Friday, December 26, 2014

2015 All Bugs Good and bad Seminar Series

The eXtension All Bugs Good and Bad Webinar series is set to resume Feb. 6, 2015. Dr. Kathy Flanders, an entomologist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, says the 2015 series will continue to emphasize good and bad insects that affect people every day.

“This webinar series will feature insects that affect homeowners and gardeners,” says Flanders. “These insects fall into two categories and we hope to provide information that is beneficial when treating your gardens or crops, pest-proofing your home and yard, and protecting your family and pets.  One webinar will venture outside the insect world to discuss the small mammals that share our backyards.”

Webinars will be held the first Friday of each month at 2 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. The first webinar in the 2015 series will discuss how to use pesticides safely and effectively. "Pesticide Strategy: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," presented by Kaci Buhl, Coordinator, National Pesticide Information Center, will be Friday, Feb. 6 at 2 p.m.

Charles Pinkston, a regional Extension home grounds agent, will be moderating the Feb. 6 webinar. He says it is imperative to follow the directions when using pesticides.

“All too often people think that if a little is good, more is better,” Pinkston says. “Using more pesticide than is directed is not only illegal, it can be dangerous and lead to secondary pest outbreaks.”

Upcoming webinar topics include fire ants, termites, beneficial garden helpers, and insect-borne diseases affecting people.

Flanders says The All Bugs Good and Bad Webinar series is designed to provide useful tips for those interested in solid, research-based information.

More information can be found at 2015 All Bugs Good and Bad Webinar Series including how to connect to the webinars.  On Feb. 6, participants can use this link to connect to the webinar. Participants can login as a guest within 15 minutes of the start of the webinar.  Webinars will be archived and can be found on the 2015 All Bugs Good and Bad Webinar Series page.

The 2015 webinars are a continuation of the nine webinars in the 2014 All Bugs Good and Bad Webinar Series,  That series included webinars on pollinator health, termites, spiders, ticks, mosquitoes, fire ants, kudzu bug and brown marmorated stink bug.  Links to view these archived webinars can be found here.

The 2015 Webinars are brought to you by the Imported Fire Ants, Urban IPMDisasters, and Pesticide Environmental Stewardship eXtension Communities of Practice; and by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and the University of Georgia Center for Urban AgricultureKathy Flanders is the series coordinator.  Amanda Tedrow, University of Georgia Extension Agents, assists with marketing.   Shawn Banks, North Carolina State University Extension Agent moderates the text chat during webinars.

Upcoming Webinars in the First Friday of the Month 2014 Series

February 6, 2015 — Pesticide Strategy: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Presented by Kaci Buhl, Coordinator, National Pesticide Information Center
Moderated by Charles Pinkston and Danielle Carroll, Alabama Cooperative Extension System Regional Extension Agents

March 6, 2015 — Fire Ant Management Using Baits

Presented by Dr. Lawrence "Fudd" Graham
Moderated by Charles Pinkston and Bethany O'Rear, Alabama Cooperative Extension System Regional Extension Agents, and Vicky Bertagnolli-Heller, Clemson Cooperative Extension Consumer Horticulture Agent and Master Gardener Coordinator

April 3, 2015 —Common Termites of the Southern United States: Biology, Behavior, and Management

Presented by Dr. Robert Puckett
Moderated by Mallory Kelley and Ellen Huckabay, Alabama Cooperative Extension System Regional Extension Agents

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

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween! Today I discuss spiders!

If you have heard me speak about indoor pest control, you most likely have heard me talk about trying to encourage people to not kill spiders they find in the house. The spiders can help to capture and take care of other insects that may be a problem in the home, so leaving them in place is part of a good IPM program. I also often answer the question of what I do for pest control in my own home. Since hubby and I are both entomologists, we really don't get too worked up about many things being in the house. Most things we either leave alone or capture and throw outside. There are some things that I do squish- flies that drive me crazy in the kitchen while I'm trying to cook or silverfish that plague the bathroom (one day the wallpaper will be gone and hopefully with it the silverfish problem). The fire ants in the yard are also baited for each spring and fall followed with treating any mounds that pop up with boiling water.

But spiders....we tend to leave them be. We've had the spider in the photo hanging out right by the kitchen sink for over a month now. No, it's not for Halloween decorating purposes (although that would also be suitable), it's not harming anyone so I leave it alone and it takes care of any other things that wander along. I have a window right above my kitchen sink along with a fly light just to the right of the sink, so it's a great place for a spider web. As you can see it's captured a beetle for breakfast.

Friday, October 17, 2014

FREE Webinars! Alien Invasions! Zombie! Decapitation! (it is getting close to Halloween.....)

Did you miss the webinar from this month?  It's right in theme with the month of October and even has zombies!

All Bugs Good and Bad Webinar Series

Alien Invasions, Zombies Underfoot and Billions of Decapitated Fire Ants

This webinar was presented by Dr. Sandford Porter, a Research Entomologist in the Imported Fire Ants and Household Insects group of USDA ARS Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology.  It was moderated by Nelson Wynn, Regional Extension Agent, Alabama Cooperative Extension Service.

To watch the recorded webinar, go here and click the watch recording button on the top right.

The next webinar will be held on Friday, November 7, 2014 at 1PM CDT.  The topic is a good one entitled "Where have all the honey bees gone? Hope for the future."

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 Health, Invasive Species and Gardens and Landscapes; and by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System

Again, if you want to see the FREE bee webinar, then click here on Friday, November 7th at 1PM CDT.  If you can't make it then, it will be recorded for viewing later.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Baiting for fire ants in the fall

Broadcast baiting for imported fire ants in the fall can help reduce the number of fire ant mounds see in the fall and spring.

Tips for baiting:

  • Make sure the bait is fresh
    • fire ants pick bait up as food, if bait is rancid they will not pick it up
    • fresh bait should have a nutty or corn-like scent (unless it's spinosad bait which smells differently than other baits)
    • rancid bait smells sour
  • Apply bait when fire ants are foraging
  • Red imported fire ant mound.
    • on hot days, fire ants forage in the evening when it's cooler
    • if you are unsure if fire ants are foraging, place out a hotdog slice or potato chip next to a mound and check back for activity after about 15 minutes
  • Broadcasting baits can save time by not having to locate each mound in your yard
    • Broadcasting can also help to get smaller mounds that you may not notice
    • Baits applied at lower rates (1-2 pounds per acre) should be applied using a hand held spreader set on the LOWEST setting
    • Baits applied at rates higher than 1-2 pounds per acre may be applied using a push/ drop spreader calibrated according to label instructions
  • Do NOT water in baits
    • If baits get wet, they become unattactive to fire ants
      • apply baits when rain is not expected for at least 24 hours
      • turn off sprinkler systems
      • apply baits after dew has burned off the grass
  • Organize a community wide fire ant management program
    • Having neighbors bait for fire ants at the same time can help push re-invasion boundaries further out
      • studies show community wide management can reduce the number of fire ants within the community, reduce the amount of money spent on fire ant management and reduce the amount of chemical placed into the environment
  • Make sure to read & follow all label instructions, including utilizing the correct application equipment


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):
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:

The webinar series is brought to you FREE by

Friday, August 8, 2014

Asp caterpillars

I've been hearing reports of people being stung by asps (puss caterpillars).  The larva is the problematic stage for this insect as the caterpillars often fall out of trees and land on unsuspecting people below.  When this happens, the person may get stung.

Image from
The caterpillar has venomous spines which can cause a varying reaction.  There are some people who react more severely to the toxin than others.  The severity of the sting can also depend upon the thickness of the skin where the sting occurs.  Often stings will cause localized burning and redness (usually in the shape of the caterpillar) sometimes paired with swelling.  More severe reactions may cause fever, headache, nausea, vomiting and other symptoms.  If you are stung by a caterpillar and are concerned with your symptoms, seek medical attention.

Smaller instars are yellow in color while later instars turn pale green to white.  The spines containing venom are concealed in later instars by long, soft-looking setae (hairs).

Asps are know to feed on foliage of over 40 genera of plants.  They will often wander to nearby plants when the are preparing to pupate.

If you have large populations of these caterpillars and would like to manage them, you can try Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki (this targets caterpillars only, but will also kill "good" caterpillars).  You may also look for active ingredients such as spinosad or azadirachtin (both naturally-derived products).  These products tend to work best on smaller instars.  Another option would be a residual pesticide labeled for caterpillars that is okay to use on plants.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The flies are everywhere!

