Even the most reputable hotels and motels can have bed bugs from time to time, and Dr. Mike Merchant has just produced a short, five-minute video that explains the simple steps to avoid bringing bed bugs home with you. Solving a bed bug problem in a home is vastly more complicated (and expensive) than preventing the problem in the first place, so the video might be five minutes well spent.
The Texas Forest Service has issued a letter confirming the presence of emerald ash borer in Tarrant County. Identification was confirmed by USDA/Aphis identifiers. The fact that larvae were discovered suggests the insect has become established and may spread.
Here is the text of the Texas Forest Service letter:
Alert | Texas A&M Forest Service | Tree-killing Insect Confirmed in Tarrant County
December 7, 2018
December 7, 2018 —FORT WORTH, Texas—Reports of the presence of the deadly emerald ash borer (EAB) in Tarrant County have been confirmed. EAB has infested and killed ash trees in the Eagle Mountain Lake area.
Texas A&M Forest Service began investigating within the high-risk area following the discovery of a single EAB specimen last year. Prior to spring adult beetle emergence, the state agency collected larvae from area ash trees. Through positive DNA tests Texas A&M Forest Service confirmed the larvae to be EAB.
All species of ash are susceptible to the destructive EAB. Infested trees die within two to five years after infestation. Urban tree canopy inventories estimate that ash trees comprise approximately 5 percent of the Dallas/Fort Worth urban forest.
“There is no known stop to this epidemic,” said Texas A&M Forest Service Urban Forester Courtney Blevins. “But we can help communities minimize loss, diversify their tree species and contribute to the health and resiliency of their urban forests.”
Texas A&M Forest Service has resources available to help affected communities identify signs of EAB infestation and symptoms that trees may display, as well as make decisions about preventative measures they can take and tree management and removal.
For more information on EAB in Texas, please visit http://texasforestservice.tamu.edu/eab/.
EAB photos and resources can be viewed at http://ow.ly/LIJi30lbBxz
To report emerald ash borer, please call 1-866-322-4512.
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.
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.
Occasionally one finds a publication that is so good it needs to be advertised, and Michigan State University has just produced one of these. The title of the publication is "Protecting and enhancing pollinators in urban landscapes".
While Michigan is a long way from Texas, the practices for pollinator protection are the same, and many of the pollinator-friendly plants are the same. Some of the topics covered in the 29 page free publication are:
- Plants, shrubs and trees known to create better habitat for pollinators.
- How to select plants so that you are providing blossoms throughout the season.
- Problem-prone plants you may want to avoid.
- Best Management Practices to protect pollinators and other beneficial insects during pest management.
If you have an interest in providing habitat for pollinators, this is a must-read publication. There is a small version for reading on-screen and another version for printing in high quality.
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.
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
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!
By Alicia Alexander, IPM Intern
Sweat bees get their name from being attracted to the salts in human perspiration. Sweat bee is a common name for a large family of bees called Halictidae. These bees can vary greatly in appearance. Less than an inch long, some of them can be plump while others are more slender. Sweat bees are usually either black or a metallic color. They are more solitary bees however some species do socialize but not as much as the honeybee. They have a wide range of social behavior that depends on the species. Sweat bees feed on nectar they collect from plants and aphids. They have pollen baskets on their legs and collect pollen. Most females lay eggs in rotten wood that was once occupied by other insects or in dry loose soil. They create cells underground filled with nectar and pollen. An egg is laid in each cell then sealed. The larva feeds on the pollen and nectar. There’s a parasitic species that invades other nests and lays her egg on their stored food. The larva will then eat the host larva and consume its food.
Sweat bees are important pollinators for crops and wildflowers. These bees aren’t aggressive but the female sweat bee will sting if handled roughly. The males will bite or pinch. Both are considered to be painless.
By Alicia Alexander, IPM Intern
The black witch moth is one of the largest moths in the United States. With a wingspan up to 7 inches, this moth is often confused with a bat at first glance. The black witch moth is dark brown in color with iridescent pink and purple. The females usually have a distinct white bar across their wings. As larvae, the caterpillars are black/gray with green markings and stripes. They get up to 8cm in length. Adults are nocturnal and feed at night on overripe fruits and the larva consumes plant leaves.
