Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope today you take the time to reflect upon all that you are thankful for.

While I am overwhelmed with the number of amazing things in my life that I am thankful for, there is one I want to mention here.  I am so grateful for the people in my life, including all of you.  You provide me with the opportunity to educate others about insects and other arthropods.  When I was growing up and playing with bugs, never did I think that I would someday enjoy a job where I got to learn and teach about insects.  I am so fortunate to have a job that I love as well as an audience who cares to learn the information that I provide.  Thanks go out to all of you.  Have a joyful Thanksgiving!

And I'll leave you with the boy helping daddy haul firewood with one of his birthday gifts....

Friday, October 28, 2011

Upcoming structual CEU clasess

If you are licensed by the Structural Pest Control Service and still need to obtain some CEU credits before the end of the year, keep reading!  I'll e holding CEU classes on two consecutive days.  Here are the details:

Date: Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Time: 8:30- 11 AM
Location: 1600-B Smith Road Austin, TX 78721
CEUs offered:  IPM and pest
Cost: $30 per person

Date: Thursday, November 10, 2011

Time: 8:30- 11 AM
Location: 1600-B Smith Road Austin, TX 78721
CEUs offered: termite and L&O
Cost: $30 per person

Please RSVP by 5PM on November 4, 2011.  You can either call me at 512-854-9606 or email me at  Payment (by check) is due the day of the training.  Checks should be made out to Texas AgriLife Extension Service

Friday, September 16, 2011

South Texas Farm & Ranch Show

The South Texas Farm & Ranch Show is a non-profit, volunteer managed event that was organized to provide South Texas agribusinesses and its representatives the opportunity to relay to farmers and ranchers the advancements in technology, equipment, seed genetics, etc.

The South Texas Farm & Ranch Show is coordinated by the Show Committee and Texas AgriLife Extension Service - Victoria County.

So why am I promoting something in Victoria?  I am speaking about insects on the second day of the show.  So if you live close to Victoria or you're bored and want to take a road trip, head on down (over, up) to hear my talk- it's on Thursday, October 27, 2011 1- 5 PM.

So here's the skinny"
What: South Texas Farm & ranch Show
Where: Victoria Community Center- 2905 E. North Street Victoria, TX
When: October 26-27, 2011 (my talk date & time listed above)
Cost: entrance to the show is FREE; $5.00 per day to attend educational programs

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Texas Wildfires

I'm sure that all of you are very much aware of the wildfires across Texas currently.  I wanted to provide links to information on the wildfires from the Texas Forest Service.  They have a page providing current information for fires across Texas.

More information or to help:

Texas Forest Service Donation

Central Texas Red Cross

Spirit 105.9 has a great list of resources for those in Central Texas.

Road closure information from TxDOT

Friday, September 2, 2011

Veggie Pests & Spiders- Upcoming Programs

I have two programs coming up that are open to the public.  Here are the details:

Veggie Pests
When: September 23, 2011 (Friday) 10-11 AM
Where: 1600-B Smith Road Austin, TX 78721
Description: Identification & management of common veggie pests.
Cost: FREE

When: October 7, 2011 (Friday) 10-11 AM
Where: 1600-B Smith Road Austin, TX 78721
Description: Identification of common spiders.
Cost: FREE

No need to RSVP, just show up for the program that you want to attend. 
The programs are available for Travis County Master Gardener educational hours (1 hour for each class).
For more information on the programs call me, Wizzie Brown at 512-854-9600.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Green Insect Traps Around Austin

Have you been seeing green insect monitoring traps around town?  If so, you're not the only one.  I've been getting numerous calls/ emails asking what I'm up to and the answer is...nothing.  The monitoring traps are actually from the Texas Department of Agriculture's Pest Survey Program.  They are monitoring for gypsy moth.

In 2005, a single male Asian gypsy moth was found in Travis County near US HWY 290 in southwest Austin.  A management plan was created and carried out to handle the threat this pest caused.  Since then, every other year the Texas Department of Agriculture monitors for gypsy moth.  TDA places 1,000 traps at various locations throughout Travis County and monitors them from May through September.  So far, no further moths have been recovered since 2005.

