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.

Central Texas Stocker Cattle Seminar

The 7th Annual Central Texas Stocker Cattle Seminar will be held Wednesday, June 26th at the West Auction Barn located at 20645 N. I-35, West, Texas 76691. This multi-county programming effort will be hosted by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Beef and Forage Committees in Bell, Bosque, Falls, Hill, Limestone and McLennan Counties.  Cost for the program is $10.00 per person, payable at registration.

Speakers and topics for the program will be The Affect of Nutrition on Performance/Health of Stocker by Levi Trubenback, Livestock Nutrition Center; Economics of Stocker Cattle Production, by Paul Burroughs, National Finance Credit Corp; Benefits of Individual Animal Carcass ID, Heath Crumley of Creekstone Farms; Cattle Market Update by TCU Ranch Management Professor; Phenotypic $Value of Cattle, Live Cattle Demonstration, Brian Upmore, Auctioneer and Manger of West Auction Barn.

Those in attendance will receive one (1) General Continuing Education Credit.  Breakfast will be provided by Ag Southwest and the workshop will conclude with lunch. RSVP is required for the meal by June 21, 2016 by calling (254)435-2331.

Individuals with disabilities who require an auxiliary aid, service or other accommodations are encouraged to contact the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service at (254)757-5180 prior to the event.

Keeping Summer’s Bounty Safe to Eat

Fresh melons and berries fill the aisles of grocery stores and markets. Roadside produce stands full of home grown fruits and vegetables are seen along the highway. All of these are signs that summer is here and so is a bounty of fresh produce. Summer’s harvest of fresh fruits and vegetables is an important part of a healthy diet. Just remember to handle fresh produce safely to prevent foodborne illness.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that there are 48 million cases of foodborne illnesses each year resulting in 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.

Although not traditionally associated with foodborne illness, fresh fruits and vegetables have recently been linked to several outbreaks. That’s because fresh produce is often eaten raw. In fact, in recent years a number of outbreaks have been traced to fresh fruits and vegetables that were processed under less than sanitary conditions.

To help consumers keep fruits and vegetables safe to eat, the Partnership for Food Safety Education (www.fightbac.org) gives six recommendations for safe handling of fresh produce: Check: Food safety for fresh fruits and vegetables begins at the store. Before purchasing, make sure the produce is not bruised, cut, or damaged. If purchasing items that are pre-cut, such as melons, or packaged, such as salads, buy only the items that have been kept refrigerated. Clean: Hands should be washed in warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling fresh produce. Make sure cutting boards, counter tops, peelers and knives are also clean before using them.

Fresh produce should be rinsed under running tap water before you eat it. That’s also true for fruits and vegetables that have rinds or skins that will not be eaten. People don’t realize they need to scrub the outside of melons with a vegetable brush or rub them with their hands under running water. If bacteria contaminate the outside of a melon for example, when you slice into it you have the potential of bringing that contamination into the fruit.

Clean firm-skinned produce with a clean vegetable brush or rub it with your hands under running tap water. Do not use detergent or bleach to wash fresh produce. After washing, dry fruits and vegetables with a clean cloth or paper towel.

Vegetable brushes can be purchased at your local variety store for two to four dollars. They are an inexpensive tool that can help you keep your fresh produce safe to eat.

Separate:  In the grocery cart, keep fresh fruits and vegetables away from such items as cleaners, detergents, and raw meat, poultry, and fish. At home, that advice also holds true during storage in the refrigerator and during preparation: Keep fresh produce away from raw meat, poultry and fish. Do not use the same cutting board for produce and meats unless it is cleaned with hot, soapy water before and after food preparation. Cook:  If fresh produce has been in contact with raw meat, poultry, fish, or their juices, throw it away or cook it thoroughly. Chill: To prevent bacterial growth, store all cut, peeled, or cooked produce in the refrigerator within two hours. Throw away:  Fresh fruits and vegetables that have not been refrigerated within two hours of cutting, peeling, or cooking should be thrown away. Remove and throw away bruised or damaged portions of fresh produce before cooking or eating them raw. Any fruit or vegetable that will not be cooked and that has been contaminated by raw meat, poultry, fish, or their juices should also be thrown away. If in doubt about the safety of a fruit or vegetable, throw it out!

For more information on safe handling of fresh produce, contact your local County Extension Agent Chris Coon at 254-435-2331 or via email at chris.coon@ag.tamu.edu.

Bosque County Hay Show Scholarships

The first Bosque County Hay Show was held in Clifton in 1979 and was sponsored by the Bosque County Hay Show Committee, Bosque Soil and Water Conservation District, and the Texas Agriculture Extension Service, Bosque County. Forty years later, the next hay show is tentatively planned for October 2019, in Meridian, Texas.

The purpose of the Hay Show has been to provide producers information as to the quality of the hay they are producing. By knowing the quality, producers know if their hay has adequate protein or if they need additional supplements to meet the requirements of their livestock.

The hay from this show is auctioned and proceeds, along with sponsor donations, are used to offset expenses in addition to providing scholarships for FFA and 4-H high school seniors in Bosque County. Over the years, a total of 346 scholarships in the amount of $208,850 have been provided to high school seniors in Bosque County! To the senior class of 2019, sixteen $750 scholarships were awarded.

