Category Archives: Uncategorized

Mosquito-proof your yard

The year 2012 is turning out to be one of the worst years in north Texas for West Nile virus since the disease crept into the state in the late 1990s.  As of last Friday, there were 115 total human cases of West Nile virus (fever and neuroinvasive forms included) in Dallas County alone.  And the summer, and peak WNV season, is far from over. Do-it-yourself Options There are several simple things everyone can do to fight back against mosquitoes. When going outdoors, using a personal repellent remains… Read More →

A Texas bee with strange bathroom habits

Every now and then I learn about a new quirky insect so interesting that I have to pass it on.  This week’s curiosity comes courtesy of Ken Steigman, entomologist and Director of the Lake Lewisville Environmental Learning Area in Lewisville, TX.  Ken sent the accompanying image taken by a friend.  What caught his eye were the distinct white pellets so neatly placed around the entrance to the mound. According to Dr. John Neff, with the Central Texas Melittological Institute in Austin, the builder of this neat little nest is… Read More →

Giant bark aphids

The giant bark aphid, Longistigma caryae, is the largest aphid in North America. Despite its large size, I rarely receive reports of this insect because in most years its numbers are so low. This year, however, Extension specialists have already had multiple reports of the aphid. One of the last times I reported on an outbreak of giant bark aphids was 2002, coincidentally (or not), also during a spring that followed a mild winter. Giant bark aphids are about 6 mm-long (1/4 inch), brownish gray with black spots…. Read More →

An inspiration to all survivors

Are you a survivor?  Then maybe you can relate to the story of the Lord Howe stick insect, Dryococelus australis–at was 12 centimeters long, the heaviest stick insect in the world. It had been as presumed extinct until 2001 when two VERY COMMITTED Australian biologists followed a hunch and climbed up 500 feet in the dark with flashlights to have a look. The story, published in an NPR blog is inspiring and offers a glimmer of hope for anyone who marvels in the diversity of life.  In an age when insect… Read More →

Using pyrethroid insecticides safely

Ten years ago the most common lawn and garden insecticides for consumers contained the active ingredients diazinon and chlorpyrifos (Dursban).  These insecticides were popular because of their relatively quick kill, effectiveness against a wide range of pests, and ability to keep killing for several days to weeks or months.  Today those older products have been completely replaced with a group of insecticides known as pyrethroids. Pyrethroids were judged to be safer both to people and the environment, however recent research has turned up some problems with pyrethroid use… Read More →

Superbowl insect ad

I may be one of the few Americans who didn’t see this ad when it came out during the Superbowl (I missed the first half), but since one of our pest management agents forwarded it this week, I am now up-to-speed. The animation on the ad is impressive, and the artists obviously did their homework in designing their lovable bugs. I identified a caterpillar, bumble bee, ants, two kinds of grasshopper, lady beetles, a praying mantis, dragonfly, and (the star of the lineup, in my opinion) a jumping… Read More →

Would you want your child to be an entomologist?

None of my children showed the slightest interest in being an entomologist when they grew up. In some ways I don’t blame them. I know very few rich or famous entomologists. You probably won’t be asked to sit on a bank board, or have a hospital wing named after you.  But entomology does have its benefits as seen in a new brochure published today by the Entomological Society of America. I remember that when I informed my father that I had decided that I wanted to become an… Read More →

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Its the flea's knees…or not

In this NPR Science Friday video, scientists Greg Sutton and Malcolm Burrows, of the University of Cambridge, filmed fleas jumping.  They then sorted through different theories of how they jumped and concluded that fleas use their feet and not knees to push off the ground and jump on your cat or your dog. The high speed photography is amazing and I especially liked the slo-mo- photography of a flea’s jump compared to the blink of a human eye. An adult flea can jump approximately 13 inches, a little… Read More →

Now's the time for dormant oils

Dormant season applications of horticultural oil can be an effective tactic to kill scale insects and their eggs during the winter months. But with the rapid onset of warm spring weather, the window of opportunity is relatively small in north Texas and many other parts of the state. Armored scale like obscure and gloomy scale are especially difficult to treat during the summer months, so the dormant season when leaves are off the trees is an excellent time to treat with a dormant oil. Oils are physical poisons,… Read More →