Blow fly.
Have you been dealing with as many flies at your house this month as I have?  Whenever I'm cooking there seems to be that ONE FLY that is buzzing around driving me crazy.  I grab the flyswatter and slowly stalk around the kitchen trying to hunt it down.  Sometimes I'm fortunate enough to smack it down out of the air and smash it on the floor.  Most times I whizz the swatter through the air and completely miss which, after about 15 minutes of obsessing over the ONE FLY, really enrages me.

I've been dealing mostly with blow flies, but I've also seen some house flies and this week I had two outbreaks of fruit flies- one in the kitchen and one in the boy's bathroom (we'll come back to this).  I also had the pleasure of discovering maggots all over the garbage can last week when I took out the garbage one morning.  Apparently, something yummy was thrown out and the flies went crazy. The garbage can was sprayed with some pesticide and when I checked on the maggots that evening they were dead.  The fruit flies in the kitchen were coming from and over-ripe pineapple that I had left on the counter; it's now in the refrigerator until I can cut it up.  The fruit flies in the boy's bathroom were a bit perplexing until he told me he threw away an apple core in his garbage.
A glueboard from a fly light I have by the backdoor.

Yes, it's that time of year when fly populations go crazy.  With hot weather, fly life cycles speed up and the population can grow very quickly.  Adults can be killed fairly easy with things like fly swatters.  Some people like to use fly paper or water traps (the fly traps need to be the actual traps that have the stinky pheromone lure, not just a ziptop baggie filled with water), but if you choose to use them place away from doors or areas where you spend your time.

The best way to manage fly populations is to manage the source- where they are coming from.  Some ideas to help reduce flies at your house:
  • take garbage & recycling out on a regular basis
  • clean garbage & recycling bins every few weeks
  • pick up any animal waste and dispose of it several times per week
  • remove any dead/ decaying animals from the area
  • place fruit in a paper bag to ripen

Friday, July 11, 2014

What to do when bees move in

I know that many people are concerned about honey bees and the decline in their population.  I don't want to get into a dissertation on that topic, but instead provide information on what should be done when the turn into a pest.  What?  Did she just say honey bees and pest in the same sentence?  How is that possible?  Well, a "pest" is something that is considered to be out of place, so when honey bees move into an unwanted area (under sheds, water meter boxes, wall voids, etc.) they need to go somewhere else.  Honey bees are capable of stinging and some people are very allergic to the venom, so stinging incidences can be of medical importance.  Taking all of this into account, there are times when bees need to be removed from certain places.

Removing honey comb from a wall void.
Honey bees are a non-native species.  Yes, both the ones that everyone adores and the Africanized bees that are villainized.  These are the same species of bee that are different subspecies.  Many times people talk to me as if Africanized bees are somehow separate and don't do the "good things" like produce honey, wax and other products; they do produce those items but they have the unfortunate nature of often being more aggressive.

So, what should you do if bees move in to an unwanted location?  First, check if it's a swarm or a hive/ colony.  You can find out more about the difference between the two here.  Once you have that down, you will know if you need to wait for the bees to move along on their own or if you need to call someone.  Yes, I said call someone.  This is not something that you should try to do yourself because of the dangerous stinging incidences that can occur.  Options would be beekeepers or pest management companies.  Now before everyone gets into a tizzy, I am not saying kill all bees.  This may have to happen in some cases, but there are times when honey bees can be removed and relocated.  There are beekeepers that provide both services and there are pest management companies that provide both services.  Your job is to contact someone who will provide you with the service that you want at a price point that you are okay with.  And yes, it will cost you to have them removed (with either method).  I know of no one who offers this service for free.  You should be able to look for companies or beekeepers in the phone book or by utilizing an online search.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Webworms invading Austin

I've been receiving calls on webworms that are in trees surrounding Ladybird Lake.  we also have webworms in a tree at the Demonstration Garden.  Since it's a demonstration garden, I'm using the webworms as guessed it!....demonstration.

I'm sure that you have been told (even possibly by me) that you can manage webworms by removing webs and knocking them out the tree with a stick.  I decided to see how well it actually works.  So far, it's going pretty well.  I started two weeks ago when we had a pretty good covering of webs on the tree.  I took a metal pole (actually the handle of an insect net which I had in my office) and removed as much of the webbing as I could from the branches.  I made a pile of webbing and caterpillars on the ground while removing the webs and that got taken to the garbage when I was finished.  I also whacked on the tree branches a few times after removing as much of the webbing as I could to dislodge any caterpillars.  I repeated the process every Monday and Friday.  Today when I checked on the webworms, there was only one small new web spun very close to a small branch.  The rest of the area has dead leaves and some loose webbing clinging to the branches, but the webworms aren't actively there anymore.  I removed the small section of webbing I found today and whacked the branch.  I'll check the situation again on Monday.  While I'm not completely done with the demonstration, so far it is looking pretty good.

