Monday, May 2, 2016

New resource for managing turfgrass pests

If your business has anything to do with keeping turf and lawn areas beautiful and healthy, you're going to want this new book just published by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.   (120 pp., 52 tables) The Weed, Insect, and Disease Control in Turfgrass guide was written by Extension specialists Casey Reynolds, Matt Elmore, Young-Ki Jo, and Diane Silcox Reynolds. It's probably the best single reference to pesticides used in turf, at least in Texas.

Despite some who claim that we need to eliminate turf to save water and reduce pollution from fertilizers and pesticides; healthy turf is essential for our urban areas.  Turfgrass is vital to our parks and urban landscapes, athletic fields, and golf courses; it helps moderate temperatures in urban areas, it holds the soil, and provides a soft cushion for our lives. Unfortunately, southern turf is often challenged by numerous weeds, insect pests and disease.  But with proper selection and judicious use, pesticides can help turf do these jobs better with minimal impact on the environment.

Information in the Weed, Insect, and Disease Control in Turfgrass 2016 guide will help you select the herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides you need. But the guide is far more than a listing of  pesticides.  It includes information on pesticide modes of action, turfgrass tolerance, application rates. It also provides an annotated, pest by pest index of labeled pesticides.

Hard copies of this book are available through the AgriLife Bookstore for $20.  But the electronic version is available for free download here. Also, if you haven't seen the new and updated Aggie Turfgrass website, check it out.  It has excellent descriptions of the most important Texas turfgrasses, and management information for weeds and insects.  It also has links to past and upcoming events like turfgrass field days in Dallas or College Station.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Webinar on Emerald Ash Borer

Trunk injections made by professionals are
one of the most effective tactics for
protection of urban trees. Learn more about
EAB management options at Wednesday's
free seminar.
For anyone interested in learning the latest information about the exotic pest, emerald ash borer, there is a training opportunity later this week that might be just the ticket.  Dr. Dan Herms, professor and chair of the entomology department at Ohio State University, has been involved in EAB research nearly since its arrival.  He will be offering a one hour webinar this Wednesday at noon.

Dr. Herms will be talking about the implications of EAB for both natural and urban areas of the Southeast, the next major region this insect is expected to invade.  The EAB is now known to be within 40 miles of Texas, and may already be here.  Every ash tree in eastern Texas is at risk, and arborists, especially, will benefit from advanced training on this insect.

Here's the official announcement:
The emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire) is now found in 25 U.S. states and Canada in North America, and is rapidly expanding its range across the eastern United States. It has the ability to kill all species of ash trees (Fraxinus spp). 
Being prepared for EAB is important if this pest is to be contained. This webinar will review EAB identification, biology, ecology and management strategies, with particular emphasis on the southeastern U.S. EAB is now considered the most devastating wood pest in North America. 
Dr. Herms has been involved in EAB research and outreach since its discovery in Ohio in 2003, and is also a collaborator with other entomologists researching the pest. No pre-registration is necessary for this webinar. Click here for information on how to join the webinar on April 20, 12:00 CDT. 
Tree care companies, Extension specialists, Master Gardeners, urban foresters, Natural Resources Conservation Service specialists, tree boards, tree nurseries, municipal managers, nature conservancies, and anyone concerned about the future of this important tree species will find this a very useful and enlightening presentation.
Other websites with information about EAB:

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Preparing techs and apprentices

Janet Hurley, our school IPM program specialist, just sent out this reminder that I thought would be good to pass on to Texas readers of this blog.  If you have a technician or apprentice who could benefit from a prep class, you should know about our Ag and Environmental Safety Department offerings. 
Our office has received a lot of questions recently regarding training to help employees get their pesticide applicator's license. Dr. Don Renchie and his team with the Department of Ag and Environmental Safety offers a variety of classes throughout the year for you to choose from. Below are just two of the several courses they offer. 
General Standards Training.    This training is designed to satisfy the Structural Pest Control Service’s requirements for certification of Commercial/Non-commercial and Technician licensing of pesticide applicators (8 hours of training). This is the general training, and not category training. While the Texas Department of Agriculture does not require training as a condition to be licensed, this class will help prepare the applicant for the TDA General examination.  
Please note: This class can be used to satisfy the 8 hour re-certification training requirement for technicians. 
Classes are from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with an hour lunch (lunch is not provided). Deadline for registration is one week prior to training date. Registration is $150.00 per person. The fee includes study manuals (General Standards - B-5073, and Structural Laws & Regs - B-6135). Register online at, or call (979) 845-2604.  
2016 Dates: 
  • Houston - 3033 Bear Creek Dr. 
    • May 25, 2016 
    • August 23, 2016 
    • November 17, 2016 
  • Austin - 2210 South FM 973 
    • July 13, 2016 
    • September 22, 2016   
  • Fort Worth (replaces the Dallas location) - 1100 Circle Drive 
    • February 2, 2016 
    • April 13, 2016 
    • July 27, 2016 
    • October 12, 2016 
  • Corpus Christi - State Hwy 44, West 
    • June 22, 2016 
  • Overton - 1710 FM 3053 North 
    • June 8, 2016 

