Monday, November 6, 2017

Insecta Fiesta Was a HUGE Hit!

If you didn't make Insecta Fiesta this year, you missed out on a great time!  But be sure to mark your calendars for our next venture in entomophagy on October 20th for an Insecta Fiesta Bar-BUG-Que.  We are planning a family style Bar-BUG-Que lunch with activities for the kids, a great raffle, honey sale, cockroach races, and a costume contest.  It'll be the Halloween hit of the year!

Even Insects Dress Up for Halloween!

Yes, even insects like to wear costumes.  This little guy is a green lacewing larvae that has disguised himself by taking bits of debris and gluing it to his back.  They commonly called Debris Carrying Lacewing Larvae and use the debris as camoflauge and because it makes them "smell" a little more like their prey, so they aren't detected as easily.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Fall Armyworms on the March in South, Central Texas!

Fall armyworms are not an every year occurrence, but when they do make an appearance, they're numbers can be amazing!

Photo courtesy of Herb Haglund

Fall armyworms have several generations throughout the spring, summer and fall.  As their name would imply, the fall generations are often the most populous.

Damage occurs as they feed on foliage.  Fall armyworms can appear to "march" along turf and other plants in their way, consuming the plant tissue in their path.

Fortunately, the outbreaks we are seeing currently are not associated with turf damage.  However, if you are seeing fall armyworms crawling along the driveway, sidewalks, or up the house, take a look look at the turf for signs of damage.  Catch it quickly to prevent major damage.  Spinosad or Bt are good, organic options.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Insecta Fiesta!!!!

We hope you will consider joining us for our 3rd Annual INSECTA FIESTA!  An evening of entomophagy!  We will incorporate insects into the four-course meal with optional pairing.  Learn how insects can also be a sustainable source of agriculture and protein!  Did you know that insects require less water, space, and grain AND provide more protein than beef, chicken or pork.

Food prepared by Bombay Salsa Company and San Antonio Botanical Garden Chefs. Expect a dessert provided by a celebrity chef as well!  Table service provided by 4-H youth in the food challenge and entomology teams.

Should you choose the pairing option, expect a specialty cocktail developed just for our event by a bartender specialist, beer from Blue Star Brewing Company and either a sparkling pilsner or local sweet wine.

Don’t let the bug dinner scare you – food will be excellent and you may not even realize there are insects on the menu! 

This year we are offering table sponsorships – if you would like to promote your business, consider purchasing a table for $550, $700 or $850 to fit up to 9 people.  Details of sponsorship levels and what you will receive on registration website (

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Healthy Cooking School

Learn from the best!  Texas A&M AgriLife's Family and Consumer Sciences program is providing a Healthy Cooking School called "Dinner Tonight".

Learn how to cook a healthy meal for your family during a meal demonstration, eat a healthy dinner and get the chance to learn from various vendors, door prizes, and some Thai Chi relaxation techniques.

Registered dieticians and chefs will prepare the meal all while demonstrating how you can do this at home.

Join us!  Register at
Cost is only $20 for a meal, door prizes, education, cookbook, and much more!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

SAVE THE DATE!!! Insecta Fiesta 2017

Save the date for our 2017 Insecta Fiesta!

Menu to be posted soon, but expect an Indian/Latin fusion cuisine: sure to please even the pickiest eater yet exiting enough for the adventurous eater!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Insects and Floodwaters

Insects and floodwaters

By - Mike Merchant, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
Fire ant floating colony in Houston floodwaters.
Photo by NBC DFW  @OmarVillafranca
Many in the pest control industry find themselves in the midst of the devastating floods hitting much of south and east Texas this week.  If so, it may be a good time to remind ourselves of some unique pest challenges associated with high water.

Flooding brings all sorts of wildlife into unusually close contact with people, but few critters are more dangerous than fire ants. When floods occur, fire ants exit the ground and float, instinctively linking their legs and forming a floating mat which is nearly impossible to sink. When they inevitably bump into a dry object like a tree, a boat or a person, the ant mass "explodes" with ants quickly exiting the mass and swarming the object.

Diving underwater, or splashing water on the ants, will not help.  The best option is soapy water, which is pretty good at killing the ants and helping drown a floating ant island.  According to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension publication, "Flooding and Fire Ants:Protecting Yourself and Your Family", two tablespoons of soap in a gallon of water, sprayed on a floating mat is effective at drowning ants.  If any of you are engaged in water rescue this week, carrying a supply of soap along with a squirt bottle would be a good idea.

