Weather for Lubbock, TX

Friday, July 21, 2017

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Cotton Aphids

Seeing some cotton aphids lately? They typically show up in cotton when insecticides targeting other pests remove natural enemies that keep aphid populations under control. Cotton aphids are also more common in later planted fields. Small numbers of aphids are not a bad thing! They will attract beneficials to the crop that will in turn feed on other pests such as bollworms.


Sometimes, however, the infestations can get quite large and their feeding will rob the plant of the nutrients it needs for boll development. The other issue we encounter is their honeydew, a sugary substance secreted by aphids after they feed on plant sap. The honeydew can get into open bolls and cause sticky cotton, which greatly reduces the quality.

Our cotton entomologist, Dr. Suhas Vyavhare, has put together a fact sheet on cotton aphids and their management. Click here to check it out! 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Southern High Plains IPM Newsletter, Jul 14

Click here to read this week's newsletter! 

If you would like to receive this newsletter via email just let me know and I will gladly add you to the list.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Southern High Plains IPM Newsletter, Jun 30

Here is this week's newsletter.

If you would like to receive the newsletter via email let me know and I will add you to the list.

Have a happy and safe 4th of July! 

Monday, June 26, 2017

SCA found in Lubbock Co

Yesterday, Sunday Jun 25, I found a small colony of sugarcane aphids on sorghum in southern Lubbock. Now is the time to increase scouting efforts if you have any sorghum acreage to keep an eye on this pest.

See this special edition of the Southern High Plains IPM Newsletter of the SCA and check out the Texas Sugarcane Aphid News Blog for management strategies specific to the High Plains!

Call me if you have any questions or concerns.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Southern High Plains IPM Newsletter, Jun 23

Click here to read this week's newsletter.

If you would like to receive the newsletter via email, just let me know and I will add you to the distribution list.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Annual Hailout/Replant/Late-Plant Guide Available

Here is the 15th Annual Hailout/Replant/Late-Plant Guide for the Texas South Plains.

Thanks to Drs. Calvin Trostle and Seth Byrd for putting this helpful document together. It contains information on assessing damaged cotton stands, herbicide precautions, and basic agronomics such as recommended last planting dates for grain sorghum, sunflower, guar, Black-eyed peas, sesame, etc.

If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch with me!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Update on Fever Tick Situation in Texas

Here is an update on the Fever Tick Situation from June 12.

Lubbock or Crosby counties are currently NOT on any quarantined list.

For more information on Cattle Fever Ticks you can check out this website from the Texas Animal Health Commission.

Thanks to Dr. Sonja Swiger, Veterinary and Medical Extension Entomologist for this information!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Southern High Plains IPM Newsletter, Jun 9

Click here to read the today's newsletter! 

If you would like to receive the newsletter by email just let me know and I will add you to the list.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Lubbock Scout School May 25

Lubbock Scout School has been scheduled for May 25 this year at the Texas A&M Agrilife Research and Extension Center. It is open to anyone who wants to learn the basics of scouting crops on the High Plains - primarily cotton, corn, sorghum, and peanuts. This half-day course is great for crop consultants, farmers and their workers, county extension agents and their interns, and anyone in the agricultural industry that wants to learn more about field scouting.

When: Thursday May 25, 8:00am - 12:00pm
Where: Texas A&M Agrilife Research and Extension Center, 1102 E FM 1294 Lubbock, TX 79403
3 CEUs will be offered
Contact Rae Cox at 806-746-6101 for more information or to RSVP by May 23.

Agenda can be found here.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Dryland Wheat Variety Tour Monday May 8 in Lubbock

A brief walking tour of the 2016-2017 Lubbock Uniform Dryland Wheat Variety Trial, conducted by Texas A&M Agrilife Research and Extension, will be held from 8:30-9:15am on Monday May 8th. This variety test is located on the Eddie Griffis Farm approximately 0.5 mi East of the Texas A&M Agrilife Research and Extension Center at Lubbock on the south side of FM1294.