Please contact the Structural Pest Control Service at (512) 305-8250 or (866) 918-4481 to register for the computer-based testing program for structural pesticide applicators. Applicants must be pre-qualified by TDA prior to registering to take examinations with PSI Services.  
For best test results, order your additional category manuals in advance. Please make separate payment if ordering additional manuals. To order manuals over the phone, call (979) 845-1099 or (979) 845-3849.  
Three Day Apprentice Training.  You can now provide your technician apprentices and other employees with an opportunity to receive 20 hours of in-depth, hands-on training relating to the 20 hours of “Classroom” training required by the Texas Structural Pest Control Service, effective September 1, 2000.  
This program will exceed the minimum 20 hours required to satisfy the apprenticeship classroom training as established by Section 7.133 (h) (1) of the Texas Structural Pest Control Act. In addition, untrained personnel from local and state governments, industry, and institutions (such as school districts) will benefit greatly from participation in this training program.  
Prepare your pest management personnel to be successful professionals, register today! Register online at key word 'apprentice' or call (979) 845-2604.  
Training will be conducted at Texas A&M University’s Riverside Training complex in Bryan, Texas. A map to the location will be provided upon registration. Cost is $350.00 and includes study materials (B-6135 Laws and Regulations, and Apprentice manual). Lunch will be served each day.  
For additional questions, please call (979)845-3849 or (979)845-1099 or visit the Ag & Environmental Safety website at  
2016 Dates: 
  • May 10-11, 2016 
  • August 9-11, 2016 
  • November 1-3, 2016

Monday, April 4, 2016

Another three years of Termidor Section 18 label

Pest management professionals on the front line of the battle with tawny crazy ant (TCA) (Nylanderia fulva) can breath a little easier.  Last Friday the U.S. EPA issued a Section 18 quarantine exemption to allow Termidor® SC to be applied as an extra wide treatment zone around homes and buildings in infested Texas counties.

The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) is perhaps the most important law governing pesticide use and pest control in the U.S.  Section 3 of FIFRA has to do with registering insecticides, and establishes the process by which different pesticides usually get their label approval. This is why you may hear people refer to the standard label on a pesticide container as a "Section 3" label.

Sometimes states have a need for a new use, or pest, that is not allowed under a regular Section 3 label.  When that occurs, the state may request an amended label, called a Section 18 emergency, or Quarantine, exemption.  Section 18 of FIFRA authorizes EPA to allow an unregistered use of a pesticide for a limited time if EPA determines that an emergency pest condition exits. An emergency condition must be an urgent and non-routine situation where 1) no effective registered pesticides are available, 2) no feasible alternative control practices exist, and 3) the situation involves the introduction of a new pest, will present significant risks to human health or the environment, or will cause significant economic loss.

Dead tawny crazy ants pile up around a Termidor® treated
building perimeter.  Once enough dead ants accumulate, other
ants can cross the treatment zone on the bodies of their nest
mates (photo by Jason Meyers).
Several years ago BASF found that Termidor® SC Termiticide/Insecticide was highly effective at killing TCA, but did not always  effectively keep TCA out of buildings.  This happened because TCA numbers were so great in infested areas, that dead ants would pile up around the treated perimeter of buildings. As dead ants accumulated on the allowed one-foot out treatment zone, other ants would simply crawl over the zone on the dead bodies of their nest mates.  It became apparent that the standard one-foot-up and one-foot-out perimeter treatments allowed under the Termidor® Section 3 labels were inadequate to protect homes and businesses from invasion by this ant.

The latest Section 18 granted to the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) allowed applications to be made as a 10-feet-out (on sod) by 3-foot-up perimeter treated zone.  This last exemption ran out on November 1 2015, and anxious PMPs have been waiting for its renewal since.  This week's announcement will allow the 3-foot-up and 10-foot-out Termidor® SC use this year when ants become active again, according to Extension entomologist Dr. Paul Nester. Nester noted that the label restricts users to two applications per year per structure, at least 60 days apart.  Most people, he said, apply first in late June, when ants become troublesome, and then again in late August.

