Wednesday, April 27, 2016


Treat your yards and neighborhood this spring for fire ant relief this summer and fall.  Fire ants love to nest in home lawns, parks and ornamental turf grass areas. At certain times of the year, freshly worked mounds are noticeable and can be unsightly. During the winter months, there’s very little ant mounding activity and it is easy to forget they are there.

However, after all of the early spring rainfall, fire ant activity has increased.  It is during these times when the ants are very active and can cause more problems especially when everyone wants to be outside after being indoors all winter long.  The last thing you want at your outdoor activity is a colony of angry fire ants ready to take over and turn your happy occasion into a miserable one.  Did you know that the fire ant is a native of Brazil, and was imported from this country through Mobile, Alabama in the 1930’s?

Don’t wait until you have serious ant problems. Keep those problems from happening by maintaining a good control program throughout the year.  Fire ants travel from yard to yard (they could care less about property lines) and are easily dispersed due to periodic mating flights.  Did you know that the fire ant queen lives for 2-5 years and can produce up to 800 eggs per day?  Also, remember a high percentage of the mounds in Texas have multiple queens, meaning there is no territorial behavior, resulting in excessive numbers of fire ant mounds per acre or in the homeowners case, per yard!  Because most of our mounds have multiple queens, and may be spread over larger areas than we actually see, just sprinkling a product over the top of the mound may not reduce the entire population.  In areas where fire ants produce more mounds than you care to treat one at a time (usually more than 4 in a normal yard), or where you spend more time and money on insecticides than you would like to, there is an approach that is less labor-intensive, less toxic and more environmentally friendly.  It is called the Two-Step Method, Do-It-Yourself Fire Ant Control method. It is advocated by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. You can obtain a copy of the most recent fire ant management brochure (ENTO-034) by visiting the Texas A&M AgriLife Bookstore and download a copy.

The Two-Step Method goes like this:

The first step is to make a semi-annual, spring and fall, broadcast application of a fire ant bait insecticide. There are several fire ant baits available for use in urban areas such as hydramethylnon (Amdro), methoprene (Extinguish), hydramethylnon + methoprene (Extinguish Plus or Amdro Yard Treatment), pyriproxifen (Distance or Esteem), and spinosad (Ferti-Loam “Come and Get It” or Payback fire ant bait).  Other products can be found on the official Texas A&M Fire Ant web page,
Please consult the product label and read thoroughly for the broadcast instructions!

Periodic broadcast applications of fire ant baits provide roughly 90 percent suppression of fire ants when properly applied.  Baits can be broadcast over small to large areas using suitable hand-held, vehicle-mounted or aerial applicators. Apply a fresh bait product, when ants are foraging, to dry ground when no rain is expected for 24 to 48 hours after treatment.  Temperature should be between 65 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit.  Speed and duration of ant suppression differs with the product selected.  For instance, broadcast applications of the hydramethylnon + methoprene fire ant bait provides maximum control two to four after application while methoprene fire ant bait (an insect growth regulator product) provides maximum suppression four to nine months after treatment, depending on environmental conditions.  Rarely are all colonies eliminated following treatment. Bi-annual applications of the bait product keeps pressure on the fire ant population so each subsequent baiting event is much more effective since less ants are present.
About one week to 10 days after bait application, apply individual mound treatments to “nuisance” ant colonies, such as those in sensitive or high traffic areas. Otherwise, be patient and wait for the bait treatments to work. Even though some bait products are relatively fast-acting, colonies remaining active after six weeks or so have “escaped” the effects of the bait treatment and should be treated with an individual mound treatment. Ant mound treatment products are available as liquid drenches, injectable aerosols, dusts, or granules that are watered in to the mound. Ants are killed only if the insecticide contacts them, so proper application is essential.  Colonies migrating into treated areas should be treated as needed.  Hundreds of effective individual mound treatment products are available to choose from, and a number of them are considered to be “organic.” 

