs in all locations of the home - hallways, kitchens, bathrooms.  Bed bugs wander aimlessly looking for a blood meal.  It may sound gross, but you have to keep yourself in the infested bed as bait to prevent your entire dwelling from becoming infested.

4.  Bed bugs are FAST!  I am always amazed at how quick bed bugs can run.  They are much quicker than you would imagine - almost like tiny cockroaches.

5. Heat kills all stages of bed bugs.  When heated thoroughly at 120F for 1 minute, eggs, nymphs and adult bed bugs will die.  You can use this to your advantage.  Heating clothes, sheets, bags, or any other item in your drier on high heat for at least 30 minutes will kill bed bugs!  If you are afraid you brought some home, put your belongings in the drier and let the heat knock them out.

Solar heating is also possible.  The car will never really get hot enough (even in the summer) to kill bed bugs (under the seats and other spots will not heat up to 120F), but you can still use the sun to your advantage.  Use a clear plastic bag and stuff your belongings inside.  Let it sit outside on hot, sunny day.  Greenhouse effects will raise the temperature in the bag above the atmospheric temp and you can kill bed bugs.  Be sure to use a thermometer to make sure the center of your bag gets hot enough for along enough.  The goal is 120F for about 20-30 minutes.
Photo by: Dr. Mike Merchant

6.  Bed bugs are NOT a sign of poor sanitation.  Anyone can get bed bugs.  It is not a sign that you do not wash your sheets or take care of your home.  Any socioeconomic class can get bed bugs - this is not a poor person's problem.  Bed bugs can be picked up anywhere, by anyone, at anytime.  If you get bed bugs don't be ashamed, get help and know that getting bed bugs only means that you left your house.

7. Just because you find a bug in your bed, does not mean you have bed bugs.  Many other insects and arthropods can be confused for bed bugs:  ticks, carpet beetles, spider beetles.  Carpet beetles tend to crawl between the mattress and box spring when they are ready to go from the larvae stage to the pupa stage.  While they look completely different than a bed bug (to an entomologist like me), if you find a bug in your bed, the natural reaction is to assume bed bugs.  Get the bugs identified by a professional.  Get a second option to be sure.  There are pest control companies out there who have extensive experience with bed bugs and can give you an accurate identification.  You can also always utilize your local Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service (me!).

8.  Bed bugs are not impossible to control!  Good news!  It is absolutely possible to manage bed bugs, contrary to what you may have heard in the media.  There are many treatment options for bed bugs - heat (discussed previously), cold/cryo treatments, intense steam, sanitation, fumigation and other chemical controls.