The Section 18 label restricts its exemption to infested Texas counties only:
For control of tawny crazy ant species associated with man-made structures in Texas within the counties of Bexar, Brazoria, Brazos, Cameron, Chambers, Comal, Fayette, Fort Bend, Galveston, Hardin, Harris, Hays, Hidalgo, Jefferson, Jim Hogg, Liberty, Matagorda, Montgomery, Nueces, Orange, Polk, San Augustine, Travis, Victoria, Walker, Wharton, Williamson, and to include additional counties where positive identification has been made (by Texas A&M entomologists).
The list will change as the number of infested counties goes up (and it will), so it's a good idea to check the current range map maintained at Texas A&M.

Though there are other fipronil-containing sprays, only Termidor®  SC has the expanded perimeter Section 18 treatment option.

According to Nester, most applicators use Termidor® or Taurus® treatments in combination with yard treatments of either dinotefuran, lambda-cyhalothrin (or other pyrethroid), or a fipronil granule.

This week's announcement came from Dale R. Scott, Director for Environmental and Biosecurity Programs at TDA.  He encourages anyone with questions to contact Kevin Haack (TDA Coordinator for Pesticide Evaluation and Registration) or Mike Kelly (TDA Coordinator for Structural Programs).

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Controlling fire ants in gardens

Fire ant carrying bait back to the nest.  Baits do not have to be
applied directly to a garden to control fire ants living inside a
vegetable garden.  USDA image courtesy Bugwood.
One of the common questions about fire ants concerns control within vegetable gardens. This is an especially common question directed to licensed applicators who work for school districts with school gardens.  It also may be an issue for PMPs servicing residential accounts with home gardens.

A standard, low-risk treatment on commercial, residential and school properties is use of a fire ant bait; however many of the most commonly used baits do not allow direct use in vegetable gardens. Fortunately, there is a work-around.

In most cases the simplest way to get fire ants out of a small- to medium-sized garden is to apply a fast acting fire ant bait around the outside garden perimeter.  This should be a legal application for all fire ant baits (check your label to be sure), and since fire ants do not pay much attention to garden edges, the garden infesting ants will readily pick up bait from the surrounding ground.  Yes the bait does end up inside the garden anyway, but only inside the fire ant nests, where there is no risk of it contaminating leafy vegetables.

For larger gardens or cropland where perimeter treatments might be less effective, several fire ant baits are legal for use.  Spinosad and abamectin-containing baits generally allow garden application (e.g., Clinch®, Fertilome® Come and Get It, and Payback®).  In addition, Extinguish® (but not Extinguish® Plus) fire ant bait containing methoprene has a label that allows use on cropland. However Extinguish is too slow for most gardeners, requiring approximately two months for maximum control.

In addition to baits, mounds can be treated directly with any of several mound drenches labeled for use in gardens.  The eXtension website contains recommendations for a two-step (bait and mound treatment) approach to fire ant control in both conventional and organic vegetable gardens.

Appreciation to Dr. Paul Nester (Texas A&M AgriLife) for supplying some of the information used in this post.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Do carpet beetles "sting"?

Varied carpet beetle larva.  The tufts of hair on the final tail
segments (right) are barbed and have been associated
with dermatitis and gastrointestinal upset in some people.
Dermestid beetles (Coleoptera: Dermestidae) are among the most common indoor pests throughout the United States.  The principal damage caused by these beetles occurs when they feed on stored products containing animal protein, such as woolen sweaters, rugs, silks, furs and feathers.  Also products containing dried dairy and grain based foods may be attacked. Outdoors, dermestid beetles may feed on dead animals or may scavenge in bird and other animal nests.

What's less known about these beetles is that they occasionally make people sick. I was reminded of this today after being asked whether carpet beetles could bite from two email correspondents.  Now it's true that carpet beetles do not bite, but they can affect people in other ways.

Small hairs called hastisetae are found on the larvae of some dermestid beetles, especially in the genera Anthrenus (carpet beetles) and Trogoderma (warehouse beetles).  These hairs can cause urticaria, dermatitis, vasculitis, lymphadenopathy, and allergic rhinitis in sensitive persons, as illustrated by a recent paper in Pediatric Dermatology from Kara Hoverson and colleagues.

Multiple beetle-caused, excoriated lesions on the
face of a 2-year-old girl. From Hoverson et. al. 2015.
In this paper a two-year old girl experienced skin eruptions on her feet, face and hands.  Subsequently, a few carpet beetles were found in the patient's stuffed animals, mattresses, drawers, baseboards and nightstands, according to the article.  Pesticide applications alone were ineffective in stopping the lesions; but after thorough vacuuming, carpet steam cleaning, and discarding of old bedding and linens, along with physician prescribed ointment treatments, the lesions improved by 70%-80%.  By two weeks after treatment, all lesions were healing. The mother had only a few lesions and the father, who traveled extensively, had none.

