Dr. Mike Merchant, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service entomologist, Dallas, said temperatures are now warm enough to begin seeing early season mosquitoes.

Merchant said recent rains created plenty of opportunities for mosquitoes to propagate, and homeowners should take preemptive measures to reduce populations within their neighborhoods.

“Now is a good time to dump out bird baths, unused fountains and other containers holding water in anticipation of later spring mosquitoes,” Merchant said. “Early mosquitoes don’t usually bring human diseases, but the bites itch just as much.”

Early mosquitoes may travel 10 miles or more in search of hosts, he said. These floodwater mosquitoes breed in puddles that form after spring rains.

Merchant said it’s difficult to predict the severity of mosquito hatches and possible threats from the airborne pest spreading diseases such as West Nile virus and Chikungunya. But the mild winter and recent spring rains are two factors that can lead to an earlier and more severe disease season beginning in June.

“The worst situation is when we have a wet spring followed by a dry, hot summer,” he said. “Dry conditions sound counter intuitive, but that’s what disease-carrying mosquitoes like best. When the rains go away, creeks and water in containers become stagnant and bacteria-laden— just the kind of water they like. Breeding sites for West Nile virus-carrying mosquitoes include bird baths, buckets, clogged gutters, tire swings, wheelbarrows or anything that holds rain or irrigation water.”

To learn more about mosquitoes and for a comprehensive look at preemptive control measures, visit https://mosquitosafari.tamu.edu/.

“The website covers everything from preventative control of breeding sites to repellents and what we know about the diseases mosquitoes carry,” he said.


Buck Moths

I have received several calls about Buck moths this month. Buck moth caterpillars typically have a background color that is dark, but they can have varying coloration so some can be very light. The body has white spots and the spines are double branched and form multiple rows along the body. They can be almost 2 1/2 inches when fully grown.

Buck moth larvae are gregarious and will group together for the first three instars (smaller caterpillar stages). After the third instar, they will wander off from the other caterpillars to feed on other plants until it is time to pupate. You will find the buck moth eating on the leaves of your oak trees.

The adult buck moths are quite pretty and have a wingspan of 2-3 inches. Wings are blackish in color with a white stripe running through the center with dark eyespots. Females have a solid black body while males have a black body with the tip of the abdomen being reddish-orange.

Do not pick up the buck moth caterpillars. The branching, urticating spines can deliver a sting when touched. Reaction from the sting can vary, but may include immediate pain, itching, swelling and redness.

 Lonnie Jenschke is an Erath County extension agent.