Monday, March 28, 2016

Zika Virus and Mosquito Management

What you Should Know About Zika and Mosquito Management, How To Protect Yourself.
Wednesday, March 30th
Hardberger Park, Urban Ecology Center
8400 NW Military

Zika is all over the news lately and may have you worried.  This is a new virus to the US and something that you are risk for contracting regardless if you travel to Mexico or the Caribbean.  Learn the facts of Zika and what you can do to reduce your chances of any mosquito borne disease from entomologist, Molly Keck from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.  This a FREE seminar, located at Hardberger Park, NW Military Entrance (8400 NW Military Hwy).

Please RSVP by registering at

Monday, February 29, 2016

Don't Miss the Fun! Spring Insect & Horticulture EXPO and Plant Sale!

Texas A&M AgriLife Spring EXPO

We had so much fun in the fall, we had to do it again!  Come out and join us for our Spring EXPO and Plant Sale.  We'll have experiments and activities for the kids, an ask the Master Gardener booth for questions about your garden, and a plant sale to fill your veggie garden and add some color to the landscape.

We will also have partners from UTSA and the Mayor's Monarch initiative as well as Nature's Exquisite Creatures.  Learn about the importance of monarchs, purchase some plants to help feed the butterflies, and learn how the milkweed is essential to their lifecycle.

You'll also get the chance to get up close and personal with spiders, roaches, tarantulas, and even snakes from Nature's Exquisite Creatures!

Kids will play pheromone games, build butterfly crafts, play with painting worms, dig through dirt to hold creepy crawler, pot your own plants to fill the garden, color your own carnations, and so much more!

March 5th
@ the A&M AgriLife Extension Office
3355 Cherry Ridge, Suite 208 (north court)

Cost - $2 for youth ages 16 and under
Adults free
Cash or check only, please, we do not have access to a credit card machine

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Best Gift Ideas for the Entomologist in Your Life

Are you wondering what to buy the entomologist on your list ....  here are a few ideas that are sure to make your little (or big) entomologist a happy one this holiday season!

1 - Insect Collecting Kit.  Bioquip ( sells a couple of these, ranging from around $42 to $120.  These collection kits have everything you need to collect and mount insects for amateurs to professionals.  Both basically contain the same materials, one is just a better quality and "really fancy".  They have the basics you need: pins, insect net, forceps, a spreading board, and a collection box.

2 -Display Case for Collections.  Every entomologist loves to show off their collections and there are a number of options out there, in various sizes.  Glass covered display cases can be mounted to the wall or placed on tables as art work - everyone loves to look at an insect collection!  Craft stores sell shadow boxes with a fabric backing that insect pins fit into.  You can find these are Hobby Lobby or Michaels.  While these are great to hang on walls because they already have the hardware and are an inexpensive option, they are not air tight, so you'll need to remember to use moth balls or ??? to prevent dermestid beetles from ruining your collection.  Bioquip, hobby stores and scientific stores may carry more airtight boxes.

Shadow box with burlap backing.

3 - A Professional Insect Net.  Dinky nets can be found at the dollar store, but a real entomologist needs a good net!  Hobby and science shops and Bioquip sell a range of nets.  You can find various diameters for the nets and various lengths of the stick.My personal favorite is the dual net - they are strong enough to take a beating in some brush, but light enough to catch butterflies out of the air. Heavy Duty Aerial Net.

4 - A Good Identification Field Guide.  There are soooo many out there!  My suggestion is to try to find one that is local to your region or state.  At the very least, chose a field guide for insects found in North America.

A Field Guide to Texas Insects by Drees an d Jackman

5 - A LIVE TARANTULA!  Every entomologist has some live arthropod they keep as a pet.  You can find suppliers everywhere, even pet stores.  I enjoy shopping from breeders.  They generally know more about the specimen they are selling you and can help you choose the right species for you tastes: something you can handle easily versus something flashy and pretty.  You can find breeders at reptile and exotic shows or online.  My suggestion is to ask to hold the tarantula first - that way you know if you are comfortable with it before you take it home.  You'll also know if its too fast or skitzy for you.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Little Beetles in New Homes

In the past year, I have had several calls on a little beetle that before now, I wasn't all that familiar with.  A foreign grain beetle.  They are occasional storage pests, but puzzle homeowners and pest management professionals alike when the pop up in brand new construction.  I have learned, however, that this actually isn't uncommon of them.
Foreign grain beetle, ventral view.
Photo: S. Ciano

Foreign grain beetles are small beetles, only about 1/12 of an inch in length and brown in color.  They live in damp areas where fungus grows and get the "grain" in their name when found in moldy, wet grain.

