There’s an old naturalist’s saying that you’re never more than 5 feet from a spider (or a snake – but that’s for another day). It’s probably true, as spiders can be found nearly everywhere, indoors and out. If your house is like mine, overnight they can spin webs all around my house, on my car, throughout my carport. You can’t go outside without walking through those almost impossible to see but stick on you forever webs!

Typically, one will see more spiders in the fall because of the lifecycle. Spiders hatch in the spring, reproduce and subsequently die in the fall. So, while spiders typically lie low in the early summer (mostly in an effort to keep from being eaten), by August, the survivors are large enough to start spinning webs, thus the influx right now.

Despite their creepy reputation, spiders are largely beneficial and help keep pests like flies and plant-feeding insects under control. With few exceptions, spiders rarely bite and are not generally dangerous to people. That said almost all spiders bite and use venom to paralyze their prey. After injecting the venom, the prey is often wrapped with silk to subdue it. Many spiders live solely on a liquid diet because the powerful digestive enzymes injected by the fangs dissolve their prey’s body tissues. Spider venoms are being studied for possible uses in medicine and pest control. Only two types of spiders in Texas are considered medically significant: the brown recluse, and widow spiders. Only a few other spiders, such as house spiders and sac spiders, can produce a noticeable bite.

Keep spiders outside by installing or repairing weather stripping around doors and windows. Seal and caulk around lighted doors and windows, where insects and the spiders that feed on them gather. Reducing clutter is an important way to keep spiders away. Move firewood or other construction items away from the house. Prune back shrubbery or trees that touch the house to discourage widow spiders from building webs on exterior walls. Outdoor lighting attracts insects and the spiders that feed on them. Direct light away from doorways where possible and turn them off when they are not needed. Use yellow bug lights to attract fewer insects.

Insecticide options are not great choices for spiders as spiders often live on webs above treated surfaces, it is difficult to treat them as you would crawling insects. Spiders also appear to tolerate conventional pesticides better than do common indoor insects. Therefore, sanitation and physical removal are the best way to manage most spiders. Plus, spiders serve a purpose; and no, it’s not to scare people. They do eat insects and are an vital part of the ecosystem that we need to learn to live with. I try to relocate spiders around my house, I brush them off with brooms and many times the next morning the same banana spider is back with a web over the same window….guess it’s home and I can just say I’m decorating for Halloween early!

If you do get bit by a spider treat spider bites by applying an ice pack to relieve local swelling and pain. If the reaction is severe, consult a doctor immediately and, if possible, take along the spider for positive identification. For more information or identification of insects contact Chelsea Dorward at 254-435-2331 or Chelsea.dorward@ag.tamu.edu.


Youth Food and Nutrition Workshop Coming

Does your child like to help you in the kitchen? Are they interested in learning more about nutrition, food safety, or just want to hone their chopping skills?  The Bosque County AgriLife Extension Service is hosting a Food and Nutrition workshop on Saturday, September 7th, 2019 at the First Baptist Church of Meridian (located at 207 N Hill Street, Meridian, Texas). The workshop is open to all Bosque County youth between 3rd and 12th grade, will run from 1 PM to 5 PM.  Topics will include basic nutrition, kitchen and food safety, cooking skills, and even pasta making!  Information regarding the Bosque 4-H program, the Food and Nutrition project, and the Food Challenge and Food Show contests will also be discussed.

The registration fee is $5 per child, which will be used to offset the costs associated with the workshop. If you are unable to attend due to this fee, please contact Family and Community Health Agent Chris Coon at the number and email address below (contact information is kept private).

If you are a high school age youth and are interested in leading a section of the workshop please indicate on your registration form, and contact Mr. Coon.

To register, please complete the form below, or contact Chris Coon at 254-435-2331 or at chris.coon@ag.tamu.edu.

