Thursday, March 10, 2022

Spring Break Nature Camp!

Looking for something fun for your kiddos over Spring Break?  Texas A&M AgriLife in Bexar County is hosting our annual Spring Break Nature Camp.  Get ready for experiments, activities, guest speakers, hands on with animals, and tons of fun learning about all aspects of nature.

When - March 15-17, 9am-2pm

Where - Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Classroom / 3355 Cherry Ridge, Suite 208 SATX 78230

Cost - $100

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER






Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Asian Lady Beetle Invasions

It is that time of year when Asian Lady Beetles make an appearance indoors, and usually in large numbers. While they can be a major nuisance, they shouldn't cause panic and some simple exclusion practices can help prevent this issue in the future.

Asian Lady Beetles are not native to Texas - they were introduced from Asia to the United States in 1960s and 1990s as a UDSA project to help reduce agricultural pests in several Southern and Eastern States from Louisiana to Connecticut.  They are now found throughout the United States either from natural spread or from further introductions into the United States from Japan on freighters.

Asian Lady Beetles are a true lady beetle, better known as a ladybug.  They are wonderful biological control agents of pests such as aphids in nature and during warmer months, help control those pests in our landscape.  During colder, winter months, they have a trait that makes them different from other ladybugs - their propensity to find harborage in protected spaces, which often is our warm home.  One way to tell the difference between Asian Lady Beetles and other species is that these guys have a marking behind their head that looks like an M.

Brantley Spakes Rickter, University of Florida
Scott Bauer, USDA

Asian Lady Beetles tend to be attracted to light or lit surfaces and will congregate in mass numbers on sunny, Southwest sides of buildings.  Especially those structure that are lighter in coloration, but really any surface will do as long as it is warmed by the afternoon sun.  They will soon find cracks and crevices to squeeze through and often times get into eaves of homes, attics, or directly indoors.

When we have these up and down temperatures in winter, typical of Texas, they will become active on the warmer days and are noticeable inside the home, clustering and flying around windows, door frames or lights.

Mohammed El Damir

The good news is that Asian Lady Beetles are not harmful to humans or pets.  Even when consumed, they are not known to be toxic, although I imagine if a dog ate too many, it would get an upset stomach.  But what they will do is leave a yellow stain on walls and surfaces, emit an musty odor, and just be a plain nuisance.  You may love ladybugs outside in your garden, but who wants them indoors?

How do you get rid of them?  Prevention is key, but it's often times thought of too late.  Seal up around cracks and crevices along windows and eaves, use screens on vents and large holes, replace weather stripping that is worn around door frames.  For those already inside, vacuum them up!  Throw them back outside and let them do their thing in nature.

Pesticide treatments are not always effective.  It's best not to focus on the indoors, but outside where they are entering.  Where they are applied is key - put the pesticide where the ladybugs are entering.... but if you know where that is, seal it up!  The entry points are usually vents, eaves, soffits, windows and doors.  Apply synthetic pyrethroids, such as bifenthrin, lamda cyhalothrin, delatmethrin, or cyfluthrin.  But if the ladybugs are already indoors, it's too late to spray.  In that case, pull out the vacuum.

OR - consider your house lucky!  Ladybugs are considered a sign of luck after all!


*images from Bugwood.org

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Fluffy Moths Flying

Eastern Buck Moth
You may have noticed a emergence of fluffy black colored moths flying around or flapping around on the ground.

I noticed this emergence this morning and have to believe there was something in the weather that has sparked them all to emerge from their pupal cases as adults.

These moths are none other than the adult form of those (maybe long forgotten) spiny caterpillars that we all dreaded this spring - the Eastern Buck Moth.  

Adults are fluffy and are primarily black in color.  They have a white band across the fore and hind wings and their abdomen is orange.  They are actually really pretty moths when viewed up close.  Adults are known to fly around October to November - so we are right on track - and after mating will lay their eggs in clusters.  Those eggs will make it through the winter until spring, when they will hatch and the larvae will emerge again.  After feeding, the larvae pupate and they remain in the pupal case until about now, when the cycle starts all over again.

