Author Archives: mike.merchant

Citrus flatid planthopper






These poor insects.  Stuck with a name that sounds pretty boring–even to an entomologist. And the scientific name is little better: Metcalfa pruinosa is a type of planthopper, a relative of the aphids, scales, whiteflies, and leafhoppers.  It belongs to the family Flatidae, hence the name flatid.  And it is found on citrus, but also lots of other plants. For some reason, these little insects seem to be pretty abundant this year, so you may be more likely to see them in your garden.  They may show up on… Read More →




Tiniest turfgrass pest






A tiny turfgrass pest appears to be on the increase according to researchers and lawn care experts. The Bermudagrass stunt mite (BSM), Eriophes cynodoniensis, is one of our tiniest arthropod pests of lawns. A relative of the mite that transmits rose rosette disease, the BSM lives inside the leaf sheaths of grass.  In home yards it is pretty common (but not often recognized by homeowners as a pest). Golf course managers, on the other hand, who are expected to consistently provide billiard table-smooth putting surfaces, consider BSM a… Read More →




Ticks and summertime






Everyone who agrees with this statement, raise your hands. “The world would be a better place without ticks!” Ha, just as I suspected! Everyone who has ever “gotten a tick” raised their hands. Everyone else has a blank look on their face. For the uninitiated, ticks are eight-legged arachnids more closely related to spiders than insects. While all tick species feed on blood, some feed on wild animals and rarely bite people.  Other ticks readily hitch rides on, and bite humans.  Ticks are most commonly encountered in fields or… Read More →




New infographic on biting and stinging pests






Every now and then we get the opportunity to get a little creative with a partner who shares some of our mission. This month our partner is the Methodist Health System, and MHS Publication Specialist, Sarah Cohen.  Sarah posed a challenge to a few of us subject matter experts, and her creative team, to come up with an infographic that would help inform you about the different kinds of pests in Texas that bite, sting and sometimes infect us. Here’s the final product and a link to the… Read More →




Bed bugs happen: Even in school






A message to all parents with kids in school:  Bed bugs happen. Bed bugs happen even in your children’s school, and like it or not we’re all going to have to deal with it. That will mean fighting the inclination to go into hyper-protective parent mode. Instead we all need to relax.  Deep breaths.  Eyes closed. Find your center.  Breeeathe… it will be all right. It doesn’t matter what kind of school our kids attend, there’s a good chance that sooner or later you’ll hear rumors of bed bugs on campus.  I… Read More →




Boozy beetle: the Camphor Shoot Borer






Every now and then entomologists get calls that border on the bizarre. Last week I received an email from a citizen in far east Texas. He was having problems with what he said were “insects boring into his riding lawn mower gas tank”.  Of course my first reaction was that insects don’t eat plastic, nor do they drink gasoline.  Why should they be boring into a gas tank?  But the caller had photographic proof.  Not only did he have pictures of the holes, he was able to pry about 15 of… Read More →




Bug blitz is a blast






Marking perhaps the beginning of insect season, last weekend the Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area (LLELA) held its first ever “bioblitz”. In case you’ve never heard of a bioblitz, it’s a concentrated effort among volunteers, naturalists and professional biologists to go to the field and document as many species as possible over a certain time period (usually a day).  This year’s LLELA bioblitz included trees, reptiles, birds and insects. Our insect group consisted of myself and three other enthusiastic collectors/photographers (actually, mostly photographers–seems like only entomologists want to… Read More →




Planting to nurture nature






We all have more power than we might think.  In a world where so many things seem out of control, anyone with a small plot of land, or even an apartment balcony with room for a few potted plants can make a small but significant difference in our environment. What we plant in our gardens can do more than just look pretty.  By selecting the right plants we can sustain native pollinators and attract butterflies.  We can create habitat for birds and reptiles and other small animals. Imagine a… Read More →




Lady beetle invasion






  This year Extension offices are receiving an unusually high number of calls about lady beetles inside homes.  The culprit is an exotic lady beetle called the multicolored Asian lady beetle (MALB).  While not new, high aphid  populations in some trees last year are thought to have contributed to this year’s higher than normal number of these “naughty lady beetles”. The multicolored Asian lady beetle is normally a helpful insect that eats aphids.  Studies of the beetle in its native Asian habitats showed that it was such an… Read More →




Benefits of cockroach baits






You may not have cockroaches in your home. But cockroaches remain one of the most important indoor pests of homes, especially in multifamily housing.  If you do have occasional problems with the small kitchen cockroaches, known as German cockroaches, there is good news, and it’s as close as the insecticide shelf in your grocery store. A story Before starting graduate school in entomology I worked as a pest control technician out of college. One of my accounts was a sprawling, multi-story public housing complex. These visits were frustrating… Read More →