Webworms on 6/13/14

Webworms on 6/20/14

Webworms on 6/27/14

Friday, June 13, 2014

New media coverage and a (taped) FREE webinar!


In case you quite haven't gotten enough from me lately, I thought I would share media that I have been involved with lately.

I did a story with KXAN on juniper budworm- you can find that clip here.  Some of the information that I spoke about was not covered in the piece, so you can get the full skinny here.

I was also recently inteviewed on Central Texas Gardener where I discuss a variety of things- you can find that video here.  You can find the clip on their YouTube channel (which you should subscribe to if you like gardening).  You can find my previous interview that covered succulent pests here (I miss my purple hair....).

Here is a link to the story on mosquitoes that ran on Fox7Austin.

Here is a link on AgriLife Today on juniper budworms.

FREE webinar

For those of you that missed the webinar on fire ant management last Friday, it is now posted for your viewing pleasure at

We are taking next month off because of conflicts with the 4th of July.  But All Bugs Good and Bad will be back on August 1, with “Minimize Mosquito Problems” presented by Molly Keck:

More about the All Bugs Good and Bad Webinar series can be found at:

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

FREE fire ant webinar on Friday (6/6/14)

Free Fire Ant Webinar Friday | June 6, 2014

On June 6 AllBugs Good and Bad Webinar on Fire Ant Management, set for 2 pm EDT. 

The webinar will be presented by Wizzie Brown, an IPM specialist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and moderated by Mike McQueen.  You will find links below that you can include in Facebook and Twitter posts. If you haven't promoted this month's webinar on social media, please do so! 

On the day of the webinar, log in at as a guest and enter your name. This will allow you to watch the webinar.


For a quick way to add this to your calendar, or more information about this webinar, please visit 


Look for updates on Imported Fire Ant Social media sites that could easily be shared to your facebook and twitter pages. ( ; Twitter: @fireantinfo ; Pinterest:

Friday, May 30, 2014

Emerald Ash Borer- be on the watch

The Emerald ash borer is currently NOT found in Texas.  It has recently been reported in Nebraska and Colorado, so Texans should be looking for it.  If you suspect that you have these insects, collect samples of the insects and submit them to me or your local Extension Entomologist.

Image from

Emerald ash borers are small (less than the diameter of a penny), elongated, metallic green beetles. Antennal segments 1-3 are cylindrical while segments 4-11 are serrate (triangular or saw-like). These beetles ONLY attack ash trees and can kill a tree within 3-5 years.

Emerald ash borers were accidentally introduced into the United States in the 1990's, but wasn't discovered to be the source of ash tree death until 2002.  They can be easily moved in ash logs and firewood.  There are more tips on how to identify here.

You can find signs and symptoms of infestation here.  

Information on Emerald Ash Borer can be found here.  Texas information on Emerald ash borer (including reporting information) can be found here.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Fire Ant Webinar- FREE!

Guess who is up next month for the All Bugs Good and Bad Webinar Series?  That's right ladies and gentlemen, it's me. So if you haven't heard me talk fire ants previously or want a refresher course, log on.

Here's the skinny:

All Bugs Good and Bad Webinar Series: Fire Ant Management

Learn how to manage your fire ant problem in this webinar by Wizzie Brown (this page has an awful, old picture of me...MUST get it updated soon!), Program Specialist - IPM, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. You don't have to spend a lot of time and money to control fire ants.  A little knowledge about how fire ants live will make you see how easy it is to control them.  Moderated by Mike McQueen, Regional Extension Agent, Alabama Cooperative Extension System and Amanda Tedrow, County Extension Agent, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension. 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 Health and Invasive Species; and by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

The webinar will be held on Friday, June 6, 2014 at 1PM CDT.  You can login for the webinar here.