This replicated uniform trial contains 40 entries (varieties) of wheat that are being tested across several locations in Texas. Participants at the meeting will have the opportunity to ask questions regarding the variety selections as well as wheat management decisions. For more information, contact the Lubbock County Extension Office at 806-775-1740 or Dr. Calvin Trostle, Extension Agronomist, at 806-746-6101.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Transform Receives Emergency Exemption for Lygus in Cotton

Transform has received a Section 18 Emergency Exemption for control of plant bugs in cotton. The label is effective April 28, 2017 through October 31, 2017 and includes most Texas counties (Lubbock and Crosby counties are included). 

Transform's label rate for plant bugs is 1.5-2.25 oz/acre. Always follow the label when applying. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Kaput Feral Hot Bait Registration Withdrawn in Texas

The company that manufactures Kaput feral hog bait has withdrawn its registration in Texas. It cites the threat of lawsuits and risk to its business as the reasons.

Kaput was approved earlier this year in response to the extensive damage caused by wild hogs.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Mosquito Workshop in Lubbock Next Week: May 4

It's warming up and mosquito season is upon us!

Questions about mosquito-borne illnesses like Zika and West Nile? Wondering what you can do to keep mosquito numbers down in your backyard?

Then come to the Lubbock Vector Management Workshop next Thursday May 4 at the Texas A&M Agrilife Research Center to learn all about mosquito control this upcoming season.

Register online here or call Heidi Nivens at 254-968-4144. There is NO FEE for this workshop since funding is through the CDC for mosquito education. Lunch will be included.

Pesticide CEUs offered:

  • 5 Agricultural: 2 General, 2 IPM, 1 Laws/Regulation
  • 3 Structural: 1 General, 1 IPM, 1 Laws/Regulation
  • Registered Sanitation CE's and Animal Control CE's



Friday, March 24, 2017

2 Events Next Week: Lunch with Cotton Agronomist AND Local Foods Conference

Lunch with the Cotton Agronomist - Friday Mar 31
10:00 am at Ralls Methodist Church (3 CEUs)
Call 806-675-2347 for more information and to RSVP.

Topics include:

  • Cotton variety selection
  • Cotton planting considerations
  • Weed management
  • Herbicide technology
  • Integrated pest magnement 
  • Soil fertility


Small Farm and Local Foods Conference - Saturday Apr 1
8:00 am at the Texas A&M Agrilife Research and Extension Center
Call 806-775-1740 to pre-register by March 29.

Topics include:

  • High Tunnel Blackberry Production
  • Pomegranates in West Texas
  • Marketing Strategies 
  • Developing a Business Plan
Afternoon will have a tour of the Agrilife Research High Tunnels and local small farm. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Sugarcane Aphids Arrive Early in South Texas, Hidalgo County

Danielle Sekula-Ortiz, Extension Agent-IPM in Weslaco, has found sugarcane aphids in commercial sorghum. She writes,

"My student Alma and I detected sugarcane aphids on commercial sorghum at about the V8 stage down by the river in Hidalgo County. That was on Tuesday, March 21, about 3 weeks earlier than we first found them in a commercial field in 2016. The colonies we found this week were small, containing one winged aphid (alate) and 3 to 5 small nymphs. Sugarcane aphids are barely starting to colonize. But with the current heat and strong winds, the sugarcane aphid may start to populate rapidly and migrate north quickly in our valley sorghum in the next few weeks. Please start scouting your sorghum diligently and prepare for possible spray applications, if need be."

Southern High Plains IPM Newsletter, Mar 23

Click here to read the latest newsletter.

Let me know if you would like to receive the newsletter via email and I will add you to the list.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Brown wheat mite populations are high

If you're seeing tiny black specs on your drought-stressed wheat, it may be brown wheat mites.
Those black specs are actually mites
feeding on the plant tissue.
Brown wheat mites thrive during these currently dry conditions that we're seeing this March and can often be found on dryland wheat. The best time to scout for them is on clear, warm afternoons when they are actively feeding. If it is an especially windy day, it may be hard to see the mites as they will move to the base of the plant. They can also be found on the soil surface, sometimes dispersing from the plants when disturbed. Mites will pierce the plant cells when they feed, which causes a stippling appearance on the leaves. Feeding can cause yellowing of the plants, and heavy damage can cause plants to dry out and die.
Stippling of the leaf caused by brown wheat mite feeding.
Brown wheat mites are characterized by their long front legs, which are twice as long as their body. They're extremely small, approximately the size of a period at the end of this sentence. All mites are female, and can complete their life cycle from egg to adult in 10-14 days. In late April females will start to lay white eggs, signaling a natural decline in the population and meaning control is not necessary. 
Notice the reddish-brown mite in the center of the leaf.
There isn't a solid economic threshold for brown wheat mites, although it is estimated to be several hundred mites per row foot in the early spring. Miticides may not economically control this pest if we don't get a good rainfall and the crop is unable to respond to the treatment. If we get a rain of at least 1/3 inch, it will quickly reduce mite numbers. Turning on irrigation can also accomplish this. Management decisions should be based on the number of mites as well as the crop's ability to recover once mite numbers are lowered.
Wheat damaged by mite feeding and drought stress.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Southern High Plains IPM Newsletter, Mar 10

Click here to read the first newsletter of 2017! 

If you would like to receive the newsletter via email, just let me know and I will add to you the distribution list.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Soil Chemistry and Fertility Survey

The Soil Chemistry and Fertility Research Group under Dr. Katie Lewis at Texas A&M Agrilife-Lubbock is looking for survey participants for their 2017 Soil Management Survey. The survey will be used to develop research and extension programs in soil management and fertility. The survey should only take 8-10 minutes to complete and will be kept completely confidential. The survey can be found here.

If you would prefer a hard copy of the survey or have any questions, please contact Joseph Burke at joseph.burke@ag.tamu.edu

Thanks for helping out!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Preparing for Sugarcane Aphid - Early Season

Preparing for Sugarcane Aphid Part 1 - Early Season

As we get ready for the 2017 growing season, we are also getting ready for another year with the sugarcane aphid. This is the first in a series of articles with management recommendations based on our experiences from the last couple of growing seasons. Contributors include Dr. Ed Bynum, Extension Entomologist in Amarillo, Blayne Reed, Extension Agent-IPM in Hale, Swisher and Floyd counties, and Dr. Pat Porter, Extension Entomologist in Lubbock.

Beneficial insects cleaned up the overwintering aphids in 2016

In our 2015/2016 overwintering studies we found successful aphid survival as far north as Tulia. This was a bit of a surprise as our studies the previous year found survivorship only as far north as Hale Center. In 2016 we found SCA on Johnsongrass in Lubbock and Swisher counties in early Mary. At the time we were concerned that it would be a long aphid season, but fortunately there were abundant aphids in 2016 wheat. These served as food sources for the large number of beneficial insects that went into overwintering in the fall of 2015 after feeding on sugarcane aphids. After the initial 2016 aphid finds on Johnsongrass we intensified our search, only to discover that the small sugarcane aphid  populations were no longer to be found. It seems that the beneficial insects finished eating aphids in wheat and then moved over and wiped out the overwintering and colonizing sugarcane aphids on Johnsongrass. 

Eventually sugarcane aphids began to arrive from the east in July, first along the cap in Crosby and Floyd counties. This time they trickled in little by little, and this was fortunately unlike the large clouds of winged aphids that hit the Southern High Plains all at once in 2015. Last year's gradual westward movement of aphids meant that they were relatively predictable.

What about this year?

