NISAW 2017: The Kudzu Bug

Kudzu bugs on soybeans. Photo credit: Jennifer Bearden

A few years ago, Florida is extended a warm welcome to a new pest – The Kudzu Bug! The kudzu bug was first documented in the US in 2009 in Northeast Georgia.  It has quickly spread throughout the southeast.

At first, a pest that attacks kudzu sounds pretty good but this bug also attacks wisteria, figs, and other legumes like beans and peas. It is a serious pest to soybeans that are grown in our area.  They are similar to stink bugs and discharge an odor when disturbed.   Skin and eye irritation can occur from this odor emission.

Kudzu bugs are small (3.5-6mm long), and are rounded oblong in shape, and olive-green in color. They lay egg masses in two rows of 13 to 137 eggs per row.  The first generation of kudzu bugs seem to prefer to feed on kudzu but subsequent generations will feed on and lay eggs on other legumes.  When fall comes, the adults over-winter where they can find shelter.  They crawl under tree bark and into cracks in houses.

If kudzu bugs make their way into your home, you can vacuum them up and dispose of them. If they are in your landscape or garden, you can set up a trap using a bucket of soapy water and a piece of white poster board.  Kudzu bugs are attracted to lighter colors.  To make the trap, cut the poster board in half.  Attach the two halves by cutting a line up the middle of the two pieces and inserting them into each other.  They should be in the shape of a plus sign.  Place the board over the bucket of soapy water.  As the insects hit the board, they will fall into the soapy water and drown.

Insecticides can be used but timing and placement are very important. Right now, kudzu bugs are just becoming active making now a good time to spray kudzu host plants with an insecticide.  Insecticide with active ingredients ending in “-thrin”, such as pyrethrin, cyfluthrin, etc., are effective against kudzu bugs.  Always read and follow label directions and precautions when using any pesticide.  Controlling kudzu near your house will help decrease the number of bugs, but they are strong flyers and can migrate through neighborhoods that aren’t near kudzu.

Kudzu bug infected with Beauveria bassiana. Photo credit: Jennifer Bearden

There are some natural enemies of kudzu bugs! Generalist predators like green lacewings, lady beetles, damsel bugs and big eye bugs will attack kudzu bug nymphs.  There are also two parasitoids that attack them.  Both discovered in 2013, there is a tiny wasp that develops in the kudzu bug eggs and a fly that lays its eggs in the adult kudzu bug.  The Kudzu bug, like other exotic invasive insect, are opportunistic and we have yet to see how many different plants species may serve as a host for this pest. Beauveria bassiana has also been found to infect kudzu bugs and seem to be an effective natural enemy.

For more information on the kudzu bug, contact the UF/IFAS Extension Office in your county.

NISAW 2017: National Invasive Species Awareness Week

Aliens are invading our forests, pastures, fields and lawns. Well, okay, not aliens but invasive species are invading our beautiful landscapes.  Invasive species are non-native or exotic species that do not naturally occur in an area, cause economic or environmental harm, or negatively impact human health.  These invasive species have become the number one threat to biodiversity on protected lands.  However, invasive species do not know boundaries, and as a result, public, private lands, natural and man-made water bodies, and associated watersheds are affected.   National Invasive Species Awareness Week (NISAW) is February 27-March 3, 2017.

It is estimated that Florida Agriculture loses $179 million annually from invasive pests (http://www.defenders.org/sites/default/files/publications/florida.pdf). Generally, eradication of an invasive species is difficult and expensive.  Most of the mitigation efforts focus on control rather than eradication.

EDDMaps (Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System), a web-based mapping system for reporting invasive species, currently has 667 different invasive plants reported in Florida. Many invasive insects, animals and diseases have also landed in Florida.  Some famous invasive species in Florida include cogongrass, wild hogs, red imported fire ants, Chinese tallow, and lionfish.

For National Invasive Species Awareness Week, the University of Florida IFAS Northwest Extension District will highlight new invasive species each day. There are a couple of ways to receive this information during NISAW:

You can help us control invasive species in several ways. First, always be cautious when bringing plants or plant materials into the state.  Plants or even dead plant material can harbor weeds, insects and diseases that can become invasive in our state.  Second, when you see something suspicious, contact your local extension agent for help identifying the weed, insect or disease.  Third, you can volunteer your time and effort.  Invasive species control is difficult and requires a cooperative effort for funding and manpower.  The state has several Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas (CISMA) in which public and private organizations work together to control invasive species in their area.  These CISMAs hold work days in which volunteers can help remove invasive species from the environment.

For more information about NISAW or invasive species, contact your local county extension agent.

Choosing the Right Tools is Key to Successful Feral Hog Management

Choosing the Right Tools is Key to Successful Feral Hog Management

Despite efforts by public and private land managers, feral hog populations continue to rise in many areas in Florida.  Feral hogs damage crop fields, lawns, wetlands, and forests.  They can negatively impact native species of plants and animals.  Their rooting leads to erosion and decreased water quality.

Wild boar Photo Credit: Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission

There are several options for controlling feral hogs.  Choosing the right option depends on the situation.

Options include:

  • Hunting with dogs,
  • Hunting with guns,
  • Box Traps,
  • Corral Traps.

Let’s talk about these options.

Hunting with dogs is really not very effective for removing enough hogs to control populations.  Dog hunting can move sounders of hogs from areas where damage is occurring for a period of time.  This can be helpful when crops need to be protected from hog damage until they can be harvested.

Shooting hogs also is not effective for removing large numbers of hogs.  Situations where it is successful include protecting crop fields and for taking hogs that will not go into a trap.  Shooting success depends the education level of the hogs and the sophistication of the shooting equipment available.  Hogs learn quickly to avoid danger.  They learn by watching other hogs who get shot or trapped.  Hunting pressure can disrupt hog patterns and make them harder to trap or hunt.

Box traps can be effective at trapping young hogs that are not trap smart.  A study conducted by a graduate student, Brian Williams, at Auburn University looked at the efficacy of different trap styles.  Young hogs entered box traps and corral traps at similar rates.  The study also found that adult females were 120% more likely to enter corral traps than box traps and adult males were more reluctant to enter either trap style but were more likely to enter the corral traps. (Williams et al, 2011)

Corral traps are shown to be most effective for eliminating complete sounders.  By eliminating a sounder at once, populations can be reduced.  Corral traps are also more economical.  In the Auburn study, the trapping cost per pig for box traps was $671.31 and for corral traps was $121.28.

Corral traps are best for capturing whole sounders.  Box traps can be effective for capturing young hogs.  When trap smart adult females or males are in an area, shooting or hunting with dogs are options.  Just remember that hunting pressure often just moves the hog problem onto another property.  In order to eliminate hogs from a given area, we must employ several of these strategies.  For example, we may be able to trap a sounder in a given area but still have a group of boars that will not go into a trap.  In this case, we may set up to shoot them after trapping the rest of the hogs in a corral trap.  By using these two techniques, we can drastically reduce the number of hogs in an area.

For more information about feral hogs, go to http://articles.extension.org/feral_hogs.

Reference:  Brian L. Williams, Robert W. Holtfreter, Stephen S. Ditchkoff, James B. Grand Trap Style Influences Wild Pig Behavior and Trapping Success.  Source: Journal of Wildlife Management, 75(2):432-436

Deer Processing Safety

Deer Processing Safety

Freshly processed venison. Photo credit: Jennifer Bearden

Freshly processed venison. Photo credit: Jennifer Bearden

When hunting, food safety begins in the field. The goal is to have safe meat for you and your family to eat.  Here are a few ways to keep your food safe:

