Emerald Ash Borer Confirmed in Texas (5/27/16)

The Texas A&M Forest Service, after operating an extensive monitoring network since 2012, has confirmed that the emerald ash borer is present in Harrison County, Texas. This insect kills ash trees, be they healthy or stressed trees, and we encourage citizens to report findings of beetles that look like emerald ash borer. This means any shiny green, elongated beetle that looks like what is pictured below. This devastating pest can be slowed or contained, but it essential to know where it is. The Texas A&M Forest Service has some very good information on emerald ash borer

Emerald ash borer. Photo Credit Stephen Ausmus, USDA-ARS. 

 

 

New Publication: Indoor Flies and Their Control

As we enter fly season in Texas, Dr. Mike Merchant, our Urban Entomologist in Dallas, has just published a very good resource for identification and control of indoor flies. The publication covers these common flies:

Small indoor flies

  • Fruit flies
  • Phorid flies
  • Drain flies
  • Fungus gnats

Large indoor flies

  • House flies
  • Soldier flies
  • Carrion flies

The section on control suggestions includes sanitation, drain and septic treatment, trapping, and insecticide selection. 

Brief Communication for Texans on Zika Virus

You can't listen to the national news without hearing stories of Zika virus, and it is proper that people exercise caution this summer. The Wall Street Journal recently ran a story about US-based insect repellent manufacturers adding shifts and running factories around the clock in expectation of exceedingly high demand in the southern USA this summer. This was a week before the news broke in an article in the New England Journal of Medicine that said the geographical ranges of two known mosquito vectors of Zika, Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegypti, may be much broader than originally thought. A. aegypti  may range as far north as Illinois and eastward to New York City. A. albopictus ranges across the Southwest, much of the Midwest and most of the eastern United States. The new CDC maps of potential distribution are here: http://www.cdc.gov/zika/vector/index.html

So what should Texans due this summer in addition to buying their mosquito repellent early? Drs. Sonja Swiger and Mike Merchant, Texas A&M University AgriLife Extension Entomologists, have just published a two page guide called Zika Virus: What Texans Need to Know. The publication came out today and is available in English and Spanish.  

Checking your hotel room for bed bugs

Lubbock and Crosby county Extension Agent IPM, Katelyn Kowles, recently stayed in a hotel room infested with bed bugs. She did her post doctoral research on bed bugs and was prompted to write the following article in her newsletter. The full entry is here.

Tips for Travelers: Scouting for Bed Bugs

An adult bed bug. Photo courtesy of Bart Drees, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.

How to scout your hotel room for bed bugs:

1.     Don’t put any belongings on the bed or unpack before you complete your inspection. I put my luggage on the luggage rack (usually in the closets of most rooms) or in the bathroom until I have checked for bed bugs.

2.     Things you are looking for: 

·      actual bed bugs 

·      shed skin of immature bugs 

·      dark brown fecal spots (dried excrement)

Adult bed bugs are approximately a quarter of an inch long and red-brown with oval, flattened bodies. Immature bed bugs are smaller versions of the adults, but with a much lighter color and approximately the size of a pinhead.

3.     Begin with a preliminary check around the room. Focus on the corners of ceilings and the baseboards. 

4.     Remove the corners of the fitted sheet and look underneath the mattress and box spring. Examine the mattress seams and crevices in the box spring. Pay special attention to head of the bed. Most cell phones have a flashlight that is very useful for this!

5.     You should also inspect crevices in the bed frame. This is especially important if the bed frame is wood!

6.     If there is a removable headboard, remove it from the wall and inspect the crevices on the back. This is a common place for bed bug infestations to begin. If you have never done this before, make sure you have two people to remove it safely.

7.     Other things that can be inspected include behind picture frames or couches and chairs. But limit your search to items near the bed! 

What to do if your hotel room has bed bugs:

1.     Call the front desk and request a new room. Problems are usually contained in a particular area, so try to get a room in a different area.

2.     Quarantine all your belongings in garbage bags (or something similar), especially if they were on/near the bed or if you experienced bites.

