Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Eyes open for brown marmorated stink bug

Closeup view of BMSB from the Penn State University.
By all accounts the brown marmorated stink bug smells bad.  On top of that, it's stuck with a tough name. But this new stink bug pest deserves it.

The brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB), Halyomorpha halys, is native to Asia and was first detected in the U.S. in Pennsylvania in 1998. This pest is now well-established in the northeast and has been detected in more than 25 states, including Oregon.

Although most University types are concerned with the BMSB because of its potential impact on agricultural crops like fruit trees, sweet corn, tomatoes, soybeans and ornamentals, this pest has the potential to become another significant structural pest.

But don't start counting your increased revenue stream just yet.  The BMSB is not a satisfying, or easy, pest to control.  It's the same kind of seasonal invader of homes as the boxelder bug, paper wasps or the Asian multicolored lady beetle.  Like these pests, it's attracted to the outside of structures on warm fall days in search of protected overwintering sites. It readily enters buildings where it occasionally reappears in living areas during warmer, sunny periods throughout the winter. It again emerges in the spring. Like these pests, the solution may be more in the line of sealing and caulking the home and vacuuming up the bugs instead of being easily blocked by an insecticide application.

To date, BMSBs have been reported from approximately 33 states, but not from Texas.  This will likely change soon, as they are easily transported in cars, campers and RVs.

Here's where you can help.  If you think you run into an infestation of brown marmorated stink bugs, let me or one of our extension entomologists from around the state know.  You can send specimens or good quality digital images.  If you choose to send a specimen, please follow the directions on this page, and include a completed insect ID form with accurate information about date and location where the specimen was collected.
The brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys, right) can be distinguished from the brown (Euschistus servus, left) and bark (Brochymena quadripustulata, center) stink bugs by markings and the white bands at the joints of the antennae.  (Note: These images not necessarily to scale.  The two left photos were taken by Mike Quinn,; and the right image by Melinda Fawver.  Thanks for permission to use.)
The BMSB has some similar relatives that are common in Texas.  The best identification mark is the white band at the joint between the 3rd and 4th (last) antennal segments (see image).  The BMSB also has rounded "shoulders" (corners of the pronotum), and four creamy spots on the pronotum (shield) just behind the head and on the top of the scutellum (triangular shaped plate between the bases of the wings).

Monday, July 18, 2011

Icky ticks

Screen shot from the TickApp showing male and female lone star ticks.
Certainly one of the most disgusting pests PMPs are likely to encounter are ticks. Those of you who live in heavy tick zones know what I mean. But how many times have you found a tick, or been asked about ticks by a customer, and been at a loss for answers? Now there's a new web application called "TickApp" that provides quick information about everything you need to know about ticks.

Researchers and extension specialists at Texas A&M University developed TickApp as a smart-phone friendly website to provide information about ticks.  Anyone with access to the Internet at home or on their smart phone can access it at

"Ticks  are blood-feeding parasites capable of causing irritation, inflammation and infection in animals and humans, as well as transmitting the  pathogens that cause tick-borne diseases," said Dr. Pete Teel, Texas  AgriLife Research professor and associate entomology department head.  "We are frequently contacted for assistance from lay and professional  audiences to identify ticks and answer questions about their biology,  distribution and control, as well as the potential for acquiring a  tick-borne disease.”

TickApp provides in-depth content on tick identification,  biology, ecology, prevention and management, and was designed for  primary delivery on smart phones such as BlackBerry, Droid, and iPhone  using Internet browsers, Teel said. It also can be accessed by desktop  or laptop computer, as well as other personal portable electronic  devices.

PMPs who have to work outdoors in tick infested environments should find the app useful, as well as pet owners; state and federal park managers and employees; animal shelter workers; animal control employees; outdoor educators; animal health inspectors; military personnel; veterinarians and vet clinic employees; public health and medical clinic employees; and recreational consumers, such as campers, hunters, birders, hikers and fishermen.;

Read the original article by Paul Schattenberg for more information.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

No new taxes (but maybe new fees)

If it didn't hurt so much, it might be funny. In case you haven't noticed, there's nary a politician in the country who wants to be caught voting for higher taxes these days. Yet in order to balance budgets without dismantling essential programs, fees are quietly being raised for many different state and federal programs.  The latest proposed fee hikes for pest control licenses are just one example.

The Texas Department of Agriculture has published a proposal to raise licensing fees an average of 57% for business, applicators' and technicians' licenses and continuing education courses.  The reason for the fee hike is that this year's Texas legislature declined to fund benefits for TDA employees, with instructions for the agency to make up the budget shortfall with fee increases.  As predicted in an earlier post, the agency took a major (45%) cut in its overall budget, though the major impact of this on the structural pest control service was in employee benefits.

According to TDA Assistant Commissioner Jimmy Bush, "The initial review for the structural program indicated that an estimated 80% increase in fees would be required.  In an effort to reduce the impact of the fee increase as well as comply with the intent of the legislation, TDA has further reviewed the mandated requirements and department activities to identify efficiencies.  This review has resulted in the 57% fee increase as opposed to the initial estimate of 80%."

Some of the proposed fee changes are as follows:
  • Original business license fees will increase from $180 to $280
  • Renewal of business license fees will increase from $180 to $280
  • An original certified applicator's license will increase from $85 to $135
  • Renewal of a certified applicator's license will increase from $80 to $125
  • An original technician's license will increase from $65 to $100
  • Renewal of a technician's license will increase from $65 to $100
  • Fee for taking an exam in each category will increase from $50 to $75
  • The cost for registering a CEU course will go from $40 to $60
  • The option for paying fees in six month increments will no longer be available
If you have comments on the schedule of proposed fee increases, you may contact Jimmy Bush, Assistant Commissioner for Pesticides, Texas Department of Agriculture, P.O. Box 12847, Austin, TX  78711.   You must have your comments in by August 7.

The name for this approach to keeping things running is "cost recovery".  You will be seeing this occurring in many state agencies (including my agency) unless and until someone comes up with a more equitable way to keep state government running.  Daniel DeFoe, Ben Franklin and Margaret Mitchell all had it right.

P.S. There will be no Structural Pest Control Advisory Committee this summer.  Meetings will resume in October.