Urban IPM

Friday, September 5, 2014

Agricultural termites

It's that time of year again.  I just received my first call today.  Termite season!  What?  Termites are usually a problem in the spring you say?  While that is true for some types of termites, I get most calls on agricultural termites in late summer into fall.  Since we've been getting sporadic rain about town the past few days, I imagine that I will be getting more questions on these in the coming days.

Agricultural termite mud tubes covering Bermuda grass.  Photo by Al Haegelin.
Agricultural termites are not like drywood termites or subterranean termites in that they prefer live grasses and weeds to feed upon instead of dead wood.  Because of this, agricultural termites usually do not attack structures.  They will make mud tubes covering vegetation to provide them protection while they are feeding.  These termites are often found in large fields growing forage, but can sometimes also been found in more urban settings such as lawns or sports fields.

While agricultural termites are not usually considered a pest, large populations can cause problems in forage crops or turfgrass.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Argentine Ants

I've been getting samples submitted where people suspect that they have Tawny crazy ants infesting their property.  They report light brown ants in dense populations getting into everything.  Once the samples are submitted, I discover that they are Argentine ants.  So why are people mistaking Argentines for Tawnies?  Well to the inexperienced they can look very similar especially when you don't have a good hand lens or microscope to look for hairs on the body.  Also, both of them can have high population numbers and supercolonies.

Argentine ants are light brown to brown in color and all workers are the same size (about 1/8").  The legs are not overly long like with crazy ants, but this can be difficult to determine unless you tend to look at ants a lot.  If you have a hand lens, you can check out the tip of the abdomen first.  Argentine ants do not have a sting and they don't have a circle of hairs at the tip of the abdomen.  Next, look at the thorax of the ant.  If the thorax does not have hairs, then it's most likely going to be an Argentine ant (Crazy ants have long paired hairs on the thorax). 

Argentine ants in the Urban Lab at TAMU.

The other ant that breaks out in the same couplet  (in a dichotomous key, characteristics are paired so that you work your way through the key by choosing one of the couplets that has similar characters to your specimen and the paired characters that you choose from is a couplet) as Argentine ants are the Cheese ants.  If you have multiple ants, then determination of cheese ants is very simple....smash one of the ants and smell your finger.  You're thinking I'm crazy now...right?  I'm not (my mother had me tested...actually that was Sheldon, not me.  If my mom had me tested she did not tell me the results which could be good or bad).  Anyway, I digress.....have you smelled your finger yet?  If you have cheese ants then your finger will smell like blue cheese.  I swear! 

So, if you have small to medium brown ants trailing around that worry you, you should:
1. Squish some and smell your finger.  If you have a blue cheese smell, then you have Cheese ants.
2.  Look at the thorax with a good hand lens or microscope.  If you have paired hairs on the thorax, then you have Crazy ants.  If there are no hairs then you have Argentine ants.

So here is my disclaimer.  This method is really simplified and I may possibly get lynched by entomologists and even more so by myrmecologists (ant specialists) for simplifying it so much.  Ant identification involves looking at nodes, counting antennal segments, looking at hairs on specific parts of the body amongst other things, so this is a generalization but may help you out.  It is very important to identify the ant that you are trying to manage before you try to control them.  If you cannot do this or are unsure of your identification, then send it to me and I am happy to look at it for you.

All Bugs Good and Bad Webinar Information

The webinar from August is now posted for you to watch at your convenience.  It is "Minimize Mosquito Problems" by Molly Keck.  You can find that here (click watch recording in the top right corner):
https://learn.extension.org/events/1373#.U_eT1aPFpCw
The next webinar will be held on September 5, 2014 at 1PM CDT.  That webinar will be "Kudzu Bug Takes Over the Southeastern U.S./ Brown Marmorated Stink Bug--All Bad" and will be given by Dr. Michael Towes and Dr. Tracy Leskey.  You can find more information and a way to link to the webinar here:
https://learn.extension.org/events/1379#.U_eTpaPFpCw

The webinar series is brought to you FREE by extension.org.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Where did the time go?

My monkey is off to school!