Deer Management Seminar

A multi-county Deer Management Seminar will be held on Friday, August 23, 2019 at the Meridian Civic Center, located at 309 W River St. in Meridian, Texas. Registration is at 8:30 a.m. and program starts at 9:00. The seminar includes the following topics:  Deer Biology: Facts, Myths and Misconceptions, by Will Moseley of the Noble Research Institute; Feeders and Food Plots, by Steven Smith of the Noble Research Institute; Population Management and TWPD Landowner Assistance Programs, by Kyle Melton from Texas Park and Wildlife; Habitat Management, by Steven Smith; Antler Development by Will Moseley; Diseases of White-Tailed Deer, by Dr. John Tomecek of Texas AgriLife Extension Service.  One (1) General CEU will be offered for those with a pesticide applicator’s license.

Registration fee of $15.00 is payable at the door. Registration includes lunch. YOU MUST CONTACT THE COUNTY EXTENSION OFFICE TO RSVP NO LATER THAN August 20, 2019. Lunch is provided by Lone Star Ag Credit and this event is hosted by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Wildlife Committees in Bosque, Coryell, Hill, Johnson, Somervell and McLennan Counties. To RSVP in Bosque County please call 254-435-2331 or pre-register here by completing the form below:

August is National Immunization Awareness Month

With summer vacations coming to a close and preparations for back-to-school underway, it is important to safeguard your family’s health by having their immunizations up to date. August marks Immunization Awareness Month with various themes focused on preventing diseases through a person’s lifetime. From pregnancy to babies, young children to teens, and adults to seniors, vaccines play a vital role.

Vaccines help the body develop immunity by imitating infections. The imitations almost never cause an illness, but they can cause mild symptoms such as a fever. Once the imitating infection has passed, the body is able to recognize how to fight the disease in the future and the person is said to be immunized.

Vaccines vary across the world because they are dependent on the strains specific to the regions where they are administered. Some vaccines are one-and-done, while others require more than one dose. For example, the vaccine against meningitis requires a second dose to strengthen protection when young adults are most vulnerable to exposure. In other instances, immunity may begin to lose effectiveness over time and a “booster” is needed to increase the immunity once more. Vaccines that require boosters include the DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis) for younger children and Tdap for teens and adults. Some vaccines are even need yearly, such as the flu vaccine, because the virus varies from season to season and immunity wears off fairly quickly.

Planning ahead is important if you will be traveling abroad, as diseases rarely seen in the United States may be common in other countries. It is important to talk to your physician before embarking on international travel and to ask them about any vaccines you may need both before leaving and after returning.

Future moms-to-be can protect themselves and their babies from serious diseases, such as whooping cough and flu, by getting vaccinated during pregnancy. By doing so, their bodies produce protective antibodies that are then passed on to baby before birth. Once the baby is born, vaccines are recommended to protect against serious and sometimes deadly diseases. Depending on their age, health and development, babies are vaccinated at specific stages for chickenpox (varicella), mumps, polio, diphtheria, flu (influenza), hepatitis A and B, pneumococcal, rotavirus, rubella, tetanus, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), measles and whooping cough (pertussis).

As children grow, some of their immunizations begin to lose effectiveness, so they get four vaccinations: Tdap booster, meningococcal, human papilloma virus (HPV) and flu. It is important to talk to your child’s pediatrician to make sure they are up-to-date on their vaccines and to ask any questions you may have about them. If you don’t know or have misplaced your child’s immunization record, these can be requested through the Texas Immunization Registry (ImmTrac2). Note that after age 26, records are deleted. Forms can be found at: https://www.dshs.texas.gov/immunize/immtrac/clients.shtm.

As we get older, “immunizations begin to wear off over time… and adults may be at risk for vaccine-preventable diseases due to age, lifestyle, travel, or health conditions,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states. Recommendations for adults include an annual flu vaccine, a Tdap vaccine if it was not received as an adolescent, and Td (tetanus, diphtheria) booster every 10 years. For adults 19 to 26 years of age, the HPV vaccine is also recommended. For adults age 50 and older, the risk of certain diseases increases as the immune system begins to weaken. The CDC recommends that in addition to the annual flu vaccine, adults age 50 and older get the Td/Tdap vaccine and shingles vaccine. Those 65 years and older should also get the pneumococcal vaccine. It is vital to talk to your physician regarding additional vaccine needs for certain health conditions.