Because of the black witch moth’s noticeable characteristics and wide range, they have many different superstitions that follow them. Anywhere from being the butterfly of death in Mexico to being good luck Bahamas.
The black witch moth doesn’t bite, sting, or carry any known diseases. The larva isn’t an agricultural pest and prefers woody legumes.
By Alicia Alexander, IPM Intern
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)
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.
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.
By Alicia Alexander, IPM Intern
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.
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.
By Alicia Alexander, IPM Intern
The black soldier fly is a common, widespread and harmless fly. These flies are primarily black and slender like a wasp but they do not sting. Photos of adults are available here on Bugguide. Black soldier flies don’t have functioning mouthparts. Therefore they do not bite nor will they be a pest trying to get to your food. The fly’s only goal is to reproduce. Black soldier flies usually deposit their egg masses in unsanitary conditions such as moist rotting food and other decaying matter. Each egg mass contains about 500 eggs. The eggs incubate for three to four weeks then hatch into a legless wingless cream-colored larva. The larva goes through six instars while feeding on organic matter. As they mature they turn a dark reddish brown color.
The larvae of the black soldier fly can be very beneficial. They’ve been used for manure management, compositing, controlling houseflies, and used as feeders. They can consume large quantities of waste. When used for manure management they help reduce the environmental damage of having too much manure and then can be sold as feeders for lizards, fish, and other animals. The harvested pupae are high in calcium. The black soldier fly larva will discourage houseflies and other fly species from developing and becoming a nuisance in the area.
Black soldier flies do not bite or sting and they are not vectors of any human diseases.
By Alicia Alexander, IPM Intern
Velvet ants, also known as cow killers, are actually wasps. Ants and wasps are in the same insect order (Hymentoptera) but different families. These wasps are fairly easy to identify. They are black with brightly colored shades of red, orange, or yellow. Velvet ants are densely covered in short hairs. They are anywhere from ½ inch to 1 inch in length. The female velvet ant is often confused with a genuine ant because of its wingless body; only the male velvet ant has wings. Velvet ants are solitary wasps and do not form colonies. They are found in sandy areas in fields or meadows.
When laying eggs the velvet ant will look for a suitable nest, usually from a ground nesting bee or wasp, and lay her eggs on the insect larva inside. Once hatched the velvet ant feeds on the larva and stays inside the nest until becoming an adult. Adult velvet ants feed on mostly nectar and water.
Velvet ants aren’t aggressive but they will sting. However, only the female wasp can sting and the sting is usually a lot more painful than a bee sting. Since they are solitary it’s unlikely more than one sting will occur. Walking barefoot and carelessly handling them are common reasons people get stung. These wasps are known to let out a squeak when messed with or alarmed.
By Alicia Alexander, IPM intern
The harlequin bug is a pest to many agricultural plants for much of the southern US. It’s shield shaped and black with brightly colored markings that are usually red, orange, or yellow. An adult harlequin bug is anywhere from 7mm to 10mm in length. The harlequin bug’s eggs are white and barrel shaped with black bands. These eggs are about 1mm long and are laid in clusters on foliage. Newly hatched harlequin bugs cannot fly and have a more circular shape.
Signs of the harlequin bug would be stippling (white blotches) on your plants where the bug has been feeding. This is from the harlequin bug sucking fluid from the plant tissue. This can cause the host plant to wilt, turn brown and eventually die. A successful way to try and control these bugs would be to manually crush eggs, nymphs, and adults. Look for egg clutches underneath leaves to remove. Removing crop debris will help eliminate overwintering sites. Synthetic pyrethroid insecticides are also an option if labeled for the crop, but control is sometimes difficult to achieve.
The harlequin bug is a stink bug and will produce an odor when disturbed. These bugs are not toxic to humans.
Guest post by Alicia Alexander, IPM intern
The dung beetle is a very beneficial beetle. Dung beetles, also known as tumblebugs, are part of the subfamily Scarabaeinae. They are all dark colored ranging from black or brown and can have a metallic green or copper look. Dung beetles can be shiny or dull in appearance. The North American species are between ½ and 1 inch long. Dung beetles have club shaped antennae and brush-like sieve mouths to help with slurping wet dung.
Dung beetles feed on feces and often prefer herbivore dung over carnivore dung because it’s packed with more nutrients. Most dung beetles have a great sense of smell, which helps find fresh dung quickly because the competition can get heavy.
