Devastation of Monarch butterfly habitat in 2016

monarch butterfly on goldenrod
dead monarch butterflies in snow

Mostly dead butterflies in Sierra Chincua Sanctuary, Mar 11, 2016. Photo by Dr. Isabel Ramirez, Journey North website.

For all fans of monarch butterflies, a new article in American Entomologist may be of interest.  Lincoln Brower and colleagues describe the most devastating weather event for the monarchs since studies began 24 years ago.

For many years it was known that monarch butterflies migrated; but not until 1975 did scientists discover that most monarchs in the eastern half of the United States migrate to a remote mountainous site in south-central Mexico. The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve was designated a World Heritage Site in 2008, and is located in a pine-oak forest ecoregion on the border of Michoacán and State of Mexico, about 60 miles northwest of Mexico City.

The actual size of the preserve used by monarchs grows and shrinks each year depending on the numbers of returning monarchs and weather conditions at the site.  Since the early 1990’s when records began, the size of the overwintering site has fluctuated from a high of 44 acres in 1996-97 to a low of 1.6 acres in 2013-14.  Computer models have predicted that, due to concerns about effects of illegal logging in the preserve, weather extremes possibly due to climate change, and the large fluctuations in the modern population of overwintering monarchs, the chance that the eastern monarch migration will cease and the butterflies become functionally extinct over the next 20 years is between 11 and 57%.

Just when scientists hoped the monarch preserve was making a comeback a 2016 storm blew down trees in the reserve and reached lethal low temperatures, killing many butterflies.  Brower’s article and its accompanying pictures tells the story. The authors note with alarm that government permission given to private companies to log fallen trees in the preserve following the storm has caused serious thinning of the protective tree canopy.  They estimate that between 30 and 38% of all overwintering monarch butterflies were killed during the 2016 storm.  Of even more concern, however, is that the long-term health and viability of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve may be compromised.

It’s monarch season right now in Texas, so don’t miss your best opportunity to get outdoors to catch our Texas state insect as it slips south to Mexico.  The story of the monarch plight reminds us not to take our noble black-and-orange butterfly for granted.  If we do, the fall monarch migration may be a sight that our next generation will no longer remember.


Class labeled a “bug success”

insect collecting
insect field trip

Bee expert Karen Wright (left) shares information about her catch with class members (from left) Carol Clark, Greg Tonian and Rebecca Schumacher.

By all accounts, this year’s Master Volunteer Entomology Specialist (MVES) training was a “bug success”. The 2017 class was held Sep 18-21 at the Texas A&M AgriLife Center at Dallas, and represented the 12th time we’ve offered the course since 2003. I hosted this year’s class with lots of help from colleagues.

Every year’s MVES class agenda is unique. In addition to core sessions (general entomology, insect orders, integrated pest management, and insects of trees and landscapes), we heard talks on insects that eat other insects, beekeeping, native pollinators, butterfly gardening, and environmental education. Our two field trips visited the Heard Nature Museum in McKinney and the Plano Environmental Education Center and Community Gardens.  All students receive a bug collecting kit, high quality magnifier and field guide. After field trips to collect insects, our instructors helped everyone start their own insect box.

The talk on native pollinators by our entomology museum curator Karen Wright was especially interesing. Karen is an expert on native bees, and provided a unique perspective on the importance of this often overlooked group. Karen also wowed the class with her 20-year-old Subaru, tricked out with roof-hugging bee sculpture and a variety of insect artwork.

Erin Hoffer, Environmental Educator with the City of Plano, provided a change of pace by demonstrating interactive games, craft projects and songs.  She showed how insects can be used to engage children (and adults) in learning about the natural world.

A honey tasting session with bee educator Janet Rowe, stimulated everyone’s taste receptors and provided a better appreciation for the subtle differences in bee honey.

We offer the MVES class every year to active Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists. If you complete the class, and volunteer 20 hours on entomology-related activities, you receive a pin identifying yourself as an Entomology Specialist.