If a child or an adult is not immunized, it is important to become aware of signs and symptoms of vaccine-preventable diseases that may be in your community and seek immediate help if early signs develop. Inform your doctor(s), ambulance personnel and/or emergency room staff that your child or family member has not been fully vaccinated so correct treatment is provided and medical staff can take precautions for the vaccine-preventable disease to not spread to others.

Talk to your primary care physician about what you can do to reduce risks by having up-to-date immunizations. Visit your local health department, federally qualified health center and clinic, or ask for more information from your local County Extension office  by calling 254-435-2331 or emailing Chris.Coon@ag.tamu.edu

More is better: Fueling your body with fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are an essential part of a healthy diet, providing the nutrients and vitamins we need to perform daily activities. Unfortunately, most people are not eating enough fruits and vegetables. As part of Fruits and Veggies – More Matters Month, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service offers some easy ways to incorporate more fruits and vegetables in your daily diet.

“Not only do fruits and vegetables provide beautiful colors that can be appealing to the eye, but they also help to combat against certain diseases such as cancer”, says Amy Valdez, a health specialist with AgriLife Extension. For example, both fruits and vegetables have been known to reduce risk for heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, obesity, and type 2 diabetes, according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s health and nutrition program, ChooseMyPlate. Incorporating fruits and vegetables into your diet also provides you with many nutrients that are often under consumed, such as potassium, dietary fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and folate.

To make it easier to add a variety of fruits and veggies into your diet, Valdez recommends following these six basic steps:

  • Half your plate – each time you eat a meal or have a snack, fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables.
  • Add more – add extra fruits and vegetables into a recipe even if it already contains them.
  • Substitute – substitute fruits and vegetables in any meal as a healthier alternative to a food that has less nutritional value.
  • Stay Stocked – stay stocked on canned fruits and vegetables for quick and easy meal prep. Pick canned goods that are labelled “reduced“ or “low-sodium”.
  • Steam and Flavor – add healthy sides to your meals by steaming vegetables and topping them with low-fat dressings, and herbs and spices.
  • Grab and Go – put fruit and vegetables in places where you can easily grab them on the way out, such as in a bowl or sliced in the fridge.

“To avoid getting tired of eating the same fruits and vegetables, trade out an ordinary side salad with something that offers a variety of both fruits and vegetables,” Valdez says. For example, Dinner Tonight’s Watermelon Cucumber Balsamic Salad or Black Bean Salsa are sides that can enhance any meal with the perfect amount of fruit and vegetables that you need. To learn more about the recipes, visit https://dinnertonight.tamu.edu

When it comes to eating fruits and vegetables, keep in mind that more is better. Most people need a minimum of 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables each day, however, you can set goals for yourself based on your recommended caloric intake which will help you to reach your daily needs.

For more information, contact Family and Community Health agent Chris Coon at 254-435-2331 or at chris.coon@ag.tamu.edu.

Look Out for the Armyworm Invasion

While it’s only summer, the continued rains could put us in prime conditions for the Fall Armyworm. This is a common pest of bermudagrass, sorghum, corn, wheat and rye grass and many other crops in north and central Texas, but it can affect your lawn and landscape. Larvae of fall armyworms are green, brown or black with white to yellowish lines running from head to tail. A distinct white line between the eyes forms an inverted “Y” pattern on the face. Four black spots aligned in a square on the top of the segment near the back end of the caterpillar are also characteristic. Armyworms are very small (less than 1/8 inch) at first, cause little plant damage and as a result often go unnoticed. Larvae feed for 2-3 weeks and full-grown larvae are about 1 to 1 1/2 inches long. Given their immense appetite, great numbers, and marching ability, fall armyworms can damage entire fields, pastures, or lawns in a few days.

Once the armyworm larva completes feeding, it tunnels into the soil to a depth of about an inch and enters the pupal stage. The armyworm moth emerges from the pupa in about ten days and repeats the life cycle. The fall armyworm moth has a wingspan of about 1 1/2 inches. The front pair of wings is dark gray with an irregular pattern of light and dark areas. Moths are active at night when they feed on nectar and deposit egg masses. A single female can deposit up to 2000 eggs and there are four to five generations per year. The fall armyworm apparently does not overwinter in north Texas but survives the winter in south Texas. Populations increase in south Texas in early spring and successive generations move northward as the season progresses.