The most commonly known dung beetles are the ball-rollers. These beetles will roll a ball of dung into a hole they have dug for either feeding purposes or to lay an egg inside. This dung ball will get buried in the ground by the beetle and the larva will live its life inside the brood ball feeding on the dung surrounding it until it emerges as a beetle. Dung beetles help fertilize the soil quickly and also help aerate the soil. By helping put nutrients back into the soil and improving soil structure many ranchers welcome the beetles. Getting rid of the dung quickly also reduces the number of flies and other pests.
So far one species of the dung beetle, the African dung beetle, is the only known insect that uses the Milky Way to navigate according to a 2012 research.
Why everyone should love dung beetles (Nature Writers of Texas Blog)
By Alicia Alexander, IPM Intern
The Elm leaf beetle is an introduced species that is a pest of elm trees. Adult beetles are about ¼ inch long and are yellow to olive green in color. Black stripes are found along the outer edge of the wing covers and with black spots on the thorax. Larvae that are full-grown are usually about ½ inch long and dull yellow with scattered black bristles and 2 black stripes.
Elm leaf beetles are destructive to the elm trees in both larval and adult form. Larvae often feed on the leaves of the tree by consuming the underside of the leaf and avoiding the upper leaf surface and large veins. Adult beetles leave small holes in the leaves when feeding on the elm. The damage caused by the elm leaf beetle may cause leaves to drop prematurely and may weaken the tree making it susceptible to disease and other pest. The elm leaf beetle does not transmit Dutch elm disease.
Elm leaf beetles are not harmful to humans or animals. Elm leaf beetles may take shelter in homes when searching for protected overwintering sites but do not feed, reproduce, or cause damage indoors.
As of April 2nd, 2015, we have received several reports of large numbers of spring cankerworms in north and central Texas. These insects have "outbreak" years every so often and this year is shaping up to be one of them. Spring cankerworms are generalist feeders on many types of broadleaf trees. One easy identification character is that this insect only has two "prolegs", or legs toward the back of the body. As a result, the caterpillar moves by the characteristic "inchworm" maneuver of seeming to inch along by raising the center part of the body. There are very few other insect species that are present in high numbers this time of year. However, while our photo shows a purple to pink caterpillar, many of the larvae look more grayish. Leaf feeding will continue for 3 - 4 weeks and defoliation can be severe.
People often ask whether they need to control the insects, and the answer is "maybe". Healthy trees can withstand a lot of defoliation, but drought stressed trees or those that are diseased or in some other way unhealthy are less able to tolerate significant defoliation. High value trees should probably be sprayed if defoliation is significant. In response to this 2015 outbreak, Dr. Mike Merchant has just posted a very good blog article on spring cankerworm. The University of Minnesota has control information here. The first option listed on the Minnesota publication is Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). This insecticide is made from crystalline proteins produced by bacteria, and these are completely harmless to people, pets and livestock. Bt is approved for organic agriculture. Bt is not a contact insecticide; it must be eaten by the caterpillars. Bt is a good choice because it only kills certain kinds of caterpillars and will not kill beneficial insects that prey on other insects. One downside to Bt is that it is broken down quickly by sunlight and repeated applications may be necessary. The Minnesota publication also lists several synthetic pyrethroids as control options. Most synthetic pyrethroids have active ingredient names ending in the letters "..rin", like cyfluthrin or bifenthrin. These are excellent broad spectrum insecticides that kill by both contact and ingestion. The downside to pyrethroids is that they kill many different types of insects and will kill the beneficial insects present on the trees and in the vegetation beneath the trees. (And some pyrethroids are highly toxic to fish; check the label before using a pyrethroid near bodies of water.)
2014: Emerald ash borer is not known to be in Texas but, since its discovery in Michigan in 2002, has spread to Colorado and Kansas and will probably get here. The adults just eat foliage but the larvae kill trees. To date there have been tens of millions of ash trees killed in affected states. Texas has a very active emerald ash borer monitoring program underway and please let us know if you find any beetles that look like this.
Here are some links for additional information:
Dr. Mike Merchant's 2014 blog post with significant detail on this insect.
Report on discovery of emerald ash borer in Texas, and Texas A&M Forestry Service website for this pest. (Added 5/2016)