Insect Answers for Texans
These are blog entries and other news items from Texas AgriLife Extension Service entomology personnel. We will add articles as they appear. Our collected publications, except those for sale, are here.
.> BLACK FLY OUTBREAK IN CENTRAL TEXAS (BIG BITERS) (6/16/19) There is a big outbreak of these extreme biters, and here is a fact sheet from the last outbreak in 2012.
> HOW TO AVOID BRINGING BED BUGS HOME FROM A HOTEL (2/28/19)
It is easy to bring bed bugs home with you, but a few simple steps can help prevent the problem. Dr. Mike Merchant explains in a new video.
> BUG BOMBS LARGELY INEFFECTIVE FOR INSECT CONTROL (2/6/19)
Dr. Mike Merchant reviews some recent research that showed “bug bombs” (total release aerosol insecticides) are quite ineffective at cockroach control in homes and structures.
> EMERALD ASH BORER IS ESTABLISHED IN TARRANT COUNTY (11/10/18)
> RAIN AND IMPORTED FIRE ANTS (10/19/18)
Fire ants have become a big problem in central Texas with all of the recent rains. Dr. Mike Merchant details the situation and solutions in his latest blog post.
> MILLER MOTHS INVADE CENTRAL TEXAS (10/8/18)
It was a year of extreme fall armyworm populations in parts of Texas, and Dr. Mike Merchant explains that these now comprise the bulk of the Miller Moth invasion.
> RAIN = FIRE ANTS (9/21/18)
Molly Keck, Extension Entomology Program Specialist in San Antonio, has a blog post on how the recent rains make fire ants easier to recognize and control.
> FALL ARMYWORM OUTBREAK IN CENTRAL AND EAST TEXAS (9/20/18)
Fall armyworms are wreaking havoc in central Texas on turf and pastures. Dr. Mike Merchant has a nice article here. For agricultural producers we also have a newly revised publication that presents the latest in control options.
> LIVING WITH SQUASH VINE BORER (8/14/18)
Dr. Mike Merchant has done a thorough review of the literature on cultural, non-chemical, least toxic and conventional insecticides for control of squash borer. He also provides information on the biology of this pest.
> EMERALD ASH BORER FOUND IN MARION, CASS, HARRISON AND PROBABLY TARRANT COUNTIES (7/23/18)
The emerald ash borer, a very destructive pest, is expanding its range in Texas as Dr. Mike Merchant recently explained in his newsletter.
> CHIGGER SEASON (6/13/18)
It is chigger time in Texas, and this year is worse then normal. Dr. Mike Merchant's blog explains.
>WHAT IS THAT LITTLE BUG ALL OVER NORTH TEXAS? (4/24/18)
The Dallas area is experiencing outbreak pockets of a small brown plant bug that Dr. Mike Merchant describes in his latest newsletter entry. The oak catkin mirid sometimes occurs in high numbers, but it won't be around for long.
> ARE BED BUGS WORSE THAN WE THOUGHT? (3/8/18)
Dr. Mike Merchant reviews the latest research on human stress brought on by bed bug infestations and updates us on findings of diseases that bed bugs may be able to transmit to humans.
> BUG BOMBS (TOTAL RELEASE FOGGERS) ARE NOT VERY EFFECTIVE (2/12/18)
Dr. Mike Merchant has written an excellent article on the shortcomings of "bug bombs".
> INSECTS AND FLOODWATERS (8/28/17)
As the waters from Hurricane Harvey still accumulate, Dr. Mike Merchant has written a blog post on dealing with insects in floodwaters.
> MEALYBUGS ON HIBISCUS COMMON THIS SUMMER (8/7/17)
While mealybugs are usually an indoor pest, the summer of 2017 has seen a lot of activity outdoors. Dr. Mike Merchant discusses this in his newsletter.
> BERMUDAGRASS STUNT MITE ON THE INCREASE IN TURF (6/14/17)
This tiny pest has been on the increase for several years, and Dr. Mike Merchant discusses possible reasons for the increase and the difficulty in achieving control.
> TICKS AND SUMMERTIME (6/8/17)
Mike Merchant has an excellent new blog post with information about ticks, tick prevention and tick-borne diseases.
> BLACK INSECTS ON CARS IN CENTRAL TEXAS (4/28/17)
Lovebugs are especially plentiful this year and are causing big problems for drivers in Central Texas because they are coating cars. Dr. Robert Puckett explains this insect in a TV news story. Here is a little more information.
> DIAGNOSING MYSTERIOUS "BUG BITES" (2/27/17)
This is the time of year when we get more cases of people being bitten by insects or mites in homes, or at least reports of people who think they are being bitten. Dr. Mike Merchant has an excellent publication on the insects and mites that bite humans, medical conditions that can make people think they are being bitten, and a different medical condition, delusory parasitosis, where people think they are being bitten. Delusory parasitosis is a recognized medical condition characterized by an unfounded, yet unshakable, belief that live insects are present in the skin.