Perhaps the best testimony about a class comes from the participants themselves. Here are a few comments we received about this year’s training:

  • Thank you for a very enjoyable class.  I was feeling stagnant as a master gardener and it  rejuvenated me and piqued my interest again.
  • I cannot begin to thank you enough for hosting and leading this year’s training. I am completely self-taught [in spiders] and it was so amazing to actually learn from experts in the field. The biggest thing I learned is: I might have missed my calling.
  • I thoroughly enjoyed the hands-on, engaged and educational training I attended this week. and know more about insects now than I ever did! The presenters and presentations were exceptional and valuable. I look forward to apply what I have learned.
  • The class, the speakers, tour guides, and fellow students were all great!  I have participated in quite a few very good specialty training  classes, but this was the best ever! Thank you!
  • I had initially been hesitant about the class after an experience with another poorly-organized specialty class, but Entomology Excels!  Thanks so much.
  • I have attended many certification courses over the years for both professional and personal projects.  This course was the smoothest ever and all of the professionals involved and the auditor volunteers were amazing.  Truly an exceptional experience and this is coming from one with the most discerning taste and high expectations.

Join Us

For any Texas Master Naturalist or Master Gardener interested in being a specialist for your county or chapter, the class will be offered again next year in College Station.  For more information, visit our MVES website at Information about how to register for the upcoming class is usually posted each June.

And now it’s mosquitoes

Hurricane Harvey continues to leave its mark on Texas. Besides the giant cleanup, hoards of mosquitoes are now descending in many areas. The pictures are impressive. Just a couple of examples are enough to make the point. The young man in the picture here was fortunate to have chosen a sturdy shirt before venturing out last weekend.

Heavy mosquito invasions are covering portions of the Harvey-affected areas two weeks after landfall.

The mosquitoes in this picture are probably in the genus Psorophora, (sore ROFF oh ruh) one of our largest, most painful and aggressive biters.  Psorophora mosquitoes have some impressive chops when it comes to survival.  One of the so-called floodwater mosquito species, they lay their eggs on land rather than water like most mosquitoes.  But not just on any land–eggs are laid at the edges of receding floodwaters, where they will re-hydrate and hatch during the next large rain event.

Because Psorophora are opportunists, taking advantage of brief rainstorms, they must have a quick lifespan.  The larvae of floodwater species like Psorophora are the speediest growers of all mosquitoes.  They need as little as 3 to 3.5 days of standing water to pass through the four molts common to mosquitoes. The pupal stage has even adapted to survive and complete its development on the mud surface of drying puddles.

mosquitoes on a truck bumper

A Texas sized bumper covered with Texas-sized mosquitoes following the rains of Harvey.

What we see in these pictures is evidence that floodwater mosquitoes had already primed the pump when Harvey hit the upper Gulf coast two weeks ago.  When the rains came, previously laid eggs hatched across thousands of square miles of coastal prairie and marsh, and billions of Psorophora larvae raced through a quick childhood.

Add to this the scope of the disaster. Harvey’s unprecedented rainfall impacted over 400 miles of Gulf shoreline, dumping an estimated 27 trillion gallons of water. The city of Houston doubled it’s previous all time monthly rainfall record with 39.11 inches (and Houston gets lots of rain).  With some 400 miles of Gulf coast prairies producing mosquitoes, I suspect the number of mosquitoes flying around the state right now is also unprecedented.

So don’t be surprised to read and hear lots of mosquito stories over the next couple of weeks.  If you have to be out and about in this part of Texas, there is protection you can carry. For extreme conditions a mosquito head net will be necessary. Wear light colored, tight knit, long-sleeved fabrics. T-shirts or short-sleeved shirts will not be enough.  Permethrin-impregnated shirts and pants may be worth their weight in gold.  And don’t forget to bring DEET repellent. Lots of it.

Thanks a lot, Harvey!

Fire ants make water rescue… interesting

floating mat of fire ants in Houston floodwater
floating mat of fire ants in Houston floodwater

A floating fire ant mat in Houston this week is one of the lesser known hazards of water rescue. Photo by Omar Villafranca NBC DFW Channel 5.

What’s reddish-brown, rides the water like an air mattress, changes shape like an amoeba, and stings like the devil?  If you answered fire ants floating in floodwater, you’ve probably been in Texas high water before.

Floods bring all sorts of wildlife into close and sometimes uncomfortable contact with people, but none perhaps so uncomfortable as fire ants. When their mounds are flooded, fires ants survive by riding air bubbles to the surface, joining feet (tarsi) with nest mates, and floating.  The ingenious behavior that allows ants to float is the result of special waterproof waxes on the fire ant’s body, as well as via the colony’s ability to close ranks and form a waterproof pocket around the precious queen.

