Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Snout nosed butterflies

If you are in the Austin area today (December 4, 2013) look up in the sky to see if you can see the thousands of butterflies.  These are snout nosed butterflies and we have a bunch of them flying around outside our office.

I noticed them on 71 just east of I-35 as I was returning from some fire ant field work.  They were everywhere in the sky all the way back to the office.  It was amazing and beautiful to see!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Hackberry psyllids

Have you seen the small insects that have been gathering on windows, cars, sides of buildings around Central Texas?  I've been getting calls and emails about what these "gnat-like" critters are.  Well, they are not gnats but hackberry psyllids.  We typically get them each fall when the weather grows cooler and they try to move indoors where it is nice and cozy.

They are more of a nuisance than anything else and I would recommend that you work on excluding them from the house.  For tips on exclusion, see this post.

You can also find more information on other critters that may try to move indoors at Mike Merchant's blog.

Friday, November 8, 2013


Millipedes have a head with one pair of antennae connected to a long segmented body.  They have two pair of legs per body segment and cylindrical bodies.  Millipedes in Texas are typically brownish in color, but can vary in color from red to yellow to orange.  Millipedes often curl into a spiral to protect themselves when disturbed. 

Not a millipede found in Texas!  This one is from Africa.
Millipedes do not transmit diseases to plants, animals or man and are more of a nuisance than a destructive pest. They occasionally damage seedling plants by feeding on stems and leaves.  They are not poisonous, but have glands that produce a smelly fluid that can be irritating, especially if rubbed in the eyes.

Millipedes feed primarily on decaying organic matter, though some are carnivorous.  Homeowners may experience large numbers of millipedes moving into their home after heavy rainfall or during periods of drought. 

To prevent millipedes from moving indoors, move objects such as compost piles, firewood and stones away from the structure.  If there are mulched flower beds against the home, occasionally turn the mulch to allow it to dry out.  Seal any accessible areas that may allow millipedes to move into the home.  Check seals around doors and windows as well as pipe penetrations.  Make sure that crawl spaces are properly ventilated.

Perimeter sprays around a building’s foundation may help keep millipedes from moving indoors.  Look for products with such active ingredients as deltamethrin, permethrin, bifenthrin or cypermethrin.  Inside the home, treat crack and crevice areas as wells as baseboards.   Products available include active ingredients such as lambda-cyhalothrin, cypermethrin, permethrin or bifenthrin.  Wall voids may be treated with boric acid or diatomaceous earth.  There are also plant-derived pesticide formulations with active ingredients such as d-limonene (citrus extract), rosemary oil, clove oil, thyme oil or sesame oil.


Friday, September 27, 2013

The Girl Who Loves Bugs

Am I talking about me in the title?  I could be but in this case, I am not.  One of our Master Gardeners has a daughter who loves insects.  I've been out to speak to her class and she is always so eager to learn and had really great questions.  She has started a blog- The Girl Who Loves Bugs- about insects and it's AMAZING!  I encourage you to follow her blog....I guarantee that you'll learn something!

I think it's fantastic that she is taking a passion and turning it into a learning tool for others.  I wish that I was that ambitious when I was her age...instead I was busy throwing spiders at my brother.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Cockroaches in the house...should you worry?

For the past couple of weeks when I would go into the bathroom at night and turn on the light I would see tiny cockroaches scurrying about.  It also happened one morning when the boy was with me and he was very upset when I rinsed the roach down the bathroom sink.

The boy- "MOMMY! We should have taken it outside and let it go!"
Me- "It's okay, cockroaches commonly live in sewers so it's going to be reunited with other cockroaches."
The boy- "Really? They live in sewers?"
Me- "Yes.  When I was in college working on cockroaches I used to trap all my roaches from the sewer.  I would get jars full of them overnight."
The boy- "Oh, okay."

So why am I not panicked that cockroaches are taking over my house?  Well for one, anyone who knows me knows that I have a fondness for cockroaches so I don't panic when I see them.  They rank from being cute to a mild annoyance to me.  Secondly, I've identified them as American cockroach nymphs and I know that they are coming in the house looking for water because it has been so dry outside.  If I really cared about them being in the house, I could go up in the attic and screen off any vent openings where they might be coming into the house, clean out our gutters (which probably would be a good ideas to do for other reasons as well) and stuff the weep holes with copper mesh.  Our screens are already in good shape- hubby fixed that last month and the weather stripping around doors and windows is also good.  I could also have the hubby go up and dust the attic or do a foundation spray around the house, but I'd rather not.