An adjoining apartment was found to be even more heavily infested, possibly the original source of the problem.  Occupants of that unit were not bothered by the beetles and refused treatment. Dermestid beetles found in the apartment included larder beetles (Dermestes lardarius), beetles in the genus Anthrenus (carpet beetles) and the genus Attagenus (furniture beetles).

Such hypersensitive reactions are not new to the medical literature.  The Pennsylvania State University published a fact sheet on carpet beetle dermatitis that summarizes reports from 1948 concerning several case histories.  In addition, carpet beetle larvae can cause gastrointestinal upset if swallowed, for example in infested milk, cereal or grain products.

All this does not make carpet beetles an especially alarming indoor pest. Dermestid beetles are very common in homes, especially in the South.  Yet, reports of hypersensitive reactions to contact with carpet beetles are rare in the medical literature. Even when beetles are present in a home, direct contact with humans is not common. And finding a few carpet beetles in a home does not necessarily mean that they are automatically the cause of skin lesions.  Nevertheless, customer reports of "bites" or lesions should be investigated when carpet beetles are apparent.

Complicating matters further, carpet beetles are, not surprisingly, often collected from apartments of people with suspected delusions of parasitosis. This can make diagnosis of such a condition more difficult, because it may require ruling out beetle-related dermatitis as a cause of suspected bites or skin irritation.

Delusions of parasitosis, however, normally involve unreasonably high levels of stress and irrational response to perceived pest problems, beyond what would be considered a normal response to a minor or undetectable pest infestation. PMPs who encounter mystery bug cases where carpet beetles are present, should recommend a thorough (HEPA) vacuuming of furniture and other likely sources of infestation, including cleaning of bed linens.  In addition a thorough inspection should be made for possible sources of a beetle infestation, including use of sticky traps.

I have carpet beetles in my home, but this information will not change the way I view these persistent insects. When I see a carpet beetle my first concern is for any expensive sweaters stored in our closets.  Good housekeeping will keep most carpet beetle populations at acceptably low levels in most homes.  

The annual crane fly invasion

The long-legged crane flies are one of our early
harbingers of spring. Like all flies, crane flies
have only two functional wings--though the
remnants of the second set of wings, borne by most
insects, are visible here as small knobby structures
behind the flying wings.
While concern about mosquitoes floats ominously over the digital airwaves this month, annual flying hosts of crane flies quietly fill the real air over cities and fields throughout Texas.  Crane flies are most apparent each year in our state during the late winter/early spring.  I think of them as one of the first signs that spring is nearly upon us.

The crane fly family is one  of the most diverse families of true flies.  There are over 1500 different kinds found in North America.

The common name "mosquito hawk" is sometimes given to these flies; however the name usually comes with the belief that these insects are predators, perhaps on mosquitoes. Nothing could be further from the truth. Crane flies are among the gentlest of insects.  Some are nectar feeders, sipping sweet sugars from plants and possibly helping out a little with pollination in the process. Other species lack mouth parts entirely.  Instead, the adults of these species live out their short lives relying on fat reserves built up during their underground larval stage.

Crane fly larvae are rarely seen by all but the most dedicated (nerdy?) naturalists.  These long, legless, worm-like creatures may be found in many types of moist soil, sandy areas along streams, rotting vegetation, mosses, or even feeding on organic matter in the nests of birds and mammals.  Very few are considered pests, though the European leatherjacket can be a pest of turfgrass.

Your customers may be seeing crane flies and thinking that the mosquitoes are coming out larger and earlier every year.  But crane flies are generally active before our pest mosquitoes. They can be distinguished from mosquitoes by their generally larger size; but also by their wings, which lack the scales found on mosquito wings. Close examination of the thorax with a hand lens will also show a V-shaped suture just behind the wings.  

So what is good about crane flies?  They are undoubtedly greatly appreciated by hungry birds at this time of year, as well as smaller mammals, fish, spiders and predatory insects.

There is no practical control for crane flies since they emerge from a variety of breeding sites and fly into backyards regardless of pest control measures.  Instead, perhaps we should encourage our customers to "enjoy" crane flies while they last.

Some of your customers may think more kindly of these gentle and harmless insects when they learn that they only have love on their tiny minds.  The sole activity and goal of the adult crane fly is to find a mate and, for the females, to lay eggs for next spring's crop of flies. And who wants to get in the way of love?