Floating colonies can look like ribbons, streamers or a just a massive blob of ants floating on the water. These fire ant rafts can contain all of the colonies’ members—worker ants, brood (eggs, larvae, pupae), winged reproductive males and females, and queen ants. Besides being a way to survive a flood, rafts are another way fire ants colonize new areas.

Research done a few years ago shows that this behavior does not necessarily involve self sacrifice on the part of the ants. Ants on the top of the raft slowly change positions with the ants on the bottom, supplying the whole colony with oxygen and allowing longer survival. In the laboratory floating fire ant rafts survived from 24 hours to 12 days.

But for Texans sloshing through flood waters, the most important fact about floating fire ants are the stings. Before flooding, fire ant colonies may contain up to 100,000 worker ants.  To my knowledge, no survey has been made of raft sizes in the wild, but they certainly can range from thousands to tens of thousands of ants.  That’s a lot of potential stings.

According to A&M AgriLife entomologist Dr. Paul Nester, author of “Flooding and Fire Ants:
Protecting Yourself and Your Family
,” the other thing to know is that you don’t want to bump into one of these colonies while wading or swimming. Once contact is made, he notes, they disperse explosively, quickly covering clothes or skin.  After that the only thing to do is brush them off as quickly as possible.  Sprinkling water or submerging is no solution as the fire ants will only hold on more tightly.

Soapy water may be the fire ant’s Achilles’ tendon, however.  Research has shown that soapy water spritzed on a floating fire ant raft will sink and kill it.  The soap acts to break the hydrophobic coating on the fire ants bodies, causing them to drown.  Plus, soap is mildly insecticidal against many insects.

So if you live in fire ant country, and you have to be out in floodwaters over the next few days, here’s what I recommend:

  • Give any floating ant rafts you see a very wide berth.  At the edges of these rafts worker ants splay their legs ready to grab any dry object.  If that happens to be a boat, oar or you, they will quickly swarm from the water and sting readily.
  • Be equally careful with handling and moving flood debris, as ants may be hiding within. Use gloves and a shovel or other implement when first moving any flood debris, especially if it has been sitting for a few days.
  • If you are on the water and seeing floating fire ant mats, it would be a good idea to carry liquid dish washing detergent (e.g., Dawn or Ivory) and a sprayer or squirt bottle.  1-2 Tablespoons per gallon of water is sufficient to sink and kill a floating mat.  Soap will also be handy for washing off any ants that get in the boat or on someone.
  • If soapy water is not available, immediately break off contact with the raft and peel off ant-covered clothing. Brush ants off your skin with your hands.  Don’t try to wash off with plain water.
  • If you know you are allergic to bee or fire ant stings, either carry an epi-kit, or else find a different way to serve flood victims. You don’t want to end up in the water as a victim yourself.

A chance to fight malaria

How would you like to save a life today? It’s not as hard as you might think.

In the years since Bill Gates retired his position as CEO of MicroSoft Corporation, he and his wife Melinda have devoted tremendous effort to battling malaria.  Malaria and the mosquitoes that transmit it is the single greatest killer of humans in the world, accounting for most of the 700,000+ mosquito-caused deaths annually.  But unlike many of the other major problems in the world, solutions to the malaria epidemic are available now.

The Gates Foundation is partnering with the NGO World Vision to give away 100,000 bed nets. These nets protect families from mosquitoes that carry deadly diseases, including malaria. Each one is treated with an insecticide solution that kills mosquitoes but is safe for humans to touch. Insecticide-treated bed nets have played an enormous role in the fight to end malaria.

If you are willing to take two minutes to learn more about the fight against malaria, and take a one question quiz, Mr. Gates has pledged to donate a bed net on your behalf to a family in Inhambane province–an area in the south African country of Mozambique where malaria is common.  You can do this at the Gates Notes Bed Net Giveaway website.

On a related note, my wife and I recently watched a film about the malaria problem in Mozambique called Mary and Martha, with Hillary Swank playing an American mom who loses a son to malaria.  It’s a sad but compelling and uplifting film, well worth watching.  And it shows how a simple thing like a treated bed net can make a world of difference for families in another part of the world.

Mealybugs on hibiscus common this summer

striped mealybug on hibiscus

The striped mealybug is recognized by two dark stripes on the dorsum, two tails and numerous, fine hair-like rods covering their body. These mealybugs are feeding on the base and under the sepals of an hibiscus flower. Photo by Anita Steele.

Mealybugs are perhaps best known as pests of indoor plants. But occasionally mealybugs strike outdoors flowers and shrubs. The striped mealybug, Ferrisia virgata Cockerell, is one such pest that has been showing up in Texas gardens this summer.

Mealybugs are pests that feed on plant sap.  Most are white in color, from a white wax produced by special glands on the tops and sides of their bodies. The patterns, form and length of the waxy filaments on mealybug bodies help us identify the different species of mealybugs.  The striped mealybug is identified by two dark rows of punctures on the top (dorsum) of the insect, two long waxy tails on the end of the body, and fine needle-like rods extending out from the body, like a bad haircut.

While feeding, all mealybugs produce a sugary excrement that drops on leaves and stems and makes plants appear sticky. Once a leaf or stem is coated with this sticky secretion, known as honeydew, it eventually turns black as a result of black sooty mold growing on the sugary coating.  The same type of excrement is produced by aphids, scales, and other sap-feeding insects.

Look for striped mealybugs on the stems, under leaves, on flower buds and in the leaf axils of infested plants. Because of their behavior of settling the protected crevices of plants, and their waxy coverings, don’t be surprised if you find these bugs difficult to control with insecticides.

Soaps and oil sprays may provide some control, especially if applied before an infestation becomes heavy.  But good coverage is essential, as soaps and horticultural oil sprays only kill insects that are sprayed directly.  Also, expect to need to spray several times.  If certain parts of the plants are more heavily infested, pruning these stems prior to spraying may be helpful.  Systemic insecticides like imidacloprid or dinotefuran are very effective on most sap feeding insects when applied as a drench to the soil.  These products would be my first choice against a tough mealybug infestation.

Citrus flatid planthopper

Metcalfa pruinosa on unidentified tree trunk. Note the adult on the right side of the trunk. Video grab courtesy Zach Davis.

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 various trees, orchard and citrus trees, grape and other vines, shrubs, and even herbs.

The main thing that would draw your eye to this otherwise obscure insect, is the waxy, flocculent excretions of the nymph, similar to the flocking on a Christmas tree. Among the fluffy wax you can usually find the pointy nosed nymph, and sometimes the grayish to purple-colored adult.

Infestations originate from an adult that lays its eggs inside the stems of host plants the year before. Nymphs hatch in March-April, and take close to two months to develop. There is reportedly only one generation per year, and adults are most commonly seen now, in June.

Adult Metcalfa pruinosa are 5-8 mm-long. Their presence confirms the identity of this species in wax accumulations. Photo via Bugguide, courtesy Sean McCann.

Metcalfa pruinosa is not a pest to worry about in your garden.  Damage they might do to plants is almost always negligible–though they have been reported to  damage buds of freeze damaged citrus, and may cause sooty mold deposits on leaves, in heavy infestations.

If you see waxy colonies of this insect on your plants at home, you probably do not need to do anything. However if their numbers become troubling, try knocking them off the plant with a stiff stream of water, or spray lightly with some insecticidal soap or horticultural oil.

Keep in mind that planthoppers like Metcalfa may be confused with mealybugs or some forms of scales or aphids that also produce a waxy bloom.  Metcalfa wax is lightweight and fluffy and often restricted to the stems of trees, shrubs and vines.  The nymphs, if disturbed, will jump–further distinguishing them from mealybugs and aphids.

Tiniest turfgrass pest

closeup of bermudagrass stunt mite damage

A tiny turfgrass pest appears to be on the increase according to researchers and lawn care experts.

closeup of bermudagrass stunt mite damage

Bermudagrass stunt mite damaged grass (left) is bunchy and brown. Normal bermudagrass is on the right.

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 real threat.

Reasons for the increased reports of BSM may include the loss of some older insecticides, a trend toward higher mowing heights and less irrigation, and possibly the use of newer, more susceptible grass varieties.

The BSM feeds only on bermudagrass (though there are closely related species that feed on buffalograss and zoysiagrass). When the mite feeds under the leaf sheaths the leaves start to yellow and twist. As the grass tries to grow, the gaps between the leaves get shorter and shorter, resulting in a bunchy, “witches broom” appearance. Eventually the leaves and stems die, probably as a result of a toxin injected into the grass by the mite. Look for areas of stunted, green to brown grass, and dead spots in a lawn. You can identify BSM damage by the stunted, tufted appearance of the grass around the edges of the dead spots.

Once you have seen and recognize the damage caused by this mite, you will notice it in a lot more places, especially in sites with poor or no irrigation. In my own yard for several years I commonly saw BSM damage in the median strip between sidewalk and street. Since upgrading my sprinkler system, however, I see fewer signs of these mites.

bermudagrass stunt mite damage

Bermudagrass mite damage symptoms resemble grub damage or poor watering. When inspecting brown spots in a lawn, look for the characteristic tufts of bunchy grass around the edge of brown spots in the lawn.

Dr. J.C. Chong, of Clemson University, got interested in this mite about 10 years ago, and found no one else studying it. Today he has devoted as much time as anyone to studying these tiny pests. His knowledge about BSM is in especially high demand this year, he says.

“I am getting more requests for diagnosis and confirmation from golf courses and high-end landscapes in Florida, the Carolinas and Texas in the past 3 months than the entire [2016] combined.”

According to Chong, the last time anyone bothered to studying control of BSM was in the early 1980s. At the time, the best insecticide by far was diazinon. Now that diazinon is no longer available due to environmental concerns, we have few comparable products.

Part of the problem is that there are few researchers with time or funding to study BSM. Another problem common to turfgrass pests is that it is difficult to know if and where mites will show up in a large enough area to design a good insecticide trial.

Bifenthrin is a commonly available lawn and garden insecticide, and usually provides decent mite control. But experts vary in their opinions the effectiveness of bifenthrin against BSM.  Bifenthrin and a couple of other similar insecticides, such as lambda-cyhalothrin and deltamethrin, carry labels for mite control in turfgrass.  While these products may provide some control, don’t expect miracles, say experts.

Chong himself has had little success with bifenthrin, regardless of timing. In trials conducted between 2011 and 2015, he found an insecticide called avermectin to be the best treatment after diazinon. But avermectin (Avid 0.15EC) is not sold in most garden centers to consumers (it can be purchased online). When using avermectin, Chong recommends multiple (up to four) applications every two weeks.

Perhaps the best approach for the average consumer is to use bifenthrin or one of its similar products in combination with very close mowing and increased irrigation. Before applying insecticide, experts recommend lowering the mower and cutting the grass very close to the ground (scalping). This will remove many of the infested grass tufts (and mites) and open the grass canopy to permit better spray coverage. Bagging your clippings and disposing of them off site will ensure that the mites are not just spread around by the mowing operation.  Also, make sure the area gets well watered until the grass has time to recover.

Despite years of field trials, Chong notes that there is still a lot to learn, especially when it comes to combining insecticides with different cultural practices like mowing, irrigation and varietal selection. Experience with BSM demonstrates that, at least for some pests, it’s not always easy to come up with reliable management recommendations. For a pest like BSM, one pest can lead to a career’s worth of work for some lucky entomologist.

Ticks and summertime

lone star tick female displays white spot in middle of dorsum

Lone star ticks are one of the most commonly encountered ticks outdoors in Texas.  Female ticks are identified by the single white spot (lone star) in the middle of the dorsum.

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 wooded areas, especially along the edges between forest and open areas.  They are generally not seen in urban sites (except brown dog ticks).

As ticks mature, their lives center around a series of hosts. Ticks typically feed on one host, then drop off to digest their blood meal, shed, and look for a new host. Species of greatest health concern in Texas are known as three-host ticks.  This means that over the course of their lifetime they will feed on three (usually different) hosts. This habit of “feeding around” sets ticks up nicely as disease carriers. A tick that feeds on an animal with a disease can pick it up and transmit it to another host.

Tick-borne Diseases

The most common human diseases transmitted by Texas ticks include Rocky Mountain spotted fever, human erhlichiosis, and Lyme disease.  Lyme disease is caused by a bacterial spirochete. Although present in Texas, Lyme disease is not as prevalent as in the north central and northeastern US.  It is thought to be carried by the deer tick, Ixodes scapularis.  Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a rickettsial bacteria disease, and is carried by both the dog tick, Dermacentor variabilis, and the lone star tick, Amblyomma americanum. It is potentially serious with a 20% fatality rate for people who go untreated.  Ehrlichiosis is another bacterial disease, with less than 10 cases reported in Texas each year.  It is less likely to have serious consequences than RMSF, but can still make you quite sick. Human ehrlichiosis in Texas is thought to be carried by the lone star tick.

