Thursday, June 1, 2017

Cicadas Emerging

When I think of the sounds of summer, the metallic songs of cicadas immediately comes to mind.  Cicadas are starting to emerge and make their way from the soil to the trees to serenade us again.  Last night I heard my first cicada calls, but soon the trees will nearly be deafening at times while they call to each other.

Cicadas spend the majority of their life under the soil.  I'm sure you've heard of the 17 year cicadas, which only emerge every 17 years.  But the most common cicadas are the "Dog Day Cicadas."  Cicadas that become abundant during the dog days of summer and take only 2-5 year to complete their lifecycle (still a amazing long time for an insect!)

During summer, cicadas mate and by the end of summer, lay their eggs on twigs and bark.  The eggs hatch into nymphs about a month later and crawl down to the soil and feed on roots.  Usually they do very little damage as nymphs, but adults can be a nuisance leaving markings when they lay eggs on young trees.  The nymphs spend 2-5 years in the soil before they emerge from the soil, crawl up a tree or other object (like the side of your house), shed their nymphal skin and emerge as an adult.  The nymphal skin is left behind, clinging to the spot they last stood.

The new exoskeleton grows underneath the old exoskeleton, so when they crack the old skin open, the new skin can be seen underneath.  The newly emerged adult cicada will rest for a short period of time, pumping its blood through the wings and allowing the exoskeleton to harden before it flies up into the trees to sing.

Most of us can recognize an adult cicada, but when you get a chance encounter with the nymph emerging from the soil, it really is a sight!

Immature cicada emerging from the soil.
Photo Credit: Manu & Indra Gregory

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

2017 All Bugs Good and Bad Webinar Series: Aphids, Scales, and White Flies


2017 All Bugs Good and Bad Webinar Series: Aphids, Scales, and White Flies
Friday, June 2 at 1:00 pm CDT




Aphids, scales, and whiteflies are pests of many landscape plants.   Learn to identify and properly apply IPM techniques using practical, cultural practices to reduce the pressure from these insect pests.  Dr. Erfan Vafaie, Extension Program Specialist, Texas A and M Agrilife Extension will deliver this training in practical control and identification.  Moderated by Marcus Garner and Allyson Shabel, Regional Extension Agents, Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Click here to login as a guest and participate in the live event.   Note: on June 2nd, the link to the live webinar opens about 15 minutes before the webinar. If you try to log in earlier, you will get an error message.
For more webinars in this series, see 2017 All Bugs Good and Bad Webinar Series. The webinars are brought to you by the following eXtension Communities of Practice: Ant Pests, and Urban IPM; and by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Clemson Cooperative Extension and University of Georgia Extension.

Photo Courtesy Elizabeth Brown, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Summer Bug Camps! Now taking registrations!

If you have a child ages 4-11, interested in nature, insects, and especially science - Texas A&M AgriLife is hosting three camps through NISD Community Education this summer!

Bug Camp

Ages 7-11
July 24-26
9am-2pm (bring a lunch)
Grissom & Bandera - NISD Learning Center
Campers will get the chance to study entomology through interactive activities and experiments, collect insects and start an insect collection, and learn to appreciate the smallest of animals on our earth.  Campers will receive a student collection kit complete with: collecting net, collection box, pins, killing solution, kill jars, labels, butterfly envelopes, foreceps, pinning block, spreading board, and collecting bag.




Junior Bug Camp

Ages 4-6
Camp #1 July 31-August 1 & Camp #2 August 2-3
9am-12pm
Grissom & Bandera - NISD Learning Center

For the youngest scientists, we will perform age appropriate hands on activities and experiments, get to do a little collecting, and learn a LOT about insects and their importance as pollinators and recyclers in our environment.  Campers will receive a collection box, killing jar and miscellaneous collecting materials.


Please register through NISD Community Education by calling 210-397-8100 or online at nisd.net/ace

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.