Thursday, June 10, 2010

Plague of Red Grasshoppers and Other Strange Things

The San Antonio area has been plagued by an outbreak of Central Texas Leaf Katydids. These katydids resemble red crickets or grasshoppers. They do come in two forms: green and red, but red seems to be more prevalent this year.

They are starting to die off, which means they will disappear in a few weeks. Katydids only have one generation per year. They emerge from their eggs around late spring, early summer, eat as much as they can, become adults, mate, and lay eggs which will remain dormant until spring.

In rainy years, the eggs seem to do better than drier years, which is why we've seen them explode this summer.

Their noise can be deafening and they can cause some defoliation when numbers are too high. However, these guys have been around as long as our native trees have, and they will recover. Management is not really necessary. Their population, noise, and damage is peeking right now, and you will start to notice it dying down in the next few weeks. You may have already noticed that there are hundreds dropping dead from the trees right now. The course of their natural life is ending, and soon they will disappear. For more information, visit

You may have also noticed there seem to be more flies this year than there have ever been. While, I'm not sure if there are more this year than before, there are quite a lot. The reason is also because of the wet spring. Flies are need a moist environment to lay their eggs and the rain provided that. It may seem like every time you open your door, 30 fly in, but there really isn't much you can do about it.

Sanitation practices may help - throw out trash regularly, keep the trash bin away from the house, and check the area for breeding sites of decaying organic matter that is moist.

Use fly paper in the meantime for the adults, and keep the windows and doors shut if possible. This is another thing we'll have to wait out. As our trash cooks in the big trash bins, expect them to continue to breed!

I'm also making a prediction for fleas and ticks to be bad this summer. I'm not psychic, its just that we ALWAYS have flea and tick problems during San Antonio summers. My best advice, treat the pets, outdoors and indoors ALL at the same time, or you will just be chasing them in circles. Try to use products that contain an insect growth regulator for fleas to keep the females from laying more eggs, and spray where the fleas are found (where pets or animals rest and in shaded areas with some foliage).

Enjoy the summer outdoors, but remember, we have to share it with all the other creatures, and they were there first!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Texas Giant Centipede-Myths of their Danger!

There are many pieces of misinformation about insects and arthropods floating around out there, but one that bothers me more than most are myths about the "deadliness" of certain bugs.

The Texas Giant Centipede or Giant Redheaded Centipede has been called a deadly animal, when in fact, it is not! They can inflict a painful bite, but they are NOT aggressively looking for you, and their bite is not deadly.

Texas Giant Centipedes are found throughout our area pretty regularly. You may not have come across them before, but if you live in Texas long enough (especially in rockier areas), you definitely will. They are especially rare, and during warmer and drier months, will make their way indoors, probably looking for moisture.

Most people find them on their porches or sidewalks, sometimes in the garden, and every now and then inside the house.

Texas Giant Centipedes can reach lengths of up to 12 inches, so they can be very frightening. They also have a nasty look, in my opinion. And, like most other things that are brightly colored, it usually means -"don't mess with me!"

It is best never to handle a centipede, as they can bite. They have a pair of modified legs that act as poison claws. The poison claws are under the centipedes head (if you aren't familiar with centipedes, you can't really tell which end is the head!) and when they are disturbed or capturing prey, they use the poison claws to inject venom. The venom hurts, but it will not kill you, unless you have a very strange allergy to it. The pain is similar to a wasp sting - which to me hurts pretty bad.

Texas Giant Centipedes can also cut your skin with their other claws, so don't allow them to run up your arm or across your feet, that will hurt as well.

Just be careful around centipedes, but remember, they won't kill you. If you come across one, you didn't just escape death - you were very safe all along!

Photo courtesy of
Elizabeth Brown, CEA-IPM
Travis County Extension