Although symptoms vary somewhat among the different diseases, any time you know you’ve been bitten by a tick and come down afterwards with a rash or flu-like symptoms (aches, fever, headache), suspect the tick.  If you or a family member find a tick attached to your skin, remove the tick right away.  Instead of throwing it out, though, put it in a jar or Ziploc bag and label with the date and place you think it came from.  If you later have a rash or flu-like symptoms, check with your doctor and be sure to bring your bagged sample. If after 4 weeks no unusual symptoms occur (most symptoms should occur within a few days to two weeks), you can toss the tick with an easy mind.

Currently the University of North Texas is accepting ticks removed for humans for testing.  Follow the instructions on this site and send the living or dead tick along with a form.  Samples may be sent in by any Texas resident, and results are usually available within a week.

Because each of these diseases is caused by a bacterium, they are treatable with antibiotics.  Quick administration, however, is important.  If there is a good chance of tick-borne disease, it is usually recommended that the doctor not wait for test results before starting treatment.

Self protection

Tick app web site

The Tick App is a mobile-device friendly providing essential information for identifying and protecting yourself from ticks.

We may not be able to rid the world of ticks, but we can keep them from biting in the first place. The very useful Texas Tick App offers the following advice:

  • Wear light-colored, full-length clothing whenever possible and cover your exposed skin with DEET repellent (30%).
  • Tuck pant legs into socks to keep crawling ticks atop of clothing where they are visible.
  • For additional protection, consider using repellents containing permethrin (e.g. Permanone®) for application to clothing, or purchase clothing that has been pre-treated with insecticide for protection against mosquitoes and ticks.
  • Check yourself and your family for crawling or attached ticks.  Look thoroughly on exposed skin, clothing and hair.
  • When returning home, wash all outdoor clothing, sleeping bags and blankets in a hot water wash cycle.  Otherwise seal your things inside a plastic garbage bag to kill any wandering ticks.

Side Note:

A recent press article has me answering media calls about ticks.  The current interest stems seems to stem from a scary news story. The article focuses on super abundant ticks carrying a new disease. Unfortunately the story suffers from lack of context.  Powassan Fever, the disease in the story, is not new.  It has been known for almost 60 years. It is a relatively rare disease, with an average of 7 cases in the US annually. Also, Powassan fever, is restricted to the northern states and has never been found in Texas.

The story also predicts a bad tick season for 2017. But tick abundance varies greatly by region, and experts quoted for the story were from Cornell University in New York. A mild winter and moist spring in some areas may indeed set Texas up for above average tick numbers this year; but there’s no evidence of a tick invasion yet. So, don’t let ticks keep you indoors this summer, but don’t ignore them either.

New infographic on biting and stinging pests

striped bark scorpion
Bugs that bite sting or infect - infographic from Methodist Health System

Click on poster for a larger view. And follow MHS on Twitter  at @mhshospitals

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 MHS news release.  It does, I think, a pretty good job of summarizing most of the important Texas (arthropod) pests that bite, sting, or pass on disease.  It’s enough to keep you indoors this summer.

Insects and mites that bite and sting seem to both horrify and fascinate most of us. On this website, over the past year, 70% of you explored publications in the category of biting and stinging pests.

But insects and mites need not be scary. Once you know what could be biting you, you can take steps to avoid them.  Knowing that the bites of only two kinds of Texas spiders are dangerous and painful, and that their webs are either cobwebs in secluded, out of the way places (black widows), or no substantial web at all (brown recluse) will have you blasting right through all those icky webs crossing the trail with no fear!  Well maybe not. But I hope this knowledge might at least make you feel a little better.

I really hope this poster doesn’t make you want to stay indoors.  A good insect repellent can protect you against biting mosquitoes, and to some extent, chiggers.  Learning how to avoid fire ants is a basic survival skill for all Texans.  And this poster offers some helpful tips on what to do if you are bitten or stung.  So get out there and enjoy the beautiful outdoors.

Just don’t step on any snakes.