> MULTICOLORED ASIAN LADY BEETLE INVASION (2/24/17)
Dr. Mike Merchant summarizes the problems with large numbers of lady beetles in Texas homes.
> HELP! FLEAS (1/30/17)
Molly Keck provides an overview of effective flea control in the home.
> THE BENEFITS OF COCKROACH CONTROL (1.27/17)
Dr. Mike Merchant discusses adverse health effects caused by cockroach exposure, and new and effective methods for control.
> MULTICOLORED ASIAN LADY BEETLE RUMORS AND TRUTHS (12/16/16)
These lady beetles are very abundant is parts of Texas this winter, and Xandra Morris discusses fact and fiction.
> CHRISTMAS TREE APHIDS IN HOMES (12/14/16)
Yes, it is a real thing, and homeowners are finding insects in their homes as a result of the mild fall weather allowing an unusually high number of aphids to survive on Christmas trees. Here is the scoop in Dr. Mike Merchant's blog.
> WIDOW SPIDERS (10/28/16)
Wizzie Brown's blog post on widow spiders is just in time for Halloween.
> GETTING TESTED FOR ZIKA (9/19/16)
> NEW ZIKA RESOURCES FOR THE PUBLIC (7/14/16)
Dr. Sonja Swiger and Dr. Mike Merchant present the latest information as Texas prepares for the Zika Virus.
> WEST NILE VIRUS RISK HIGH IN NORTH TEXAS (7/14/16)
Dr. Mike Merchant discusses the elevated risk for West Nile virus this summer in Dallas and Tarrant counties.
> THERMAL FOGGING FOR QUICK MOSQUITO CONTROL (7/1/16)
Dr. Mike Merchant has a good newsletter post on the benefits of using thermal foggers in the yard for quick knockdown and temporary control of mosquitoes.
> EMERALD ASH BORER FOUND IN TEXAS (5/27/16)
Wizzie Brown, IPM Program Specialist in Austin, has just summarized what is known about the first confirmed find of emerald ash borer in Harrison County.
> MOSQUITO SEASON OPENS IN DALLAS, AND IT IS DIFFERENT THIS TIME (4/16/16)
Dr. Mike Merchant discusses the increased seriousness of mosquitoes given the expanded number of diseases they can vector.
> ZIKA VIRUS: WHAT TEXANS NEED TO KNOW (4/7/16)
> ABOUT MOTHBALLS (3/18/16)
Wizzie Brown's latest newsletter post discusses the fact that mothballs are an insecticide and there is a right way and several wrong ways to use them.
> CONTROLLING FIRE ANTS IN SENSITIVE AREAS (3/18/16)
Dr. Mike Merchant continues his series on fire ant control with special emphasis on sensitive areas like vegetable gardens, compost bins and chicken coops.
> NEW BOOKS ON BEES (3/16/16)
Bees are a hot topic lately, and here are some excellent new publications discussed in Dr. Mike Merchant's newsletter.
> DO CARPET BEETLES STING? (3/16/16)
The answer is no, but they can still cause medical problems as explained by Dr. Mike Merchant.
> CONTROLLING FIRE ANTS IN GARDENS (3/16/16)
Safe and effective fire ant control in vegetable gardens can be achieved with baits, and Dr. Mike Merchant explains how.
> CRANE FLIES, NOT MOSQUITOES (3/15/16)
Spring is the time of year for large numbers of crane flies in central and north Texas. Here is Dr. Mike Merchant's newsletter post on these insects often confused with mosquitoes.
> ZIKA VIRUS: SCIENCE AND WILD CLAIMS (3/11/16)
Dr. Mike Merchant has just posted a review of facts and claims surrounding the current zika virus outbreak.
> BED BUGS: CHECKING YOUR HOTEL ROOM (3/11/16)
Lubbock County Extension Agent IPM Katelyn Kowles has a blog entry on how to check your hotel for bed bugs.
> CHANGING RETAIL MARKET AFFECTS SCALE TREATMENT OPTIONS (3/10/16)
In addition to reviewing the scale treatment options, Dr. Mike Merchant's newsletter post explains how insecticides are named, and why some of the names keep changing.
> ZIKA VIRUS (2/5/16)
Wizzie Brown, our Urban Entomologist in Austin, has just posted a blog article on Zika Virus. There will be more information coming in the next few weeks from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.
> LYME DISEASE AND TICKS IN TEXAS (1/27/16)
Dr. Mike Merchant has posted a nice article tick species, Lyme disease and its prevention.
> PREPARING FOR ZIKA VIRUS (12/29/15)
Dr. Mike Merchant's blog post about a new mosquito-borne disease that approaching our southern border.