The current round of monitoring will carry on through September and traps will be taken down starting in October.  Since there are 1,000 traps that need to be taken down, it may take some time.  For more information, contact the Texas Department of Agriculture's Pest Survey Department at 512-463-7619.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Inside Austin Gardens Tour

When: Saturday, May 14, 2011, from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm
Cost: single entry $5 OR $10 pass for entry into all gardens
Event occurs rain or shine

This year, the tour focuses on water-wise gardening.
The Inside Austin Gardens Tour 2011 will include gardens that feature rain-water collection systems, drip irrigation, xeric and native plant selections, rain gardens, shade gardens, and water-conserving practices. As in years past, the event will include gardening demonstrations and education sessions at each location.
I got a sneak peek of some the gardens this week and was blown away by the variability of water conservation ideas.  I am looking forward to not only seeing the gardens I didn't get a peek at but also having the opportunity or taking a second look at the gardens to figure out what I can incorporate into my own garden.  Sometimes I look at my yard and get overwhelmed and think that I have such a long way to go.  These gardens show that I can do this- it just takes some planning, hard work and time.

Here are my thoughts on the gardens I toured.

3712 Holt Drive
Mounded lush beds greet you and guide you either to the front door or to the gate that takes you into the backyard.  Bringing in soil and mounding it to create spaces and good drainage is something that I really need to take to heart.  I'm on clay and it's just a bunch of muck when (if) it rains.  There were also many bug related items throughout the garden.  I particularly loved that the owner had a shallow dish filled with pebbles and rocks that can be used by insects for a drink of water.

The backyard seems like a bunch of little rooms to me with seating areas sprinkled about.  There is no grass which would be fantastic- no watering or mowing- but maybe not practical right now for me with the boy around. It does inspire me that I can create a beautiful backyard with much less grass.  I love the dry creekbed with tumbled glass and the mason bee boxes to encourage native pollinators.
3303 Doolin Drive
I have been fortunate enough to watch the progression of this yard.  It began as a large area of St. Augustine grass with bamboo that tended to creep forward more each year.  It's now what I consider zen- I can imagine plopping on the large flat rocks and meditating in the mornings.  I love the dry creekbed that helps direct water to flow down the hill into a rain garden area.  The really amazing thing to me- besides the attention to detail- is that everything was done by hand including moving the cut pieces of sidewalk around to create a new walkway, retaining walls and decorative house number display.

4603 Palisade Drive

One thing comes to mind with this garden (other than my own personal jealousy)- LUSH!  This has the most beautiful hell strip I've ever seen.  I was scheming last night when I got home figuring out when and how I should rip the grass out of my own hell strip to fill with plants.  Walking through the first part of this garden I was amazed at how large and thriving the plants were, a sad comparison to the same or similar specimens that I have at home.

 2303 Spring Wagon Lane

This a is very clever idea that I plan on incorporating soon.  The owner said they get about a bucket of water per day from the AC condensate and they use it water plants in the front yard.  The rain water collection system at this house is also something I aspire to; it's huge!

They have removed grass from the front yard and replaced with Texas sedge for an effect that is visually stunning.  I loved the way that the sedge was little tufts that moved gracefully in the breeze.  There are also berms around the area to stop, keep and direct water to where it is needed.  The backyard is an productive garden with raised beds and berms to grow fruits and vegetables.

I plan on heading to the tour this Saturday, so maybe I'll see you at one of the gardens!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Why an entomologist?

People often ask why I became an entomologist. I've always been fascinated with insects and other arthropods so I guess it was maybe inevitable. How can you look and truly see the insect world and not be blown away by the beauty and complexity that you see there? This video captures pollinators- look at the wonder of the natural world. Enjoy.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Austin's 3rd Annual Funky Chicken Coop Tour

Chickens in the City: Austin's 3rd Annual Funky Chicken Coop Tour

For families looking for something new and different to do this Easter weekend, we invite everyone to come and join the fun at Austin’s Funky Chicken Coops! On Saturday, April 23, 2011, Austin-area poultry keepers will open their backyards to the public for the third year in a row, to show off their chickens and their urban coops. After such a huge turnout for the 2010 tour, with at least 1500 visitors, we knew we'd be having a great time with this year's tour! Chickens and other backyard livestock are growing in popularity. Besides being easy-to-care-for pets, chickens provide insect control, supply delicious fresh eggs, and help create better yards and gardens. Most chicken owners report that it's just plain fun to have them around.

Visitors to the tour sites will see how recycled materials can be transformed into a low-cost coop or how a fashionable coop can enhance a landscape. Our backyard coops show the many ways that chicken (and other poultry) housing can be incorporated into a city residence without violating city ordinances or creating a nuisance. Many of the homes on the tour have featured various alternative energy sources, such as solar panels, along with other environmentally sound practices such as rainwater harvesting and xeriscaping. A lot of the coops on the tour also have interesting and unusual features; for example, one of our tour hosts on this year's tour keeps dairy goats along with chickens and another has a chandelier inside the coop!

