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

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.
video

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. 


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Where Have All the Honey Bees Gone? Hope for the Future.


Why do we have fewer honeybees these days?  What caused the decline?  What can we do to help?  These questions and more will be answered in this webinar presented by Dr. John Skinner, a Professor in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology at the University of Tennessee. Moderated by Sallie Lee, Regional Extension Agent, Alabama Cooperative Extension System.  

November 7th at 1pm central.

For more information and for the link to the webinar, visit https://learn.extension.org/events/1375#.VDa15PldW0I


Monday, October 6, 2014

Late News on Desert Termites

Desert termite alates
I may be a day late and a dollar short on this one, but its still something I'm getting a few calls and emails about.  Last week, desert termites (or agricultural termites) swarmed in massive numbers.  I was lucky enough to have them swarm at my house, although no one else around me had any.  They were swarming to the porch lights and light colored portions of the house by the thousands.  It was pretty exciting!

Desert termites attracted to lights
Desert termites swarm around the fall - September, October, sometimes November.  And do so after a good rain.  Friday night, as soon as the rain stopped, they emerged!  It was definitely an exciting time for me.  They are large termites, honey or brown in color, with brown colored wings.  The species that swarmed last week have wings more than twice the length of the body.


Desert termites are not a structural pest at all, so if you are going to get excited about termites, these are the ones to get excited about.  They feed on forbes and grasses.  They aren't uncommon in a turf landscape and can cause some damage to turf, hay fields, and alfalfa.  But, not much can be done, other than watering to increase the length of the roots and breaking open the mud tubes they build on top of the soil to force them to move away.

Desert Termite mud tubes
If desert termites swarmed at your house this past weekend, don't panic.  No need to call the pest control company.  If you aren't convinced they were harmless termites and still have some wings laying around the garage, you are more than welcome to scoop them up and bring them to the Bexar County Texas A&M AgriLife Extension office and I will identify them for you and put your mind at ease.
Desert termites outside my backdoor in the morning - a great treat for my chickens!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Beekeeping Basics

If you are thinking of starting a bee hive, fall is the absolute best time to get ready.  Fall is time for you to order bees, equipment, hives, and get your site ready for your bees.

To help you get ready for your first bee hives, we are hosting a Beekeeping Basics Program, October 17th with a field day October 18th in Adkins, TX or October 19th in Leon Springs, TX (your choice).

This program always fills up with a waiting list, so be sure to get your registration in early!

Registration can be found at: https://agrilife.org/bexarcounty/wp-login.php


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

30 Bugs Every Gardener Should Know

Join me for my annual Fall Education Program: 30 Bugs Every Gardener Should Know.  Held at the Bexar County Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office at 3355 Cherry Ridge, Suite 208, SATX.

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014.

As you get geared up for fall gardening, come learn what bugs you can expect to encounter and what to do to manage them!  We'll cover the good guys, bad guys, ugly guys and learn how to identify them, their damage and best practices for management. See actual specimens along with pictures and bring your own insects to be identified! 

Cost $10, checks made payable to Texas A&M AgriLife at the door.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Need Help with Mosquito Control?

This Friday, August 1st @ 1pm CT.  I will be presenting a webinar on Mosquitoes and their Management.  We are heavy into the mosquito season right now and with our first case of the new mosquito borne virus, chikingunya now being reported in Bexar, Harris, Williamson and Travis counties, we have yet another reason to need to avoid these pesky pests.

If you are interested in attending, this is a FREE webinar, provided by eXtension, an internet based collaborative of Land Grant University content providers who supply research based knowledge on various topics.  This particular webinar is provided by the fire ant eXtension group, of which I am a part of.  We are providing various topics throughout the year not just on fire ants, but other insect pests.


Please visit https://learn.extension.org/events/1373#.U9gJTvldVu0 for the link to this and other webinars.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Bee Removal Options

It's that time of year again, when bee hives are growing, relocating, or just becoming noticeable in trees, walls, eves and other not-so-desirable locations.

I get about one call a day on who to call to remove a bee hive - hopefully this is a sign that this is a good year for bees and our feral bees are thriving!  Most people want to remove the hive without killing it, but often don't know where to go to get help.

I finally have a good answer for you!  I stumbled across this website from the Texas Apiary Inspection Service with a list of individuals from counties all across Texas who do bee removal. The link to the site is:
http://tais.tamu.edu/bee-removal/index.html

Please note that the site does not provide information on whether these individuals charge for their services, but since most cases involve some intense labor and even wall removal and replacement, expect a fee to be involved.  There are no city or county programs in San Antonio or Bexar County that will do free removal or reduced cost removal.  When bees are found on private property, the county and city deem that it is the responsibility of the property owner. The city and/or county will do removal only when they are found on city or county property.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Chikungunya Virus Now in Texas

You may have heard of a new viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes called Chikungunya (pronounced like chicken - goon - ya).  Chikungunya has been found in countries like Africa, Asia, and Europe but recently in the Americas and Caribbean.

We had our first confirmed case of the disease in Texas in Williamson County.  The individual had traveled to the Caribbean where they picked up the disease.

The bad news is that the species that common transmit Chikungunya are found here (in the US and Texas), which means it can become endemic to this area and spread within the state could occur.  These are the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes - usually day time feeders and container water breeders.

Chikungunya is thankfully rarely fatal, but extremely painful.  The common symptoms are extreme joint pain, headache, muscle pain, and joint swelling.  There is no cure or treatment for the virus, other than pain relievers for the symptoms.

If you are travelling to the Caribbean this summer or in the future, be sure to pack some insect repellent to reduce your risk of contracting the disease.  Now that we know we have a confirmed case just down the road, it would also be a wise decision to avoid mosquitoes at home and apply insect repellent when you step outdoors.

For more information about Chikungunya, visit the Center for Disease Control's website at www.cdc.gov

Monday, July 7, 2014

First Case of West Nile in Texas Confirmed, 2014

The Texas Department of Health State Services has confirmed the first case of West Nile in Texas this 2014 summer, and its not too far down the road - Travis County (Austin area).

For the complete media release see: http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/news/releases/20140703.aspx

Here's a quick recap of the article and some precautions you should take:

West Nile "Season" runs from June through October, so we are only in the beginning.  We had a large outbreak a couple of summers ago, so hopefully its fresh on your mind.  West Nile Virus is a virus transmitted by the bite of a mosquito.  I don't know about you, but I have had a heck of a summer dealing with mosquitoes.  I have multiple bites all over my arms and legs at all times, it seems!  So, I'm going to be more careful about being outdoors when mosquitoes are active, and wearing insect repellent when I am outdoors.

Tom Sidwa, State Public Health Veterinarian and manager of Zoonosis Control Branch says it best when he warns us that "The best way to protect yourself is by using insect repellent every time you go outside."

I know many people do not like using insect repellent for various reasons, but the three best options recommended by the EPA and CDC are DEET, Picaradin and Lemon of Oil Eucalyptus.  This is based on extensive research to supports its safety for use on human skin and length of time for repellency.  Remember that all repellents will wear off after a period of time and each individual is different.  Some formulations may need to be reapplied more often than others.

While we can't easily control adult mosquitoes, we can reduce breeding sites by dumping standing water often or using Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis.  We can also do what we can to prevent the bite, by wearing repellent!



Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Something for everyone... even the youngest of entomologists

If you have a young one who is facinated with nature, insects, and/or gardening, we have a camp for you!  Texas A&M AgriLife Extension hosts a Tots Science Camp for ages 2-5.  We have two topics: Bugs and Plants.

 
For those interested in Bugs, our camp dates are July 25th and August 8th.  Each camp is the same, so you only need to choose one.  Camp runs 10am-12pm.  We will learn about insects, get to play with insects, learn about bees and tarantulas, do some artwork with maggots (sounds gross, but I promise, its actually pretty amazing), and other insect-related crafts, experiments and activities.

If you like getting your hands dirty in the soil, our Plants Tots Camp is a great opportunity to learn about some very weird plants, take some plants home to grow, taste different herbs, learn how insects find plants, and get to dig in the dirt and get your hands dirty.

Parents are welcome to drop off or stay for the camp.

Cost for each camp is $20.  Registration is open and available at: http://bexar-tx.tamu.edu/files/2012/02/TotsScience-Camp-2014.pdf.  If you are registering close to the camp date, be sure to call ahead to make sure there are still spots.





Monday, June 2, 2014

Bug Camp - still openings!

Need some summer plans for your little one?  We still have a handful of openings in our Bug Summer Camps!

Bug Camp is an exciting, educational, fun half day camp for ages 7-11.  Campers receive an insect collection kit with everything they need to be an entomologist: professional net, collection box, collecting jars, killing solution, insect pins, spreading board, pinning block, labels, vials, aspirator, collection bag, magnifier, forceps and probably more that I can't remember!

We will collect insect each day, perform experiments with insects, make insect jewlery, art with insects, and so much more.  You'll be surprised how much your children will learn in one short week.  This week our theme is bees - so we'll see some observation frames (behind glass), get to put on a bee suit, and learn about beekeeping.  We also have a special guest coming to speak about tarantulas, with some actual tarantulas for us to hold, touch, or just watch behind glass!

Summer at the Heights - Alamo Heights ISD - June 16-20, 9-11:30am.  Register at http://www.ahisd.net/summeratheights/courses.html.  The course number is 213. 
***This camp has low enrollment right now, so register soon if you are interested.  If we don't have enough kids, we will cancel on Wednesday, June 4th.***

NISD Community Educaiton - Bug Camp! June 23-26, 9am-12:30pm @ the NISD Community Ed Building at Grissom & Bandera.  Register at nisd.net/ace.  Limited spaces, register soon!










All Bugs Good and Bad Webinar

Don't miss this fantastic opportunity hear from an excellent entomologist, Wizzie Brown out of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service in Travis County.  

She will be presenting on "All Bugs Good and Bad", June 6th @ 1pm Central Time.

This is a FREE webinar - come in your pajamas and no one will know!

Go to https://connect.extension.iastate.edu/fireant.  Just log in as a guest and enter your name and you are in!


Friday, May 30, 2014

Giant Ants ... or are they?

I hear this comment A LOT: "I've lived here (insert any number of years) and I've NEVER seen this bug before!"  I'm hearing it again lately and the culprit is an insect that isn't uncommon, but this form isn't regularly seen.
Photo by Bryan Davis

Leaf cutter ant alates, AKA reproductives, AKA winged forms, AKA queens.  Most ants will swarm (or emerge from their nests to mate, usually in the air) right before or after a rain storm at 100% humidity.  Termites do the same thing, but they are usually seasonal, whereas ants can swarm at any time of year.

Over Memorial Day weekend, leaf cutter ants swarmed.  Leaf cutter ant alates are giganitc compared to other ant alates and compared to the workers.  If you didn't know better, you would never guess that's what they are.

When you find leaf cutter ant alates, you probably have leaf cutter ants somewhere near. It doesn't necessarily mean they are on your property, in your yard, or even in the immediate proximity.  They can travel by wind and be displaced a distance from their nest.

Leaf cutter ant colonies can be pretty irritating.  They strip leaves on trees and tend to favor citrus, other fruits, roses, and crepe myrtles.  Once that is gone, they will go after about anything else.  While they don't eat the leaves (instead they grow fungus on the leaves for their food source), they can strip a plant clean overnight.  You can spend quite a bit replacing the plants or treating for the ants.
Leaf cutter ant workers foraging

Amdro Ant Block bait has been shown to work sometimes.  Barrier sprays around the plants you want to save will also help temporarily.  Pest control companies can use products they inject into the ants nests that will spread throughout.  However, nothing eliminates leaf cutter ants, you only suppress the populations.  They usually return.  Sometimes you get lucky and they return in a neighbors yard and not yours, but they rarely are completed eliminated.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

When Seeds Look Like Bugs...

Insects are often blamed for many things and more often that you can imagine, strange shaped objects are identified as some "weird bug".  I could write a book on the strange things that come across my desk that a homeowner is convinced is an insect (I once had a sweet lady send me dried up spagetti, certain her kitchen was infested with worms).  But not every small object is is an insect.

Lately, I have had several individuals send me small, oval shaped objects that have been found anywhere from the bed to up the side of the house.  While they are too small to see any clear features with the naked eye, they do resemble the shape and color of an immature bed bug.  Thankfully, they are not!  These are actually seeds from an Oxalis plant.