Remember, the webinars are FREE and they will be recorded so if you miss it then you can watch it later.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Juniper budworm & Spider mites

I've had a few people contact me late last week about their juniper trees (sometimes called cedar trees) turning brown and needles dropping off.  I was able to get a sample sent in from the Liberty Hill area and found webbing along with spider mites.  About 10 minutes after looking at the sample, I got an email from Pat Porter about another problem case with junipers in Central Texas, but this time the culprit was the juniper budworm and was in the Bee Caves area.

Juniper budworm. Photo by Steve Darnell.
You can find more information on spider mites here.

As for the juniper budworm, the caterpillar is the damaging stage.  It is small to medium in size (depending on the instar) and green with a brown head capsule.  The caterpillars, or larvae, feed on juniper foliage and construct silken tubes where they are protected.  The tube is also where the insect pupates.  Adults are small brown moths in the family Tortricidae (also known as leafrollers).

Branch with juniper budworm. Photo by Steve Darnell.
If trees are prized landscape trees that provide screening or shade, then control may be warranted.  For management without chemicals, try handpicking the infested branch tips.  You can place them in a bucket of soapy water or double bag them and throw them in the garbage.

There are natural controls by beneficials (birds, wasps, flies, etc.) that help to mange these insects, so if you choose a chemical control method, choose wisely.  You can target caterpillars only by using Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki.  Other less-toxic active ingredients include spinosad or azadirachtin.  Other possible active ingredients include things such as lambda-cyhalothrin, imidacloprid, carbaryl or acephate.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Webworms and a garden visitor

Webworm caterpillar.
This week-- tomorrow (May 3, 2014)- is the Travis County Inside Austin Gardens Tour.  The AgriLife Extension Demonstration garden is on the tour so our Master Gardener group has been working diligently to get things in top condition (and the garden looks great!).  A group was here on Tuesday and they asked me to come out into the garden to give a quick bug talk.  After we went on a field trip across the street to see a harvester ant colony and a leaf cutting ant colony I headed back to my desk.  Fortunately, a volunteer came in and asked me back outside to see what they found.

Webworm webbing.
In one of the trees, they had discovered webworms (see below for more information on webworms).  Not only were there webworms, but there was a Texas Spiny lizard sitting on top of one of the webs eating the caterpillars.  It was so incredibly cute!

The lizard after its meal.
Webworms are caterpillars that defoliate trees and cause large, unsightly webs on the tips of tree branches.  There are 2-4 generations of webworms that occur each year.  The first generation appears now and the last generation occurs in late fall.  The last generation tends to be the most damaging.

Webworm larvae, or caterpillars, are about an inch long when fully grown.  They are pale green to yellow with tufts of long hairs projecting from their body.  Most people notice webbing that they create on branches.  Webworms feed with in the webbing and use it as protection from predators.  When the caterpillars need new foliage to feed on, hey expand the web.

To manage webworms, try the following:
  • prune eggs masses off before the caterpillars emerge (egg masses are on the underside of leaves and are covered with hairs from the adult moth)
  • prune out small webs when they begin to form in the spring
  • knock webs out of the tree with a stick or a high pressure jet of water; you can also open the webs with a stick or water to allow predators into the web
  • look for products with active ingredients such as Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki, spinosad, azadirachtin
    • even when using a pesticide, you first must open the web to get the pesticide to where the caterpillars are located

Friday, April 18, 2014

Alfalfa weevils

Alfalfa weevil adults are about 3/16 of an inch in length, brown with a dark brown stripe down the back.  Weevils are a group of beetles that often have a long snout.  Larvae are legless, plump and yellow to green in color with a dark head. Both adults and larvae have chewing mouthparts.

Females lay eggs in the stems of alfalfa where the larvae develop throughout the spring.  Pupation takes place in the soil. There is one generation per year and the adults can survive 10-14 months.

Host plants include alfalfa, vetch and various clover.

So why am I, an urban agent, writing about what seems to be a field crop pest?  Well, these little guys and gals have been emerging from overwintering sites and making their way into homes and other structures.  I spoke with a Master Naturalist in Williamson county who said that someone brought in a bag full that was collected from the inside of a home.

