Sunday, July 6, 2003
by Nathan Riggs, Extension Agent
Integrated Pest Management-Bexar County
With the recent intermittent rains across South Texas, many plants are experiencing new growth and some are even blooming. Local populations of butterflies and honeybees are enjoying the new blooms and conducting themselves as expected. Unfortunately, not all of the rainfall is soaking into the ground. Some if it is collecting in holes, ditches and creeks where hoards of pregnant mosquitoes are waiting to deposit their eggs. Many callers to the Bexar County Extension Office over the past week have expressed concern over the increase in activity of honeybees and mosquitoes and this week’s article will address these topics.
Honeybees are as much as part of the local environment as are scorpions, flies and ants. They pollinate flowers, crops, fruit trees and even plants considered as “weeds” as they go about their daily activities. Late June and July also mark time periods when bee colonies are moving to new hive locations in swarms and causing concern among homeowners. While swarming, honeybees are docile and calm because they do not have young and stores of honey to protect. Even Africanized honeybees will be calm while in a swarm. Only when the hive has settled on a location and begun storing honey to protective behaviors begin to appear. If an active hive is discovered, do not make sudden moves around it until the behavior of the hive can be determined. European honeybees generally permit humans and animals within close range of their hive, while African bees do not. African bees also become aggravated by strong vibrations and will attack the source of the vibrations. When humans are attacked by honeybees, the head and shoulders are stung most often because the bees orient to the breath of the “intruder.”
If attacked by bees or hornets, run away in a zig-zag fashion and get into the nearest building or vehicle where possible. Do not jump into water because the attackers will wait at the surface until the “intruder” comes up to breathe. If a hive of bees is discovered, call a beekeeper, removal service or pest control operator for assistance. These folks have the proper equipment for dealing with bees in a safe manner.
Mosquitoes, on the other hand, don’t possess painful stings, but they do bite and irritate folks to no end! Only female mosquitoes need blood to make their eggs; male mosquitoes feed on nectar from flowers. It is widely thought that mosquitoes need standing water to survive. Not true. Mosquitoes only need standing water as a place to lay their eggs. Adult mosquitoes spend the day in thick, shaded vegetation where humilities are higher and temperatures are cooler than in direct sunlight. To reduce populations of adult mosquitoes in your lawn, consider treating shrubs and ground covers with a spray insecticide approved for lawns sometime during the day for best effect. To prevent mosquito populations from developing around your home, be sure to dump out standing water every 3 or 4 days, or use Mosquito Dunks in standing water that cannot be dumped. This includes abandoned swimming pools, water gardens, water troughs and ditches. Mosquito Dunks are only toxic to mosquito larvae in water and nothing else.
Rainfall events in South Texas are usually followed 4 to 6 days later by a surge in mosquito populations so be prepared for that event. Mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk, so be sure to wear light-colored clothing and a repellent containing DEET where possible. Not only will this make your outdoor activities more enjoyable, but it will give you an extra measure of protection against the possibility of West Nile Virus infection as well. For more information on mosquito repellants and West Nile Virus, check out the Bexar County Extension website at http://bexar-tx.tamu.edu.