Our organization, Austin Funky Chicken Coop Tour, operates in association with another local organization, The Sustainable Food Center, The tour will be a fundraiser for the first time this year, with all proceeds (after expenses) to be donated to the SFC. The SFC will be raffling off prizes donated by our sponsors throughout the day at our Information Center on the day of the tour, located at Buck Moore Feed and Pet Supply at 5237 North Lamar Blvd. All attendees are eligible to enter a free raffle to win a brand new chicken coop from our sponsor Mobile Chicken Coops! The coop will be donated by Josh Hudgins of Mobile Chicken Coops: The drawing will be held shortly after 4:00 pm, following the end of the tour.

2011 will mark the first time for us to offer a commemorative poster. Artist Joe Wirtheim, of, has created unique artwork for the tour. Wirtheim is an artist advocate who is using his art to promote civic innovation and social progress through better food, better gardens, and better cities. These posters are available through his Etsy Store Our commemorative T-shirts, based on the poster design, are available at the SFC Farmer’s Markets as well as Buck Moore Feed and Pet Supply, while supplies last.

Urban chicken-keeping continues to be a growing trend and The Funky Chicken Coop Tour will include coops all over the Austin area. We're hoping to have more people than ever interested in checking out what Austin poultry people are doing to keep their birds housed and happy. Maps to the coop locations can be downloaded from our website at You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Printed copies of the map will be available in limited quantities at select locations, also listed on the website. So, make some time on Easter weekend to check out this free event. The free, self-guided tour will run from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m, rain or shine.

TIME AND DATE: April 23, 2011

10:00 am - 4:00 pm

Rain or Shine



CONTACT: Christy Sanders


RESOURCES: See our website for chicken coop tours in other cities and other urban poultry resources.

***** The Austin Funky Chicken Coop Tour is held in partnership with Sustainable Food Center, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Your contribution as a sponsor is a tax-deductible donation. Proceeds from the event will benefit Sustainable Food Center Thank You For Supporting The Austin Funky Chicken Coop Tour!!!!

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Texas AgriLife Extension Service has a rich history of providing educational programs based on community needs in Travis County. In order to make sure that the programs being planned for the future are on target, we invite your participation in an Online Issue Forum to identify critical issues that Texas AgriLife Extension could address through educational programs.

If you would like to know more about our Extension program before taking the survey, check out our overview video.

To participate in the online survey go to:

Electronic Issue Identification Forum

The online survey should take you no more that 10 minutes to complete, and will provide us with valuable insight into the issues facing Travis County residents. Your opinion is highly valued, so we truly hope you will take a few minutes to participate.

The online forum is currently open, and will remain open for input until midnight on May 4th. Should you have any problems with the online system, please contact the Extension office at 512-854-9600.

Thank you for taking a few minutes to help chart the course for your Travis County Extension programs.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Sowbugs & Pillbugs

Everyone stop and pause and let's all take a deep, collective breath. Okay, now everyone think thoughts of rain- a nice, steady drenching rain.

So what does rain have to do with the pillbugs? Have you noticed pillbugs crawling seemingly everywhere lately? I'm thinking that- at least in my yard- they are anxious to find a nice, moist environment to hang out. Since there hasn't been any rain (let's all agree there's been rain, but nothing significant) and I haven't been watering regularly, the pillbugs are desperate for moisture.

Pillbugs and sowbugs are a type of crustacean and related to crayfish and shrimp. They have oval bodies with 7 pairs of legs and 2 pair of antennae. Sowbugs have two tail-like appendages that come off the end of the abdomen. Pillbugs do not have the appendages, but pillbugs are capable of rolling up into a ball when disturbed (these are what people often call roly-polies).

These are the only crustacea that have adapted to live their entire lives on land, but they still need a moist habitat to survive. They feed on decaying organic matter, but will occasionally feed on tender, young plants. They really don't do a lot of damage when they feed on plants unless you have very large populations.

If you have sowbugs and/ or pillbugs wandering around your home, I wouldn't be too concerend. If they find their way into the house, you can just scoop or sweep them up and move them back outside. When you have large populations causing plant damage try to reduce moisture in the area and remove areas where they might hide (heavy mulch, stones, logs, etc.).

