Wednesday, September 7, 2016

SAVE THE DATE! Dinner with Insects....

Our first Bug Banquet was a wonderful success, so we're doing it again!  Insects are not only a unique form of protein, they are also a sustainable form of agriculture and require less water, grain, and space than any other form of livestock... all while yielding more protein!

Join us for a night to celebrate entomophagy - the act of eating insects.  You do it every day, in every single meal without knowing, anyway!

Join us November 3rd at 6:30pm at the Blue Star Brewing Co.  Register at

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Butterfly Invasion???

It isn't a butterfly invasion, but it is a butterfly migration!  This year the American Snout Butterflies are making their way down to the Rio Grande River area in mass numbers.
American Snout Butterfly, topside of wings.

American Snout Butterflies get their name from elongated mouthparts called palps that extend from the head.  They are small to medium sized butterflies (much smaller than a Monarch, also a bit smaller than a painted lady) and have orange and brown markings.  They blend in perfectly on bark and even flying can appear to be a leaf fluttering in the wind.

American Snout Butterfly underside of wings.
Each year, these guys make their migration, but their numbers are directly correlated with rainfall and moisture.  This year we had rain at the right times to help their population.  What the rain does is increase the leaves their host plant makes - the spiny hackberry.  With more food, the females lay more eggs in the summer and those eggs hatch and the caterpillars eat the new growth.  The caterpillars can really only eat new growth from the spiny hackberry because its tender enough for them to chew on.

This population explosion we are seeing is a result of those babies (caterpillars) becoming pupa and emerging to migrate down south.

Migration is often during late summer to early fall.  It isn't uncommon to see these large numbers, in fact we've seen in them in the not so distant past.

Expect to see them through the early part of fall.  In some years there are two generations before the fall is over, and I suppose time will tell if that will occur this year.

While they can be annoying and leave a mess of your car, there really no way to avoid them for the time being.  And you aren't killing them off - no matter how many you hit on your drive, there are still thousands upon thousands that will make it to their final destination.

Other butterflies you may be seeing mixed in with these are sulfurs and even some brushfooted butterflies.  But, by and large, if you notice large numbers of butterflies, you are seeing the American Snout Butterfly.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Webinar - Identification for Venomous and NonVenomous Snakes

Photo credit: Bevva MacDonals, Sault College,

Although snakes are not insects, I get questions about them all the time.  Dry weather has definitely put me on higher alert for them.  If you are interested in learning more about Venemous and Nonvenemous Snakes, watch our “All Bugs Good and Bad Webinar Series” this Friday September 2nd at 1:00 pm.  

Katrina Dushaj from the College of Natural Sciences, Colorado State University will be discussing identification methods of both venomous and non-venomous snakes.

Snakes are helpful to humans and are an integral part of our natural environment. It is important that you learn to distinguish venomous and nonvenomous snakes. 

The webinar will be recorded, so you can watch it any time.  To view the live webinar, just log in as a guest 15 minutes before the event begins. Please share this with anyone who might be interested. You can find the login information below. Thank you for supporting our program and we hope you listen in September 2nd!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Why Don't All Mosquito Bites Itch?

There are an identified 85 species of mosquitoes in Texas.  Not every single mosquito species feeds on humans, but that still leaves A LOT of mosquitoes that can!

The thing that itches from a mosquito bite is the saliva.  The female mosquito "backwashes" into you when she feeds.  The saliva contains substances that prevent the blood from clotting so her mouthparts don't get clogged up.  The saliva is what we have an allergic reaction to, causing the itching.

Every species of mosquito has potentially different enzymes, proteins, and substances in their saliva that we can react to.  Therefore, in one individual, you can have multiple reactions.  And each person can react differently from the next.

You see this when one mosquito bite itches like the Dickens, but is gone by morning.  Whereas others may not start itching until hours later and can last for days!  You also see this when a child has a terrible reaction to a mosquito bite and swells up considerably but you react with just a small welt.

Remember to avoid mosquito bites, avoid mosquitoes.  And since this is nearly impossible, the next best option is to use insect repellent.  The CDC and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension recommend three active ingredients based on the length of repellency they provide for mosquitoes vectoring diseases.  DEET, Picaridin, and Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus.

Also be aware that each product may act different on different species of mosquitoes, so don't give up if one active ingredient doesn't seem to work - it may be working just fine... just not against the mosquito bothering you at the moment!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Backyard Basics

Get all the information you've been craving for your backyard homesteading!  See many experts under one roof and more information that you know what to do with!!!  Plus, the change to win some GREAT door prizes like farm fresh eggs, gardening books, organic fertilizer, and honey!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

All you need to know about Zika and preventing mosquitoes!

Roaches in the Lawn

This post is a little late, given that we've now had some good rain and your lawns should be drinking up that good soak and looking a little better.

But, in the past several weeks, I was getting samples and pictures into the office for identification of a cockroach called a Surinam cockroach.  These cockroaches are burrowers and when you water in dry, dead spots of the lawn, they come running out.  The coincidence of an insect and dead grass in the same spot, naturally makes one think that the insect is causing the problem.  In fact, it is not.

Surinam cockroaches are eating decaying organic matter and scavenging.  They really aren't interested in your lawn so much.  There is no reason to worry about them in the landscape, they are a very normal insect to find.  Especially when its really dry and their burrows aren't so comfortable to live in.

They can be found occasionally indoors, but they are searching for water or cooler temperatures.  They are not a structurally infesting cockroach and their presence in the bathroom is no more worrisome than finding a grasshopper who accidentally made it's way indoors.

Photo courtesy of J. Woods