While they may be alarming to find in large numbers, they aren't damaging to the structure of the house.  Foreign grain beetles are just a nuisance.  They will not infest other items of the house, but if moisture continues to persist due to leaky pipes, leaks in the roof, etc., they have no reason to leave.

Foreign grain beetles are common in new construction and remodels, when drywall doesn't dry properly or wood gets moist either due to excess rain (what we've experienced this spring and early summer!) or extreme humidity (something we often see in the South Central Texas area).

They can be found in older homes if moisture, mold or fungal growth are issues.

To manage them, you must dry things up!  Improve ventilation, use dehumidifiers, check for leaks in plumbing and excess moisture build up around foundations.  Once the moisture source is reduced, the beetles will clear up on their own.  Since they can be living inside walls, it is difficult for a pest management profession or you to manage them with residual pesticides alone.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Watch Out for Puss Caterpillars!

Asp or Puss Caterpillar
Photo: Martha Cray
Puss caterpillars, AKA Asps, are being seen in some pretty significant numbers this fall.  These small, fuzzy, blonde, almost cuddly looking fuzz balls can pack a mean punch.
Embedded within the hairy facade are venomous spines, which can result in a blister or burn reaction on the skin to more severe reactions such as vomiting or worse.  In general, it is believed that the severity of the reaction depends on the age of the larva and thickness of the skin it encountered.

Shrub with several asps.
Photo: Martha Cray
Puss caterpillars can be found on trees and shrubbery.  Usually where one is found, many are close by.  If you encounter one, avoid it - this is not something you want to experience!  If you have an outbreak on a tree or shrub, it would probably be a good idea to treat the foliage to avoid unnecessary stings.  Bt when they are actively feeding on foliage, spinosad or permethrin are recommended products.  Be sure to follow all labels carefully.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Rain Brings Ag Termites

Public Service Announcement!  This wet weather, following months of dry weather provides ideal conditions for Ag or Desert Termites to emerge to mating swarms.

It would not be uncommon to see 1/4 to 1/2 inch flying brown insects accumulated around light colored doors, garage doors, walls, or under porch lights.

Desert Termites should not cause major concern. They are not wood feeders, instead feeding on grasses. They may be an issue in an urban landscape or agricultural hay field, but generally their damage isn't worth the cost to treat them (although there are exceptions).
Desert Termite swarmers (reproductives)
A Desert Termite swarm.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Bug Banquet - A Culinary Experience You Don't Want to Miss!

Texas A&M AgriLife in Bexar County is so proud to announce a culinary even you won't want to miss!  Enjoy an evening of entomophagy prepared by expert chef's and Bexar County 4-H Food Challenge Teams. Dine under the stars at Clearwater Ranch and learn how raising insects is a sustainable form of agriculture and a surprisingly enjoyable culinary experience.  Our mission is to introduce you to a new way to thinking of obtaining your protein!  While this may be a novelty and maybe "odd" thing to consume, insects are a staple in the diets of many other cultures.  As our population increases, land and other natural resources decrease, it is imperative that we come up with better ways of feeding ourselves... insects may be the answer!

You will have the opportunity to delight in an expertly prepared four course meal made with delectable insects and paired with an appropriate cocktail, beer or wine.  Food prepared with insects can be pushed to the side for those not so inclined to partake.  Our goal is to introduce the idea and show how you can incorporate insects into the diet without relying solely on them.

November 6, 2015
Clearwater Ranch 
(24510 Clearwater Run, San Antonio, TX 78255)
$35 per individual/ $50 per couple

  • Fire Ant Queso (blanco queso seasoned with local peppers and fire ants); paired with Honey Bee Cocktails from local bees.
  • Candied Pear Salad Greens with Roasted Mealworms (mealworms add a nutty flavor to a sweet salad with local greens); paired with local craft beer, Texican Lauger.
  • Goat Cheese Quesadillas & roasted sweet potatoes and squash from local garden (tortillas made with high protein cricket flour, Texas goat cheese and locally grown sweet potatoes); paired with local craft beer, Texcian Lauger.
  • Chocolate covered strawberries garnished with toasted coconut cricket granola; paired with Cranapple Chardonnay from Helotes winery.