You might not have thought of it, but bed bugs can also become an issue after a public emergency like a tornado or flood.  When lots of people are brought together in an emergency shelter situation, the risk of bed bug encounters goes up.  The University of Minnesota has put together a nice publication on the subject. If you are in a community hosting an emergency shelter consider offering your services to inspect shelters and treat for bed bugs as necessary.  Don't forget the diatomaceous earth and silica aerogel dusts as a means of providing significant control for shelter bedding at minimal risk.

Lastly, after the storm is long gone be prepared for mosquitoes.  The primary mosquito species in the Texas Coastal Bend area are the salt marsh and pasture-land breeding mosquitoes. These are difficult to control at their breeding sites, short of aerial mosquito control campaigns.  But to some extent, these mosquitoes can be controlled in backyards with residual mosquito adulticides. If your company does residential pest control, but hasn't yet gotten into the adult mosquito control business, this may be a good time to start. One good way to educate your customers about the mosquito threat is the Mosquito Safari website.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Webinar: Meet Our Native Pollinators

Hope you will join me for a webinar I'm hosting, this Friday, September 1st:
2017 All Bugs Good and Bad Webinar Series: Meet Our Native Pollinators

Event starts: Friday, September 1 at 2:00 pm EDT

Event ends: Friday, September 1 at 3:00 pm EDT

Location: TBA

Pollinators have been in the news alot in the last couple of years.  While many of us are familiar with the European honeybee, we are not so familiar with our native pollinators.  Join Molly Keck, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension as she introduces us to some of our native pollinators, their habitats, and ways to preserve them. Moderated by Dani Carrolland Sallie Lee, Regional Extension Agents, Alabama Cooperative Extension System.   Note: on September 1, the link to the live webinar opens about 15 minutes before the webinar. If you try to log in earlier, you will get an error message.
For more webinars in this series, see 2017 All Bugs Good and Bad Webinar Series. The webinars are brought to you by the following eXtension Communities of Practice: Ant Pests, and Urban IPM; and by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension ServiceClemson Cooperative Extension and University of Georgia Extension.
Photo Courtesy Dani Carroll


 Molly Keck, dani carroll, Sallie Lee

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Insect of the Month: Robber Fly....Bee, Fly, Bee Fly or Weird Fly? What is this?

In recent months, I have received a LOT of pictures asking for identifications of a strange insect that seems to be pretty common right now. 

It looks like a fly, maybe a bee, maybe a fat dragonfly... perhaps nothing you have ever seen before.  It is actually a fly called a robber fly.

They are predatory insects and some can mimic bumble bees.  While they are loud fliers and scary, they really aren't threatening to humans.  You may not want to pick one up in case it bites, but they don't come after humans to bite.

Robber flies come in a variety of sizes, colors, and looks, but they all have similar "feet", large eyes, and a furry body.

Don't be surprised if you come across one this summer... they sure seem to be the insect of the summer months this year!

Photo by Bart Drees

Photo by Bart Drees

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

2017 All Bugs Good and Bad Webinar Series: Drain Flies, House Flies, and Fungus Gnats

2017 All Bugs Good and Bad Webinar Series: Drain Flies, House Flies, and Fungus Gnats

Event starts: Friday, August 4 at 2:00 pm EDT

Event ends: Friday, August 4 at 3:00 pm EDT

Insect pests marching around our homes can be puzzling to manage.   Especially frustrating is trying to figure out where they are coming from, and their life cycle.  In this webinar, Elizabeth "Wizzie" Brown, IPM Program Specialist, Texas A and M Agrilife Extension will discuss practical tips that homeowners can use to identify and help control the problem pest. Moderated by Hunter McBrayer and Taylor Vandiver, Regional Extension Agents, Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Click here to login as a guest and participate in the live event.   Note: on August 4, the link to the live webinar opens about 15 minutes before the webinar. If you try to log in earlier, you will get an error message.

For more webinars in this series, see 2017 All Bugs Good and Bad Webinar Series. The webinars are brought to you by the following eXtension Communities of Practice: Ant Pests, and Urban IPM; and by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension ServiceClemson Cooperative Extension and University of Georgia Extension.

Photo Courtesy, Pest and Diseases Image Library,

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Cicadas Emerging

When I think of the sounds of summer, the metallic songs of cicadas immediately comes to mind.  Cicadas are starting to emerge and make their way from the soil to the trees to serenade us again.  Last night I heard my first cicada calls, but soon the trees will nearly be deafening at times while they call to each other.

