Monday, July 12, 2010

Mowskweetoes - South Texas Style

Rainy Weather
After 10 inches of rain left by Hurricane Alex and several inches more the following week - the South Texas mowskweetoes (bugs that mow you down when you get in their special places and make that flying around you eeeeeeeeeeeee sound while biting your ears and toes) are out. I'm not sure where they go in between rains cause we sure hadn't had any up until now. They must have invited their extended families and friends here for a 4th of July vacation. One of the best ways to prevent them from bugging you is to get rid of any standing water in your yard.

Tips for Preventing Bites
Since mosquitoes lay their eggs in water, you can put a stop to them multiplying into mowskweetoes by removing standing water. Empty outside standing water, like birdbaths, at least once a week or more. Luckily we usually have a good breeze blowing here and that can be a deterrent. It's best to wear light colored, loose fitting clothes.  It's said most mowskweetoes are attracted to dark clothing and can bite through tight clothing. They are more apt to be active at dusk and dawn.

Knowing that, my advice then is to sleep in and go to bed early.

Thanks Mary Beth for forwarding this picture taken at the Master Gardener Arboretum.

When all else fails - wear window screens when working outdoors, like I do. It works for me.

Will you share your tips or thoughts on this?

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Good, the Bad & the Buggy Part II

I'm a gardener who likes to "stick" with help from Mother Nature and avoid using pesticides. When you use pesticides, you run the risk of getting rid of the good as well as the bad bugs. If you wait a bit and observe, you'll find the good bugs come in and take care of the bad bugs.

One of the really good bugs most everyone knows is the Ladybug.
Well the Ladybug Larva is an even better bug as it eats way more
of the bad bugs than the Ladybug does. Since most people don't
recognize it, they may mistake it for a bad bug. That's just one
reason to learn the good from the bad.

Critters to the Rescue
Better yet, you probably have outside help you weren't even aware of.
After finding the Walking Stick, I was pleased to venture out and see my neighbors chickens enjoying a free outdoor all-you-can eat bug buffet in our water soaked area. At least I assume that's what they were eating.

I also saw several insect eating lizards - a good sign, as these are also known for eating mosquitoes. Hopefully they will survive Dilly the Cat, who has made it his job to reduce their numbers. This lizard was stationed in the fig tree and as green as the fig leaves around him.

Found loads of butterflies all over the fig tree after the rain we had. It's hard to see them against the overripe fruit. Can you find four in this photo?

I think the picture below is of a male Tawny Emperor Asterocampa clyton butterfly (males have triangular hind wings) and looks like it matches a photo in Butterflies of Houston & Southeast Texas by John & Gloria Tveten (p. 174). 

You can see the underside of the butterfly by looking at the three butterflies side by side in the upper left hand corner. The underside is not very colorful. These photos were taken by me on July 2, 2010 in Brownsville, Texas (Cameron County).


Inexpensive Methods
If you absolutely must get rid of a bug that you know is bad for your garden, then one of the least expensive ways is using what I call the Double S Twister Tool

It's very inexpensive, especially if you get your husband to buy you some nifty gardening boots like these to use. But you don't need fancy footwear to carry this out.

SS Twister
Just lift foot (I don't
recommend bare feet for this),
aim at unwanted bad bug, stomp and squish.

Know Your Bugs
Remember though, don't be pulling this on no Ladybug Larva or good bugs like that. All bugs have a use and if they aren't bothering you, please be kind and leave them alone.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Good, the Bad, & the Buggy

You thought you had it bad. Imagine your home completely flooded and collapsed, having to carry whatever food you have on your back and having to find a new place to live? That's what I wondered while watching a colony of ants trailing across my front porch.

Yikes - all fine and good but I don't have rooms to sublet in my house. That's when I started wondering "What other critters are out and about cause of all the recent rain and what's the best way to keep them out of my house?

I decided it was a good time to get outside and look around (especially before the mosquitoes hatch). First thing I came across on my back porch was a Walking Stick bug. The site also calls these "Stick Insects" with interesting fact:

l Fast Facts
  • Type: Bug
  • Diet: Herbivore
  • Average life span in the wild: Up to 3 years
  • Size: 0.46 to 12.9 in (11.6 to 328 mm)
  • Did you know? Stick insects are part of the Phasmida order, the name of which is derived from a Greek word meaning “apparition.”
Size relative to a tea cup:

I often come across these fun to find insects in the nursery. Beck and Garrett's Texas Bug Book (2000, p. 149) notes that walking sticks are harmless to humans and more interesting than destructive. They go onto list other Walking Stick attributes.
  • Habitat: Fruit trees, grassy vegetation, shrubs and trees.
  • Feeding Habits: Plant feeders, mostly at night.
  • Natural Control: Parasitic wasp, flies and birds.  
What experience have you had with this bug?

Adios Alex!

Escape from Hurricane Alex

We boarded up, left Tuesday, drove to Sinton, hunkered down and came back Thursday.

 We're Back ...
Neighbors reported 10 inches of rain here but no power loss or high damaging winds. Thank goodness. Our Brownsville home turns into a lakehouse whenever we get lots of rain - we call it our own personal Lake Olmito, without the benefits of fish.

Today, suns out and water continues to drain off but the ground is definitely saturated.