What do you do when you find a cockroach in the bathroom late at night?

Friday, August 30, 2013

Fire Ant Webinar on Fall Baiting- September 4, 2013

A colleague of mine- Molly Keck from San Antonio- will be giving a fire ant webinar on next week that will discuss why baiting for fire ants in the fall makes sense. 
Seminar: Fall – A Good Time to Control Fire Ants with Bait
Date: Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Time: 1PM (Central)

More information can be found at Fall a Good Time to Control Fire Ants with Bait including how to connect to the webinar.  On Sept.  4, participants can use this link to connect to the webinar.
The Don’t Bug Me Webinar Series, which began earlier this year, included five webinars discussing fire ants, tramp ants and bed bugs.  Links to view these archived webinars can be found here.
The webinars are sponsored by eXtension and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.  They are coordinated by the Imported Fire Ant eXtension Community of Practice.
As upcoming webinars approach, watch eXtension’s Don’t be Bugged Webinar Series page for more information on that particular webinar.

Friday, August 16, 2013

New Pesticide Labels to Protect Bees and other Pollinators

Just a really quick post this week as the link will give all the information you need to know.  It's a release from the EPA on how pesticide labels will limit certain neonicotinoid products in areas where bees are active.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Glow-in-the-dark cockroach

Anyone who has listened to me rattle on about insects for any amount of time knows of my fondness for cockroaches.  I worked with cockroaches for many years while in college and grad school and now have the "pleasure" of being allergic to them.  I still love them and know many of you are disgusted by the mere thought of them.  Maybe this will change your mind.  If not, maybe it will open your mind to the possibility that cockroaches are capable of being beautiful and amazing.

The International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State has published their list of the Top 10 new species from 2012.  On the list guessed it....a cockroach!  Lucihormetica luckae, also known as the Lightning roach, is known from a single specimen collected over 70 years ago.  The cockroach was collected from Ecuador and it may now be extinct due to eruption and activty of the Tungurahua volcano.

The really cool part of the whole thing- to me at least- is that the cockroach mimics a poisonous click beetle.  Basically when it glows it's pattern is similar to that of a bioluminescent click beetle.  Wow...insects are so cool!

If you want to see pictures of the cockroach, you can click here.  I think it looks like a Jawa (Utini!) from Star Wars when it glows, but that may just be my somewhat warped mind.

On a side note....there is a FREE webinar on Friday, June 7th on bed bugs.  You can find more information on the webinar here.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Milkweed and Monarchs- will you help?

Texas is fortunate in that the eastern (east of the Rockies) population of Monarchs passes through Texas on the way to and from their overwintering sites in Mexico.  It is always a glorious site to see the Monarchs in the spring and late summer/ fall.  The butterflies overwinter in areas of mountain tops in Central Mexico.  Many people think that the decline (at least for the Monarchs that come and go through Texas) is because of the decline of the overwintering locations in Mexico.  While habitat loss in Mexico is certainly a factor, there is another factor that I hope, with help from citizens can be reduced.

The second factor of Monarch decline is loss of milkweed plant populations within the United States.  Milkweed is often considered a weed (a weed is a plant that is out of place), especially when it's found in areas where other, more desirable plants are growing.  As a weed, the milkweed is destroyed, decreasing the amount of food available for migrating Monarch populations.  You can hear more about this from Science Friday here.

So how can you help?  By planting milkweed!  If we can get citizens to plant milkweed in their yards, in community gardens, in school gardens or even cooperate with county and city programs to encourage milkweed in parks and other common areas, then maybe the Monarchs will have islands of milkweed to support their life cycle.  While I'm not sure if it will work, I think it's worth a shot.

