Hot and Humid Issues; Coming Events



Mario Villarino DVM, Ph.D.
Hopkins County Extension Agent for Ag and NR
1200B Houston Street
Sulphur Springs, Texas 75482

by Mario Villarino

Just as I started thinking about this week notes, and as I was watching rain on and off in Sulphur Springs, I recalled the issue related to molds growing in our crops. The critical part of a healthy plant environment is for the rain cycles to have a chance to dry out. Although plants enjoy watering, certainly too much of it can become a problem. A good optimal environment in the ground is to have an appropriate air to water ratio so roots can air out. With water logged soils, this does not happen, so gardens and lawns will suffer because extremely wet weather followed by hot and dry will certainly alter the schedule putting a toll into our already tight schedule of warm days before extreme heat. Insects will also respond to hot-humid weather proliferating. One of the most common problems during extreme wet days are fire ants infestations. Since water occupies air underground, fire ants have the tendency to emerge from it. According to Michael Merchant, Urban Extension Entomologist for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, among the common questions he receives about fire ants include questions on how to control them within vegetable gardens, compost bins and (increasingly) chicken coops. “My favorite tool for fire ant control is use of fire ant bait broadcast over the entire home lawn and landscape.  This is an inexpensive and environmentally friendly way to keep fire ants away. However, the most commonly available baits do not allow direct use in vegetable gardens or many areas with livestock. I suppose the EPA is concerned about baits falling into vegetables, like lettuce, and being directly consumed by people or livestock.  Fortunately, there is a simple alternative.In most cases the simplest way to get fire ants out of a small- to medium-sized garden, compost bin or chicken coop is to apply a fast acting fire ant bait around the outside perimeter of the site.  This should be a legal application for all fire ant baits (check your label to be sure), and since fire ants do not pay much attention to garden edges or fences, the inside ants will readily pick up bait from the surrounding ground.  Yes, the bait does end up inside the garden or livestock area anyway, but only inside the fire ant nests, where there is no risk of it being picked up by chickens or contaminating leafy vegetables. For larger gardens or crop and pasture land where perimeter treatments might be less effective, several fire ant baits may be used.  Spinosad and abamectin-containing baits generally allow garden application (e.g., Clinch®, Fertilome® Come and Get It, and Payback®).  In addition, Extinguish® (but not Extinguish Plus) fire ant bait containing methoprene has a label that allows use on cropland, pastures and rangeland.  Extinguish® is an excellent long-term control option, especially in larger sites; but it is too slow for most gardeners, requiring approximately two months for maximum control. Avoid applying any of these baits to areas where poultry or other fowl are actively foraging. In addition to baits, mounds can be treated directly with any of several mound drenches labeled for use in gardens.  Alternatively, ant colonies inside a vegetable garden, chicken coop or compost bin can sometimes be successfully removed with a shovel and a straight-sided 5 gallon bucket. To keep the fire ants from climbing the shovel handle or escaping the bucket, liberally dust both shovel handle and bucket insides with talcum powder.  The talc will keep fire ants in for a short while.  Shovel quickly and go deep to attempt to remove the queen(s).  Once the nest is contained in the bucket, it can be dispatched by flooding with soapy water. For more information in this or any other agricultural topic please contact the Hopkins County Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office by calling 903-885-3443 or email me at [email protected].

Coming up:

Hopkins County Master Gardeners Annual Plant Swap, Saturday April 23, 2016 9:00 AM to 12 Noon at the Bright Star Veterinary Clinic Parking lot, 744 Gilmer Street, Sulphur Springs, Texas. The Hopkins County Master Gardeners will welcome all who are interested in gardening whether they have something to swap or not.

Texas Watershed Steward Workshop, May 6, 2016, Rains County Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office, 410 Tawakoni Drive (highway 276) Emory Texas. Workshop with overview of water quality and watershed management in Texas. CEU’s for  Private applicators and others. Register by calling 979-862-4457 or

Homeowner Maintenance of Aerobic Treatment Units, May 16, 2016 at the Hopkins County Extension Office located at 1200B Houston Street, Sulphur Springs, Texas. $100 registration.  Call 903-885-3443.


Author: Staff Reporter

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