Cicadas spend the majority of their life under the soil.  I'm sure you've heard of the 17 year cicadas, which only emerge every 17 years.  But the most common cicadas are the "Dog Day Cicadas."  Cicadas that become abundant during the dog days of summer and take only 2-5 year to complete their lifecycle (still a amazing long time for an insect!)

During summer, cicadas mate and by the end of summer, lay their eggs on twigs and bark.  The eggs hatch into nymphs about a month later and crawl down to the soil and feed on roots.  Usually they do very little damage as nymphs, but adults can be a nuisance leaving markings when they lay eggs on young trees.  The nymphs spend 2-5 years in the soil before they emerge from the soil, crawl up a tree or other object (like the side of your house), shed their nymphal skin and emerge as an adult.  The nymphal skin is left behind, clinging to the spot they last stood.

The new exoskeleton grows underneath the old exoskeleton, so when they crack the old skin open, the new skin can be seen underneath.  The newly emerged adult cicada will rest for a short period of time, pumping its blood through the wings and allowing the exoskeleton to harden before it flies up into the trees to sing.

Most of us can recognize an adult cicada, but when you get a chance encounter with the nymph emerging from the soil, it really is a sight!

Immature cicada emerging from the soil.
Photo Credit: Manu & Indra Gregory

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

2017 All Bugs Good and Bad Webinar Series: Aphids, Scales, and White Flies

2017 All Bugs Good and Bad Webinar Series: Aphids, Scales, and White Flies
Friday, June 2 at 1:00 pm CDT

Aphids, scales, and whiteflies are pests of many landscape plants.   Learn to identify and properly apply IPM techniques using practical, cultural practices to reduce the pressure from these insect pests.  Dr. Erfan Vafaie, Extension Program Specialist, Texas A and M Agrilife Extension will deliver this training in practical control and identification.  Moderated by Marcus Garner and Allyson Shabel, Regional Extension Agents, Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Click here to login as a guest and participate in the live event.   Note: on June 2nd, the link to the live webinar opens about 15 minutes before the webinar. If you try to log in earlier, you will get an error message.
For more webinars in this series, see 2017 All Bugs Good and Bad Webinar Series. The webinars are brought to you by the following eXtension Communities of Practice: Ant Pests, and Urban IPM; and by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Clemson Cooperative Extension and University of Georgia Extension.

Photo Courtesy Elizabeth Brown, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Summer Bug Camps! Now taking registrations!

If you have a child ages 4-11, interested in nature, insects, and especially science - Texas A&M AgriLife is hosting three camps through NISD Community Education this summer!

Bug Camp

Ages 7-11
July 24-26
9am-2pm (bring a lunch)
Grissom & Bandera - NISD Learning Center
Campers will get the chance to study entomology through interactive activities and experiments, collect insects and start an insect collection, and learn to appreciate the smallest of animals on our earth.  Campers will receive a student collection kit complete with: collecting net, collection box, pins, killing solution, kill jars, labels, butterfly envelopes, foreceps, pinning block, spreading board, and collecting bag.

Junior Bug Camp

Ages 4-6
Camp #1 July 31-August 1 & Camp #2 August 2-3
Grissom & Bandera - NISD Learning Center

For the youngest scientists, we will perform age appropriate hands on activities and experiments, get to do a little collecting, and learn a LOT about insects and their importance as pollinators and recyclers in our environment.  Campers will receive a collection box, killing jar and miscellaneous collecting materials.

Please register through NISD Community Education by calling 210-397-8100 or online at

Thursday, February 2, 2017

2017 Spring Break Nature Camp

Looking for something fun for your kids to do during Spring Break?  We are hosting our annual Spring Break Nature Camp, sure to be a fantastic time for the outdoor, nature loving kids in your life!

This year, the kids will be learning about Texas Snakes & Reptiles, Birds of Prey from wildlife experts, Tarantulas and Insects, Horticulture, and do some birding with an ornithology expert.  We’ll perform experiments with owl pellets, insects, and some microbiology, and get to hold live animals, insects, snakes, reptiles, and get up close and personal with some birds of prey.will have

We can only host 24 campers, so be sure to sign up soon.  We are already half full!

Spring Break Nature Camp
Presented by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension’s horticulture & entomology programs

March 13-16

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Gnats Driving You Crazy?

