Tuesday, December 13, 2016

5 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 (bioquip.com) 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.

Bioquip.com. 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.
If you are local to San Antonio a good breeder with a variety of tarantula species is Nature's Exquisite Creatures.  Look them up on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/NaturesExquisiteCreatures/

Friday, December 9, 2016

Bexar County 4-H Club Swept District!

The Bexar County 4-H Entomology Clubs took home the blue ribbons this past weekend at the District 10 Fall Round Up Competition.

For Juniors (grades 3-5) and Intermediates (grades 6-8), this was THE competition for the year.  They studied hard for several months and their hard work paid off!  Two Junior teams took 1st and 2nd, with three individual placements.  The Intermediate team took 1st, with two individual placements.  And our Bexar County Seniors took first and will head on to state!  Two individual seniors also placed.

Bexar County took first in all team categories and all individual categories!  These kids are SMART!

If you are interested in joining 4-H to compete in entomology, learning all about specific insects, their orders, mouthparts, habitats, and more, join us for 2017!  The next competition will be December 2017, but you can compete in the collection contest in June 2017.

To join, contact our office at 210-631-0400 and ask to speak to someone about joining 4-H Entomology. Or contact me at mekeck@ag.tamu.edu.

We'll start collecting and organizing our collections once the weather warms up again... around March.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Nature's Exquisite Creatures Meet and Greet - Wonderful Opportunity for some Christmas Shopping for those Entomologists on Your List!!!

Don't miss out on this opportunity to see some cool tarantulas and arthropods!  This is a great chance to do some shopping for those entomologists and insect lovers on your list.  If you already have tarantulas, you can sell, trade or do a breeding loan. 

Hope to see you there!!

Tarnished Plant Bugs

Calls are coming into the Extension Office wanting to know the identification of a small, almost yellowish brown bug on plants, houses, trees, and veggies.
Photo by Shanna Ciano

There seems to be an abundance of tarnished plant bugs or Lygus bugs.  They are relatively harmless.  When found in large numbers on veggies, consider if its getting near the end of that plants growing season.  If so, don't do anything.  If not, you may want to handpick or apply a foliar insecticide labeled for the plant when the bugs are present.

Weed management is important in reducing numbers of these guys, so be sure to take a look around and see if you are providing harborage with excessive weeds.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Join Us for a Night Out! Entomaphagy Bug Dinner - Insects Fiesta!

Keep the kitchen clean and let us serve you a gourmet dinner!  What is better than 4-H youth serving you at a beer brewing company?!  Enjoy an evening of wonderful company and excellent food in a great atmosphere.  Learn how insects can be a scrumptious form of protein and sustainable form of agriculture.  For the nervous eater, insects can be pushed aside.

Why Insects?  Its the natural choice! Insects require less water, grain and space to produce more protein when compared with chicken, beef, and pork.  Restaurants in Austin are already serving cocktails with cricket salt and bitters - its only a matter of time before you start seeing insects on the menu!

All proceeds go back to educaitonal programming in Texas A&M AgriLife Extension for both youth and adults.  But hurry!  This event is filling up fast!

November 3rd
6:30-8:30 pm
Blue Star Brewing Company
Register at: http://agriliferegister.tamu.edu/BexarCounty

Salsa and Guacamole Bar with fire ant queso, toasted mealworm salsa, and waxworm guacamole.  Paired with Honey Margaritas with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension honey bee honey.

Poblano Cream Veggie Enchiladas made with cricket powder tortillas, AgriLife Extension grown squash, zucchini, and cilantro rice.  Paired with Blue Star Brewing Co. Beer.

Flan sweetened with Texas A&M AgriLife honey bee honey and cricket granola.  Paired with Blue Star Brewing Co. Beer.

Monday, October 3, 2016

So You Want to be a Beekeeper???? You're in Luck!

If you have every dreamed of owning a bee hive or two, or learning what it takes to keep bees, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension is offering a Beekeeping Basics Course, October 14th with a field day on either the 15th or 16th (you choose).

Registration will close soon, so be sure to get your registrations mailed in!

This is a wonderful opportunity to put on a bee suit, open up a beehive and learn from actual beekeepers with hands on instruction.

We will cover:
The basics of beekeeping- equipment, tools, gear, time, resources
The basics of bees – biology, what a hive should look like, how to manage a hive

This program is always a hit, you’ll get a ton of resources and tools, lots of instruction, and great advice.  Lunch is provided and you get to choose between a field day on Saturday in Adkins or Sunday in Leon Springs.

Hope to see you there!  Register by visiting http://bexar-tx.tamu.edu/files/2016/08/Bee-Basics-Oct-2016-1.pdf

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Insecta Fiesta! Join the Entomaphagy Movement!

Our annual entomaphagy event is just around the corner!  This year we are celebrating insects as food at Blue Star Brewing Company.  Enjoy an evening of wonderful company and excellent food in a great atmosphere.  Learn how insects can be a scrumptious form of protein and sustainable form of agriculture.  Insects require less water, grain and space to produce more protein when compared with chicken, beef, and pork!

November 3rd
Blue Star Brewing Company
Register at: http://agriliferegister.tamu.edu/BexarCounty

Salsa and Guacamole Bar with fire ant queso, toasted mealworm salsa, and waxworm guacamole.  Paired with Honey Margaritas with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension honey bee honey.

Poblano Cream Veggie Enchiladas made with cricket powder tortillas, AgriLife Extension grown squash, zucchini, and cilantro rice.  Paired with Blue Star Brewing Co. Beer.

Flan sweetened with Texas A&M AgriLife honey bee honey and cricket granola.  Paired with Blue Star Brewing Co. Beer.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

SAVE THE DATE! Dinner with Insects....

