Friday, December 11, 2015

Gift list for insect lovers

With the holidays coming up, I thought I would pull up some gift ideas that have caught my fancy.  I'm sure that y'all don't have too many bug-lovers on your gifting list, but in case you do, here are some ideas.

Bee nose ring by Rock Your Nose Jewelry.

First up is a sterling silver bee nose ring because, c'mon....who wouldn't want a bee in their nose?  I have some bee earrings, but I may need to consider getting my nose pierced now just so I can really show off my love of insects with this. Nose ring sold by Rock Your Nose Jewelry on Etsy.

Beekeeper face jug by Grafton Pottery.
I must say how much I LOVE this beekeeper face jug.  It's custom by Michael Grafton who has some amazing stuff on his website.  I definitely will be saving up my hard earned dollars to buy a piece of his art.  It is AMAZING! I think that I'll lean towards one of his ocean/ underwater themed pieces....I have a thing for octopodes! (did you know that was the true plural form of octopus?).  You can find Grafton Pottery's blog here and his Facebook page here.

3-D printed beetle bracelet by Paralogical.

Next up we have a 3-D printed beetle bracelet by paralogical that you can find and purchase on  This is a really cool bracelet not only because of the design, but also because it's 3-D printed.  Technology is a wonderful thing sometimes.

Stick bug bottle by Laura Zindel.

I saw these ceramic bottles by Laura Zindel on Pintrest and fell in love with them.  I just picture a cluster of them on the mantle. There are a bunch of different designs available and she also has plates, platters, butter dishes, tea cups and saucers among other things.  There is an ant platter that is wonderfully original.

I could not resist this cockroach backpack although I cannot track down who actually makes it.  All I could find is that it's from Japan....somewhere.  My husband actually showed this picture to me and I have no idea how he found it.  He's not a fan of cockroaches like I am and I can't imagine that he was randomly googling "cockroach" to track down gift ideas for me.  This is the same man that said if I come home with a cockroach tattoo that he will step on it (that doesn't mean it won't happen at some point....).
Backpack Mega- Cockroach....from Japan (somewhere).

Hand drawn insect decorations by The Old Laundrette.

Perfect for decorating a insect themed Christmas tree are these hand drawn decorations found on Etsy by TheOldLaundrette.  I find these very charming...very retro and remind me of old bookplates.

Vintage boot remover.

Do you have trouble removing your gardening boots before you come inside the house?  This may be just what you are looking for.  This is a vintage boot remover that is an insect.  Not only is it useful, but it also is decorative and looks much nicer than most boot removers that I have seen.  This is for sale on Etsy from Brass Attics.

Tang butterfly vase by Carol Long Pottery.

The last one, is certainly not the least as it is extremely beautiful.  It's another piece of pottery, but this one is by Carol Long.  It's a Tang Butterfly Vase and it is AH-MA-ZING!  Look at the gorgeous curves!  I love this design.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Beekeeping 101 class- December 10, 2015

Beekeeping 101: What’s the Buzz?
December 10, 2015
Travis County Extension Office

Cost: $15.00
Must RSVP by December 9, 2015 at 2 PM (Central time)

you will receive a confirmation email once you are on the list.

Seating is limited, so register early

Location: 1600-B Smith Road, Austin, TX 78721

Program as follows:


4:45-5:30    Registration
5:30-5:35    Welcome
5:35-6:25    Honey Bee Biology & Behavior 
6:25-7:10    How to Get Started: Beekeeping Equipment Essentials
7:10-7:15    Break
7:15-8:00    Buying Bees, Installation & Basic Set-up
                       Where Do I Get Bees?
8:00-8:45    Annual Management
8:45-8:55    Ag Land Tax Valuation for Honeybees                                
8:55-9:00    Evaluation & Wrap Up
The program will be co-presented by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Agents and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Master Volunteers.         

Questions?  Call 512-854-9610 or 512-581-7186

Person with disabilities who plan to attend meetings or functions who may need auxiliary aids or services are requested to contact the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service of Travis County at (512) 854-9610 two days prior to the event so that appropriate arrangements can be made.  Educational programs of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, sex, religion, disability, age or national origin.  The Texas A&M University System, U. S. Department of Agriculture and the County Commissioners Courts of Texas Cooperating.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Kissing bugs and Chagas disease

Triatomine bugs, also known as kissing bugs, reduviid bugs and cone-nose bugs, are almost an inch long with elongated cone-shaped heads.  The body is grayish-brown with a wide abdomen that has flattened sides.  The flattened sides of the abdomen stick out beyond the wing margins and are marked with red, orange or yellow stripes.  Nymphs (immatures) look similar to adults, but lack fully developed wings.

There are other insects in Texas that look similar and can be mistaken for kissing bugs.  Many of these insects do NOT bite and do NOT transmit disease organisms.  You can find some common insects that are mistaken for kissing bugs here.

Adults are capable of flying and are attracted to lights at night.  The insects can be drawn towards the house by leaving outside lights on at night.  Once inside, they will find a host and feed at night.  After engorging themselves, they move away from the host to hide in cracks and crevices during the day.  Outside, the bugs can be found in animal bedding or nests such as doghouses, chicken coops or rodent nests.

Some Triatomine bugs carry the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi which can cause Chagas disease in humans, dogs and other small mammals.  T. cruzi, a protozoan, is transmitted via the insect’s feces when it is scratched into a wound or rubbed into a mucous membrane.  Immediate (acute) symptoms of Chagas may be swelling of the face (especially the area around the eye), swelling of other areas of the body, moderate to high fever, but sometimes acute symptoms never occur.  Treatment is available during the acute phase, so see a physician as soon as possible if you suspect Chagas.

To reduce the chance of Triatomine bugs entering the home, work on excluding them.  Some of the following may help to seal the home to keep the bugs outside.
  • Prune trees and shrubs so they do not touch or overhang the house
  • Do not stack firewood or other items against the house
  • Install weather stripping around loose fitting doors and windows- if you can see daylight around a door during the day, then the weather stripping should be replaced
  • Block weep holes in brick or stone fa├žade homes with copper mesh
  • Use stainless steel mesh wire to block access points in the attic (i.e. vents)
  • Keep window screens in good repair
  • Turn off outside lights at night.  If that is not possible, use “bug bulbs” that have a wavelength less attractive to insects
You can find more detailed information on kissing bugs, Chagas, and where to submit samples on this TAMU website.

Also, media outlets in Dallas recently ran a story on Kissing bugs and Chagas.  You can find footage of that here.

Monday, November 16, 2015

A plethora of webinar opportunities

All Bugs Good & Bad Webinar Series

Did you miss the wonderful bed bug webinar presented by Amelia Shindelar?  The recording of the webinar has been posted at:

You can view the recordings of any of the previous All Bugs Good and Bad webinars at:

The next webinar is entitled: "Wildlife in the Backyard - a Double-edged Sword." Tune in on December 4 at 1 pm Central time.

Other upcoming webinars:

Bed Bug Updates for Pest Management Professionals
9am (CST) on December 1, 2015

• Topics will include:
• Best Management Practices
• Customer Service
• Protecting the Company

Understanding Bed Bug Control for Social Service Professionals
9am (CST) on December 3, 2015

Basic bed bug control information particularly relevant to social service workers who do home visiting

• Topics will include:
• Protecting Yourself
• Educating Your Clients
• Resources Available Through the University of Minnesota

Four Steps to Bed Bug-Free Premises for Landlords
9am (CST) on December 10, 2015

• Topics will include
• Encouraging Tenants to Report Infestations Promptly
• Helping Tenants Prevent Bed Bug Entry Into Residences
• Successful Control Procedures – a Partnership between Tenants and Landlords

For more information and to register visit

Friday, October 30, 2015

Central Texas rain and mosquitoes

WOW!  More rain here in Central Texas today....and that is a bit of an understatement.  Work this morning was exciting, if a bit worrying.  We had everyone in the bathrooms for a period of time because we were under a tornado warning.  Fortunately, that didn't last too long for us.  It was good bonding time.  After returning to my office, I discovered water seeping in through the wall and window.  I had to sop up the water and set up a barricade of old t-shirts.  Currently, it's not raining so all is well for now.  Everyone, please be careful and stay safe!

With the all the rain, expect mosquitoes to pop out again.  When it comes to managing mosquitoes, remember the 4 D's.

1. DRAIN- Drain all standing water. Check rain water collection systems (hopefully you have screening to block mosquitoes on your rainwater system), dishes under flower pots, pet dishes, buckets, tree holes and low lying areas in the yard. If you have areas of standing water that it is not possible to drain, try using mosquito dunks (active ingredient Bacillus thuringiensis var. israelensis).
2. DUSK & DAWN- Mosquitoes are most active during dusk and dawn, so try to avoid being outside during the peak times.
3. DRESS- Dress in light-colored clothing with long sleeves and long pants.
4. DEET- Wear some type of insect repellent. DEET is a common insect repellent for mosquitoes and works very well, but there are other options. Other active ingredients to look for are picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus. The Insects in the City blog has a great post on repellents.

Check out the Mosquito Safari website for more information on mosquitoes.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Where do bugs go when it rains?

It's raining!  Wait.  Let me repeat that. IT'S RAINING!!!!

Since it's a rainy day here in Central Texas, I decided to answer a question I often get when I speak to children about insects.  Where do they go when it rains?  If you want to know what they do when it gets cold, see this post.

We all know that insects don't carry around umbrellas to protect themselves from the rain, but should they?  It often depends on the insect's size and the heaviness of the rainfall.  Obviously, the heavier the rainfall, the more difficult it would be for insects to fly.  Some insects are capable of flying during rainfall and can withstand direct hits from raindrops (see this post from Scientific American on researchers bombarding mosquitoes with raindrops).  Other insects do not fare so well so they tend to hide.  Hiding in protected places such as under leaves, leaf litter on the ground, under rocks or logs, cracks, crevices, under the eaves of buildings.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Oak leaf galls

Oak leaf galls.
Galls are an abnormal swelling of plant tissue and can be caused by mites, insects, nematodes, bacteria or fungi.  Galls usually are found on leaves and stems, but can sometimes be found on other locations of the plant.

In this case, the organism causing the oak leaf gall is a wasp.  The gall grows around the insect and helps to protect it from predators and weather.  The gall will also provide nutrients to the wasp until the wasp is fully mature.

The galls do not seriously affect the health of the tree, but they can be unsightly.  Heavy infestations may distort the leaves or cause early leaf drop.  Once the galls are on the tree, there is really nothing that can be done about them.  When you have galls on the leaves, they will eventually drop off with the leaves.

For more information on galls, please see this publication.

Friday, September 25, 2015

FREE WEBINAR on managing cockroaches and ants

Cockroaches and ants!  We don't want them in our houses.  learn practical tips for preventing problems from these pests in this webinar presented by me, Wizzie Brown.

Note: On October 2, the link to the live webinar opens about 15 minutes before the webinar.  If you try to log in earlier, you will ge an error message.

For more webinars in this series, see All Bugs Good and Bad 2015 Webinar Series. The webinars are brought to you by the following eXtension Communities of Practice: Imported Fire Ants, and Urban IPM; and by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and the University of Georgia Center for Urban Agriculture

The link to this webinar is:

Look forward to your participation on Friday, October 2, 2015 at 1:00 pm central time.
If you happen to be unable to attend the webinar, it will be recorded for you to watch later at a more convenient time.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Fig beetles out in high numbers

Have you seen me?

These beetles are velvety green, about one inch long and 1/2 an inch wide.  The top is a dull green with yellow-brown markings on the wings and the underside is bright, metallic green with yellow-orange markings.  Larvae are creamy white, c-shaped larvae with well developed head capsules and legs.  Larvae (also called grubs) can grow over an inch in length.

Green June beetle. Photo by Drees.
Adults are large and conspicuous.  They like to eat thin-skinned fruits (such as grapes, peaches, figs and others) or fermented fruits and some flowers.  Adults may also be found on trees that are oozing sap, but the beetles are not causing the sap to ooze from the tree. Larvae feed in the soil and eat plants such as turfgrass, vegetables and ornamental plants.  Grubs often will emerge from the soil at night and crawl on their backs instead of using their short legs.  Grubs may cause small mounds of soil on the turf that may be mistaken for fire ant mounds or earthworm castings.

To check for grubs, which are the damaging stage, cut several 4" x 4" soil sections in different areas of the turf and look in the root zone and soil for presence of grubs.  It is possible to have grubs in the turf and not see any damage.  If a turf is kept healthy, then it can withstand some damage from insects.

If you feel the need to treat for grubs, you can try nematodes or pesticides.  When choosing nematodes, be aware that they require moist soil to move and parasitize prey.  If you are under watering restrictions, this may not be a feasible option.  Pesticides come in granular or liquid formulations with systemic (i.e. the active ingredient imidacloprid) or contact (i.e. the active ingredient cyfluthrin) modes of action.  Contact products need to come in contact with the grub for it to kill the insect, so it will require watering in to carry any pesticide to the soil where the grubs are located.  Systemic products also require watering in, but the turf will take up the active ingredient into the roots and the grub will get a dose when it feeds on the turf.  Granular products should be applied with a properly calibrated spreader and then watered in.  Always read and follow all label instructions.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Insect Hotels

Insect hotels seem to be the new rage.  Since I happen to LOVE bugs, this is right up my alley!  Two entomology specialists and I will be holding a class to teach people how to create a great space to welcome insects into your yard. 

We will discuss specific plants that can be used to attract insects, how to create water sources and other things that insects require, and how to create homes for insects.  The class will have a hands-on portion where you will create your own insect hotel to take home with you.

Here's the skinny:

WHEN: Wednesday, October 7, 2015
WHERE: 1600 Smith Road Austin, TX 78721 (Travis County AgriLife Extension Office)
COST: $25.00

Register by phone:  979-845-2604

Friday, August 21, 2015

FREE Webinar on Bees, Wasps & Hornets- September 4, 2015

2015 All Bugs Good and Bad Webinar Series

Is it a wasp, a bee, or a hornet?  Why do I care?  Dr. Charles Ray of Auburn University will explain the difference between these creatures, and give practical tips for preventing hornets, yellow jackets and other wasps from ruining your next picnic. 

Moderated by David Koon  and Lucy Edwards, Regional Extension Agents, Alabama Cooperative Extension System. 

Click here to login as a guest and participate in the live event.   Note: on October 2, the link to the live webinar opens about 15 minutes before the webinar.  If you try to log in earlier, you will get an error message. 

For more webinars in this series, see All Bugs Good and Bad 2015 Webinar Series. The webinars are brought to you by the following eXtension Communities of Practice: Imported Fire Ants, and Urban IPM; and by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and the University of Georgia Center for Urban Agriculture.

When: September 4, 2015 1 PM Central
Where: online webinar (you can learn in your jammies!)

Friday, August 7, 2015

Spider mites

Do you have webbing covering plants in your landscape? Or maybe, you have webbing covering some of the leaves on your plants? Check the underside of the leaves for spider mites.

Spiders mites are not insects, but arachnids more closely related to spiders. They are very small, often looking like little dots running around on the leaf surface. If you look with a hand lens, you'll see that adults have eight legs and oval shaped bodies. Immatures resemble adults (except for the first stage out of the egg which only has six legs), but will be smaller in size.

Spider mites thrive and reproduce rapidly in hot weather, so conditions have been great for them lately. A generation can be completed within a week when conditions are favorable. Plants under water stress can become infested with spider mites.

Spider mites cause leaves to get a speckled appearance, called stippling, where the mites suck juices from the plant. Leaves may also turn a yellow or bronze color and eventually drop off. Leaves and other parts of the plant may also become covered with webbing.

So, what to do about spider mites?

  • First off, check that you have an active infestation. Many times people see spider mite damage, but the mites are long gone.
  • Ask yourself if you need to do anything or are beneficials doing the job for you.
  • Avoid spider mites by reducing stress to your plants with planting in the proper location, watering and fertilizing properly.
  • Try knocking spider mites off the plant using high pressure water spray.
  • Be aware that sometimes pesticides may cause spider mites to become more of a problem after they are used.
  • If you choose to use a pesticide, treat the underside of the leaves where spider mites like to hang out.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Seasonal Crickets

Prepare thy-selves people of Central Texas.....they are coming.  I've seen immature crickets around various buildings in Central Texas.  The adult masses are building.

Crickets are about 1" long, dark brown to black with large hind legs used for jumping.  Female crickets have a large, sword-like structure, the ovipositor, protruding from the tip of the abdomen.
The ovipositor is an egg laying structure.

Cricket nymph.

Crickets feed on plant material and other insects.  They can cause damage to seedlings and be destructive to plants when in high numbers.  Males can become a nuisance with their sounds (there's always that one cricket chirping at night when you're trying to sleep).  Crickets can further become a nuisance when masses of them flock to lights at night or when piles of dead crickets form near doorways and other areas, causing a foul odor.

Cricket management is more easily accomplished in the summer months when nymphs, who cannot fly, are present (this is why I am writing this now!).  Most people do not try to do anything about crickets until they are in the adult stage and in large numbers.

Before crickets invade your home try some of the following tips:

  • Turn off lights at night, direct lighting away from the structure or use yellow bulbs which are less attractive to insects
  • Seal cracks and crevices that give entrance to the structure with sealant
  • Remove debris that is stacked near the structure
  • Keep lawn and surrounding landscape tended
  • Stuff weep holes with copper mesh (this will allow air flow into the wall voids, but will reduce accessibility)

Friday, July 10, 2015

Cicada killers

Cicada exoskeleton.
Have you seen any cicada exoskeletons (they look like Garthim from Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal) lately? I found one near my front porch last week.  This time of year, with the cicadas (and their noise) come the topic of today's post- cicada killers.  These large wasps can be startling to see when they fly around trees or low over the lawn.  They reach about 1.5 inches in length with dusky wings, reddish-brown thorax and a yellow and black abdomen.

Cicada killer wasp.
Females are pretty docile, but males are territorial and will fly at you until you leave their area.  Only female wasps (and bees) can sting as the stinger is a modified egg-laying structure.  The female cicada killers create burrows in the ground and then go off to sting cicadas.  The cicadas are paralyzed by the sting and taken by the wasp back to the burrow where she digs a side tunnel, crams in the cicada and lays an egg on it.  When the egg hatches, it will feed on the cicada provided.

That being said, cicada killers can be considered beneficial as they help to cut down on the cicada population.  They can also be considered a pest since sometimes people will have holes all over the yard from the wasps' tunneling behavior.  If you fall into the latter category and want to do something to manage the population, you can sprinkle a insecticidal dust over the holes and tamp it down with your shoe.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Squash Vine Borer

My neighbor asked me why her squash seemingly died overnight. Unfortunately, I had to tell her about squash vine borers (SVB). If you grow squash in Central Texas, you are most likely familiar with this insect and it's damage. If you have not yet had the pleasure of encountering SVB, either lucky you or welcome to Texas or welcome to vegetable gardening!

Squash vine borer refers to a moth that lays reddish-brown eggs singly on the base of squash plants. When the eggs hatch, the larvae bore into the squash stem where they feed on the plant from the inside. So if the insect is on the inside of the plant, how can you tell if that's the problem? Typically, there is a hole in the stem where the larvae entered which has yellow sawdust-like frass coming out of it. Larvae overwinter in the soil, pupate, then emerge as adults in the spring to mate and lay eggs. Adult moths are about half an inch long with bright, contrasting colors. The abdomen is bright orange with black dots. The front wings are a greenish-black color and the hind wings are clear, but you typically don't see the hind wings as the wings are folded over the back when at rest.  Damage is death of the squash vine.  Usually it starts at the base of the plant and moves towards the outer parts.

If you have had squash vine borers infest your squash, vines should be removed and destroyed (not composted unless you are sure your compost pile temperature reaches high enough to kill insects) soon after squash harvest. Soil can be tilled before planting to reduce the number of larvae that are in the soil. Row cover can be used to protect new crops of squash you may plant, just remember to remove the row cover when the squash has blooms to allow pollination to occur (or hand pollinate). If you leave the squash uncovered, monitor the stems regularly for eggs and squish the eggs before larvae emerge.
You can also try to remove the borer from the stem before too much damage occurs if you catch the infestation early enough. Slit the stem lengthwise with a sharp knife, remove the borer and then cover the cut stem with moist soil and hope it takes root.  Some people may have better luck with squash varieties that root wherever they touch the ground.
On another note, have you been tuning in for the All Bugs Good And Bad FREE webinar series? If you missed one (or all for that matter), you can still listen and get great information!
Here's a link to all of the webinars for 2015.
For the webinars that have already occurred, you can click on the topic you are interested in learning more about and it will load that presentation page. At the top right corner there is a "watch recording" button. Click on that and you will be able to listen to the webinar.

Thursday, June 11, 2015


Ahhhh....the joys of rain.  While we haven't had rain in the past week, we are still dealing with the rain the we got in May.  I've been getting a lot of questions about mosquitoes of course.  I've also been getting questions on chiggers.  This is one that we really haven't had to deal with since it's been on the dry side.

Chiggers are the larvae, or immature stage, of a mite. These larval mites climb onto people when they walk through infested areas. The chiggers climb up the person's body seeking out a suitable feeding spot. They prefer to feed in areas where skin is thinnest or where clothing fits tightly. This often leads them to ankles, waist area, behind the knees, armpits and the groin area.

Chiggers do not- let me say that again....DO NOT- burrow into the skin as many people believe. "Smothering" them by painting the bite area with nail polish will not do anything to relieve discomfort. Instead of burrowing, chiggers inject a digestive enzyme into the skin which breaks down skin cells. The chiggers eat the broken down skin cells. Itching and redness from chiggers is caused by the body's reaction to the enzymes chiggers inject. Itching typically begins 3-6 hours after being bitten, peaks at 24 hours and may last up to 2 weeks.

Try to avoid chigger infested areas. If that is not possible, then here are some suggestions:

  • wear protective clothing: tightly woven items that fit loosely that include long sleeves and pants with shoes and boots
  • tuck pant legs into boots
  • avoid sitting on the ground
  • remove and launder clothing ASAP after being in infested areas
  • shower/ bathe after being in infested areas; scrub vigorously with a washcloth
  • before entering chigger infested areas, use an insect repellent with DEET or picaridin
To treat chigger infestations around the home, try the following:
  • keeping the lawn mowed
  • maintain vegetation; do not allow vegetation to grow high and keep brush cleared
  • fill in any low lying areas that remain damp or moist
  • try treating with residual pesticide sprays (pyrethroids)- read and follow all label instructions!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Flooding and fire ants

I think saying that weather has been interesting for Central Texas as of late is a bit of an understatement.  We have had so much rain that has led to flooding in multiple areas, causing much loss and devastation. While clean-up efforts are underway for various parts of the state, people need to be aware of fire ant movement.  I know this is one the the last things on everyone's mind when looking at the results of the flooding, but it can be important information for those people who are allergic to fire ants.

We all know that red imported fire ants live in the soil.  What happens to them when we have flooding?  Many people may think that they will drown in the flood water.  Unfortunately this isn't true. 

When fire ant colonies are flooded, the ants form living raft by clinging together.  They float along the water surface until they hit dry ground, a tree, rock or other dry object.  Once they come into contact with a dry area, they emerge from the flood waters and take shelter anywhere possible until they can re-create a colony in the soil.  Living rafts of fire ants can take on different shapes from long ribbons to mats to a ball of ants.

Any floating mats of fire ants that are encountered should not be touched or disturbed.  Do not touch them with sticks or other objects as the fire ants will quickly grab onto the object. If working in flooded areas, make sure to wear appropriate clothing.  Long sleeves, pants and gloves will create more of a barrier against fire ants reaching skin where they will bite and sting.  Be aware that fire ants could be hiding anywhere that was flooded.  Wear gloves when picking up debris or other objects.  You may want to spray insect repellent containing DEET on your shoes and pants.

If you encounter fire ants in debris, use a fast-acting contact pesticide labeled for ants, but make sure the products are not sprayed into water as they can be toxic to aquatic organisms.  Fire ant baits should not be used after flooding because many of them are slow acting and colonies will be disorganized and not foraging for food.

Also be aware that fire ants may be showing up in areas that may have not had them previously or areas that were treated.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Occasional invaders during heavy rain- millipedes and pillbugs

I'm loving the rain we've been getting in Central Texas, but it has been leading to some pest problems that people haven't really had to deal with for awhile.  I thought that I would touch on some of them.

The first and foremost for me are millipedes.  Yesterday afternoon when it was raining, I took the opportunity to head outside to look for millipedes for photos.  I could not find a single one.  While disappointed, I knew that I had seen some at home so I figured I could get my photo there.  When I got home I was starving so I started making dinner.  In the middle of cooking bacon (it was a breakfast for dinner night),  I was looking around the kitchen and spotted a millipede walking across the ceiling.  Instead of climbing on the counter to take a picture, I went outside and found plenty to photograph.  After that, I proceeded to pick up about 30 millipedes in various areas of the house.

Millipedes have long, worm-like bodies with a single pair of antenna.  Their body is cylindrical and usually brown in color.  Millipedes have two pairs of legs per body segment and often curl into a spiral for protection or when they die.  They feed on decaying organic matter, though some are carnivorous.

Pillbugs are the other big one that can venture inside when we have heavy rains. Sowbugs and pillbugs are crustaceans (related to crabs, crayfish and lobsters).  They require moist environments and usually die quickly when they move indoors due to lack of moisture. Sowbugs and pillbugs have oval shaped bodies, 7 pairs of legs and 2 pair of antennae (only one pair is easily visible).  Sowbugs have two tail-like appendages that come off the tip of the abdomen.  Pillbugs do not have a tail-like appendage and pillbugs can also roll up into a ball when disturbed (hence the name roly-poly).

Another nuisance pest I should mention are amphipods, also known as scuds.  Calls that I get on these critters are when they have already died inside the home.  Living amphipods are yellowish-brown in color and live in moist areas like under mulch or groundcover.  When we get heavy rain, they can move indoors where they die from lack of moisture.  When the amphipods die, their body turns a reddish-pink color (these are also a crustacean and closely related to shrimp).  You can find more on amphipods here.

If you are having problems with these nuisance pests moving indoors, then you should focus on the outside of the structure to exclude them.  Once things dry out then it should go back to normal.

  • turn mulch often; adjust watering schedules
  • remove any debris laying near structures or areas you do not want pests 
  • allow air to flow through crawl spaces by using the proper amount of ventilation
  • fix any leaking faucets, AC lines, water pipes, etc.
  • make sure gutters and drains carry water away from the structure
  • make sure doors and windows have a proper seal; replace weather stripping, thresh holds, etc.
  • apply sealant to any cracks & crevices and to where pipes or wires penetrate the building
If you are having a mass invasion of pillbugs outside and they are eating your plants (it doesn't happen too often, but conditions are ripe for this right now), then you can try making traps.  I still need to test out what specifically works, but I'm sure you can search for ideas.  If you feel you need to treat for the pillbugs, make sure that you check the product label so you choose a product with pillbugs and sowbugs on the label.  There are snail & slug baits that also can work on pillbugs and sowbugs, but not ALL snail & slug baits control them.  You could also treat with a contact pesticide.  Unfortunately, while those products could work, they should not be applied when it is raining or there is a chance of rain, so pesticides are currently out as an option.

I'll need to cover mosquitoes soon....stay tuned!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Four-lined plant bug

Have you seen me?  Not me, as in me, Wizzie, but me as in me, this bug.  We have them in the demonstration garden and I've been getting reports of them from all over town.  Some people have seen damage, which is often mistaken for fungal damage. I suggest that you head out to the yard and start looking.

Four-lined plant bug with damage.
Four-lined plant bugs are brightly colored.  Nymphs (immatures) are red while older nymphs start to have wing pads with yellow and black stripes.  Adults have fully developed wings that are yellow and black striped.  Adults look similar to- and may be mistaken for- striped cucumber beetles.

These insects have piercing-sucking mouthparts they use to suck out plant juices.  The plant bugs suck out chlorophyll and leave a "window" between the upper and lower epidermis of the leaf. Damage appears as white, dark or translucent spots of foliage.  Feeding may also cause curling and browning.  Fortunately, damage is mostly cosmetic, but if you are trying to eat the foliage of the damaged plant it may become a problem.

The insects feed on a wide variety of hosts, including fruits and vegetables, annuals and perennials and  woody plants.  When disturbed, the insects are fairly good at hiding.  They either crawl to the underside of the leaves or drop to the ground to hide among foliage.

If you feel the need to manage these guys and gals, try insecticidal soap.  If that doesn't work, you can try azadirachtin (neem- concentrate, not oil; it's getting too hot to use oil formulations) or pyrethrins.  If that doesn't work then try a residual contact product.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Caterpillars- buck moth caterpillar, cankerworms and tent caterpillars

The insects seemingly have arrived in our demogarden the past week.  I was out there with Master gardeners this morning and there was a lot to makes me EXCITED (the Master Gardeners, not so much, as many of the insects are eating the plants they are tending so carefully).

So two items have already been covered recently in blog posts written by Dr. Mike Merchant in Dallas, so I'm going to direct to those pages and you can get all your information there.

Tent caterpillar
First are the tent caterpillars.  I had my neighbor find one last weekend and she sent me a picture for identification.  Mike's post on tent caterpillars.

Secondly, would be the cankerworms.  If you have oak trees in your area (and this is Texas, so who doesn't have oak trees, right?) then you probably have seen these or at least evidence of their activity.  Have you seen the silken threads hanging down from trees?  If so, then you have seen webbing from cankerworms.  Again, Mike has a great post on cankerworms here.

The last thing I want to cover is a caterpillar you DO NOT want to pick up.  This caterpillar has branching spines that can deliver a sting if touched.

Buck moth caterpillar
Buck moth caterpillars typically have a background color that is dark, but they can have varying coloration so some can be very light.  The body has white spots and the spines are double branched and form multiple rows along the body.  They can be almost 2 1/2 inches when fully grown.

Buck moth larvae are gregarious and will group together for the first three instars (smaller caterpillar stages).  After the third instar, they will wander off from the other caterpillars to feed on other plants until it is time to pupate.  And remember above how I was talking about oaks in Texas?  Well, that is the preferred food of buck moth caterpillars.

The adult buck moths are quite pretty and have a wingspan of 2-3 inches.  Wings are blackish in color with a white stripe running through the center with dark eyespots. Females have a solid black body while males have a black body with the tip of the abdomen being reddish-orange.

As mentioned previously, you DO NOT want to pick up the buck moth caterpillars.  The branching, urticating spines can deliver a sting when touched.  Reaction from the sting can vary but may include immediate pain, itching, swelling and redness.


Friday, April 3, 2015


There are three main types of termites that can cause problems for homeowners in Central Texas- native subterranean termites, formosan subterranean termites and drywood termites.  To identify termites you will need to obtain soldiers (ones with a hard head with large mandibles) or reproductives with wings.

Native subterranean termie soldier.
Native subterranean termites have nests in the soil and must maintain contact with soil or an above-ground moisture source to survive.  If native subterranean termites move to areas above ground they make shelter (mud) tubes of fecal material, saliva and soil to protect themselves.

Formosan subterranean termite soldiers.
Formosan termites are a more voracious type of subterranean termite.  These termites have been spread throughout Texas through transport of infested material or soil.  Formosan termites build carton nests that allow them to survive above ground without contact with the soil.  Nests are often located in hollow spaces, such as wall voids.

Formosan termites feed on a wider variety of cellulose than other subterranean termites, including live plants, consuming both spring and summer growth wood whereas native subterranean termites feed only on spring growth.    Formosan termites have also been known to chew through non-cellulose materials such as soft metals, plaster or plastic.

Drywood termite pellets (fecal material).
Drywood termites do not need contact with soil and reside in sound, dry wood.  These termites obtain moisture from the wood they digest. Drywood termites create a dry fecal pellet that can be used as an identifying characteristic.  They have smaller colonies- around 1,000 termites- than subterranean termites; they also do not build shelter tubes.

If you are concerned that you may have termites, call a pest management professional to inspect your home for termites.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Crape Myrtle Bark Scale- watch for this new pest and report sightings

There is a  new insect pest that is spreading to crape myrtle trees throughout Texas.  This insect was first detected in 2004 here in Dallas, but it wasn’t until last year that this scale was positively identified as an exotic scale, Eriococcus lagerstroemiae.  In 2014 Texas A&M AgriLife Extension published information about this scale  and most recently, AgriLife employees have worked with the Southern Region IPM Center to create an information clearinghouse and citizen science database for this pest.

Here’s where we especially need your help.  We are asking people in Texas who think they have encountered this pest to report it. The Early Detection and Distribution Mapping (EDDMaps) site makes this process fairly simple.  A person can register on the site and click on this the REPORT SIGHTINGS tab and report a new location for this pest.  A report is verified by pictures, so we encourage folks to take a digital picture of the suspect infested tree. The site allows the inputter to pinpoint down to the precise block or backyard where the infested tree is located. It’s actually kind of fun.

We know that the scale is already present in Houston and College Station; but we have very few reports from east and Central Texas sites.

BTW, control information for this pest is available both on our Texas fact sheet and on the EDDMaps site.  AgriLife employees are also planning research this summer to screen new treatments for this pest that do not involve neonicotinoid insecticides.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Crane flies- Spring is here!

I saw my first crane fly of the year before the cold hit this week.  In my mind, that means spring is officially here.  Crane flies have a bunch of different names that are mostly regional. Around here I hear people call them crane flies or mosquito hawks.   Many people think they eat mosquitoes, but the adults either do not feed at all or feed on nectar. Some people think crane flies are a giant form of mosquito.

Adult flies are tan with very long legs. They are pretty delicate, and often you find them missing legs (see photo). Adults also have a V-shaped suture on their thorax. Larvae are a grayish-brown color and may be found in compost piles, in the soil or other moist environments. Larvae feed on decaying organic matter, but sometimes feed on the roots of plants.

Crane flies can be a nuisance pest indoors when they are attracted to porch lights and move inside when the door is opened. You can either capture the crane fly and move it back outside or try swatting it with a flyswatter or sucking it up with a vacuum hose attachment. Try using yellow bug bulbs in porch lights outside so the lights are less attractive to insects. You can also get a cat...mine loves to hunt and eat crane flies.

Friday, February 20, 2015

All Bugs Good & Bad Webinar Series- Fire Ant Management Using Baits

When: Friday, March 6, 2015 at 1PM CST
Cost: FREE

Learn how to make the biology of fire ants work for you not against you. This webinar presented by Dr. Lawrence "Fudd" Graham from Auburn University will discuss fire ant baits and other control methods.  It will also provide the latest information on the Pseudacteon phorid flies, natural enemies of fire ants.  Moderated by Dani Carroll and Bethany O'Rear, Regional Extension Agents, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, and Vicky Bertagnolli-Heller, Extension Agent and Master Gardener Coordinator, Clemson University.  Click here to login as a guest and participate in the live event.   Note: on March 6, the link to the live webinar opens about 15 minutes before the webinar.  If you log in earlier, you will get an error message. 

For more webinars in this series, see All Bugs Good and Bad 2015 Webinar Series. The webinars are brought to you by the following eXtension Communities of Practice: Imported Fire Ants, and Urban IPM; and by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and the University of Georgia Center for Urban Agriculture

If you missed the previous webinar on Pesticide strategy- the good, the bad the ugly, you can still view it from the link below by clicking Watch recording in the top right corner.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Urban IPM Social Media

Are you on social media?  Are you not quite getting enough buggy goodness?  If so, then check out my social media links!

My Facebook page Urban IPM-

My twitter feed @UrbanIPM

And on Instagram urbanipm

If I get my act together, I plan on releasing a photo on my social media pages early in the week (on weeks that I am not blogging here) to allow people to guess/ comment/ research what it may be and then at the end of the week I will tell what it is and give a bit of information about it.  Hopefully you'll participate (except for you entomologists who already know how to identify all the bugs!).

Friday, January 23, 2015

FREE Webinar: Pesticide Strategy - the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

What: Pesticide strategy- the good, the bad, and the ugly FREE WEBINAR
When: Friday, February 6, 2015 1PM CST
Pesticides are useful tools if we use them properly.  Improper use can harm the user and the environment and lead to secondary pest outbreaks.  Learn how to use pesticides safely and effectively in this webinar presented by Kaci Buhl from Oregon State University.  Moderated by Charles Pinkston and Danielle Carroll, Regional Extension Agents, Alabama Cooperative Extension System.  Click here to login as a guest and participate in the live event.  
Note: on February 6, the link to the live webinar opens about 15 minutes before the webinar.  If you try to log in earlier, you will get an error message. 

For more webinars in this series, see All Bugs Good and Bad 2015 Webinar Series. The webinars are brought to you by the following eXtension Communities of Practice: Imported Fire AntsUrban IPM; Pesticide Environmental Stewardship, and by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and the University of Georgia Center for Urban Agriculture.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Indian meal moths

Last month I found an Indian meal moth in my kitchen.  So what, you say? This insect is probably the most common pantry pest that I get calls on.  And it's in my kitchen.  Which meant I had a task in front of me that I wasn't looking forward to.

Indian meal moths are small moths that fold their wings back to form a triangular shape when at rest.  The wings are light tan with a coppery-red color at the tips. Larvae, are anywhere from creamy- white to yellowish- green to a pinkish color and often are not seen until they are searching for a location to pupate (unless you go digging through the food in your pantry). Larvae spin a cocoon to pupate, usually near where the walls meet, near the ceiling, or in cracks.

Indian meal moth on dog food bag.
So, what was the dreaded task that I had to undertake?  I had to go through everything in my pantry to get rid of any infested items.  If you try to only manage the adults you will not completely get rid of your problem since more adults will emerge and you'll be back to square one. You need to find the source and get rid of it.

Larvae feed on flour, dried fruit, nuts, chocolate, crackers, dog food and a slew of other items. When I started my search, I began at the back of my pantry because that's where old items that don't see the light of day end up.  Since older stored products are more likely to harbor pantry pests, this seems to be a decent strategy in my opinion. I went through and checked everything; even items that haven't been opened.  Problem solved after all infested items were thrown away.

If you can't part with a particular item and would like to still use it, you can either put it in the freezer for a couple of days to kill the insects or you can spread it on a baking sheet and bake it on the lowest oven setting for about 4-6 hours. Once the insects are dead, you can either eat the product with the insects in it (added protein) or yo
u can sift/ pick the insects out.