For a two-step program that uses only natural products, broadcast a spinosad bait and then treat mounds with d-limonene or products containing unsynergized pyrethrins or drench with a spinosad liquid product solution.  On small properties where a high degree of control is needed, consider using the “Ant Elimination” method (described in ENTO-034) utilizing a granular fipronil product such as Top Choice®, or Taurus G®.  These are restricted pesticide products and can only be applied by a licensed pesticide applicator. Only one application is allowed per year preferably early spring.

None of the methods of fire ant control available today eliminate fire ants forever.  The bait application may be repeated, if environmental conditions are favorable, whenever sufficient re-invasion occurs.  Between these baiting treatments, nuisance mounds should be treated individually. These areas can be re-infested by colonies migrating in from surrounding areas or by newly-mated queens seeking to start new colonies. The rate of re-infestation depends on many factors such as weather, soil type and moisture, but ant populations can be expected to fully recover within 18 months of the last treatment.

Controlling the fire ant situation will be successful only if communities get involved. Your neighborhood association can coordinate a “Community-Wide Fire Ant Management Program” resulting in the treatment of your entire neighborhood each year, usually once in the fall (Late September through October) and once in the spring (Late April through early June), or contracting with a local commercial applicator to perform the treatment(s). Treatment of the entire area is important as re-infestation from nearby untreated areas generally occur.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Know your Beef: Cuts Best for Smoker, Grill

Nothing is worse than grilling a steak, enjoying the aroma as it cooks, and then barely being able to cut through it with your best steak knife. The issue probably isn’t your skill on the grill. It’s most likely a bad match of cooking method and cut of beef.
The following information from the Texas Beef Council and Ohio State Extension will equip you with knowledge to prepare the perfect meal packed full of nutrition. Beef is an excellent source of 10 essential nutrients, including protein, zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin B6 and niacin.  On average, a 3-oz. serving of lean beef is about 150 calories
Lean cuts of beef — those with little marbling and external fat — are better suited to slow cooking methods, such as smoking. Slow cooking allows connective tissue and muscle fibers to break down. The process tenderizes what otherwise would be a tough chew. Those cuts are from the parts of the animal that work the hardest, the muscles used for walking and locomotion, which have little fat and the most connective tissue.
 Generally, those cuts are the round, which is at the hindquarters of the animal, and the chuck and brisket, which are at the front of the animal, from the shoulders to the chest. Cuts of meat from these areas, which would be good for your smoker, include:  brisket; chuck roast; arm roasts; top and bottom round roasts; tip roasts; eye round roast; and boneless rump roast.
In between the round and the chuck are the “middle meats,” which are best for grilling. They tend to have a lot of marbling, which is the little white flecks of fat throughout a piece of meat. Generally, the more marbling in the meat, the more palatable it will be — flavorful, tender and juicy. The rib and short loin tend to have the most marbling. The sirloin, which offers lean, tender cuts of meat without much fat, is situated behind the short loin and in front of the round.
Cuts from the rib, short loin and sirloin that would be great on the grill include: bone-in and boneless ribeye steaks; back ribs; strip steak, such as New York or Kansas City strip; T-bone steak; porterhouse steak; top sirloin; and tenderloin.
Skirt steaks, which come from the middle part of the animal’s underside, found in the flank area, are good quick-skillet muscle cuts best used for fajitas, tacos and in salads.
Whatever cut you choose, when the meat is done, let it cool slightly to let the juices settle, and always slice against the grain. That will break up the muscle grain into small pieces, which will make the meat less chewy.
For additional information on cooking with beef, contact the Extension office at 940/627-3341.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Wise Chicks Coop Tour.

Also check out more information on our facebook page:

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Weeds in Pasture and Hay Fields

It has been a good year for weeds.  Weeds cost ranchers in Texas millions of dollars in lost production each year because they rob desirable forages of moisture and nutrients.  This is the time of year we usually apply herbicides to our summer pastures for broadleaf weed control and a few troublesome grasses.  Weather forecasting models predict that we will be facing dry conditions this year once again.  That magnifies the importance of producing maximum forage with limited rainfall we receive.