If you are dealing with alfalfa weevils invading your house, work on exclusion techniques.  Some ideas include:

  1. reduce outdoor lighting at night or use yellow bug bulbs
  2. make sure weather stripping is in good repair around doors & windows
  3. make sure screens are in good repair
  4. seal any crack & crevices with sealant that will expand with temperature change we get throughout the year
  5. seal any pipe/ wire penetrations
If you want, you can do an outdoor treatment with pesticide around the foundation to create a barrier.  Indoor pesticide treatments are unnecessary.  Clean up any weevils found indoors with a dustpan and broom or a vacuum.

On another note....WEBINAR INFORMATION:

If you missed the webinar on ticks from the All Bugs Good and Bad series, you can find the recording here:

Next month, on the first Friday....May 2nd there will be a new webinar.  This webinar will be titled "Are Those Itsy Bitsy Spiders Good or Bad?"  The 45 minute webinar will be presented at 1PM CDT and given by Dr. Nancy Hinkle and moderated by Charles Pinkston.  The webinar will highlight good qualities of spiders and their usefulness.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

FREE Webinar Friday, April 4, 2014 1PM CDT: Get TickSmart: 10 Things to Know, 5 Things to Do

All Bugs Good and Bad Webinar Series: Get TickSmart: 10 Things to Know, 5 Things to Do

With more ticks in more places than ever before, there's never been a more appropriate time to raise your tick literacy.  Tick encounter rates aren't creeping up... they're soaring.  Just one species, the blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis), transmits Lyme disease and at least 4 additional dangerous infections across a wide swath of the United States.  This tick is not your "regular" tick, although it may be the most common. 

To stay TickSafe and disease-free, there are 10 things you must know about ticks these days.  Once you know about those things, there are 5 top TickSmart actions you can and should take.  No more "hmmms," "uhhhhs," or "I'm not sure."  The Get TickSmart campaign hopes to fast-track your access to knowledge and resources that empower you to be proactive and protected

This webinar will be presented by Dr. Thomas N. Mather, Professor & Director, Center for Vector-Borne Disease and TickEncounter Resource Center, University of Rhode Island and moderated by Shawn Banks, Extension Agent Agriculture-Horticulture, NC State University Cooperative Extension. 

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 Health, and Invasive Species; and by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System

To recap....

What: FREE Webinar on Ticks
When: Friday, April 4, 2014 at 1PM CDT
Where: here

This webinar will be taped, so if you have pressing commitments you can watch later.  If you participate in the live session, you will be able to ask questions.

The Webinar from last month "Straight Talk about Termites" can still be watched....just click HERE!

Friday, March 28, 2014

A Lesson in IPM

Last weekend was a learning lesson for the boy.  When I went into his room after his nap, he told me that he had a bunch of ants on the other side of his bed.  He wasn't panicked, but just stating a fact.  I go look on the other side of his bed and discover a bunch of acrobats ants crawling on the floor, the windowsill and the wall.  I told the boy to come over and look at the ants.  He did.  I asked why he thought they may be all over the place.  He wasn't sure.  I asked if it could be because the location the ants were crawling around in was the same location he goes to hide and eat candy in his room.  He thought that I had made a good conclusion.  I informed him that there will be no more food (including candy) in his room.  We then got out the vacuum and sucked up the ants and food crumbs and then played pirates and policemen.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

March 7, 2014 Webinar: Staright Talk About Termites

I know, I's not Friday when I usually post, but I wanted to give you the heads up before tomorrow.  The next webinar in the All Bugs Good and Bad Webinar Series is TOMORROW, March 7th!  The webinar will begin at 2 PM Eastern (1 PM Central).

The Seminar is titled "Straight Talk About Termites" and will be about 45 minutes long.  It is presented by Dr. XingPing Hu and moderated by Mallory Kelley. You will learn how termites live and what you need to know to prevent them from recycling your things.

For more information on the seminar click here (this will take you to a page with the link to click to login to the webinar).

For information on the entire All bugs good and bad webinar series for 2014, click here.

I hope that you can join us for the webinar.  Remember, the webinars are FREE and will be recorded, so if you happen to have a scheduling conflict, you can watch it later.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Insect Expo 2014

Cockroach races at Insect Expo 2014.
This week I attended the joint meeting for the Southwestern Branch of the Entomological Society of America and Society of Southwestern Entomologists.  It's always great to attend the meetings and find out about recent projects and research, but I especially enjoy Insect Expo.  This years Expo had over 150 volunteers and about 1200 students.  It was a huge, bug-loving festival and it was amazing. It was wonderful seeing volunteers from all over the southwest teaching students from the San Antonio area about insects.

