Entomologists: South Central Texas residents can expect return of familiar pests

Writer: Paul Schattenberg, 210-859-5752, paschattenbgerg@ag.tamu.edu

Contact: Wizzie Brown, 512-854-9600, ebrown@ag.tamu.edu

Molly Keck, 210-631-0400, mekeck@ag.tamu.edu

AUSTIN — Fire ants, hackberry psyllids and other insect pests are expected to make a return appearance in South Central Texas during the fall, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service entomologists.

Due to recent rains, fire ants have been among the insect pests returning to bother South Central Texas residents. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo)

“Fire ant mounds are popping back up with the rain we’ve been getting lately,” said Wizzie Brown, AgriLife Extension entomologist, Travis County. “Fall is a great time to broadcast fire ant bait to help reduce the number of mounds that might pop up in the spring.”

Brown said the most effective way to apply bait is by broadcasting and people should be sure to read the product label for information on the proper application equipment to use.

Brown said another bug that appears regularly each fall is the hackberry psyllid.

“The hackberry psyllid is very small and is often mistaken for a gnat,” she said. “They get inside homes and collect on windowsills, and the best way to rid yourself of them is probably just to vacuum them up with the same attachment used for drapes and baseboards.

“The psyllids are harmless and are just looking for a warm, safe place to live. However, they do fit into the category of ‘nuisance pest’ as they can be very annoying and bothersome to the homeowner.”

Brown and Molly Keck, AgriLife Extension entomologist, Bexar County, said recent rains and cooler weather will also drive other outdoor insects indoors, including spiders, scorpions and millipedes.

They noted exclusion as an important aspect of pest management and said fall is a good time of year for people to work on winterizing their homes and making sure they don’t give insect pests an opportunity to come inside.

Brown and Keck offered the following additional suggestions for excluding insect pests:

— Prune trees and shrubs so branches do not touch the exterior of the house or hang over the roof.

— Don’t stack firewood or other items against the house.

— Fill smaller holes or cracks in exterior walls with steel wool or copper mesh.

— Use caulk or expanding foam to seal larger exterior cracks and crevices and openings where pipes or electrical wires come in from the exterior wall.

— Ensure window screens do not have any holes or tears and fit securely over the window.

Keck said other pests to be aware of this fall are the mosquitoes that will likely proliferate as a result of recent soaking rains.

“Not long ago we had our first instance of West Nile identified in a mosquito collected in Bexar County,” she said. “And while the chances of someone getting a mosquito-borne disease are fairly small, there is still a strong case for taking extra measures to help prevent it from happening.”

Many backyard items can inadvertently provide mosquitoes with a breeding site. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service graphic)

Keck said with the cooler weather, people will spend more time outside during the evening hours when mosquitoes are more active.

“Dusk is among the ‘Four Ds’ of avoiding mosquitoes and preventing them from biting,” Keck said. “We recommend people limit the amount of time they spend outdoors toward the end of the day.”

She said the other Ds are dress, DEET and drain.

“Not long ago we had our first instance of West Nile identified in a mosquito collected in Bexar County,” she said. “And while the chance of someone getting a mosquito-borne disease is fairly rare, there is still a strong case for taking extra measures to help prevent it from happening.”

“Dusk is among the ‘Four Ds’ of avoiding mosquitoes and preventing them from biting,” Keck said. “We recommend people limit the amount of time they spend outdoors toward the end of the day or use an insect repellent.

“The dress part means putting on light-colored, loosely fitting clothes that cover the arms and legs when outdoors,” she explained. “The DEET part means using a DEET-based insect repellent, which is one of the most effective mosquito repellents available. There are other choices, but you want a repellent approved by the Environmental Protection Agency and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control based on length of repellency against mosquitoes known to vector diseases.”

Keck said draining means to remove standing water from items around the home that may provide mosquitoes a place to breed.

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