You can find milkweed at local nurseries or you can buy seeds online.  Monarch Watch actually has a seed kit that can be purchased for $10 on their website that contains three species of milkweed- Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa); Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca); Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata).  All three species are native to Texas so you don't have to worry about bringing in something weird.  The Native Plant Society of Texas has information on milkweed here.   The Xerces Society has information on milkweed and their Project Milkweed here and you can link to sellers of milkweed seeds for specific regions of the country (including Texas).

So, have you bought your plants or seeds yet?  What are you waiting for?  Get out there and get planting. 

Pssssstt....spread the word to everyone you know.  We need all the help we can get!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Water Wi$e Workshop- May 4th

Are you interested in strategies that can help reduce your water usage and conserve clean water sources?  Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service in Travis County will present a Water Wi$e Workshop from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. May 4 at St. Edward’s University. The workshop is open for adults and kids ages 8-12.  Adults can learn how to convert lawns to landscapes that conserve water, irrigation systems, the Earthkind program, rainwater harvesting and integrated pest management.  Youth ages 8-12 will have their own water- related activities such as learning about aquifers, rainwater simulators and water conservation strategies.

Three Texas Department of Agriculture Continuing Education Units will be offered for this program; 1 IPM & 2 General.

What- Water Wi$e Workshop
When- Saturday, May 4, 2013 from 10AM-2PM
Where- St. Edward's University 3001 S. Congress Ave. Austin, TX
Cost- $25 for adults; $15 for youth ages 8-12 (includes lunch!)

Attendees may register online at Enter “water” into the keyword field.

Friday, April 12, 2013

2013 East Austin Garden Fair

This will be an extraordinary event with an emphasis on interactive learning and low cost do-it-yourself and demonstration activities.  We have expanded our favorite booths from last year, and added many new gardening booths and activities.  New features include a raised-bed veggie garden planting demo, make your own rain barrel demo, make your own container garden, butterfly gardening, firewise landscaping, a City of Austin composting class (free kitchen collection container and 75% reimbursement for compost units), along with much more.  We've also added a focus on nutrition (including cooking and grilling demonstrations, healthy snacks and produce tastings, SNAP registration counseling, a farmers market booth, etc.).  There will be tons of activities for kids, and freebies include: seedlings, container gardens, raffled rain barrels, kitchen compost bins, food and produce tastings, hula hoopercise, and free classes on a range of subjects. Sound great?  Here's the information you need to know to join the fun:
WHEN: Saturday, April 20, 2013 9:30AM- 1:30PM
WHERE: Zaragoza Park & Rec Center- 2608 Gonzales Street Austin, TX
COST: Free!
Of course I will be there answering questions about insects, so bring any samples that you need to have identified.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Webinar this Friday- fire ant managment in sensitive areas

The next Don't Bug Me seminar is this Friday- April 5, 2013 at 1PM central time. 

This webinar will cover fire ant management in sensitive areas such as vegetable gardens and compost piles, as well as around electrical equipment and ponds. 

You can find more information and link to the webinar (or watch past webinars) from this link:

Friday, March 15, 2013

Are you interested in citizen science?

Are you interested in citizen science or dragonflies?  If so and you have access to a pond or wetland area, then you can sign up for a citizen science project with the Xerces Society.  Their Dragonfly Watch Pond Project is a volunteer program to investigate annual movement of five species of migratory dragonflies.  The project is open to anyone who has interest in dragonfly ecology and has access to a pond or wetland area.  You can sign up by clicking this link.

On another totally unrelated note, there is a new pest in Utah.  There might have been some possible sightings of this pest here in central Texas....have you seen these (click video link below)?

Friday, March 8, 2013

Organic Pest Control Options Seminar

Friday, March 15, 2013, 9:00 to 11:00 AM
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
1600 Smith Rd, Austin TX 
Dr. Joe Masabni, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service vegetable specialist, will present a 2 hour webinar on organic product options for controlling garden pests.  Many organic products are not as effective as others. Also, organic products are not necessarily safer to use than synthetic options and should be handled and used with care.  With the need to control pollution and other harmful effects of over-use of pesticides, learning which organic products actually work, and how to use them, is crucial.

2 TDA Ag pesticide recertification CEUs will be offered.

Class is limited to 25 participants.  Please register at   keyword: Organic.  Or register by phone (979) 845-2604.  If space is available, onsite registration will be offered at 8:00 AM on the morning of the program.  Class fee is $10.
Acrobat ants tending honeydew producing aphids.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Cockroach video- does it get any better?