Parasitic wasps and flies, ground beetles, and insect viruses help suppress armyworm numbers. However, these natural enemies can be overwhelmed when large numbers of migrating moths move into an area and weather conditions favor high survival of eggs and larvae.

Management of fall armyworm outbreaks in pastures and hay fields often occur following a rain which apparently creates favorable conditions for eggs and small larvae to survive in large numbers. Hay fields with a dense canopy and vigorous plant growth are often more susceptible to armyworm infestations than less intensely fertilized and managed fields. Irrigated fields are also susceptible to fall armyworm infestations, especially during drought conditions. Infestations that develop in volunteer wheat and weedy grasses in ditches and around fields can be a source of armyworms that can move into adjacent crops.

Look for fall armyworm larvae feeding in the crop canopy during the late evening and early morning and during cool, cloudy weather. During hot days, look for armyworms low in the canopy and on the soil surface where they hide under loose soil and fallen leaves. Kneeling on the ground and parting the grass can reveal armyworms. A sweep net is very effective for sampling hay fields for fall armyworms. When fields are wet with dew or rain, armyworms can be detected by walking through the field with rubber boots as the worms will stick to the boots. Small larvae chew the green layer from the leaves, creating a “windowpane” effect and later notch the edges of leaves. Look for this feeding damage and if detected, look more closely to assess the infestation.

The key to managing fall armyworms is frequent inspection of fields to detect infestations before they have caused economic damage. Once larvae are more than ¾ inch long, the quantity of foliage they eat increases dramatically. During their final 2-3 days of feeding, armyworms eat 80% of the total foliage consumed during their entire development.

The density of armyworms sufficient to justify insecticide treatment depends on the stage of crop growth and value of the crop. Seedling plants can tolerate fewer armyworms than established plants. Infestations of more than 2-3 armyworms (1/2 inch or longer) per square foot may justify an insecticide application. If practical, apply insecticides early in the morning or late in the evening when armyworm larvae are most active and therefor most likely to come into contact with the insecticide spray.

If the field is near harvest, an early harvest, rather than an insecticide treatment, is an option. One the field is cut, most of the armyworm will die due to lack of food and exposure to high temperatures. In some cases, armyworms can move into an adjacent field and continue to feed.

There are products labeled for chemical control; contact your local Extension Office at 254-435-2331 for a list of approved chemical options. Relatively new this year is a formulation of a virus that kills only fall armyworm and beet armyworm.  The biological insecticide has reportedly been effective against fall armyworm infesting sorghum in Australia. It is labeled for hay and pasture and several other crops in the US. However, little is known about its effectiveness under field conditions in the US and more field data are needed before it can be recommended but watch for this in coming years.


For even more details on the armyworm and prevention check out this information:  Armyworm Fact Sheet 2019

Healthy Eating for an Active Life

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The days are long and there is plenty of sunshine. It’s a great time of year to get outside and get moving with activities you enjoy, especially with your family!

For youth and adults participating in physical activity like hiking, swimming, or various sports, healthy eating is essential for optimizing performance.  Combining good nutrition and physical activity can lead to a healthier lifestyle. Use these tips from the United States Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate website (www.choosemyplyate.gov) to combine good nutrition and physical activity to make the most of your summer!

First, maximize with nutrient-packed foods. Give your body the nutrients it needs by eating a variety of nutrient-packed food, including whole grains, lean protein, fruits and vegetables, and low-fat or fat-free dairy.  Eat fewer foods that are high in solid fats, added sugars, and sodium (salt).

Next, energize with grains! Your body’s quickest energy source comes from grain foods such as bread, pasta, oatmeal, cereals, and tortillas. Be sure to make at least half of your grain food choices whole-grain foods like whole-wheat bread, tortillas, pasta and brown rice. A product is considered whole grain if the first ingredient listed is “whole wheat” or “whole grain.”

Power up with protein. Protein is essential for building and repairing muscle. Choose lean or low-fat cuts of beef and pork, and skinless chicken or turkey.  Choose seafood protein sources twice a week.

