Alert the Pestparazzi: Mosquitoes Are Making a Big Comeback this Summer

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For the past few years, we’ve experienced instability in mosquito activity due to inconsistent rainfall. This year was different. Increased rainfall has led to denser summer mosquito populations. This year’s mosquitoes can be compared to obnoxious has-been movie stars who are making a gloriously successful comeback. Like yesterday’s faded starlets, they’ve been craving a second chance to steal your time and attention. Celebrities drain you by bombarding the national headlines with meaningless drama and publicity stunts. The bite of a mosquito drains you in a more literal sense.

How to Survive the Current Swarm

It’s important to protect yourself from this year’s thriving batch of mosquitoes. Not only can they ruin your cookouts and make you irritable and itchy, they can give you horrible illnesses like West Nile virus. Even your pets are at risk. Infected mosquitoes can transmit deadly heartworms to dogs and cats. Fortunately, there are many ways to defeat the mosquito’s agenda. … Read Full Post »

Healthy Grass under Your Tootsies

Which lawn personality are you?

It isn’t summer until the kids are running around on the green lawn in bare feet and tank tops. Of course, in the land of endless summers (like in Bryan/College Station and most of the southwest), it’s tank top weather year-round! High temperatures and unpredictable precipitation make lawn maintenance a tricky proposition. This combination invites all manner of creeping, crawling and rapidly expanding pests that can take over your lawn faster than you can find your flip-flops.

Fungus Grows on Texas Lawns

St. Augustine grass is popular as a Texas turf material because it grows thick and green with proper lawn care. It’s also cushy and not too tickly on bare feet. However, this grass type is also susceptible to pest problems, especially when forces of nature conspire to create a cozy environment for fungal growth. Other grass types including Bahia and Bermuda can harbor some fungus growth given high temperatures, waterlogged … Read Full Post »

Our Favorite Frenemies

wasps cultivated to protect citrus trees from Huanglongbing citrus greening disease pest control

Insects walk the fine line between friend and enemy. As much as we want to put them on trial for their scream-inducing and creepy qualities, pests play an important role in our ecosystem. Here’s a list of our favorite frenemies, and for a little extra fun, we figured we would let them present their own defense.

Wasps:

Although I can deliver an undoubtedly painful punch when you threaten my nest, there is much more to me than just my dreaded stinger. Formally, I’m known as Vespula Pennsylvanica, but you can just call me Wasp. As a natural scavenger, I like to snack on other insects, like crop-damaging caterpillars and flies. Some of my distant cousins also play an important role in pollination. And even though I don’t expect an invite to your next BBQ, I help reduce the number of other pests that are likely to crash the festivities. Plus, who can … Read Full Post »

It’s Huge, It’s Scary and It Wants Your Tomatoes!

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Once you’ve tasted fresh, home-grown tomatoes, you’ll scoff at the anemic, mass-produced ones available at grocery stores. Growing tomato plants is rewarding, but you may run into a few challenges. If the leaves and unripened tomatoes develop holes or disappear overnight, or you find dark green droppings around the base of your plant, it’s time to inspect it for one of the tomato grower’s greatest enemies.

Identifying the Tomato Hornworm

The tomato hornworm is a large, green caterpillar with a curled head and a sharp-looking red horn on its rear. A mature hornworm is between three and five inches long and its markings include white stripes and rows of false eyes on both sides. At first glance, it resembles a ghastly little alien and many new tomato growers are quite startled the first time they spot one. A closer inspection reveals that the little fellow is harmless. Its size is intimidating, but it’s soft, squishy and … Read Full Post »

Rats in Hats

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Let’s be honest: rats don’t always have the best reputation. They’ve been unfairly linked to smelly alleyways and unwanted infestations, but that may be a hasty judgment that’s best reserved for rats of the un-fancy kind. These friendly and highly-intelligent rodents are considered a treasured pet by many, and in certain cases, they can actually be quite stylish.

Although the idea of dressing up a rat may be hard for some people to grasp (not unlike the idea of dying a miniature poodle pink), it’s not as uncommon as you would think. As pet fashion designer Ada Nieves explains, “The rats look very cute and seem to like wearing [outfits]. Rats are very popular these days and the owners love to dress them up.”

Sometimes, you just have to let your rat put on a hat and strut down the runway.

Many people believe that rats are naturally dirty creatures, but these balls of fluff … Read Full Post »

Harvesting Water With Rain Barrels

Maybe, as some predict, fresh water will become the next oil in terms of being a necessary but limited resource. However, even if that turns out to be hyperbole, regional droughts will always be with us. That means that at some point many people will be forced to conserve water. 

”The population is growing, but the water supply is not,” says Bill Hoffman, a coordinator for the City of Austin Water Conservation Program, in Texas. That’s why people around the country are turning to the centuries–old practice of collecting rain as an alternative source of water.

By collecting rain from a roof during wet months and storing it in a tank or cistern, homeowners can create an alternative supply that won’t tax the groundwater or jack up the water bill. 

And because rain doesn’t contain the minerals found n wells or the chlorine in municipal supplies, it’s ideal for watering the … Read Full Post »

How to Control Fruit Flies and Fungus Gnats

Fruit flies and fungus gnats are the most common flying insects found in and around compost bins. These insects are not dangerous or harmful; however, their presence can be a nuisance, particularly indoors. A little information about the food and environments these insects are attracted to can be used to help us control their presence in places where they are not wanted.

Fruit flies

There are many species of fruit flies, ranging in size from one to two millimeters. They can be recognized by the rather bulbous shape of their lower bodies, which is frequently an orange or light brown color. They are relatively slow flyers, often hovering around fruit or juice.

Indoor compost bins (worm bins) provide favorable conditions for the reproduction of these insects, but occasionally fruit flies seem to appear in our kitchens as if by spontaneous generation, even without the presence of a worm bin. This is because they … Read Full Post »