Urban IPM

Friday, December 12, 2014

Striped bark scorpion

With  the weather getting cooler, many pests may try to come inside to stay cozy through the colder months.  One of the common culprits we see in Central Texas is the striped bark scorpion.   If you discover them outside I would leave them alone. They are predators and can help cut down on some of the insects that you have in the yard. When I find them in the house, I scoop them up on a piece of paper and shuffle them back outside. If you don't quite have my love for critters with more than four legs, then you can use exclusion techniques to keep them outside where they belong.

Some ideas to keep scorpions outside include:

Striped bark scorpion.
  • Remove harborage areas around the structure.  I know it's really convenient to have your firewood stacked up next to the house and back door, but that is a perfect hiding place for scorpions. They then are not only really close to the door to get in that way, but they can be carried in with the fire wood.  You also should move any piles of rocks, bricks, landscape timbers or other debris away from the house.
  • Keep vegetation trimmed away from the house and the lawn mowed.
  • Do not store firewood inside or if you choose to do so (like me) don't be surprised to find some critters in there on occasion.
  • Make sure that weather stripping around doors and windows provides a good seal.  This will not only keep out unwanted pests, but can help reduce energy bills.
  • If you have a brick or stone facade on your home, use copper mesh to block weep holes.  You don't want to seal them completely as they help air to move through wall void areas.
  • Seal any cracks, crevices or pipe penetrations around the outside of the structure with sealant that will expand and contract with Texas weather conditions.
  • Trim back any trees that touch or overhang the house.  Scorpions and other pests (including furry ones) can use these as a bridge to get onto the roof and from there into the attic.
If you've done all of that and are still having problems, try a pesticide residual spray around the foundation of the home.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Salt marsh caterpillars

Salt marsh caterpillars are larvae of a moth in the Family Arctiidae.  This species has many color variations from black with orangish-red markings to pale yellow to reddish-brown.  Caterpillars are generally lighter in color and darken with age.  The body is covered with tufted hairs, or setae.

Some people also commonly call these caterpillars woolly bear caterpillars (there are numerous species of moths that can be called woolly bears).  The caterpillars are often called woolly bears because of the numerous bristly hairs that project off the body.

The caterpillars are generalists and feed on broad-leafed plants.  They usually feed as a group when they are young, but as they grow older and larger they tend to disperse.  As they become full grown, they begin to wander away from the host plant to find a protected
Salt marsh caterpillar a.k.a. woolly bear.
site where they can spin a cocoon.

Populations of salt marsh caterpillars are typically highest in the fall and are often seen in large numbers wandering across driveways or roadways.  Wandering may be to find other food sources when old sources are consumed or it could be caterpillars in search of a protected place to pupate.

The stinging capability or irritation that hairs may cause seems to be in debate in entomological circles.  Some entomologists claim that woolly bears can sting you or irritate your skin while others say that they cannot.  I think that it probably comes down to skin sensitivity.  While I haven’t had problems handling woolly bears, it doesn’t mean that everyone has no reaction; others may have sensitivity to the caterpillar hairs.  Basically the take home lesson is to always be careful when handling a wild animal since you never can predict what may happen.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Free Recorded Webinar- Where have all the honey bees gone? Hope for the future

If you missed the live webinar, then you can watch in your jammies at your leisure.

Go here the green button next to watch recording in the top right side of the screen:

Why do we have fewer honeybees these days?  What caused the decline?  What can we do to help?  These questions and more will be answered in this webinar presented by Dr. John Skinner, a Professor in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology at the University of Tennessee. Moderated by Sallie Lee, Regional Extension Agent, Alabama Cooperative Extension System.  Click here to login as a guest and participate in the live event.  For more webinars in this series, see All Bugs Good and Bad 2014 Webinar Series. The webinars are brought to you by the following eXtension Communities of Practice: Imported Fire Ants, Urban IPM, Bee HealthInvasive Species and Gardens and Landscapes; and by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System