Quality protein choices come from plant based foods, too! Choose beans and peas (kidney, pinto, black or white, beans, chickpeas, hummus), soy products (tofu, veggie burgers, tempeh), and unsalted nuts and seeds.

Don’t forget the fruits and vegetables! Get the nutrients your body needs by eating a variety of colors. Try blue, red, or black berries; red, green, or yellow peppers; and dark greens like spinach and kale.

Choose fresh, frozen, canned, and dried varieties as there is minimal nutritional difference between them. When buying canned vegetables aim to purchase the “low-sodium” or “reduced sodium” varieties. With canned or packaged fruits look for those varieties that are packaged in water or 100% fruit juice.

Be sure to also include dairy foods such as fat-free and low-fat milk, cheese, yogurt, and fortified soy beverages (soymilk) to build and maintain strong bones needed for everyday activities.

Hydration is critical in the warm summer months! Stay hydrated by drinking water instead of sugary drinks. Dehydration can affect the body in many ways, from nasty headaches to, in extremes, hospitalization.  Keep a filled reusable water bottle with you to always have water on hand.

Remember, physical activity is essential for good health. Aim for at least 2 ½ hours of physical activity each week that requires moderate effort. A “moderate effort” means that you can carry on a conversation while still moving. A few examples include brisk walking, biking, swimming, and skating.  Spread activities over the week but do that at least 10 minutes at a time.

For information about nutrition education program in your local area, contact Chris Coon at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service county office at 254-435-2331.


Written by Amanda R. Scott, MS, RD, LD, Program Specialist, Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, College Station, Texas.

Texas Cottage Food Law Updates

On June 10th of this year, Governor Abbot signed Senate Bill 572 “Relating to the regulation of cottage food production operations.” The original 2011 Texas Cottage Food Law and 2013 expansion made the great state of Texas one of the friendliest places to start a home food production business. With the changes made in SB 572, the Texas Cottage Food law becomes even friendlier to business owners and makes more products available to the public. This law allows any Texas resident with a Food Handler’s certification to produce food stuffs in their own home without a business license but within certain parameters. These parameters are what SB 572 is aiming to relax.

SB 572 removes the location restriction previously in place that only allowed producers to sell in a local capacity. Producers can now sell their products directly to consumers anywhere in the state. Orders are now permissible via the Internet and mail order, provided that the producer personally delivers the food to the consumer.

Restrictions on specific foods that do not require time and temperature control for safety have been lifted, allowing for sale items like pickled, fermented, and frozen fruits and vegetables, and canned goods provided that those canned and pickled products have a pH value of 4.6 or less. While the list of permitted food has expanded, please note that there still are restrictions on foods that require time and temperature control for safety. A complete list of permitted foods can be found at the Texas Cottage Food Law website listed below and in the actual text of the bill.

It is important to note that Senate Bill 572 does not add any new regulatory burdens for producers, but only clarifies the law’s positions and reduces the restrictions placed on producers while maintaining proper food safety practices.

This is a very exciting update to an already business friendly law. If you are a cottage food producer and are interested in branching into some of the new areas allowed under the law, please remember that these changes do not come into effect until September 1, 2019!

For more information about the Texas Cottage Food Law, its updates, or how to get started please visit texascottagefoodlaw.com, and I would encourage you to read SB 572 in its entirety at capitol.texas.gov.

For information about food safety, home production, or obtaining a Food Handlers certification, please contact Family and Community Health Agent Chris Coon at 254-435-2331 or at chris.coon@ag.tamu.edu.

Walnut Caterpillars

What are they? Those black caterpillars with long white hairs?? They’re everywhere, by the thousands!

Over the last ten days I’ve had multiple emails, texts, calls and people bringing in samples of these critters. Yes they are everywhere right now…even on the floor of our office (thanks to our shade trees). They are Walnut Caterpillars. But don’t be confused by its name, the Walnut Caterpillar will also feed upon pecans, black walnuts, English walnuts, Japanese Walnuts, butternut and hickory.

The black with white hairs stage of this insect’s life cycle is called the fifth instar larva. During this phase there is a 3-5 day feeding period in which they can consume 80% of all the foliage they will eat in their lifetime. After this phase, the larvae will leave the host plant to pupate in the soil.

