Tag Archives: Texas

A prickly situation

Prickly pear cactus has its detractors.  Long hated for its long spines with a bite, and its clusters of barbed spines (glochids) that are heck to remove, it has been cursed, hacked, burned and sprayed. But prickly pear (Opuntia spp.) is also used by a variety of  wildlife and cattle, and is prized as a part of the Mexican-American diet.  There is even a small industry devoted to rearing insects, called cochineal scale, that feed exclusively on prickly pear (these scales produce a vivid red dye, called cochineal… Read More →

Where has West Nile virus gone?

If it seems you’re hearing less about West Nile virus (WNV) this summer, you are not imagining it.  Although mosquitoes have been abundant this year, for some reason the virus has remained relatively quiet in 2019. Where has WNV gone? A paper written by epidemiologist Dr. Wendy Chung and colleagues in 2013 may offer some insights on the absence of the virus this summer. Those of us who lived in Dallas in 2012 may remember that summer as the worst human outbreak of WNV ever.  Nearly 400 cases were… Read More →

Texas/Oklahoma Pollinator Project

This summer Texas A&M AgriLife is conducting a citizen science project to document the preferred host plants of Texas & Oklahoma pollinators. In the process some energetic volunteers and I will be learning a lot more about how to plant a successful pollinator garden. Last week I presented information about pollinators and how the project works to volunteers in the Dallas area.  If you are signed up as a volunteer, but missed the training, an edited version of the training is available here https://youtu.be/JfSpwlYcM3s  This training should prepare… Read More →

Firefly Month (or it should be)

Flickering lights, like so many Tinkerbells, dancing across lawns are one of the special memories of growing up in the South. This time of year is your best chance to see fireflies, so this week I thought I would give a shout-out to Ben Pfeiffer, a firefly lover who has devoted himself to learning about the fireflies of Texas. Ben has built an entertaining website, called Firefly.org. In it you can learn about the different kinds of fireflies (each has a unique flash pattern), where they live and… Read More →

Multiplying millipedes

At first glance, millipedes are most remarkable for their ability to walk without tripping over their own feet.  The name millipede literally means “thousand feet” and though most don’t have that many legs, that’s still a lot of feet to keep track of. What’s even more remarkable about millipedes, once you get to know them, is their ability to reach astronomical numbers when weather conditions are prime. That’s what’s happening right now, at least in parts of north and east Texas.  For the past month Extension offices have… Read More →

Good news about monarchs, but…

  News headlines often bear a second look.  And this week’s “good news” about monarch butterflies is no exception.  News sources this week are reporting that monarch butterfly colonies covered almost 15 acres of Mexican mountainside in 2019, a 144% increase from last winter. Colony sizes are based on estimates of the total acreage of trees covered with monarchs in the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in Mexico–the main overwintering site for eastern monarch butterflies. Acreage estimates provide an index as to how many butterflies survived the previous year’s… Read More →

Giving Monarchs a hand

Where have all the butterflies gone?  If you think there are fewer butterflies, and just plain bugs, on your windshield compared to a few years back, you’re probably right. Recent studies point to alarming declines in both insect and butterfly populations. Most scientists think that the primary causes for these declines are the many changes we humans are making to our environment.  As we replace plant-diverse rural landscapes with simplified urban and suburban streets and lawns, we reduce habitat abundance and food supply for butterflies, among other insects. … Read More →

Good Sams discover exotic borer in Tarrant County

Last summer Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist, Sam Kieschnick, was going through pictures on iNaturalist and saw a picture of an insect taken by someone he knew. It was a shot of a shiny green beetle that 10-year-old nature enthusiast, Sam Hunt, had snapped in his own driveway near Eagle Mountain Lake in west Tarrant County. Something about the picture bothered biologist Sam, so he forwarded it to colleagues who were experts in a group of insects called buprestid beetles. The expert consensus seemed to be that 10-year-old… Read More →

Monarchs passing through now…don’t miss them

In case you haven’t seen your first monarch butterfly of the fall migration, you should start looking now.  Mid-October is peak monarch observation month in Texas. So what is fall migration and why all the fuss about monarch butterflies? Monarchs are one of relatively few insects that have true migration.  And one of the few migrant animals who instinctively travel thousands of miles to an overwintering site they have never seen before. The monarch migration starts each spring with old butterfly adults that have overwintered on a dozen… Read More →

Miller moths

If you live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, or any other place that has had a recent outbreak of fall armyworm caterpillars, you may have noticed an increase in fast-flying, grey-brown moths. I started noticing these last week, and they appear to be growing in numbers today. If you drive early in the morning, or in the evening, you might even catch these moths in your car headlights. It’s all part of a circle of life: moths lay eggs, which turn into caterpillars, which pupate (think of a… Read More →