You are not the only one!  I have no idea why, but it sure seems like San Antonians are being plagued by gnats.  Most of the issues people are dealing with are fruit flies. Fruit flies are smaller than house flies, and have red eyes.  They appear tan in color and are no larger than an 1/8 of an inch long.  In the photo of small flies above, the fruit fly is on the far right.

Fruit flies are attracted to ripened or decaying fruit and vegetables, but they are also known to breed in drains, dirty mops or rags, recycling bins, trash cans, soil, and other areas of moisture and decaying or fermenting food.

In order to manage fruit flies, you truly have to find the source.  Once you have eliminated the source, its important to keep fruit and veggies either in the refrigerator or a brown bag for a couple weeks or you will attract them back into the home.

If you're still seeing flies, check the drains.  An easy trick is to put tape over half the drain overnight.  If flies are stuck to it, you know they are breeding in the organic matter that lines the drains.  There are drain cleaners that will eliminate that "gunk" using enzymes.  Bleach, boiling water, and other products will only kill the larvae in the drain now; it does not keep the adults from laying more eggs.

If you have potted plants, they may breeding in the soil.  Check by digging, or placing the plant in a small space overnight.  Its easier to re-pot the plant, but at the minimum, don't over water and allow the soil to dry out.

I'm noticing a correlation between the new green compost bins the city has provided us.  Its wonderful that we are composting and reducing our trash, but we are also keeping our rotten food longer in the home, which is attracting and allowing fruit flies to breed.  If this is your issue, remove the food regularly, if not immediately.

Again, finding the main source is the key.  Recently, we had a MAJOR issue in our office.  I'm a little embarrassed to admit, I was the cause!  I had placed an apple in an insect cage and allowed it to rot and ferment.  Removing those rotten apples almost immediately (within a weekend) got rid of the problem!  It may not be as easy as that, but searching for "ground zero" will make your problem less of a problem.

*Photo credit - Dr. Bart Drees, Texas A&M University

Monday, January 30, 2017

HELP! Fleas!

Seems like this year, fleas have been especially difficult for some pet owners this year... and even later into the winter than we usually see.

We had a good wet spring, summer, and fall, which probably helped their populations do better than during our normally droughty years.

There is not real silver bullet for flea control, but there are some tricks that will help!

1 - Treat inside, outside, and the pet at the same time!  Otherwise you are just chasing the fleas around.

2 - Visit your vet for a good flea control medication.  Generally, the over the counter and topical medications don't work as well as the newer oral flea medications.

3 - Vacuum inside like crazy!  Studies have show that vacuumind and immediately dumping the canister will reduce fleas as much as 80% or more.  That is a substantial reduction!  Vacuum pet bedding, carpet, and ANYWHERE the pet rests, sleeps, or spends time.

4 - If you have fleas but no pet, use an Insect Growth Regulator like methoprene or pyriprofyfen.  This keeps the eggs or larvae from becoming adults and reducing the population.  You may not be able to control the stray animals or neighbors, but this will help reduce the flea populations over time.

5 - Treat today and again in 10-14 days.  The first treatment doesn't often kill the eggs or pupae.  10-14 days is enough time to allow those eggs to hatch to larvae and pupae to adults and your second treatment will help really get them under control. Otherwise, all seems well for about a month and then they explode again.

As always, be sure to READ AND FOLLOW THE LABEL.  Don't use products meant for outdoors in your home.  Don't ever use off label.  You can probably recall a terrible accident where a family died due to improper use of pesticides for fleas.  Even things that seem harmless, like diatomaceous earth, should not be used inside if the label does not specifically state that it can be used indoors.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Odd Bee Activity

Have you noticed more bee activity lately?  You aren't alone and it isn't necessarily an odd occurrence.  We have had warm temperatures, after all, and wonderful sunny days.

Honeybees can forage year round if the temperatures and weather is nice enough for them.  Consider how much rain we've received.  Wildflowers and other plants are confused and starting to bloom in odd spots, which gets the bees excited.  Even if you don't have anything blooming, the bees may be more active around your home searching for anything sweet from trashcans, pet food, or standing water.

Even if bees have enough honey stored up for the winter, if the day is nice enough to forage, they'll take off!  They also use water to help maintain the temperatures in their hive, so finding bees around standing water isn't unusual this time of year, either.

Honeybees are most aggressive when they are protecting their home, so as long as you avoid the home, they'll probably leave you alone.  If they do bother you, consider putting some sugar water far away from where you'll be spending time to draw them away.