Crazy Ant Seminar at Colorado Cty. Ag Center – Dec 1st

Hello fellow landowners:

This is an invitation to attend a program sponsor by Texas A&M about CrazyAnts from our local County Extension Agent, Stephen Janak.   These pesky little ants are harder to get rid of than fire ants; I would highly recommend attending this program.     [Please see linked attachment below for details.]

Thank you,
Vernon Wallace
ORWMA Habitat Chairman

CrazyAntSeminar_2015

Bee Keeper at Oakridge

Bee Keeper at Oakridge, Photo by C.Jetton, Spring 2015.
Bee Keeper at Oakridge, Photo by C.Jetton, Spring 2015.

Hi neighbors.  My name is Jack Jetton and I’m a beekeeper here on Oakridge Ranch.  I thought I would take this opportunity to discuss bees and their challenges.  First here are a few interesting factoids about the honey bee.

  • The honey bee is not native to the USA. They were originally imported from Europe.
  • 60% of the fruits, nuts, and vegetables we eat depend on pollinators like the honey bee to produce.
  • Honey bees will fly up to 3 miles from their hive in search of pollen and nectar.
  • Honey bees never sleep.
  • The typical life-span of a worker bee is 30-45 days in the spring/summer
  • There are 3 types of bees in a hive: Queen, Workers, and Drones (males).
  • All worker bees are female.
  • A healthy hive will have 40,000 to 60,000 bees.
  • And many, many more.

The honey bee faces many challenges in its survival such as pests (Varroa mites, small hive beetles, wax moths etc.), disease, and chemicals (insecticides and herbicides).  The last is one where you can help.  As we prepare our places for spring consider allowing the wildflowers (weeds) to grow and produce their flowers.  They love yaupon, dewberry, beauty berry, thistle and horse mint flowers.  Before you spray an insecticide, please consider the potential impact on our pollinators.  Even if the bee is not directly contacted by the poison, the nectar and pollen they take back to the hives can build up the levels of toxins to the point the entire hive will perish.

As we get further into spring/summer you may see swarms.  This is a normal occurrence and the way the hives expand.  When honey bees are swarming they are simply looking for a new place to call home and are normally pretty docile.  If you find a swarm please give me a call (281-910-1432) and I’ll try to see they are safely removed for you.

Thanks for considering the bees as you work around your properties.  If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to give me a call or email me at jackwjetton@gmail.com.

Thanks,
Jack

Bee hives at Oakridge Ranch, Photo by Jack Jetton, Spring 2015
Bee hives at Oakridge Ranch, Photo by Jack Jetton, Spring 2015

The Praying Mantis

 We are fortunate to have this insect at Oakridge Ranch! 

Mantis in "Prayer"; Photo by B.LaVergne, 09-22-2013.
Mantis in “Prayer”; Photo by B.LaVergne, 09-22-2013.

 The Praying Mantis, Mantis religiosa (or European Mantis) is such an interesting insect.  A second species of this insect is the Carolina Mantid, Stagmomantis Carolina is also common is Texas.  It’s often debated whether these insects are friend or foe in the garden.  The Mantis feeds on various insects including flies, crickets, grasshoppers, caterpillars, bees and lady bugs.  The Praying Mantis will even eat its own if no other food is available.  Because of their cannibalistic nature, there is often not enough of them in the environment to effect a difference in the population of the bad insects in our gardens.  Some people even make pets of these and often use them in teaching as they can be easily fed with flies and caterpillars.  The life cycle of the Mantis is not long, approximately only 6 months.  These beneficial insects usually die off by the first frost.

Praying Mantis enjoying a thunderstorm at Oakridge; Photo by B.LaVergne, 09-22-2013.
Praying Mantis enjoying a thunderstorm at Oakridge; Photo by B.LaVergne, 09-22-2013.

There is so much additional information on the Praying Mantis available.    Check out the following link for more details:
http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/galveston/beneficials/beneficial-20_mantid_praying_mantis.htm

We’d love to share your pictures!   Send them to ORWMA at oakridgeranchwma@gmail.com.

Got Arachnophobia?

Black & Yellow Argiope; Photo by Nolan Hall, 08-15-2013.
Black & Yellow Argiope; Photo by Nolan Hall, 08-15-2013.

The following link contains excellent information on the Black & Yellow Argiope spider (Argiope aurantia), one of the largest spiders in our area of Texas.   These spiders can easily be found here in the wooded areas of Oakridge Ranch, especially in our gardens where the spiders can find plenty of food prey.  The Black & Yellow Argiope is a beneficial spider that preys on mosquitoes, moths & other flying insects, especially the mud dauber & other wasps.  

Do be careful with these spiders as these can sting.   Their sting is like that of a bee to most people, but may be worse for those with bee sting allergies or to the very young or older individuals.