I know y'all don't have my love of cockroaches, but humor me here.  I know I'm always telling you how cockroaches are actually very clean because they groom themselves, but they just happen to sometimes inhabit gross areas.  Well, if you didn't believe me, I now have back up!

Science Friday has a video on cockroach grooming from research conducted by Coby Schal.  Check it out!

Poor little roaches...wonder if they call it the cone of shame for them as well?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Fire ant home remedy webinar- follow up

It's been two weeks since my webinar on fire ant home remedies.  If you missed it because you had other pressing things to do that day- which I don't know what can be more important than listening to me rattle on about fire ants- the webinar was recorded.  You can find a link to the webinar session here:

It's right under the February 1st, 2013 Fire Ant Home Remedy section.

I hope it went well.  I think webinars are much harder to carry off because you have no audience to react with.  I felt like I was droning on and on, but I did give information on all the home remedies I have tested to date.  I also talked about naturally derived methods of managing fire ants.  Give it a listen!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Flea beetles

Flea beetles....part flea, part beetle?  Well, not exactly.  Flea beetles are a type of beetle that have enlarged hind legs and jump when they are disturbed.  The hind legs and jumping motion are similar to that of fleas, hence the name. 

Flea beetles.
Flea beetles come in a wide variety of sizes (but all are still pretty small) and colors.  They have chewing mouthparts and often damage plants by eating foliage.  Damage can be somewhat characteristic- they chew small "shotholes" in the foliage.  Damage is most problematic in seedlings or in crops where you also want to consume the foliage.

Flea beetles overwinter in the adult stage in protected locations, emerging in spring when temperatures begin to warm up.  Since the weather has been rather springlike lately, I've been hearing about people finding these insects in the vegetables.  After mating, eggs are laid around the base of plants or in cracks in the soil.  Larvae feed on root hairs and small roots, but they are not considered to be the damaging stage.
Flea beetle damage.

To avoid flea beetle problems, try planting transplants to avoid the insects attacking seedlings.  You could also try planting a high rate of seedlings and then thin as needed once they are established.  It may also help by adjusting planting times to avoid beetle emergence.  Row cover can be placed over plants to physically block the insects from attacking the plant.  If beetles are already on the plant, they would need to be managed before row cover was utilized.  Vacuuming flea beetles off the plant is another option (and one that can be fun, especially for kids!).

As far as pesticide options, look for active ingredients such as spinosad (a naturally-derived product that works well on foliage feeding insects), azadirachtin (neem), horticultural oils, diatomaceous earth, permethrin or carbaryl.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Don't Bug Me Webinars

So why should you participate in these webinars?  You can learn valuable information about avoiding pest problems from experts all over the U.S.  I'm kicking things off with the February 1st webinar....hope to "see" you there!

Learn How to Manage Ants and Other Pests Via Don’t Bug Me Webinars

Got ants?  Tired of ladybug invasions in the fall?  Brought home bed bugs from your last trip? Alabama Cooperative Extension professionals will moderate a free webinar series that will take on all of these topics. In 2013, most of the webinars will be on fire ants and other invasive ant species.  Other topics for the year include bed bugs and various insects that invade homes each autumn. 
Alabama Extension entomologist Dr. Kathy Flanders says these free webinars are designed for homeowners and the general public.

“We will provide them with sound, research-based management solutions for these pests from some of the best experts around the country,” she says.  “The webinars are specifically for ordinary people who need answers they can use.
“Participating is as simple as clicking on a web link.”

Each webinar will begin at 1 p.m.  Central Time and will last 30 to 45 minutes. 
Flanders says not to worry if you cannot tune in for the live webinar.

“The webinars will be recorded and archived.  If you miss one, you will be able to watch a recording later.” 
The webinars are sponsored by eXtension ( and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System ( .  They are coordinated by the Imported Fire Ant eXtension Community of Practice (

 First Friday of the Month Spring Series
February 1, 2013. Fire Ant Home Remedies - What Works, What Doesn't  ( )  Home remedies for fire ant control are dominating the internet. Learn what works and what doesn't. Learn about safe and effective techniques for fire ant management for home landscapes.   Hosted by ACES Regional Extension Agent Dani Carroll.