In Texas, the walnut caterpillar can produce two to three generations per year depending upon the number of frost-free days. Two generations are possible when there are fewer than 245 frost-free days—three generations are possible when there are more than 245 frost-free days.

Unlike early season caterpillars that feed on new growth, walnut caterpillar larvae prefer mature foliage. Consequently, infestations will not appear until late spring or after foliage has matured. Trees or branches that were defoliated will initiate new growth, which should not be damaged by the next generation. To help prevent significant defoliation, homeowners and commercial operators should know the following symptoms. Early detection is important so control measures can be applied before significant damage occurs.

So, what can you do? During most years, natural predators and parasites keep walnut caterpillar populations in check. But if you insist, on small trees, homeowners can achieve some control by removing egg masses from leaves and larvae from the branches. For large trees or for large acreage, an insecticide application is the most practical way to prevent damage.

Insecticides that are recommended for homeowners will contain spinosad or Bacillus thuringiensis as their active ingredient. These insecticides are selective for caterpillars (Lepidoptera larvae) and very safe to humans. To increase the effectiveness of insecticides, apply them when the larvae are small and ensure that the spray covers the entire canopy. Broad-spectrum insecticides can be effective but carry some risk for the applicator and may cause secondary insect outbreaks. Insecticide labeling is subject to change, so always consult the label for target sites and pests, application rates, and safety precautions; as the label is the law.

For more information or help with insect identification contact Chelsea Dorward at the Bosque County Extension Office at 254-435-2331 or email Chelsea.dorward@ag.tamu.edu.

Youth Sports Week

During Youth Sports Week, July 16-22, thousands of youth sports coaches, and parents are showing their support with a focus on P.L.A.Y.S. ~ Physical activity, Living healthy, Access, Youth development, Safety. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service recommends starting this week off by listening to the needs and wants of the youth participants in order to strengthen the skills and bonds created by youth sports.

Youth sports participation has positive impacts on health, fitness, character development and other traits that contribute to success in school and adulthood.  “Sports are a wonderful way for children to stay healthy, but most importantly, we need children to have activity that they enjoy and in which their bodies, muscles, and brains are used in a variety of ways”, said Erica Reyes, Extension Program Specialist for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

In 2014, The International Olympic Committee (IOC) met to advance a more appropriate and optimal, evidence-informed approach to youth athlete development. The IOC guidelines include:

  1. Consideration of individual and constantly changing rates of growth, maturation and development
  2. Holistic and diverse development of the athlete and person
  3. Individual and flexible frameworks of athlete development
  4. Mitigating injury risk and promoting health through sport
  5. Advocacy for a wider definition of athletic and sport success

Reyes states “in looking at these guidelines, think of the total child’s needs.  Each is different with their interests, physical development, ability, and maturation.  Also important is making sure they follow healthy eating guidelines, keep hydrated, and get enough rest”.

It is important to engage youth athletes in learning the importance of proper nutrition and hydration for maximum athletic performance and for general health and well-being. Proper nutrition is vital for youth athletes because they need extra nutrients to maintain and sustain performance and endurance. As the youth athlete takes in the proper nutrition before and after physical activity, they need to combine it with fluid intake before and during physical activity. The youth athlete may become dehydrated with the loss of water through sweating and breathing if the appropriate amount of fluids is not consumed. Without the proper amount of fluids, the body will not work to its full potential.

Key messages for proper nutrition include; make half your plate fruits and vegetables, switch to fat-free or low-fat milk, make at least half your grains whole grains, compare foods for choices lower in sodium, and drink water instead of sugary drinks.

Remember proper hydration before, during, and after practice or games.  Make sure you watch for signs of dehydration which include; thirst, dry mouth, flushed skin, fatigue, headache, dizziness/weakness, high body temperature, and an increased breathing rate.

Lastly, in celebrating youth sports week this July, and youth sports in general, there should be a combination of healthy competitiveness, fun, family/team bonding, and safety!

For more information, please contact Family and Community Health Agent Chris Coon at 254-435-2331 or at chris.coon@ag.tamu.edu.