> KISSING BUGS AND CHAGAS DISEASE: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW (12/17/15)
> IS IT A KISSING BUG? LOOK HERE FIRST (12/1/15)
Large numbers of people are sending insects and photos of insects to our identification labs because they are concerned they have found a kissing bug. Only around 1% of the insects are kissing bugs, so check Dr. Mike Merchant's blog post on how to tell whether your insect might be a kissing bug.
> KISSING BUGS AND CHAGAS DISEASE (AND A LINK TO KISSING BUG LOOKALIKES) (11/24/15)
After some TV stories aired in the Dallas area and elsewhere, we have been inundated with identification requests for "kissing bugs". Most of these, in fact all but one percent (6 out of 600), have been for things that are not kissing bugs. Wizzie Brown has just posted a blog article on kissing bugs and Chagas disease. But before you send us an insect photo, check this page for photos of kissing bugs and other insects that can be confused with them. (scroll down the page).
> OAK LEAF ITCH MITE CONFIRMED IN OKLAHOMA, MIGHT BE IN TEXAS (11/7/15)
This might not be the year to play in piles of leaves in the yard. Mike Merchant has reported on the return of the oak leaf itch mite, a pest not seen for over ten years.
> WATCH OUT FOR PUSS CATERPILLARS (STINGING ASPS) (10/27/15)
These furry little caterpillars are bad news and can cause blistering and pain. Read Molly Keck's blog post on puss caterpillars.
> RECOGNIZING EMERALD ASH BORER (10/23/15)
As the ash borer nears Texas from neighboring states, a monitoring program has begun. Dr. Mike Merchant has written a post on how to recognize the emerald ash borer on your property.
> BAGWORMS IN THE FALL
Bagworms encase themselves in material from the trees on which they feed, and large numbers of "bags" are common in the fall. Dr. Mike Merchant has just posted a thorough article on bagworms.
> WOOLLY APHIDS (9/16/15)
These whitish aphids have been common this summer and fall and are being found in East, North and Central Texas. Erfan Vafaie has provided a good blog post on these insects.
> GREEN JUNE BEETLES (FIG BEETLES) (9/15/15)
Central Texas is experiencing a large number of these large beetles right now, and many are being found feeding on sap from trees. Wizzie Brown has just posted a blog article on these insects.
> CICADA KILLER WASPS (7/10/15)
These very large wasps get a lot of attention and Wizzie Brown has a nice blog post on them.
> LONE STAR PERIODICAL CICADA EMERGES AFTER 13 YEARS (6/16/15)
This cicada is emerging along the Red River in North Texas and Dr. Mike Merchant has a nice blog entry on the Lone Star Cicada.
> SQUASH VINE BORER
The bane of squash growers around the state has been covered in a blog post by Wizzie Brown in Austin. These pretty moths lay eggs that develop in to larvae that do very bad things to squash plants.
> CHIGGERS (6/11/15)
The rain this year has meant lots of chiggers. Wizzie Brown has an excellent article on myths and facts about chiggers.
> FLOODING AND FIRE ANTS (5/29/15)
As most of the State endures flooding, Wizzie Brown, our Entomologist in Austin, has just posted an article on how fire ants survive flooding and the risks they pose to people who may be hypersensitive to fire ant venom.
> MILLIPEDES AND PILLBUGS AFTER RAINS (5/16/15)
North Texas is experiencing an outbreak of millipedes and pillbugs as explained in Dr. Mike Merchant's new blog post.
> CONCRETE MITES (RED MITES) (5/1/15)
These uncommon mites are being reported in Central and North Texas, and Dr. Mike Merchant has written a very nice article on them.
> SPRING CATERPILLARS: FOREST TENT CATERPILLAR, SPRING CANKERWORM, EASTERN AND WESTERN TENT CATERPILLARS AND FALL WEBWORM (4/10/15)
Dr. Mike Merchant's latest blog entry covers these species and control options.
> FOREST TENT CATERPILLAR OUTBREAK (4/10/15)
North Texas is experiencing high numbers of these caterpillars on trees. Dr. Mike Merchant has just posted a good blog article on these insects.
> CANKERWORM CATERPILLAR OUTBREAK IN TEXAS TREES (4/5/15)
North and Central Texas are experiencing an outbreak of spring cankerworms. Here is Mike Merchant's blog entry on the situation.
>INDIANMEAL MOTHS IN HOMES
These small moths are common in kitchens and homes, and Wizzie Brown has just posted an article on Indianmeal moths in her blog.
> BEST ESSENTIAL OIL PRODUCTS FOR BEDBUGS (12/18/14)
Dr. Mike Merchant has a blog post on the latest research on natural products for bed bug control.
> STRIPED BARK SCORPIONS MOVING INTO HOMES (12/12/14)
It is the time of year when many insects and insect relatives move into homes and structures in order to avoid the cold. Wizzie Brown in Austin has posted a blog article on the striped bark scorpion as a home invader in central Texas.