Our first Bug Banquet was a wonderful success, so we're doing it again!  Insects are not only a unique form of protein, they are also a sustainable form of agriculture and require less water, grain, and space than any other form of livestock... all while yielding more protein!

Join us for a night to celebrate entomophagy - the act of eating insects.  You do it every day, in every single meal without knowing, anyway!

Join us November 3rd at 6:30pm at the Blue Star Brewing Co.  Register at http://agriliferegister.tamu.edu/BexarCounty

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Butterfly Invasion???

It isn't a butterfly invasion, but it is a butterfly migration!  This year the American Snout Butterflies are making their way down to the Rio Grande River area in mass numbers.
American Snout Butterfly, topside of wings.

American Snout Butterflies get their name from elongated mouthparts called palps that extend from the head.  They are small to medium sized butterflies (much smaller than a Monarch, also a bit smaller than a painted lady) and have orange and brown markings.  They blend in perfectly on bark and even flying can appear to be a leaf fluttering in the wind.

American Snout Butterfly underside of wings.
Each year, these guys make their migration, but their numbers are directly correlated with rainfall and moisture.  This year we had rain at the right times to help their population.  What the rain does is increase the leaves their host plant makes - the spiny hackberry.  With more food, the females lay more eggs in the summer and those eggs hatch and the caterpillars eat the new growth.  The caterpillars can really only eat new growth from the spiny hackberry because its tender enough for them to chew on.

This population explosion we are seeing is a result of those babies (caterpillars) becoming pupa and emerging to migrate down south.

Migration is often during late summer to early fall.  It isn't uncommon to see these large numbers, in fact we've seen in them in the not so distant past.

Expect to see them through the early part of fall.  In some years there are two generations before the fall is over, and I suppose time will tell if that will occur this year.

While they can be annoying and leave a mess of your car, there really no way to avoid them for the time being.  And you aren't killing them off - no matter how many you hit on your drive, there are still thousands upon thousands that will make it to their final destination.

Other butterflies you may be seeing mixed in with these are sulfurs and even some brushfooted butterflies.  But, by and large, if you notice large numbers of butterflies, you are seeing the American Snout Butterfly.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Webinar - Identification for Venomous and NonVenomous Snakes

Photo credit: Bevva MacDonals, Sault College, Bugwood.org

Although snakes are not insects, I get questions about them all the time.  Dry weather has definitely put me on higher alert for them.  If you are interested in learning more about Venemous and Nonvenemous Snakes, watch our “All Bugs Good and Bad Webinar Series” this Friday September 2nd at 1:00 pm.  

Katrina Dushaj from the College of Natural Sciences, Colorado State University will be discussing identification methods of both venomous and non-venomous snakes.

Snakes are helpful to humans and are an integral part of our natural environment. It is important that you learn to distinguish venomous and nonvenomous snakes. 

The webinar will be recorded, so you can watch it any time.  To view the live webinar, just log in as a guest 15 minutes before the event begins. Please share this with anyone who might be interested. You can find the login information below. Thank you for supporting our program and we hope you listen in September 2nd!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Why Don't All Mosquito Bites Itch?

There are an identified 85 species of mosquitoes in Texas.  Not every single mosquito species feeds on humans, but that still leaves A LOT of mosquitoes that can!

The thing that itches from a mosquito bite is the saliva.  The female mosquito "backwashes" into you when she feeds.  The saliva contains substances that prevent the blood from clotting so her mouthparts don't get clogged up.  The saliva is what we have an allergic reaction to, causing the itching.

Every species of mosquito has potentially different enzymes, proteins, and substances in their saliva that we can react to.  Therefore, in one individual, you can have multiple reactions.  And each person can react differently from the next.

You see this when one mosquito bite itches like the Dickens, but is gone by morning.  Whereas others may not start itching until hours later and can last for days!  You also see this when a child has a terrible reaction to a mosquito bite and swells up considerably but you react with just a small welt.

Remember to avoid mosquito bites, avoid mosquitoes.  And since this is nearly impossible, the next best option is to use insect repellent.  The CDC and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension recommend three active ingredients based on the length of repellency they provide for mosquitoes vectoring diseases.  DEET, Picaridin, and Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus.

Also be aware that each product may act different on different species of mosquitoes, so don't give up if one active ingredient doesn't seem to work - it may be working just fine... just not against the mosquito bothering you at the moment!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Backyard Basics

Get all the information you've been craving for your backyard homesteading!  See many experts under one roof and more information that you know what to do with!!!  Plus, the change to win some GREAT door prizes like farm fresh eggs, gardening books, organic fertilizer, and honey!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

All you need to know about Zika and preventing mosquitoes!

Roaches in the Lawn

This post is a little late, given that we've now had some good rain and your lawns should be drinking up that good soak and looking a little better.

But, in the past several weeks, I was getting samples and pictures into the office for identification of a cockroach called a Surinam cockroach.  These cockroaches are burrowers and when you water in dry, dead spots of the lawn, they come running out.  The coincidence of an insect and dead grass in the same spot, naturally makes one think that the insect is causing the problem.  In fact, it is not.

Surinam cockroaches are eating decaying organic matter and scavenging.  They really aren't interested in your lawn so much.  There is no reason to worry about them in the landscape, they are a very normal insect to find.  Especially when its really dry and their burrows aren't so comfortable to live in.

They can be found occasionally indoors, but they are searching for water or cooler temperatures.  They are not a structurally infesting cockroach and their presence in the bathroom is no more worrisome than finding a grasshopper who accidentally made it's way indoors.

Photo courtesy of J. Woods

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