Thursday, May 28, 2015

Mosquitoes on the Rise Following the Rains

If you have been outside at all the last couple of evenings like me, you feel like a pin cushion or feel like you are getting a workout in karate from all the swatting you had to do to keep the mosquitos off of you.  As hard as I tried, I have been unsuccessful judging by the bites I have on my arms.  While visiting with Sonja L. Swiger, PhD, Entomologist Specialist of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service located in Stephenville she told me “Mosquitoes affect the health of people and animals more than any other insect pest worldwide.” Biting female mosquitoes transmit many disease-causing organisms, including encephalitis, malaria, and yellow fever.  In addition to their impact on human and animal health, several species of mosquitoes are what is referred to as “nuisance” mosquitoes.  Mosquito populations can occur anywhere in Texas.  To control mosquitoes effectively and economically, you need to understand their life cycle, be able to identify the mosquito species in your area and know the management steps that provide the best control for different species and at specific locations.

            The mosquito life cycle consists of an egg that is laid near or on water, in moist soil or even in locations where the eggs can lay dormant for up to 2 years awaiting rain, typical of many floodwater mosquitoes. An aquatic larva will then hatch from the egg.  The larva will go through four stages, growing in size each time, and will filter feed on organic material in the water. The next life stage is referred to as a pupa, a resting stage where the wingless/legless larva turns into a winged/legged adult. Adult female mosquitoes typically live for about a week to a month, and can take multiple bloodmeals throughout this time period.  Only females bite to obtain blood for making eggs.

            Adult mosquitoes are long-legged flies that have two wings with scales on the veins. Many are fairly small in size but a particular floodwater group called Psorophora is relatively large in size. Mosquitoes are divided into groups based on where the females lay their eggs and where the larvae develop: permanent pools, transient water, floodwater and artificial containers and tree holes.  The control strategies differ for each group.

            The adult mosquitoes around your home may have come from a breeding site near or far away, depending on the species, wind patterns, and the flight habits of the females:
·         Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus breed primarily in and around human habitations and fly short distances, usually only about 200 yards.
·         Most Anopheles mosquitoes have a flight range of about 1 mile. Psorophora species have flight ranges of at least 5 miles.
·         Some salt-marsh mosquitoes in the genera Aedes can disperse with the prevailing winds for 20 to 40 miles or more away from the larval development sites.

To manage mosquitoes and protect yourself against bites, always follow the 4 D’s:
·         Dusk and Dawn – avoid being outside when mosquitoes are searching for a bloodmeal, this is at the early morning hours and in evening before the sun goes down.  Although some species are daytime biters most prefer dusk and dawn.
·         Drain – empty any standing water found on you property or store items so that they cannot hold water.  This can include all types of things – buckets, wheelbarrows, kiddie pools, toys, dog bowls, water troughs, etc.
·         Dress – If out during mosquito feeding hours, wear long sleeves and pants in plain colors.  Also avoid attracting them with excessive amounts of perform or aftershave.
·         Defend – any time you go outside for an extended period of time, wear an insect repellant.

Additional means of controlling for mosquitoes includes:
·         Sanitation: Remove mosquito food, water, and shelter.
·         Biological control: Use mosquito fish, nematodes, and Bacillus thuringiensis israeliensis toxin and Bacillus sphaericus.
·         Mechanical control: Maintain window screens and alter building designs.
·         Chemical suppression: Use insecticides against larvae and/or adults.

            Mosquitoes can affect people and animals by feeding on blood annoy people, birds, mammals, and other vertebrates. They disrupt outdoor work and recreational activities. If enough mosquitoes are in an area, they can cause severe blood loss and slow the growth of livestock.  Also mosquitoes affect people and animals by transmitting disease organisms.  The most common of these diseases now in Texas are West Nile Virus and Chikungunya, as well as dog and cat heartworm.

            The rains don’t seem to be going away anytime soon so protect yourself and try to follow these guidelines.  I am not the one who decides when the rain stops, but I do know usually in Texas when it stops it stops.  So for those of you that want it to quit raining remember what the lake looked like a month ago, six months ago and on and on.  For more information please contact the Wise County Extension office at 940-627-3341.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Insect Repellent