       Because of the increased high winds we face in the spring, it has kept custom applicators behind but it’s not too late to apply herbicides and still achieve good control.  Costs for herbicide plus application range from $4 - $25 per acre depending on the herbicide used and rate.  Research has shown that for every one pound of weeds killed can produce up to four pounds of forage. Used in combination, herbicide and fertilizer can significantly increase more grass production.  However, herbicide alone increases grass production more than fertilizer alone.  If you have fields free from weeds, fertilizer alone is the right choice.  

            Producers are lucky in that several herbicide choices are out there that do not require a pesticide applicator license for the purchase.  

            I get questions every year about mowing weeds.  According to Texas A&M Trials, mowing cost $10 to $15 per acre, or about the same as herbicide.  One difference, mowing doesn’t improve grass production since it won’t kill the weeds.  

            Pastora herbicide is used for grassbur control.  It is recommended as a post emerge application at about 1 oz. per acre.  No license is required.  Be scouting your field for grassbur emergence.  It is very important to spray them while they are young and in the two leaf stage for best results.

            If you haven’t applied your weed killer yet, get a plan together to spray or contact your custom applicator today to get on their list or get your sprayer calibrated and ready for the next wind free day. 

For more information please call Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Wise County at 940-627-3341.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Be Prepared for the Unexpected During a Tornado

It’s tornado season and hopefully Wise County residents will not be involved in a tornado this year.  However, it is always smart to be prepared for the unexpected by preparing a home tornado plan.

Pick a place in your home as a shelter, and practice having family members go there during drill sessions.  A storm cellar, center hallway, bathroom, or closet on the lowest level of your home is best. Take your pets and your emergency kit with you.

            A basic emergency supply kit could include the following items (recommended by and should be assembled and customized according to individual needs:

  • Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger

Develop an emergency family communication plan. Select an out-of-town friend or relative for everyone to check in with if family members are in different locations during a disaster.  Make sure everyone in the family knows the name, address, and phone number of this contact person.

It is also a good idea to visit with neighbors to determine how you can work together during an emergency.  Also be aware of tornado warning sirens in your community and if you can hear them from your home and work.

For more information concerning preparing for the unexpected during a tornado, call Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, Wise County at 940/627-3341.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Is Your Child Buckled Correctly?

There are rear-facing car seats, forward-facing car seats, belt-positioning booster seats and high back booster seats.  All these are critical in keeping a child safe in a vehicle, but they are not the most important factor.
Parents are the most important factor in ensuring that children are securely placed in the proper child safety seat for the child and the proper child safety seat for the vehicle.  On  Wednesday April 20 from 1:30 to 4:30 pm, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service - Montague County will conduct a free child safety seat checkup event at the Montague County Sheriff’s Department  parking lot located at 111 S. Grand, Montague, TX. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service - Montague County is working in conjunction with the Texas Department of Transportation
Certified child passenger safety technicians will go over the checkup form with parents and point out what is correct and incorrect with each child safety seat. They will then properly install the child safety seats, take them back out, and then allow the parents to re-install them.  Inspections may take up to 30 minutes each, depending on how many pointers are given to the parents.
Four out of five car seats are used incorrectly.  Besides buckling a child in properly, there are other measures to take to help ensure child safety.  Put bags of groceries in the trunk of a car or in the very back of a sport utility vehicle or van. In a crash, cans and jars can turn into deadly projectiles.
Also, never place an infant in the front seat of a car especially with a passenger side air bag. The safest place for all children 12 and under is the back seat.  For families with more than one child, tips on the safest seat positions for all the children will be given out.
For more information on this event or if you are unable to make it to Montague County call the Wise County Extension office at 940/627-3341.  As a certified child passenger safety technician I am available by appointment to inspect car seats and educate parents/caregivers.