There were booths with live arthropods, cockroach races, insect cooking, bloodsucking insects, maggot art, insect life cycles, honey tasting, beekeeping, pollination plus a whole lot more!

This amazing event was organized by Andrine Shufran of Oklahoma State.  Andrine is always enthusiastic about teaching about insects and heads up Insect Adventure.  A big THANK YOU to her for organizing and heading the event.  Also, thank you to all the sponsors and volunteers who helped out at booths and behind the scenes.

Friday, January 24, 2014

All Bugs Good & Bad Webinar Series- begins Febraury 7, 2014!

The eXtension All Bugs Good and Bad Webinar series is set to begin February 7, 2014. Dr. Kathy Flanders, an entomologist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, says the series is a continuation of the Don’t Bug Me Webinar series with an emphasis on good and bad insects that affect people every day.

“This webinar series will feature insects that affect homeowners and gardeners,” says Flanders. “These insects fall into two categories and we hope to provide information that is beneficial when treating your gardens or crops and pest-proofing your home, yard, family and pets.”

Webinars will be held the first Friday of each month at 2 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. The first webinar in the 2014 series will highlight pollinators, which are good bugs.  "If flowers are restaurants to bees, then what are bees to flowers?"  will be Friday, February 7th at 2 p.m.

Dani Carroll, a region Extension home grounds agent, will be moderating the February 7th webinar. She says it is imperative to know the importance of the role pollinators play in the world around us.

“Bees and other pollinators are essential in production of more than two-thirds of the world’s food crop species,” Carroll says. “The necessity extends beyond things we grow in our back yard, like squash and apples. Alfalfa is instrumental in the meat and dairy industries and its growth depends on pollination.”

Upcoming webinar topics include pollinators, termites, ticks, spiders and fire ants.

Flanders says The All Bugs Good and Bad Webinar series is designed to provide useful tips for those interested in solid, research-based information.

More information can be found at All Bugs Good and Bad 2014 Webinar Series  including how to connect to the webinars.  On Feb. 7, participants can use this link to connect to the webinar. Webinars will be archived and can be found on the All Bugs Good and Bad 2014 Webinar Series page.

All Bugs Good and Bad webinars are an extension of the seven webinars in The Don’t Bug Me Webinar Series, which spanned most of 2013, and included five webinars discussing fire ants, tramp ants, bed bugs and insects that invade homes.  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, Urban IPM, Bee Health, Invasive Species, Gardens, Lawns and Landscapes, and Disasters.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Continuing Education Classes for Private Applicator License Holders

Our Ag agent is still working to get all of the credits worked out with TDA, but Texas A&M AgriLife Extension will be holding two days with a total of 15 hours of credit.  Yes, they will be long days, but they will be filled with exciting speakers!

Both classes will be held with limited registration at the:

Travis County AgriLife Extension Office
1600 B. Smith Rd.
Austin, TX 78721

February 5th - 8 hours - $70 - Beef & Brush Focus
(pre-registered & pre-paid by check or money)
Lunch & Snacks Included!!!
Registration at 8:15 AM, program starts at 8:45 AM
Program scheduled to end around 6:30 PM
1 Laws & Regs, 1 IPM, 1 Drift, 5 General
Topics will include:
Feral Hog & Predator Control
External Parasites in Beef Cattle
Brush Control 
Special guests: Dr. Bob Lyons, Dr. Rick Machen & Dr. Sonja Swiger, Jacob Hetzel & Stefan Hunt

February 13 - 7 hours - $65
(pre-registered & pre-paid by check or money order)
Dinner & Snacks Included!!!
Registration at 11:30 AM, program starts at Noon
Program scheduled to end around 8:30 PM - Class is great for those that can't get away in the mornings!
1 Laws & Regs, 2 IPM, 4 General
Topics will include:
Pests in our Pecan Orchards
Plant Selection
Best practices for Integrated Pest Management
Special Guests: Dr. Bill Ree, Wizzie Brown, Daphne Richards, & Beau Whisenant

If you register for both classes, the total will only be $120!  Just think how good it will be to get those hours done!

A detailed class schedule will be posted soon, but I wanted to get this out to you all ASAP!  Since it is limited registration, I encourage you to email Sue: or call 512-854-9610 to reserve your seat NOW!  Both classes are currently pending TDA approval on hours.