March 1, 2013.  Ants! Ants! Ants! ( Tawny crazy ants and Argentine ants don't sting, but their large colonies are definitely annoying.  Learn how these ants live and how to control them.  Hosted by ACES Regional Extension Agent Bethany O’Rear.

April 5, 2013.  You Have Fire Ants Where? ( Targeted fire ant management in sensitive and challenging areas including vegetable gardens, fish ponds, compost piles and electrical boxes.  Hosted by ACES Regional Extension Agent Willie Datcher.
May 3, 2013.  Protect Your Loved Ones From Fire Ants ( Learn safe, effective, research-based methods to protect your family and pets from fire ants.  Hosted by ACES Regional Extension Agent Charles Pinkston.

June 7, 2013. Get Rid of Those Bed Bugs ( Learn how bed bugs live and get sound, research-based advice on how to get rid of them.  Hosted by ACES Regional Extension Agent Chris Becker.
First Wednesday of the Month Fall Series

September 4, 2013.  Fall - A Good Time to Control Fire Ants with Bait  ( Applying fire ant baits in the fall is an effective way to minimize fire ant problems in home lawns and other landscapes.  Learn how to get the most out of your fire ant bait and discuss community-wide fire ant management programs.  Hosted by ACES Regional Extension Agent Sallie Lee.
October 2, 2013. Home Invaders ( Every fall certain bugs come into our houses looking for a place to spend the winter. Learn what they are and how to evict them. Hosted by ACES Regional Extension Agent Ellen Huckabay.

November 6, 2013.  Keep Ants Off the Thanksgiving Table ( Learn safe and effective ways to keep ants from invading your house.  Hosted by ACES Regional Extension Agent Mallory Kelley.
As the date for each webinar approaches, watch eXtension’s Don’t be Bugged Webinar Series page  ( for more information on that particular webinar.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

CEU course for Private Applicators

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service will be holding a wonderful opportunity  to obtain a large amount of CEUs in 3 days - 16 HOURS! View the days listed below and the subject matter to see if any of the classes are good options for you.  If you are interested in one or more of the following classes, please do the following:

Register online at:       Keyword Search:  CEU
Register by phone:  979-845-2604
For more information contact Sue Carrasco at (512) 854-9610. Class space is limited.

Partial registration option:
$85.00 single day registration
$150.00 two day registration
$210.00 full series registration

Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - (5 hours) - 3 General, 1 IPM, 1 Laws & Regs
Registration & Breakfast - 7:30 AM
Class Ends - 2:00 PM
Lunch Catered by Dan’s Hamburgers

Landscape Pest Management - Wizzie Brown, Extension Program Specialist - IPM
Coyote Management - Jacob Hetzel & Stefan Hunt, Wildlife Biologists
Label Comprehension & Pesticide Application - Dr. Bob Lyons, Extension Range Specialist
External Parasite Control in Cattle - Dr. Sonja Swinger, Livestock / Veterinary Entomologist

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - (4 Hours) - 2.5 General, 1.5 Drift
Registration & Breakfast - 4:00 PM
Class Ends - 9:00 PM
Dinner Catered by Wilhite Bar-B-Q

Plant Selection, Daphne Richards, County Extension Agent - Horticulture
Feral Hog Management - Jacob Hetzel & Stefan Hunt, Wildlife Biologists
Drift Management - DVD from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

Thursday, January 24, 2013 - (7 Hours) - 3.5 General, 1 IPM, 1 Laws & Regs, 1.5 Drift
Registration & Breakfast - 7:30 AM
Class Ends - 4:00 PM
Lunch Catered by Jason’s Deli

Feral Hog Biology, Diseases & Water Concerns - Jared Timmons, Extension Wildlife Associate
Fire Ant Management - Wizzie Brown, Extension Program Specialist - IPM
Basic Laws & Regulations - Beau Whisenant, Regional Education Specialist
Integrated Pest Management, Wizzie Brown, Extension Program Specialist - IPM
Drift Management - DVD from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension