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.