The seeds can be found fairly high up on the side of the house, making one thing they crawled up there.  But, if you look closely, they don't move - they are stationary.  If you have a magnifier, you can see little striations or stripes along its exterior and little spikes along its edges (not to be mistaken for legs).
Oxalis seeds.  Photo by Dr. Mike Merchant.

The Oxalis plant holds its seeds in a pod and it will spit the seeds out when it is disturbed or touched.  The plant can throw that little seed feet!  It has a rough texture that allows it to stick to surfaces.  We have had some very rough, windy days in San Antonio lately, so I imagine that was enough of a disturbance to throw those little seeds against the side of the house. 

Now don't ask me what an Oxalis plant looks like in the landscape - I am an entomologist, not a horticulturist - I'll leave you to google that for yourself!

So, moral of the story - not everything that is immediately unidentifiable is an insect. And if you happen to find some tiny brown, roundish objects around the house (inside or out), the mystery may be as simple as seeds!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Soldier Beetles - good or bad?

Soldier beetles are making an appearance right now.  While there are many different species, the one I have been getting questions about is the Goldenrod Leatherwing.  They are brightly colored, orange and black beetles, very noticable and fairly large (about 1/2 an inch).  They are also being noticed on flowers and in veggie gardens, much ot the shagrin of many gardeners.
Photo by Dr. Jerry Parsons

While I haven't seen many of these in the past several years, they are not an uncommon or rare beetle. But, they sure seem to be having a little population explosion right now.

Soldier beetles are considered beneficial insects.  Goldenrod leatherwings are both predatory and pollinators.  They feed on small bodied insects, like aphids, maybe a whitefly or two, and others of the like.  They are also known to feed on pollen and nectar, so they play a role in pollination.  If you ask me, you couldn't find an insect with better qualities!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Little beetles coming through the windows

If you have noticed very small beetles coming in through the widow or congregated around the windows and walls near the windows, you are on the many who are experiencing a species of dermestid beetle (AKA Carpet beetles).


Adult Dermestid Beetle.


In the spring, adults feed on pollen and nectar and with all the pollen falling from trees (and everything else), the pollen tends to collect in corners and cracks and crevices, attracting dermestid beetles.  They will come to the corners of the windows to feed, and since they are so tiny, they find small cracks and enter the home.

There really is no reason to worry about them.  Wipe them away, vacuum them up, or scoot them out the door.  They aren't going to harm anything right now.  Once the allergy season slows down some, you won't notice them as much.  But, whenever pollen is high, it isn't unexpected to see 10s to 100s of these guys inside.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Managing Wildlife in Your Backyard Webinar

eXtension - an online resource of various topics from experts all over the nation - is hosting a FREE webinar on Managing Wildlife.  While the webinar is meant as a Master Gardener Training, I believe anyone can register and attend.

The webinar is being offered on April 10th at 1:30 central time.  If you have been having issues with wildlife in your yard, this would be an excellent opportunity to learn what to do in the comfort of your own home.

If you happen to miss it - it will be recorded and you can view it later.

The link for the webinar and to find it later is: https://learn.extension.org/events/1568   

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Spring Has Sprung!

It may not quite be spring just yet, but there are some definite signs (despite the cold weather) that spring is around the corner!

My very favorite tree has started to bloom in some parts of town - Mountain Laurels.  If you love Mountain Laurels as much as I do, start watching out for Mountain Laurel Mirids and Genista Caterpillars, which will start to feed on the new growth of the trees.  If you see caterpillars, you may consider using Bt or Spinosad to eliminate them and allow that new growth to come out.  Your tree will not be harmed by the caterpillars, but it won't get any larger.  Mirids aren't as damaging - just know that those little red and black bugs aren't killing the Mountain Laurel and let them have a snack!

Another sign that it will start to warm up soon is that my grass has finally started to come out of dormancy in some spots in the yard.  I can see pretty green below the straw colored sleeping parts.  Now, I just need to wait for some more rain to wake it up a little more.

And, the ultimate Ground Hog of the entomological world is the Crane Fly!  I saw my first crane fly the other day (then it froze and the crane fly has been too cold to move ever since!). 

