Author Archives: mike.merchant

Getting tested for Zika






So you and your significant other are considering whether to get pregnant; but the summer’s headlines about Zika virus and its effect on developing babies has you worried.  Or maybe you’ve just returned from traveling to an area where Zika is active.  You’ve not experienced symptoms of Zika, but you’ve been around others with the disease and you know that 4 out of 5 people who get Zika show no symptoms.  You wonder if you might be infectious to your spouse or partner (Zika can be sexually transmitted). In both cases a test… Read More →




Girding our loins for emerald ash borer






The emerald ash borer (EAB) that has devastated ash trees throughout the Ohio River valley and Great Lakes region has finally made its way to the Lone Star State.  So far the beetle has been found in only one location in Harrison County, next to Caddo Lake; but over the next few years it will continue to spread.  As it does, it will slowly change the face of our native forests as well as our urban tree landscape. To prepare for the inevitable changes, Holly Jarvis with Texas A&M… Read More →




New Zika publications






I was asked a few weeks ago if the collective “we” (meaning the whole state of Texas) were going to be ready for Zika.  My answer was a cautious, “I think so”.  If we’re not, it at least it won’t be for lack of trying. Zika is a much different disease than West Nile virus. It has different vectors, mosquitoes that prefer to feed on humans over any other animal (unlike WNV mosquitoes, which mostly feed on birds).  It is also very difficult to detect in wild mosquito populations.  The… Read More →




Quick fix for mosquitoes






This year my wife and I worked all spring to turn our backyard into a flowery paradise.  We installed drip irrigation, planted new plants (including a bunch of perennials for attracting bees and butterflies) and mulched everything against the coming drought of summer. Now that summer’s here, however, the mosquitoes have decided that since everything’s so nice, they want to be in charge.  In fact I believe every mosquito on the block knows about our backyard, making it difficult to go outside for even a few minutes without repellent. You… Read More →




Turning the tide against ash borer?






On one hand, we’ve learned a lot about how to fight emerald ash borer with pesticides in the past 14 years since it was first discovered devouring ash forests in Michigan.  But we’re still learning how nature keeps EAB in its place in its native Asian home.  Insect parasites and predators are almost certainly the reason EAB is not a major pest on the other side of the globe. If only we could put some of those same beneficial insects to work for us!  Then maybe we could… Read More →




Closer than you’ve ever been






Photographer Levon Biss started out with portrait and sports photography, but got hooked on insects.  Now his extreme photographic skills have landed him a gig at the Oxford University’s Museum of Natural History. Biss shoots his images through a microscope to create scenes that no human eye has seen before. That’s because, even for an entomologist with a very good microscope, it’s impossible to see a full insect, like the mantis fly image shown here, in complete focus all at once. Biss achieves this by piecing together around 30… Read More →




Emerald ash borer enters Texas






If you’re a Texan and haven’t heard about an insect called the emerald ash borer, that’s about to change.  The emerald ash borer (EAB) is an invasive beetle that feeds almost exclusively on ash (Fraxinus spp.) and has been slowly spreading through the eastern and midwest states from Michigan where it was first discovered in 2002. On May 23 the Texas Forest Service, along with the U.S. Forest Service, announced that four EAB beetles had been discovered on a trap in Harrison County, TX along the Louisiana border.  Although… Read More →




2016 Entomology Specialist Training Announced






One of the great opportunities offered to Master Naturalists and Master Gardener volunteers in Texas is a wide array of specialized training opportunities.  Entomology has its own version of this with Master Volunteer Entomology Specialist training. Offered every year, MVES training is a multiday event designed to expand on normal entomology training every Master Volunteer receives during the internship program.  The curriculum is designed to appeal to both Master Gardener and Master Naturalist volunteers with an interest in insects.  Everyone who completes the course and volunteer hours on… Read More →




New fact sheet on indoor flies






Got flies? A new House and Landscape Series fact sheet will help you figure out what you have, and how to search out the source of the problem. Indoor flies are opportunists.  Give them a place to breed, and they’ll be all over the place just like, well, flies.  Knowing where these breeding sites are is much easier when you know what kind of fly is driving you crazy.  Indoor Flies and Their Control (ENTO-050) reviews and provides pictures and descriptions of the most common small and larger indoor… Read More →




First mosquito of the season






Before it’s old news, I wanted to make it official.  It’s Aedes (AID ees) season again in north Texas.  Last weekend I spotted my first Aedes albopictus (Asian tiger mosquitoes) of the season.  So from now until November, get used to having these pesky mosquitoes around. Alex Wild, curator of the insect museum at the University of Texas in Austin (the OTHER Texas University) tweeted his first Aedes aegypti (yellow fever mosquito) of the season a month ago.  Since then I’ve been tempting my local backyard mosquito population with my succulent, winter-white legs… Read More →