Thursday, September 27, 2018

Snout Nose Butterflies Out Again

Snout butterflies are on the loose again in Texas!  If you've been out driving, you have certainly killed one or one hundred, unfortunately. 

American Snout Butterflies get their name from elongated mouthparts called palps that extend from the head.  They are small to medium sized butterflies (about the size of 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.

Each year, these guys have several generations and population peaks, 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) that fed on the tender hackberry leaves that our rains produced.  The caterpillars become pupa and emerging..

I suspect that the small cool snap we had this past weekend also triggered the adults to emerge from the pupa case.... changes in temperature like that often encourages pupa to emerge (a cool trick if you are raising butterflies from pupa and don't have much patience).

How long will it last?  Only nature knows!  But I predict we'll see fewer next week and even fewer the week after that.


 Also keep an eye out for Monarchs as they make their way through Texas to Mexico for their annual migration.  We're seeing a few here and there, but right now the Snouts are taking all our attention.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Rain Bad for the Lawn??? Fungal Issues a Major Concern Right Now

Who would have every guessed that rain could be bad for your lawn?  Well, too much rain in combination with other factors can actually cause issues in the turf and we are starting to see this all over the San Antonio area.

Typical Brown Patch Damage.  Photo by Matthew Rogers 

Brown Patch is a fungus typically seen in the fall in warm season grasses such as St. Augustine, Bermuda and Zoysia.  St. Augustine, Raleigh variety is extremely susceptible to Brown Patch, well above and beyond any other type of turf.

Brown Patch arises in susceptible varieties when we have intense rains, high humidity cloudy days, poor soil drainage, compacted soils and over watering.  You've seen it all over town... it just rained for days and sprinklers are still on!  We have extremely saturated soils, so drainage is near impossible, and days and days without sun leads to a perfect storm for Brown Patch to thrive!

What Brown Patch is NOT:
Grubs - its too late in the year for grubs to be actively feeding.  They are fat and happy and full and either already pupa (which do not eat) or getting ready to become pupa.
Chinch Bugs - its far too wet and cool for chinch bugs to have any sort of population that would lead to insect issues.

Here's what you can do as a homeowner when you see Brown Patch:

  1. Get it diagnosed by a certified nursery professional or turf specialist
  2. F-Stop Granules by Fertilome.  Found at any nursery or feed store.  There are two application rates on the label.  Use the higher application rate on the bad areas of the grass and lower rate on the rest of the lawn to prevent spread.
  3. Two weeks after you treat with the fungicide, core aerate the lawn.  This will allow for better air circulation, reduce soil compaction, and assist with better drainage.  Be careful with in ground sprinkler systems.
  4. At the end of October, winterize your lawn with an 18:6:12 fertilizer formulation.

Don't forget!  TURN OFF ALL SPRINKERS!!!  We have enough deep moisture to established plants through to March.  Unless we have a a super dry winter, no need to water anymore!  If we do have a super dry winter (no moisture at all, warmer than normal, etc.) water once a month. 

Friday, September 21, 2018

Rain = Fire Ants!

In Texas, after a good, soaking rain, we can always expect to see fire ant mounds popping up all over our lawns.  Where were those mounds before?  They were there, just underground and inconspicuous.

Rain is good for many reasons, but one you may not realize is that it helps us see fire ants, gets them active above the soil, and makes them more likely to pick up fire ant baits!

I love using baits to manage fire ants.  They are more host specific, attracting fire ants better than other insects.  Baits (when applied according to the label) usually mean less pesticide out in our environment... and the fire ants like it, so they pick it, gobble it down, and close their eyes forever.

Here are some tips to remember when you are applying the baits:

  1. Make sure the ground is dry and rain is not in the forecast within a 48 hour window.  Just like you don't like to eat wet bread, fire ants don't want to pick up wet bait.  NEVER WATER BAIT IN.
  2. Apply according to the label.  Figure your square footage and apply the proper amount, especially if broadcasting the bait over the yard.  Don't over apply, that can actually make the fire ants avoid the bait.  If in doubt, apply less.
  3. If treating individual mounds (and this is easy when they are visible),  sprinkle the bait around the mound, not on top.  On the mound is not where the foragers are looking for food.  Instead, the bait may be treated as an intruder or trash.
  4. BE PATIENT!  Baits can take up to two weeks to work.  There is a method to this madness... baits aren't eaten by the adult ants (workers and queens).  Larvae eat the bait, partially digest it, regurgitate it, and that it fed to the workers and queens.  And the queens feeding is most important.  Otherwise, you just kill some workers, but she's laying up to 2,000 eggs a day to replace them!
Fall is the fantastic time to do the Texas Two Step Method of Fire Ant Management.  Start with a broadcast bait and then come back for those stubborn mounds with an individual mound treatment.  This is an integrated pest management tactic, decades of proven results in the field and research trials, and uses less pesticide that treating each mound you see with liquid pesticides. 

For more information on the Texas Two Step, visit:

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Tree Management Workshop

We still have room in our Tree Management Workshop!  If you are interested in learning how to properly care for the largest and most valued part of your landscape, please join us!  We will cover proper pruning, common insects and their management, general management of trees and latest updates on oak wilt and the emerald ash borer.

Fall Armyworms on the Move...

Dr. Allen Knutson with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service put together a wonderful publication on fall armyworms and management options.  If you are like many of us around Texas, experiencing an outbreak of fall armyworm, this publication will be helpful.

Blame it on the rain, making favorable conditions of their eggs and larvae... and with more rain in the forecast, we may still have some weeks on this outbreak. 

Unfortunately in turf situations, it is often too late to treat once they start to make their move.  While this publication is meant for pasture and hay fields, the active ingredients may be helpful for turf.  These are caterpillars and Bt and Spinosad are two good options.  However, Spinosad is a little more stable and will not break down as quickly, which makes it a better option than Bt.

The Fall Armyworm - A Pest of Pasture and Hay