Contrary to popular belief, crane flies are not giant mosquitoes or insects that eat mosquitoes.  In fact, they probably don't even have functioning mouthparts as an adult.  Crane flies can be found active through the summer, but early spring is their hayday.  Expect to see many of them at your porch lights at night.

No reason to be scared of them.  They can't bite, they don't hurt, and they will not infest your home.  If they bother you, consider turning off all outside lights to prevent them from coming close to the house.

Enjoy the spring!  I, for one, cannot wait for the warmer weather!

Monday, January 27, 2014

If Flowers are Restaurants to Bees, then What Are Bees to Flowers?”

Want to learn more about pollinating insects?  eXtension has a fantastic opportunity for you, coming up February 7th ... and you don't even have to get out of your house to participate!



The eXtension All Bugs Good and Bad Webinar series is set to begin Feb. 7. Dr. Kathy Flanders, an entomologist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, says the series is a continuation of the Don’t Bug Me Webinar series with an emphasis on good and bad insects that affect people every day.
“This webinar series will feature insects that affect homeowners and gardeners,” says Flanders. “These insects fall into two categories and we hope to provide information that is beneficial when treating your gardens or crops and pest-proofing your home, yard, family and pets.”
Webinars will be held the first Friday of each month at 1 p.m. Central Daylight Time. The first webinar in the 2014 series will highlight pollinators, which are good bugs. If Flowers are Restaurants to Bees, then What Are Bees to Flowers? will be Friday, Feb. 7 at 1 p.m.


Honeybee on flower. Photo courtesy of Jerry A. Payne, bugwood.org.
Dani Carroll, a region Extension home grounds agent, will be moderating the Feb. 7 webinar. She says it is imperative to know the importance of the role pollinators play in the world around us.
“Bees and other pollinators are essential in production of more than two-thirds of the world’s food crop species,” Carroll says. “The necessity extends beyond things we grow in our back yard, like squash and apples. Alfalfa is instrumental in the meat and dairy industries and its growth depends on pollination.”
Upcoming webinar topics include pollinators, termites, ticks, spiders and fire ants.

Flanders says The All Bugs Good and Bad Webinar series is designed to provide useful tips for those interested in solid, research-based information.

More information can be found at All Bugs Good and Bad 2014 Webinar Series including how to connect to the webinars.  On Feb. 7, participants can use this link to connect to the webinar. Webinars will be archived and can be found on the All Bugs Good and Bad 2014 Webinar Series page.
All Bugs Good and Bad webinars are an extension of the seven webinars in The Don’t Bug Me Webinar Series, which spanned most of 2013, and included five webinars discussing fire ants, tramp ants, bed bugs and insects that invade homes.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Will Texans Soon Kiss Their Ash Goodbye?

Texans, be on the lookout for an invasive beetle to ash trees: The Emerald Ash Borer.

The Emerald Ash Borer has recently been found just outside our doorsteps in Colorado in late 2013.  In fact, the Emerald Ash Borer may very well already be in Texas, as most experts believe there may be as many as three years time between introduction and detection!
Photographer: David Cappaert
Source: Michigan State University

Emerald Ash Borers lay their eggs in the crevices of the bark of the Ash and the larvae hatch and burrow into the outer sapwood of the Ash and feed on the phloem, stealing nutrients from the tree.  Eventually they will kill the tree, which is a major cost to communities for tree removal.  Decreased property value, threat to public safety, decrease air quality, detriments to wildlife and the ecosystem, and loss of trees are all reasons we would rather not have the Emerald Ash Borer in our area!

EAB spend the winter into the tree as the larvae, feeding.  They will pupate in the spring and emerge around late April (in parts of the world where they are currently found, although we may find this not to be the case in our warmTexas).

Signs that your Ash tree has EAB include: thinning at the top, splitting bark, and sucker growth at the base of the tree.  All signs that the tree is dying.

Like most boring beetles, they do prefer stressed or weakened trees, so be sure to care for your Ash trees during our ever present drought.

If you suspect that you have EAB, collect a sample.  We cannot verify that they are present in Texas, unless we have an actual specimen!  Collect a sample and contact your local Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service or Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

For more information on EAB, check out this website: http://texasinvasives.org/pest_database/detail.php?symbol=5

The adult Emerald Ash Borer is a strikingly green, metallic beetle, approximately .5 inches in length.