Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Tubular flying insects

With the proliferation of nighttime security cameras, homeowners are seeing all sorts of wildlife activity on the driveway and porch.  This week I had an inquiry about a mysterious "tubular flying insect" that had me puzzled at first.

The inquiry went like this:

Him: "My backyard camera catches images of these tubular flying insects every night. What are they?"

Me: "Does not look like an insect. Possibly a seed or catkin from nearby tree?"

Him: [Frowning] "Theoretically possible, but unlikely given the flight pattern. I have video, but can’t upload here. These two shots are in light rain."

Me: [Lights coming on] "If your camera has a slow shutter speed this could be a flight track of a small moth over several wing beats. There is no insect shaped like the image itself though."

Him: [Still not convinced] "I suppose that could be it. This is a night vision camera. I will continue to wonder."

Me: [Now more sure of myself] "Pretty sure these are flight tracks of moths. Note the antenna on the [right] picture. Also, see "

Him: [Begrudgingly, for someone who realizes he has NOT just discovered an organism new to science] That makes sense. Thank you very much for your help.

After sharing this exchange with some colleagues, one of them said, "That guy sent me the same pictures a couple of years ago.  I told him they were probably moths then."

Another colleague received a similar picture several years ago and told the lady it was a moth.  She insisted, however, it must be an angel, and would he verify it so she could post (with authority of AgriLife Extension behind her, I guess) on social media?

People are funny. Welcome to the world of urban entomology and pest control.  I hope you are now prepared to be a genius to one of your customers with puzzling security camera video.


Friday, July 17, 2020

Bargain sale on Mallis Handbook

This post is essentially an updated reprint of a post from 2014 about a (then) sale on the Mallis Handbook of Pest Control.  A new sale, announced today, is even better than the one six years ago.

I am frequently asked (especially by prospective ACEs studying for their certification exam) what reference books I recommend. There are many of course, but one of the essential resources for any pest control company is "Mallis".

Arnold Mallis passed away in 1984, but the book he pioneered and first published in 1945 continues to get updated and republished by the Mallis Handbook Company and GIE publishing. Many PMPs today don't realize what shaky ground, scientifically speaking, PMPs were on prior to giants like Arnold Mallis and Walter Ebeling and a few university leaders who saw the need for good, science-based information for the industry. Mallis remains one of the standard sources to go to for scientifially sound information about structural insect pests and pest management.

Don't get me wrong. At 1600 pages, this is not pleasure reading... unless you're looking for a book to help you fall asleep at night. But as a reference book, the Handbook of Pest Control is excellent. I think every pest control company should have a copy.

The reason I decided to say a few words about the Mallis Handbook is that Pest Control Technology just announced an amazing sale. If you don't have a copy of this book, for a limited time you can buy a copy for $59, less than half the regular price of $149. Why the sale? An 11th edition is on the way, but you will have to wait more than a year for that one to come out. If I didn't have this one already, I would jump on it.

A wise professor of mine once told me that the savviest professionals aren't the ones who know it all; they're the ones who know where to find the answer. And believe it or not, not all the best information can be found online. Sometimes nothing beats having a good, old-fashioned book at your fingertips.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Flea and ant training classes

This year's ant ID class will be more physically distant than
last year's class; but will offer the same hands-on opportunities
to become an ant identification pro.
I am happy to announce two new training opportunities this summer.  The IPM Experience House is hosting a real, in-person (physically distanced) ant identification class on July 16.  Enrollment is limited to 15 and registration information can be found at

This is the first post COVID-19 class we've offered at the Dallas Center.  We will be following university guidelines that require us to take all reasonable precautions to keep everyone safe.  Every student will have their own microscope and supplies, class size is limited and everyone will be kept at least 6 feet apart.  We ask that you bring your own mask. Disinfectant will be provided.

Now that we've covered all the essential safety information, this is a great class.  It is our goal to offer it once a year to anyone wanting to improve their ant identification skills.  The class is a mix of lecture, ant identification using microscopes, and outdoor demonstration. Our principal instructor is Dr. Robert Puckett, urban Extension entomologist from College Station. We hope to see you there.

The second opportunity I'm especially pleased to tell you about is a new online class called Flea and Tick Biology and Control.  This class can be taken on your own time, any day of the week.  Cost is only $25 for CEU credit with both Structural and Ag CEUs.  No face masks required! To learn more and to register, click here.

This course will help you identify fleas and important tick species.  It goes into the biology of these important parasites, and provides practical advice on control strategies and personal protection. Best of all, the class is designed to move quickly and keep you engaged as you learn.

These two course represent the future of pesticide applicator training as we move into a post-COVID world. We will continue to embrace the use of more training technology while continuing to make use of face-to-face classes. Expect to see more online courses like this in the future. 

As a reminder, currently the Texas Department of Agriculture allows license holders to get credit for online CEUs every other year.  If you used online CEUs last year, the Structural Pest Control Service (TDA) is allowing your to get your CEUs online again this year due to the COVID situation; however don't assume that will be allowed again. If you get even just some of your CEUs online this year, you will likely not be able to get CEUs remotely next year.  I assume that these rules will continue to evolve as technology and the world adjusts to working remotely.

For our part, I know my extension colleagues and I are all committed to making online training less painful and more interactive.   Other currently available online classes of interest to PMPs include: