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Kimberly Schofield
Program Specialist-Urban IPM

Remember to Treat for Fire Ants This Fall

            Even though we have been experiencing high temperatures, fire ants are unfortunately still in the area.  They can live deep within the soil so their mounds may not always be visible.  Since they are a medically important insect pest, control measures should be taken in some cases to decrease their populations. 

            Before treating for fire ants, one must first survey the area to determine the number of mounds, if possible.  If less than 5 mounds are present in a quarter acre plot, then it is advised to treat the individual mounds. Treating individual mounds is the fastest way to get rid of the fire ant mounds, but it is more labor intensive and more costly to apply when compared to the broadcast baits. 

            If more than 5 mounds are present, then treatment should be broadcasted over the entire area.  A fire ant bait or contact insecticide may be used.  Fire ant baits are made up of defatted corn grit covered with insecticide and soybean oil.  Before broadcasting the fire ant bait, foraging activity should be evaluated.  In order to test for foraging activity, place a potato chip or hot dog next to the mound.  If fire ants find the chip or hot dog within fifteen minutes, then it is an appropriate time to broadcast the fire ant bait.  Fire ants will typically actively forage when the soil surface temperature is between 70 and 90° F.  The delivery process of fire ant baits into the colony is so effective, that the amount of insecticide applied in an area is significantly reduced.  Fire ant baits should never be watered into the soil and they should not be used if they smell rancid.  Contact insecticides can also be broadcasted over the entire area and these need to be watered into the soil.  One contact insecticide containing fipronil can be used for fire ant control and will usually provide 9 to 12 months control. 

            Both fire ant baits and contact insecticides can be broadcast using a hand-held spreader for small areas or a Herd Seeder can be mounted onto a truck or ATV for larger areas. 

             Before applying any type of pesticide, always be sure to read and follow the pesticide label.  Also, never use harmful toxins, such as gasoline to control fire ants.  These products are illegal and dangerous.  In addition, never leave insecticide baits on streets or walkways after application, in order to avoid unnecessary entrance into the water supply. 

For more information, please visit the fire ant webpage at

Red imported fire ant worker.  Photo by Dr. Bart Drees,
Professor and Extension Entomologist,
Texas A&M University.

Growing Number of Grasshoppers

As we walk outdoors in late summer, we might be overwhelmed by the number of grasshoppers. This is usually due to warm, dry autumns and then hot, dry summers, which favor grasshopper survival and reproduction.  Grasshoppers develop through simple metamorphosis with an egg, nymph and adult stage.  The female grasshopper uses its long ovipositor to deposit eggs ½ to 2 inches into the soil in the fall.  They will deposit eggs in such areas as weedy places, fence rows, and ditches.  The eggs hatch into nymphs in the spring or early summer, depending upon species.  The nymphal stage lasts for around 6 weeks before molting into an adult with fully developed wings.  The adult grasshoppers will be found until late fall or until a frost occurs.

Grasshoppers feed mainly on weeds.  However when the weeds begin to dry, the grasshoppers will go into other areas in search of food.  This search may lead them to the plants in your landscape.

Some Control Options:

Non-Chemical Controls:

  1. Controlling weeds will decrease the number of grasshoppers in an area.  If weeds are eliminated, nymphs will starve and adults will be discouraged from laying eggs in the area.
  2. Also tilling the soil in the late summer will discourage female grasshoppers from depositing eggs, since they like to lay eggs in undisturbed soil.
  3. Floating row covers can be used to protect such areas as vegetable and flower gardens, and small fruit trees from grasshoppers.  The fabric allows sunlight through, while protecting plants from insects and cold weather.

Chemical Controls:

Monitor grasshopper infestations and treat when grasshoppers are in the nymphal stage. The immature grasshoppers are more susceptible to insecticides.  Some effective insecticides include the active ingredients diflubenzuron, cyfluthrin, bifenthrin, acephate and permethrin.   Also baits can be applied such as those containing carbaryl. 

Insecticides typically do not persist in the environment more than a few days.  This means grasshoppers may soon re-invade.

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Differential grasshopper, Melanoplus differentialis (Thomas)
(Orthoptera: Acrididae). Photo by Dr. Bart Drees, Professor
and Extension Entomologist,
Texas A&M University.

Field Crickets Abound

            As we walk outside in the evening, a new sound might greet us.  This new sound will be the male cricket’s mating song, which is a high-pitched sound produced by the male cricket rubbing his front wings together to attract a female.

            Crickets develop through simple metamorphosis, with an egg, nymph and adult stage.  The female cricket will deposit eggs into the soil.  The eggs hatch into nymphs, which gain wings every time they molt.  Adult field crickets are ½ to 1 ¼ inches in length, black in color, and have a stout body. Several generations of crickets are produced every year. 

            Crickets feed on all organic matter, including decaying plant material and fungi. Since crickets breakdown plant materials, they are considered beneficial by renewing soil minerals.  They are also a food source for many animals such as spiders, ground beetles, birds, lizards and small rodents. 

            Crickets are normally an outdoor insect, usually found under rocks, logs or any crack or crevice.  However, they can sometimes enter our homes through such areas as doors and windows.  In addition, their song can become an irritant to homeowners, since they live next to structures. 

Some Control Options:

Non-Chemical Suggestions:

  1. Caulk or seal cracks and gaps that are found in the foundation, around doors, windows, and garage doors.
  2. Trim weeds and tall grass growing near the foundation.
  3. Remove firewood, brush, rotting wood, boxes, bricks, stones and other objects from around the structure, in order to reduce the number of harborage areas.
  4. For crickets found inside the home, vacuum or sweep up and then discard them.

Chemical Control Suggestions:

If a severe infestation exists, there are granularproducts that can be used for control, such as those containing hydramethylnon.  There are also chemicals that can be sprayed outdoors to provide a barrier around homes, such as those containing pyrethrins or bifenthrin.  There are also products that can be applied in indoor and outdoor cracks and crevices, such as those containing boric acid.

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A field cricket, yllus sp. (Orthoptera: Gryllidae). Photo by
Dr. Bart Drees,
Texas A&M University.

Rhodesgrass Mealybug Infesting Turfgrass

            Rhodesgrass mealybugs are not a new insect pest in Texas, since they were first discovered in the 1940s.  This mealybug is native to Asia and seems to be found more frequently in the Gulf States. It has a wide range of host grasses, with Bermuda grass and St. Augustine grass being the most susceptible but tall fescue and centipede grass can also become infested.

            Only females are known of the Rhodesgrass mealybug so they reproduce through parthenogenesis (without males).  The female will deposit between 300 to 600 eggs in a white, cottony ovisac that is spherical in shape. The eggs will hatch in 1 to 3 weeks and the crawlers will begin feeding under the leaf sheath at a node.  Crawlers can be introduced into new areas by wind or attaching to animals as they cross the infested grass. The Rhodesgrass mealybugs will be noticed by the presence of waxy, white masses at the base of the stems and leaf sheaths.  These mealybugs feed under leaf sheaths, on nodes or in the crowns. They remove the plant sap with their piercing-sucking mouthparts.  This disrupts the normal water and nutrient uptake, so the grass will turn brown and wilt.  However, mealybug infestations can lead to stunting and death of the turfgrass.  Damage may be most noticeable during periods of drought or if the grass is stressed.
Some Control Options:

Non-Chemical Controls:

Healthy turfgrass will have lower mealybug populations, so proper fertilization and watering is needed.

Keep beneficial insects in the area to reduce the number of mealybugs, such as big-eyed bugs and lady beetles.

After mowing, collect and destroy all infested grass clippings. 

Chemical Control:

If an infestation exists then chemicals can be used such as bifenthrin, deltamethrin, acephate or imidacloprid.  Treatments should be based on level of infestation, amount of damage, time of year and weather conditions.

Rhodesgrass Mealybugs. Photo by Eileen A. Buss, Assistant Professor,
 Entomology and Nematology Department, Cooperative Extension Service,
 Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences,
University of Florida, Gainesville.

Mention of commercial products is for educational purposes only and does not represent endorsement by Texas AgriLife Extension or The Texas A&M University System. Insecticide label registrations are subject to change, and changes may have occurred since this publication was printed. The pesticide user is always responsible for applying products in accordance with label directions. Always read and carefully follow the instructions on the container label.

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