3.     Put everything that is safe for laundering in a dryer at high heat for at least 45 minutes. DO NOT wash first! A washing machine does not typically get hot enough to kill all the bugs. After you have dried everything, then you can resume a normal washing routine. 

4.     Keep your luggage/anything that can’t be laundered in a closed garbage bag until you can treat it. Contact your local pest control company for how to do this. 

Important facts about bed bugs:

·      Bed bugs feed only on the blood of animals and spend most of their time where they can get a reliable blood meal from their host. In the case of hotel rooms, this is near the bed. Only when they are very hungry, or there is a bad infestation, will you find them in other places. 

·      Bed bugs do not transmit diseases when they bite. Every person reacts differently, ranging from mild irritation and itching to large, red welts. Some reactions are delayed and occur days or even weeks after the bite.

·      Bed bug bites are usually painless so people don’t always realize they are being bitten. Any exposed skin is vulnerable, such as arms, legs, face, or neck. Bed bugs will typically make several bites at at time, often in a short line. 

·      Bed bugs are mostly active at night and can go months without a blood meal. Therefore, ignoring a problem and hoping that they starve is not a reliable solution.

·      There has been a global resurgence in bed bugs over the last decade and eradicating an infestation can be time-consuming and expensive. Taking pro-active measures when you’re traveling to avoid bringing them home is always worth it!  

Click beetles

By Alicia Alexander, IPM Intern

The eyed click beetle, Alaus oculatus, and one of the common agricultural pest species (below). Photo credit: Pat Porter. 

Most click beetles are dull and small to medium sized with little or no ornamentation. However, some species can get up to 2 inches long and can be luminescent or brightly colored. Click beetles get their name from the clicking sound they make when turned on their back and attempting to flip over. The click beetle is able to do this my snapping the first section of its thorax into a groove in the second section of the thorax. This snapping action makes the clicking noise you hear and launches the beetle into the air several inches. This trick is also used to try and startle predators. Another trick click beetles are known to do is tucking in their legs and antenna close to the body and playing dead. Many species are nocturnal and will hide during the day. They are attracted to light and can sometimes show up in homes but are not harmful. Adult click beetles feed on nectar.

Larvae of the click beetle are often called wireworms. Resembling mealworms in a way, wireworms are slender, long, shiny, and a yellowish to dark brown color. They’re segmented and found in the soil or decaying wood feeding on plants and sometimes insects. Some species of these grubs are serious agricultural pests and feed on the roots of plants, like corn and cotton. Click beetles can be in the larval stage for one or more years depending on the species.

The big-eyed elater (Aggie Horticulture)

Click beetles at Wikipedia


Tachinid flies

By Alicia Alexander, IPM Intern

The tachinid fly (family Tachinidae) is a parasite of other insects. In most cases these flies are beneficial because they are pest controllers. Some flies are host specific. Most species of these flies parasitize caterpillars and beetles. A few other species will parasitize grasshoppers and other insects. Most hosts are still in their immature stage.

What are probably Tachind eggs on a whitelined sphinx caterpillar. Photo credit: Alicia Alexander. 

There are a variety of methods different species of these flies use when laying their egg. The eggs of these flies are small, oblong, and a white/gray color. Some female tachinid flies will lay their eggs on leaves so that a host, such as a caterpillar, can ingest them. Other species directly insert the eggs into the host’s body. The eggs consumed by the host or inserted into the host will hatch into maggots inside the host. Another way the female tachinid fly ensures readily accessible food for her young is attaching the eggs onto the back of a host. These eggs will hatch and the maggots will bore into the body of the host. Once inside, the maggots develop and consume their host as they grow. Not much is seen of the maggots since they develop inside of a host insect. They maggots slowly feed on the host’s internal parts then once the maggots are well developed they feed on the necessary organs leaving the host to soon die. These maggots can be seen when exiting its host. They dig into the ground where they will pupate. The pupa is usually a small oblong dark reddish case.