Eastern Buck Moth recently
emerged from pupa. Wings yet 
to completely unfold.

Adults do not have functioning mouthparts, so unfortunately they are not pollinating anything.  Just mating, laying eggs, and dying.  In the meantime, they are providing a food source for birds and other predators.  I have been watching the mockingbirds chase them around the sky for a quick snack.



Eastern Buck Moth Caterpillar
The larvae do have spines that are painful when touched.  This is their defense mechanism against predators and unfortunate humans and dogs may be innocent victims.  Their hosts are oaks and they prefer oak forests, so are more likely to be found in more rural areas, established neighborhoods with many oaks, or if you live next to an urban forest or park. 

The pupa are interesting because they have been known to remain for up to two year.  The Spring of 2020 was the first year I can recall seeing large numbers of the caterpillars.  The Spring of 2021 everyone else seemed to notice them too, so we've had two years for the population to build up.  If conditions are right (and who will know!), this large adult emergence may mean an above average population of caterpillars next Spring.  Time will tell!

What should you do?  Nothing right now.  Let the birds and lizards have their Thanksgiving meals and we'll see what happens.  It is difficult to predict.  However, come Spring, if you hear, see, or find them chomping on your trees and have trees you want to save, be sure to use a foliar spray and click here for more information.



Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Native Bee Program - October 20, 2021 in Boerne

Please note the correct location of this event is the Kendall County Courthouse.


Did you know that honey bees are not native to the Americas?  Before they were introduced, our native plants relied on native bees and other pollinators to help them out!  Learn all about native bees, where they live, what they like to nest in, how to recognize them, and how to encourage them.


If you can't be a beekeeper, you can certainly enlist the help of your native bees and I'll tell you how!


Native Bees
October 20, 2021
Kendall County Courthouse, 3rd Floor
201 E San Antonio Blvd, Boerne, TX

RSVP REQUIRED!!!! to the Kendell County A&M AgriLife Extension Office by October 18th - 830-331-8242




Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Green June Bugs On the Horizon

This weekend, I spotted my first mating swarm of Green June Bugs and it is about that time of year when these guys stump outdoor lovers with their loud flying and buzzing close to the ground.

Sometimes people think they are bumblebees or wasps because of the buzzing sound their wings produce.  In flight, they do somewhat appear to be bumblebee like, especially because when the wings are open, their body is black in color and the metallic green of the underside and wings isn't noticeable.  Make no mistake, these are beetles.  They can also be clumsy fliers, knocking against windows or the side of the house, falling down and then picking themselves back up again.

Around this time of year, Green June Bugs tend to have mating swarms.  Some years there are more than others.  Although this is a very common occurrence in September, it isn't unusual for people who have lived in the San Antonio for years and never seen this to see it this year.  Some years you are just lucky!



Green June Bugs can feed on fruit trees and cause damage, but this time of year, they are just concerned with finding a mate and laying eggs.  It's best just to either enjoy or ignore them! 

Friday, September 10, 2021

30 Bugs Every Gardener Should Know

 

30 Bugs Every Gardener Should Know

Join me at the San Antonio Botanical Garden for a program hosted by SAWS!  I'll be covering the top 30 insects and relatives I think you'll be encountering this late summer/early fall.  The good, the bad, and the ones that are "just there".  We look at some preserved specimens (so much better than just looking at pictures), learn about their biology, where they hide, and what they like to eat.  Of course, we'll also talk about how to manage the bad ones, encourage the good ones, and tolerate the ones somewhere in between.

BONUS - The Garden is in full bloom right now and you won't want to miss this opportunity to learn about insects and take a stroll through the garden.  I was there earlier this week, and the butterflies are amazing!  If you want to get some ideas for some good butterfly plants, this IS THE TIME OF YEAR!

Fee: $20 ($18 member)
REGISTRATION REQUIRED  Click here to register!