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Fire Ant Informational Webinar

Solve Your Fire Ant Problems with Help From the Experts

Please join us at: Thursday, April 21st from 11:00-12:00 AM Eastern time (10:00-11:00 Central time, 8:00-9:00 Pacific time)

For those unfamiliar with eXtension (pronounced “e-extension), this is the national initiative involving Extension professionals across the nation in outreach educational efforts on a variety of topics. The Imported Fire Ant”Community of Practice” or CoP (see involves fire ant research and extension educators from all fire ant infested states. Through the power of the internet and social networking efforts, this group provides practical solutions to imported fire ant problems representing the consensus of “best management practices”. The upcoming webinar will be brought to you by The Imported Fire Ant eXtension Community of Practice. This webinar will present the information that you need to know to control fire ants. It is actually easy to kill the fire ants that are bothering you, once you understand how they live. You will learn how to apply the integrated pest management tactics that are as economical and environmentally friendly as possible. This interactive experience can provide an opportunity to communicate directly with fire ant specialists and seek answers to specific problems you may be encountering. Please join us for this discussion!

Moderator: Dr. Kathy Flanders, Associate Professor, Auburn University.


· How Can You Tell if You Have Fire Ants? Dr. Jason Oliver, Research Associate Professor - Entomology · Tennessee State University

· Understanding the Biology and Behavior of Fire Ants Makes it Easier to Control Fire Ants, Dr. Timothy Davis, Clemson University

· Managing Imported Fire Ants, Dr. Bastiaan Drees, Professor, Texas A&M University

· Biological Control of Fire Ants, Dr. Lawrence Graham, Auburn University

How to Participate: Please log in as a guest at:

For more information about fire ants, please go to:

Friday, March 4, 2011

Get Your Bug Nerd On-- Entoblitz!

Entoblitz was hatched from an idea by Will Godwin, a teaching assistant I had while in graduate school at Texas A&M. It's a way to bring together insect enthusiasts of all kinds to experience camaraderie in a field experience. Participation is open to anyone with an interest of collecting and/ or observing insects in the field.

2011 Entoblitz

April 22-25, 2011
Elephant Mountain Wildlife Management Area

If you are interested in participating, contact at so that you can be added to a mailing list for further information.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Termite Management for Homeowners

Sun Tzu said "If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles."

Most people don't think about termites until they have to, and generally that is when they find termites eating their home. While that is also the approach that I take, it's always good to have information before a problem becomes a problem so that you know your options...know thy enemy, right?

I am holding a class on termites next week and again in March. The class, I hope, will arm homeowners with information so they feel comfortable discussing management options for termites with pest professionals. Do you know how termites look for food? Can you tell the difference between ants and termites? Come to learn how to identify the types of termites found in Central Texas and their management options.

February class details
When: Thursday, February 17, 2011 9:30- 10:30 a.m.
Where: Travis County Extension Office 1600-B Smith Road Austin, TX 78721

March class details
When: Wednesday, March 30, 2011 1:00- 2:00 p.m.
Where: Travis County Extension Office 1600-B Smith Road Austin, TX 78721

Friday, January 21, 2011

Carpet beetles...and other things

Exciting news to start off with- we are back in our office! While we're still unpacking, trying to move furniture and put things back together, it's still great to be back. It's a process, and each day brings us closer to I just need to find my desk!

So, I had someone drop a sample off this week and it turned out to be carpet beetles. Carpet beetles can be found outdoors on crape myrtles or shrubs or in bird and rodent nests. These cute little guys and gals can become a pest in the home under the right conditions. They seem to prefer dark, secluded areas.

Carpet beetle adults are small, round to oval shaped and often brightly colored. Larvae are small, tan and ringed with bands of long hairs.

Carpet beetles like high protein foods, usually animal based, but they can also feed on plant material. This often allows them to be found in a variety of locations throughout the home. In the pantry, you may find them in items such as powdered milk, dried meats (jerky) or pet food. Other areas of the home they can be attracted to items made from wool, fur or feathers, areas where dead insects accumulate (i.e. light fixtures), leather book bindings, hair, silk or dried plant products. Adults do not feed on animal products; they feed on pollen and nectar.

A program utilizing sanitation, exclusion and insecticides should be able to get a carpet beetle problem under control. Tip for carpet beetles:

  • Clean accumulations of hair, dead insects and bird, rodent or wasps nests
  • Regular cleaning of rugs, carpets, upholstery, etc. (make sure to get along edges)
  • Inspect animal based items (mounted trophy animals, leathers, wools, silks, etc.) once a year to avoid infestations
  • Store items in sealed, air-tight containers
  • Infested items (if possible, depending on the items) can be heated or cooled to kill any beetles- freeze 2 weeks at temperatures below 18°F or heat for at least 30 minutes to temperatures above 120°F
  • Insecticides should be used as spot treatments- make sure carpet beetles are listed on the label as well as the area/ item you are treating; make sure the product will not stain
For more information on stored product pests, see Pantry and Fabric Pests in the Home.