> NEW KISSING BUG WEBSITE (11/10/14)
The College of Veterinary Medicine and others have a website devoted to kissing bugs and Chagas Disease in Texas. Information on the website includes handling precautions, identification guides and how to submit a bug for identification. There is also a nice picture page of commonly submitted insects that ARE NOT KISSING BUGS.
> EIGHT THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT BED BUGS (11/3/14)
Mollie Keck's blog post about some very practical things people need to know about a bed bug infestation.
> DESERT TERMITES SWARM IN CENTRAL TEXAS (10/2/14)
Mollie Keck explains the sudden appearance of large numbers of termites and the fact that they pose a threat to landscapes but not structures.
> HONEY BEE REMOVAL OPTIONS (7/31/14)
Until now it has been difficult to match homeowners that have honey bee infestations with people willing to remove them. Here is Molly Keck's blog post on a new service listing from the Texas Apiary Inspection Service.
> WHAT TO DO WHEN HONEYBEES MOVE IN (7/11/14)
Honeybees are usually beneficial insects, but not when they are infesting homes and other structures, and they can pose a serious health risk. Here is a blog post by Wizzie Brown, our IPM Program Specialist in Austin.
> GIANT ANTS IN CENTRAL TEXAS (BEXAR COUNTY) (5/30/14)
Molly Keck, our Pest Management Specialist in San Antonio, has written a blog entry on the Texas leafcutting ant swarms. These very large ants are swarming now in areas that had recent rains. Her blog article discusses the ant's biology and possible control measures.
> JUNIPER BUDWORM OUTBREAK IN CENTRAL TEXAS
There is a twin problem on Ashe juniper (cedar) in central Texas: Spider mites and juniper budworm. Here is a link to Wizzie Brown's blog entry.
> TEMPERATURE: THE KEY TO FIRE ANT BAITING (5/6/14)
Dr. Mike Merchant explains the best time to put out fire ant baits.
> CRAPE MYRTLE BARK SCALE (4/4/14)
These small white scale insects are being found on crape myrtles in Dallas/Fort Worth, Tyler, Longview and College Station. Mike Merchant, the Extension Entomologist in Dallas, has just posted a blog entry on this new pest.
> LITTLE MOTHS IN THE HOME (3/3/14)
There are several species of moths that can infest stored products (like flour and pet food), clothing or carpets in the home. Dr. Mike Merchant recently published a blog article on identifying these pests.
> CARPENTER ANT SWARMS IN LATE WINTER AND EARLY SPRING IN TEXAS (2/24/14)
This is the time of year that carpenter ants swarm inside homes and businesses. Dr. Mike Merchant, Extension Entomologist in Dallas, has written a blog entry on these ants and the threat they pose. We have reprinted it here.
> WHAT IS A GREEN PESTICIDE? (2/6/14)
Dr. Mike Merchant, Extension Entomologist in Dallas, has posted an article on low impact pesticides, where to find them listed, and why the label of "green" pesticide is not particularly useful.
> KISSING BUGS (TRIATOMA) (2/6/14)
These blood feeders are not uncommon in Texas homes and they feed on humans and animals. Some people have an allergic reaction to their saliva and they can also transfer the organism that causes Chaga's Disease. Wizzie Brown, our Extension Program Specialist in Austin, has published a short summary of the insect and methods to reduce the incidence of these bugs in the home. A kissing bug photo is posted on the "Most Common" page on this website.
> BED BUGS: More information on bed bug control, especially for Do-It-Yourself (1/9/14).
Dr. Mike Merchant updated Pest Management Providers on dealing with bedbugs in a recent Insects in the City blog. He covered do-it-yourself options such as using alcohol, bug bombs, moth balls and other well intended but ineffective practices. He discussed the “conversation” among researchers and professionals about diatomaceous earth and options for treating bagged personal items for bedbugs during home treatment/cleaning. The benefits and limitations of washing, heat, cold and fumigation treatments of the bagged items were covered. Clear vs. black plastic bags for solarization heat treatment were discussed, as were available fumigants and CO2. Dr. Merchant also has an excellent article on Do-It-Yourself Bed Bug Control: http://citybugs.tamu.edu/factsheets/biting-stinging/others/ent-3012/
> BROWN RECLUSE SPIDERS: Identification and control (1/9/14).
There have been a number of requests for identification of spiders in the home this winter and we are pleased to present Dr. Mike Merchant's recent fact sheet on identification and control of brown recluse spiders.
> FLEA CONTROL: (1/9/14)
Fleas are a vexing problem and Wizzie Brown, our Entomology Program Specialist in Austin, recently wrote a blog entry on flea control in the home. Dr. Mike Merchant in Dallas also has an in-depth look at flea control.