Without the presence of these beneficial insects, we would be overrun with insects we really don’t want to have around.   We hope you click on the link below to learn more about this interesting and “beautiful” arachnoid.  

http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/galveston/beneficials/beneficial-24_spider_blackandyellow_argiope.htm

Dung Beetles in Oakridge Ranch

I encourage you to move quickly past the ewwww factor, to consider the beneficial Dung beetle, aka scarab beetle or tumblebug.  You will find two species here.  The dark colored beetle you’ll see is Onthophagus gazelle, introduced to Texas in the 1970s  and now well established.  The metallic one, “Rainbow scarab” is Phanaeus vindex and is related to the scarabs of ancient Egypt.  They measure some 1/2″ to 1″ in length.

These guys are kind of fun to watch, as they work their magic on dog droppings, cattle – whatever.

Quoting a foremost Texas expert, ecologist Dr. Pat Richardson:  “They slurp it, haul it, roll it, fight about it, and bury it…They don’t bite or spit or sting. They simple live, eat, sleep and dream dung.”   However, there is a good deal to learn about the importance of dung beetles.  Researchers have discovered that dung beetles “will bury a ton of wet manure per acre per day and remove 90 percent of the surface material… A horse pad can disappear underground in 24 hours, leaving only a soft fluffy layer of undigested plant material.”   She always speaks with enthusiasm about the dung beetle.

I do not know how the drought is affecting them, but I do know, they are another reason to totally avoid insecticides, to let natural biodiversity handle the job.  The healthier the soil is, the better.

Dung beetle; Photo by D.Burrows, August 2013
Dung beetle; Photo by D.Burrows, August 2013
Dung Beetle; Photo by D.Burrows, August 2013
Dung Beetle; Photo by D.Burrows, August 2013

 

Ever Wonder……..What’s the Purpose of Mud Daubers?

Mud Dauber Nest,  Photo by B.LaVergne, July 2013
Mud Dauber Nest, Photo by B.LaVergne, July 2013
Black Widow Spider on Leaves, Photo by D.Konarik, July 2013
Black Widow Spider on Leaves, Photo by D.Konarik, July 2013

Common Name: Mud daubers
Scientific Name:  Chalybion, Sceliphron and other genera
Order:  Hymenoptera: Sphecidae

Mud daubers (or “dirt daubers”) can really make a mess of your porches, using the red clay mud from area ponds & creek beds for their nests.   Dauber nests are made of mud into cylindrical shaped cells.   These cells are filled with various types of prey, largely consisting of spiders; and in our area, the daubers like black & brown widow spiders.   David Konarik has provided us a couple of pictures of the dangerous Black Widow Spider.   The spider is caught & injected with venom from the wasp paralyzing it, yet not killing the spider.   After being paralyzed, the wasp or dauber deposits the spider(s) into a cell of its nest along with at least one egg.   The dauber will close the cell never to return to that particular cell.   As the new wasp larva develops, it feeds on the paralyzed spider(s).   So next time you are pestered by the mud daubers, remember they actually do provide a beneficial service in keeping down the numbers of spiders in our area of Texas.   See if you can catch a Mud Dauber in the act of seizing its prey & paralyzing it!   And if you do, please send us the picture to share here on ORWMA’s website.   We’ve also included a link to some additional information from Texas A&M University Department of Entomology for your reading pleasure.   https://insects.tamu.edu/fieldguide/cimg334.html

 

Black Widow Spider, Photo by D.Konarik, July 2013
Black Widow Spider, Photo by D.Konarik, July 2013

 

Great Leopard Moth

Great Leopard Moth; Photo by D.Burrows, June 2013
Great Leopard Moth; Photo by D.Burrows, June 2013

The Great Leopard Moth, Hypercompe scribonia , can be seen flying from April to September.  We have all seen the caterpillars; the black fuzzy one with red stripes, that feeds on a variety of plants to complete its life cycle.  It is certainly successful at making a living on the ranch.  Check out this excellent source:   http://bugguide.net/node/view/493

Bee Fly

This cute little honeybee sized guy is among the many species of Robber Flies, but this Bee Fly  Diptera: Bombyliidae is another family of flies.  When he is not on cameras, he can be found checking out the pollen of the flowers, and on the ground.  This species lays its eggs in soil and takes a year to complete the life cycle.  The larvae are parasitic on immature stages of other insects and therefore is considered beneficial.

Bee Fly visiting Oakridge; Photo by Donna Burrows, May 2013
Bee Fly visiting Oakridge; Photo by Donna Burrows, May 2013

Reviewing pictures we have taken, I found a shot of the bee fly building his burrow in the ground.   I did not realize until recently, what the identity of the insect was.

Found the bee fly burrow, May 2012
Found the bee fly burrow, May 2012

 

 

 

Changed in an Instant

New Hatched Monarch Butterfly; Photo by Donna Burrows, May 2013
Newly Hatched Monarch Butterfly; Photo by Donna Burrows, May 2013

“This male Monarch butterly emerged from his chrysalis this morning about 9 AM.  I caught his picture immediately after his first flight.  He is gorgeous!” – quote from Donna Burrows

Please be sure to leave plenty of host plants on your property for this beautiful creature.  One source of information to learn more about “hosting” the Monarch is www.texasbutterflyranch.com.   Thanks to Donna Burrows, ORWMA Habitat Chairperson, for the wonderful picture above.  Another good place to learn about the Monarch is www.monarchwatch.org.  Check it out and have fun!