 The adult tachinid fly can be diverse in appearance and can some can be quite large. There are many species of the tachinid fly and these can vary in color. Many have long distinct sparse bristles on their bodies. The adult tachinid fly is usually found in gardens and other landscapes visiting flowers. They feed on nectar and pollen. They are also known to feed on aphid honeydew.

A Tachinid fly. Photo credit: Alicia Alexander. 

Saltmarsh caterpillar

By Alicia Alexander, IPM Intern

Saltmarsh caterpillar. Photo credit: Alicia Alexander.

 The saltmarsh caterpillar is the larva of Estigmene acrea. Saltmarsh caterpillars are densely hairy and can be a variety of colors. When young, these caterpillars appear more yellowish. As the caterpillar ages they darken and can be anywhere from orange in color to black. Indistinct striping can be seen along the caterpillar. Pupation occurs hidden in leaf debris on the soil. The cocoon from the saltmarsh caterpillar is formed from the interwoven body hairs and is a thin cocoon. The Acrea moth emerges in about 2 weeks.

 Despite the name, saltmarsh caterpillars can show up in many different habitats other than saltmarshes. They eat a wide variety of plants and are found all across the United States. In some places, like southwest United States, these caterpillars can damage crops. Saltmarsh caterpillars skeletonize the plants they feed on, leaving only the main leaf veins. Older caterpillars eat large holes in the leaves and become more solitary. They can go great distances in search for food and can sometimes travel in large numbers.

 Saltmarsh caterpillars do not bite and are not poisonous.

Saltmarsh caterpillar adult male. Photo credit: Patrick Porter. 

Saltmarsh caterpillar adult male. Photo credit: Patrick Porter. 

Lady beetles

By Alecia Alexander, IPM Intern

(see below for photos of the life stages)

Lady beetles, also known as ladybugs or ladybirds, are beneficial predators of plant pests. The eggs of lady beetles are usually yellowish in color and elongated in shape. They can be laid in small clusters on the underside of leaves hidden from flying predators and protected from the weather. However, lady beetles will lay eggs on any surface near insect prey. Lady beetles try to lay their eggs on plants that are infested with aphids or other plant-eating insects so the newly hatched larvae will have prey to feed on. Many scientists believe that lady beetles lay infertile and fertile eggs when infested plants of plant-eating insects are in short supply. By doing this the hatched larvae will be able to feed on the infertile eggs and have a better chance of survival.

The larva of a lady beetle in most species is dark gray/ black with brightly colored bands or spots. Their bodies are elongated and slightly pointed at the rear with prominent legs that stick far out the side of the body. The lady beetle larva feeds voraciously on soft-bodied plant pests such as aphids, mites, and insect eggs. When ready to pupate the lady beetle larva will attach itself to a surface. They begin to shrink in form and remain motionless. The pupa is usually dark orange/red and often has spots.

When the lady beetle emerges from the pupal skin it is vulnerable to predators. Newly emerged adults have a soft exoskeleton and are pale/yellow in color. After a day or two the wing covers will harden and their color darkens. There are many species of lady beetles. Most have an oval like shape to them and can be yellow, pink, orange, black, or red. They usually have distinct spots but can also have none or stripes. They discourage other animals that may eat them with their warning coloration. Adult lady beetles feed on aphids and other soft bodied insects like the larvae. Over the lifetime, one lady beetle can eat as many as 5,000 aphids. When food is scarce they will consume newly molted lady beetles or eggs of lady beetles. There are some species of lady beetles (family Coccinellidae) that are pests and feed on plants rather than insects, such as the Mexican bean beetle.

Lady beetles (Cornell)  (Univ. of Florida)

North American species on Bugguide

Lady beetle eggs among aphids. Photo credit: Patrick Porter.

Young lady beetle larva: Photo Credit: Patrick Porter.

Full-grown lady beetle larva. Photo credit: Patrick Porter

Lady beetle pupae and one adult on right. Photo credit: Patrick Porter.

Convergent lady beetle eating aphids. Photo credit: Patrick Porter.