Category Archives: Public health

Bracing for ZIKA






Will Zika be the next mosquito-borne disease to capture headlines in 2016?  Or will it be the little disease that few (at least in the U.S.) have heard of?  That’s the question being debated by public health officials this year. For many years it seemed like new things happened relatively slowly in public health in Texas. In the mid 1980s entomologists reported the Asian tiger mosquito in Texas for the first time–a daytime-flying mosquito from Japan that is not shy about biting humans. Then in 2002 the first cases of west Nile virus… Read More →




Kissing bug identification requires closer look






Because most of us take little time to look closely at insects, it should not be surprising that recent television stories about “kissing bugs” and Chagas disease have created a frenzy of sorts among people thinking they have captured or seen kissing bugs around the home.  While a few of these have turned out to be actual kissing bugs (genus Triatoma), most are not; and laboratories set up to identify and test kissing bugs have been overwhelmed this month with samples. But not all insects vaguely resembling the pictures you… Read More →




Oak leaf itch mite confirmed in Oklahoma






In the latest issue of Pest Alerts from the Entomology Department at Oklahoma State University, entomologist Justin Talley reports finding evidence of a biting pest that has not been seen in Oklahoma or Texas for over ten years. The oak leaf itch mite, Pyemotes herfsi, is cousin to the straw itch mite–a predatory mite often associated with stored grain and stored grain insects, and known to bite people who come in contact with infested grain.  It was first reported in the U.S. from Kansas in 2004, a year… Read More →




Tougher head lice in schools this year






Sending your children off to the first day of school comes with plenty of concerns.  Will they enjoy their new teachers?  Will they make good friends?  But one concern often overlooked in the rush of the new school year is head lice. Now the last thing anyone should stress over when it comes to schools is head lice.  But with a new school year, reports of head lice always go up.  And according to a new paper delivered at the American Chemical Society and reported this week in Smithsonian.com, this year’s head… Read More →




Mosquito threat highest Now






In 2012 Dallas was the national epicenter of a West Nile epidemic.  A mild winter and very hot summer combined to make conditions that resulted in approximately 400 reported cases and 19 deaths in Dallas county alone.  While 2015 has not approached the mosquito numbers or disease transmission potential of 2012, this year’s data suggests that risk for getting a WNV infection from a mosquito is peaking higher than any time since then. Traditionally the potential for WNV transmission peaks in August and this year looks like no… Read More →




Mosquito news release out today






Probably most of you don’t need to be told mosquitoes are bad right now and it has to do with rain.  But Texas A&M AgriLife Extension just posted a news release on the subject that might shine some light on why, and what you can do.  Check it out at http://today.agrilife.org/2015/05/28/texans-expect-mosquito-explosion/ 




Time for repellents






Yesterday the Texas Department of State Health Services announced the first 2015 case of West Nile virus in Texas.  Coincidentally, Dallas County Health and Human Services issued a health advisory reported the first positive mosquito pool of the year was collected Wednesday. And to add insult to injury, this week my wife and I both got our first chigger bites of the year. All of this is a good reminder that summer is around the corner, and that insect repellent is our best defense against the less savory… Read More →




Getting cities ready for mosquito season






After the horrible year for West Nile virus in 2012, many Texas cities woke up to the need to devote more people and health department resources to mosquito management.  To assist cities in training employees in the area of mosquito abatement, Dr. Sonja Swiger with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension has begun offering workshops covering the basics of mosquito identification, biology and control. This year we will have workshops in nine cities, including Dallas.  Dates and links to brochures and registration information are listed below.  If you work… Read More →




Kids, bee careful out there






Entomologists often walk a fine line between sounding alarmist and underplaying the importance of pest problems. Africanized honey bees and children are a good example. The potential seriousness of living with these bees was underscored yesterday when a gym class of middle schoolers disturbed a bee hive in a water controller box on a campus soccer field.  According to news accounts, 20 students were stung, and several were taken to the hospital. Presumably the bees in this case were Africanized. Coincidentally this month, BBC News magazine interviewed Texas A&M entomologist,… Read More →




Late chigger season






It’s October, I’m still scratching chigger bites.  Two weeks ago I gave a talk for Master Naturalists at the Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge headquarters, and we took a 15 minute “field trip” to the flower garden around the building.  The next day I counted 30 plus bites.  Last weekend I swear I never left a sidewalk, and still felt the tell-tale itch of chigger bites. It could be just me but I’ve been getting calls from others, too, about chiggers over the past month. Chiggers are my personal least… Read More →