Has anyone besides me noticed that the spring rains have brought more than just water to replenish the earth? My family has already experienced an influx of mosquitos and ticks around the house. It is important to be informed before selecting an insect repellent for use this spring and summer to ensure that you are taking all precautions to protect your family’s health! Mosquitos, flies, and ticks can be annoying and sometimes pose a serious risk to public health.
In comparing the wide variety of insect repellents available on the market, it is important to consider form and concentration, active ingredients, cost per use, type of insect repelled, as well as other factors, such as ease of use, odor, and how the product feels on the skin. It is important to purchase products that have been approved for use by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Always read labels carefully to determine any special precautions in using the products. When using on children, apply to your own hands; then put it on the child. Also, don’t spray in closed areas, avoid breathing the spray and don’t use near food.
Aerosol and pump-spray products are intended for skin applications as well as for treating clothing.  Liquid, cream, lotion, spray, and stick products enable direct skin applications.
Products with a low concentration of active ingredient may be appropriate for situations with minimal insect exposure. Higher concentrations of active ingredient may be useful in highly infested areas or with insect species that are more difficult to repel.  Repellents containing a higher concentration of active ingredient (such as DEET) provide longer-lasting protection.
            A variety of chemicals have been used to repel biting insects and ticks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the three most common active ingredients in repellents are DEET, picaridin and oil of eucalyptus. The conventional repellents DEET and picaridin are considered by the EPA to be the most effective active ingredients 
The gold standard for insect repellents is still DEET. It has broad spectrum activity and is effective against many insects and ticks, fleas and chiggers.  For casual use, a product containing 10-30 percent DEET should be adequate. Coverage provides 2-8 hours of protection. For children, it is best to be conservative and keep the concentration of DEET at 10 percent or less. It is important to note that DEET can damage plastics, leather, and synthetic fabrics like rayon so care must be taken when applying the repellent to clothing. A few of the marketed DEET  products are:  Off Deep Woods, Repel Insect Repellent, and Off Skintastic for Kids.
Picaridin has 4-8 hours of effectiveness, but because it is odorless, not irritating or greasy and doesn’t damage plastics or synthetics, many people prefer it to DEET. Some products containing picaridin include Cutter Advanced Insect Repellent, Avon Skin-so-Soft Bug Guard Plus Picaridin and Off Family Care Insect Repellent.
Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, a bio-repellent which is derived from natural materials, supplies about 6 hours of protection.  It is important to be aware that products containing lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children under 3 years. A few of the oil of lemon eucalyptus  marketed products include Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent Lotion and Cutter Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent.
And finally, the CDC does not recommend using products that combine DEET with sunscreen. Sunscreens are intended for generous and frequent use while DEET is intended for less frequent use. The CDC recommendation is to apply sunscreen first, then the insect repellent containing DEET, to be sure that each product works as specified. 

For additional information on choosing an effective and safe insect repellent for your family, contact the Wise County Extension office at 940/627-3341.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Pecan Nut Casebearer

            Pecan growers and homeowners with backyard trees need to be on the lookout for the pecan nut casebearer, a perennial pest that can significantly damage a pecan crop if not controlled.

            Based on Extension Entomologist’s predictions and current Wise and Parker County trap findings, control for first generation casebearers should be applied to pecan trees May 20-23.  To determine if spraying is necessary, check pecan clusters for eggs and nut entries on a daily basis.  Eggs are usually found on the tips of nutlets and are about the size of the end of a ball point pen.  The eggs are white when first laid, then turn pink to red over a three to five day period before hatching.

            Apply an insecticide the third day after the first eggs hatch to kill the larvae before they enter the nutlets.  Since larvae will be hatching over a week-long period or more, a second spraying may be necessary.

            Suggested insecticides for homeowners include:  Bt which has been effective in several tests and when timed accurately will not harm beneficial insects, also sprays containing Spinosad, Malathion and Sevin.  Suggested insecticides for commercial growers include:  Bt, Lorsban, Sevin, Imidan, Confirm 2F, Intrepid and Malathion.  The Bt, Sevin and Malathion would be better choices if livestock are grazing in the orchard.   

Follow label directions when using pesticides.

Thursday, May 21, 2015


With Graduation, Father’s Day, and many other summer activities approaching many of you are sure to fire up the outdoor grill to help with food preparation for the celebrations.
            Outdoor grilling is a popular way to prepare food during warmer weather while enjoying the company of family and friends.  However, grilling does “open the door” to food borne illness if proper cleanliness and preparation measures are not followed.  

            To make your cookout a fond memory rather than a regretful experience, follow these simple steps:
Food Preparation:
           Select fresh meat, poultry, or seafood that is high quality for best cooking results.
           Keep these perishable products at 40° F or colder, until immediately before grilling.
           Thaw frozen food in the refrigerator and discard leftover marinade.
           Wash your hands before and after working with raw meat, poultry, or seafood.
           Wash your work surfaces and cutting boards with hot, soapy water before and after preparing food.  To sanitize, use 1 tsp. bleach per quart of warm water.  If possible, use a separate cutting board for fresh produce and raw meat, poultry, or seafood.
           When away from home, keep your meat and poultry away from other food in a separate cooler with ice.  This prevents cross contamination.
           After placing raw meat on the grill, wash utensils and platters with hot, soapy water before using them to serve cooked food.
           Cook foods to an internal temperature that destroys harmful bacteria.  Check the temperature by placing a thermometer in the center-most part of the meat, not touching the bone.

Internal temperature for thorough cooking to prevent food borne illness are:
           Whole poultry - 165° F
           Poultry breasts - 165° F
           Ground beef patties - 160° F
           Ground poultry - 165° F
           Beef, veal, lamb steaks, roasts, or chops - 145° F (yields medium rare doneness)
           All cuts of pork - 160° F (yields medium doneness)

Safe handling of cooked food:
           Serve food immediately after grilling, or keep at 135° F or above until served.
           Place on a clean platter.
           Refrigerate on a clean platter.
           Refrigerate all leftovers immediately at 40° F or below.

Discard any food left out longer than 2 hours, or 1 hour if temperature is above 90° F.  Note: These temperatures are recommended for consumer cooking. They are not intended for processing, institutional, or food service preparation. Food Service Workers should consult their state or local food code, or health department.

And finally, if you are looking for a recipe to make your own rub to use on meats throughout this grilling season, you might want to try the following courtesy of the Texas Beef Council.

Ranch Rub

2 teaspoons sweet paprika, 2 teaspoons dried thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper, 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper. Combine all ingredients. Store in airtight container. Shake before using.

             For more information about safe outdoor grilling or food safety call Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, Wise County office at 940.627.3341.