Monday, December 22, 2008

Gecko Invasion!


This time of year, you may be noticing strange droppings in your garage or outdoor storage rooms. These are probably from geckos, a small light colored lizard. Geckos are common in Texas, and are usually considered beneficial because they feed on nuisance insects. However, they can become very numerous and their droppings can become sanitation and smell issue.

You may never actually see a gecko crawling around indoors, but you can monitor for them by looking for their droppings. Gecko droppings are black/brown with a white tip – somewhat similar to bird droppings.

I’m always hesitant to suggest control of geckos because of their beneficial status, but when they become so numerous that they start to smell, or their droppings are found in places of food storage, some control may be necessary. First, it is important to realize that they are eating insects, so you have to get to their food source first. Figure out what they are feeding on and try to control them. Use general indoor insecticides indoors to help reduce the population of insects.

If absolutely necessary, use sticky cards to control the geckos directly. Place them in areas where you find the most droppings. This can also serve for monitoring. Wherever you catch the most geckos are the place you really need to focus your treatments or nest removal efforts.

Remember, geckos are not harmful! They do not bite or scratch or attach humans. Sometimes with some animals its just best to live and let live!

*Special thanks to Mary from Hays County for giving me the idea to write this Pest of the Month!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Green Lady Bugs???

No, those little green and black spotted insects that look like green lady bugs are NOT lady bugs. They are cucumber beetles and they are foliage feeders. All over town, fall vegetables are suffering from tiny, shotgun sized holes. But you are not alone, many people mistake spotted cucumber beetles for lady bugs because of their similarities in general body shape and spots.

Unfortunately, control of these beetles is difficult. They do not spend much time on the plant, and therefore, do not pick up much pesticide. The best control is mechanical control - place mesh screen or fabric over the affected plants. This may not be aesthetically appealing, but they should only last another month. Once we get a good cold snap, it should knock the population down. Be sure to till up your garden well once your fall garden is harvested, this will help squash any remaining larvae in the roots of your plants and/or eggs in the soil.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Crazy Ants, Crazy Ants, Everywhere!

This time of year the Bexar County Extension office is plagued with crazy ants. And from the calls I've been receiving, so are many homes!

Crazy ants are a nuisance ant, but they do not sting, transmit diseases, or feed on wood. Crazy ants start looking for warmth and moisture and accidentally move indoors. They can be found trailing all over the house, including bathrooms, kitchens, and pantries. More than anything, they are extremely annoying - especially when you find them in your food.

Crazy ants get their name from their erratic movements. They do not trail in a straight line, but run in a random pattern. They are small, black ants, with very long legs and antennae. Their legs are so long, they can almost appear like tiny spiders.

Crazy ants love concrete - if you have sidewalks, large driveways, or pavers around your house, you have perfect crazy ant habitat. Unfortunately, these are things you can really remove.

To manage crazy ants, try to some basic integrated pest management practices first - seal and caulk up small cracks and holes around windows and doors. Use sanitation practices such as removing trash daily, and keeping food well sealed and hidden from ants. Its also wise to pick up debris and piles of trash, paper, magazines, cardboard, etc. because these are favorite places for crazy ants to nest. The other option is to ignore them and wait it out. They will eventually leave.

Chemical control is limited - there are few, if any, good organic options. Barrier sprays around foundation of the home and long concrete pathways are recommended. Indoor sprays at entry points may also keep them at bay. These are only temporary fixes, however, it will not permanently control crazy ants.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Insect Identification Workshop

If you are an amateur insect collector or entomologist, or would like to be: please consider attending this workshop. We will be learning the tricks and tips for identifying the most common insect orders and doing some hands on identifying. Bring your own questionable insects!

Please RSVP to Molly or Aurelia at 210-467-6575 or by November 14th.

This program will be held at the Bexar County Extension office, 3355 Cherry Ridge, Suite 208, November 21st from 10am-12pm.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Spiders: Spooky or Cool?

With Halloween rapidly approaching, spiders and other creepy crawlers are seen all over town as decoration. Unfortunately, spiders get a bad wrap. Spiders are not the evil, scary, mean animals that common belief leads you to think. Most spiders are actually extremely beneficial: they eat harmful and nuisance insects in our homes, gardens, and landscape. However, there are two harmful spiders found in Texas that we should all avoid: the brown recluse and black widow.
Black widows are shiny, black, spiders with large abdomens. Black widows have a red or orange hour glass on the underside of their abdomen, which is always noticeable because she hangs upside down from her web. Their webs are cobweb like, and the spider spends most of its time in the web. The black widow bite is a neurotoxin and affects the nervous system, with pain usually localizing in the abdomen or back.
Brown recluses are hairy, long legged, brown spiders with the image of a fiddle or violin on their backs. They are rarely larger than a quarter, including legs. Brown recluse venom is a cytotoxin and causes necrosis of the skin, however, most bites heal without leaving a scar.
With both spiders, the reaction of person exhibits depends on the location of the bite, how sensitive the individual is, and how much venom is injected.
These spiders are very reclusive, they enjoy hiding in dark, clutter places - places you are already afraid to venture! Most people are bitten when they brush up against their hiding place. Neither spider aggressively looks for a human to bite, or comes out at night to bite you over and over again!
To learn more about these spiders and others, check out the AgriLife spider publication E-408 at. Or come see my program at the Bexar County Extension office, October 30th from 2-4pm.
Photos can be found at Pictures taken by John Jackman.

Friday, September 12, 2008

What Are These Butterflies?

The orange and brown butterflies flying all over San Antonio and to our west and south are Snout Butterflies or Hackberry Butterflies. Pick one up and look at its head - it has a snout, or long nose! These butterflies lay their eggs on spiney hackberry bushes. In droughty years, the parasitoids, or natural enemies, that normally eat these butterfly eggs and larvae aren't as abundant. As a result, there is nothing to keep the Snout Butterfly population down.

Right now is the migration time for the Snout Butterflies. This is why they are all over the roads and all over the front of your car!

A fun activity to do with the kids is the put out rotting or fermenting fruit to attract the Snout Butterflies. Enjoy them while they last, they shouldn't be around much longer!