Congratulations to this year’s recipients!  From Bosque 4-H:  Hunter Bridgefarmer, the Jon F. Henderson Memorial Hay Show Scholarship; Maggie Chaffin, the Bosque County Hay Show Scholarship; Sydney Harris, the Bosque County Hay Show Scholarship.  From Iredell FFA:  Viviana Benitez, the John D. & Murlene Smith Memorial Hay Show Scholarship, Colten Fowler, the Sandra S. Shrank Memorial Hay Show Scholarship.  From Morgan FFA:  Dustin Brown, the Carroll M. Olson Memorial Hay Show Scholarship; Dariela Ramirez-Guillen, the Bosque County Hay Show Scholarship, Diana Sarinana, the Bosque County Hay Show Scholarship.  From Cranfills Gap FFA:  Ashlee Earp, the Wade Lee Memorial Hay Show Scholarship; Jerry Johnson, the Marc Johnson Memorial Hay Show Scholarship.  From Clifton FFA:  Kathryn Hill, the Homer and Vera Erickson Memorial Hay Show Scholarship; Mallory Knox, the C. Pernell and Rosalie Aars Memorial Hay Show Scholarship; Holden Rogers, the Bosque County Hay Show Scholarship.  From Valley Mills FFA:  Karissa Schlasman, the J. B. Wood Memorial Hay Show Scholarship.  From Kopperl:  Brittney Holmes, the Bosque County Hay Show Scholarship.  From Walnut Springs FFA:   Kaitlyn Whitt, the Kenneth Shrank Memorial Hay Show Scholarship.


With all the recent rains mosquitoes are abundant. Mosquitoes are not only an annoyance, but can leave itchy bites and transmit diseases.

Since mosquitoes will attack all warm-blooded vertebrates, livestock, pets and humans are all susceptible. In livestock, large populations of mosquitoes can cause irritation and extensive blood loss, which can result in reduced productivity and sometimes death. Diseases affecting livestock from mosquitoes include Easter Equine Encephalomyelitis (EEE) virus, Western Equine Encephalomyelitis (WEE) virus and Venezuelan Equine Encephalomyelitis (VEE). These are not exclusive to horses as the EEE has been reported in dogs and pigs. Heartworms in dogs are caused by the transmission of the filarial nematode by mosquitoes. These are just a few examples.

Now how to control mosquitoes, make certain that you are not contributing to the problem. All a mosquito needs to breed is a few leaves or small amount of organic material and water. Be certain to dump or drain any standing water. Also change out bird baths weekly, pet’s water bowls and check seals on cisterns and rain barrels. In low areas and ditches that cannot be easily drained consider filling in with gravel or soil. There are several products available for treating standing water that cannot be easily drained or filled.

Other backyard devices sold for mosquito protection include candles, bug zappers, ultrasonic mosquito repelling machines and mosquito suction devices. While some of these items have demonstrated relief in studies, the area of relief is minimal.  A few things we can do to help ourselves is to limit outdoor activities during evening and morning hours when mosquitoes are most active. If you must be outdoors during these times, wear protective clothing (long-sleeved shirt and pants) or a proven insect repellent.

For livestock the use of biological control can be used. Fish such as mosquito fish, goldfish, tilapia and others can be used to kill the larvae or the vegetation from areas where the larvae harborage in stock tanks and ponds. Chemical products can be found in many formulations (dust, powder, water soluble liquid, emulsion, oil-soluble liquid, granule, pellet, briquette).  The rate of usage will be dependent upon the biology of the target mosquito, the kind and size of habitat, the method of application, the chemical composition of the water and the presence of non-target organisms.

And whether in backyard or on the farm it’s best to rely on more than one control tactic when treating. For more information contact Chelsea Dorward at the Bosque County Extension Office at 254-435-2331.

Summer Cooking, Having a Blast – Summer Cooking, Got Sick So Fast

Unless another cold front comes bustling in out of nowhere, spring and summer temperatures are here and that means fun activities outdoors, including firing up the grill and cooking outdoors! One thing that is never fun, regardless of the time of year, is a foodborne illness. Research from the United State’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 1 in 6 Americans get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die annually from a foodborne illness. We can reduce our risk of obtaining a foodborne illness by following the principles of separate, chill, clean, and cook.

Food safety’s first step in our homes occurs before food even gets in the door. When purchasing foods that require temperature control like meats, fish, poultry, dairy, and eggs it is important to separate them from our other items so that they don’t leak and potentially transfer bacteria. Utilize plastic bags in the meat section to sequester those products to keep everything else clean.

These products are sensitive to temperature and as a result should remain below 40oF until the time of cooking. When meat products fall into the 40oF to 135oF range, they are in what is called “the temperature danger zone”. This is the range of temperatures in which foodborne illness- and spoilage-organisms reproduce at a much higher rate. Reduce the time products spend in this temperature range by putting them in the shopping cart last, and in the home fridge first! If you are cooking outside and away from easy fridge access, utilize an insulated cooler or bag to protect your products.

Ensure that all work surfaces, dishes, utensils, and hands are clean before and after handling raw meat, seafood, poultry, and eggs. Do not use the same cutting board to make a salad that just had raw chicken on it. After you are done with a task, clean the utensils, the area, and yourself before proceeding in order to reduce the risk of cross contamination. Do not use the same plate you brought the burgers out on to bring them back in the house! You laugh now but I have seen it happen too often to tell.

Finally, make sure that your food is reaching the proper internal temperatures required to significantly reduce the risk of a foodborne illness. Utilize a food thermometer inserted into the thickest portion of meat to check the temperature and clean the thermometer probe between checks to reduce cross contamination. Whole cuts of beef, pork, lamb, veal and fish should reach 145oF, hamburgers, ground meats, and sausages should reach 160oF, and all poultry products should reach 165oF.

When it comes to leftovers, divide extra food into smaller portions and place in covered, shallow containers or bags. Place them in the fridge or freezer within two hours of cooking.

For more food safety tips and information please visit www.cdc.gov/foodsafety or contact Chris Coon, County Extension Agent in Family and Community Health at chris.coon@ag.tamu.edu.