  1. Shot placement – that’s right. Food safety begins with an accurate shot. Your goal should be to prevent the contents of the digestive tract from touching the meat. A gut shot can quickly ruin meat and make cleaning the animal harder.
  2. The quicker you get the meat chilled the better. Improper temperature is meat’s number one enemy. The recommended storage temperature to prevent bacterial growth is 35-40°F.
  3. Handle the knife with one hand and the carcass with the other. The hide can harbor dirt and pathogens so care should be taken to prevent contamination of the meat.
  4. Have vinegar water and chlorine water on hand. Vinegar water (50/50) can be sprayed on areas where hair or hide touch the meat. Rinse hands and tools periodically in a bucket of sanitizing solution of 1 tbsp of chlorine per gallon of water.
  5. Think food safety through the whole process. Prevent cross contamination by keeping anything from contacting the meat unless it has been sterilized. Keep the digestive tract intact and prevent the contents of it from contacting the meat. Chill the meat as quickly as possible. When further processing, continue to use sterile surfaces and tools.

Many hunters age deer meat to increase tenderness and improve flavor. This is safe if done properly.  There are two ways to safely age meat.  Dry aging in a walk-in cooler or refrigerator is the best but not feasible for all hunters.  The walk-in cooler or refrigerator must be clean and have good air circulation and proper temperature control (34-38°F).  The meat can aged for 7-21 days depending on the amount of moisture in the cooler.  Too much moisture can increase microbial growth on the meat which should be cut away before further processing.  There will also be a layer of dry meat that will need to be cut away.

An ice chest can also be safely used to age meat. First, fill the clean ice chest with ice and water.  Add meat immediately to ice water and soak for 12-24 hours.  This will quickly cool the meat to the proper temperature.  Then drain the water out of the cooler and add more ice.  Keep cooler drained of water and full of ice for 5-7 days.  There may be “freezer burn” on the outside of the meat that can be cut away before further processing.

Remember food safety when further processing and storing. Wild game food safety begins in the field and ends with consumption.

For more information about safe handling of venison:

http://www.noble.org/ag/wildlife/propercareofvenison/

http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/food/food_safety/handling/hgic3516.html

National Invasive Species Awareness Week 2016

National Invasive Species Awareness Week 2016

NISAW 2016Invasive species are non-native or exotic species that do not naturally occur in an area, cause economic or environmental harm, or negatively impact human health. These invasive species have become the number one threat to biodiversity on protected lands.  However, invasive species do not know boundaries, and as a result, public, private lands, natural and man-made water bodies, and associated watersheds are affected.   National Invasive Species Awareness Week (NISAW) is February 21-27, 2016.

It is estimated that Florida Agriculture loses $179 million annually from invasive pests (http://www.defenders.org/sites/default/files/publications/florida.pdf). Generally, eradication of an invasive species is difficult and expensive.  Most of the mitigation efforts focus on control rather than eradication.

EDDMaps (Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System), a web-based mapping system for reporting invasive species, currently has 667 different invasive plants reported in Florida. Many invasive insects, animals and diseases have also landed in Florida.  Some famous invasive species in Florida include cogongrass, wild hogs, red imported fire ants, Chinese tallow, and lionfish.

For National Invasive Species Awareness Week, the University of Florida IFAS Northwest Extension District will highlight two invasive species each day. There are a couple of ways to receive this information each day of NISAW:

You can help us control invasive species in several ways. First, always be cautious when bringing plants or plant materials into the state.  Plants or even dead plant material can harbor weeds, insects and diseases that can become invasive in our state.  Second, when you see something suspicious, contact your local extension agent for help identifying the weed, insect or disease.  Third, you can volunteer your time and effort.  Invasive species control is difficult and requires a cooperative effort for funding and manpower.  The state has several Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas (CISMA) in which public and private organizations work together to control invasive species in their area.  These CISMAs hold work days in which volunteers can help remove invasive species from the environment.

For more information about NISAW or invasive species, contact your local county extension agent.