The abundance of beneficial insects early in the season this year will be important in protecting sorghum by preventing aphid movement from Johnsongrass to sorghum fields. Given that we had far less sorghum in 2016 than in 2015, it is the case that we had few beneficial insects going into overwintering in 2016. In effect, we are starting 2017 with fewer beneficial insects in the system, but fewer sugarcane aphids as well. Some wheat fields in early March had high number of bird cherry-oat aphids and green bugs, but there were high numbers of beneficial insects as well. Other wheat fields did not have many aphids or beneficial insects. Ultimately, aphid infestations on the High Plains will depend on overwintering and the earliness of arrival and severity and movement of sugarcane aphids from downstate. This causes a level of unpredictability for our 2017 sugarcane aphid situation.

Early planting resulted in far less aphid pressure 

Our primary recommendation for 2016 was to plant early so that the sorghum was as far along in growth stage as possible by the time aphids arrived. It is well documented that earlier growth stages can suffer more damage, so the idea was to outrun the aphid as much as possible. This strategy paid big dividends in 2016 for those who employed it.

However, to a less extent in 2015 we were also suggesting that late planted sorghum might suffer less damage because of all of the beneficials in the system that had developed on earlier planted crops. This definitely did not happen in 2016 and the standard and late planted crops were severely damaged by the aphid. So with two years of experience and data, our strongest recommendation is to plant early as to outrun the aphid as much as possible .

Seed treatments are cheap insurance

We recommend that neonicotinoid seed treatments be used on all sorghum. In 2016, the early planted crop would not have benefited from the 45 days of protection afforded by seed treatments. However, if we had not had abundant aphids in wheat to serve as food for the large number of beneficial insects that went in to overwintering, it might have been a different story and the early planted sorghum crop might have been infested in May or June. It is too early to tell whether we will have a similar high number of overwintered beneficials to provide protection in 2017. Fields planted in the normal window or late could expect significant aphid pressure within the 45 day window of seed treatment effectiveness. Also, even though seed treatments gradually play out, they still provide some sub-lethal effects on aphid reproduction beyond 45 days and, depending on chance, seed treatments might mean one insecticide application later rather than two. On balance it makes sense to use treated seed to protect against downside risk of infestations in pre-dowering and flowering growth states. Even for standard and late planted sorghum the ability of seed treatments to provide protection depends largely on when the aphids infest the crop during the season. Therefore, even fields with treatment seed need to be scouted for sugarcane aphid. 

"Resistant or Tolerant" hybrids are still susceptible

None of the so-called resistant or tolerant hybrids on the High Plains have been shown to keep aphid numbers below treatment thresholds. At best they slow the rate of aphid population increase; when the aphids arrive the threshold will most probably be exceeded and insecticides will be necessary. However, our research at Halfway showed that there is a significant economic benefit to using resistant hybrids even though they still need to be sprayed at the normal threshold. As yet we do not have a list of resistant or tolerant hybrids that we have confidence in and it will take three years of replicated data from the High Plains before solid recommendations can be made. At present we recommend that growers consult their local seed company for suggestions on resistant or tolerant hybrids.

Coming in Part II

The next article will address treatment thresholds, insecticide rates and efficacy, and an economic threshold for a potential second insecticide application if the first application failed or could not be made.


Thursday, March 2, 2017

Alternative Crops Conference in Lorenzo - March 21

Alternative Crops Conference in Lorenzo March 21!

Come to the Lorenzo Community Center Tuesday March 21 to get information on:

  • Markets
  • Drift prevention
  • Planting considerations
  • Pest control
For more information see this flyer or call the Crosby County Extension Office at 806-675-2347. 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

2017 Mosquito Workshop in Lubbock - May 4

Vector Management Workshop in Lubbock May 4!

This workshop will be full of information on mosquito identification, biology, control tactics, trap use, surveillance, virus testing, Zika, and mosquito control. 5 Agriculture CEU's are offered and 3 Structural CEU's are offered.

There is no charge for this workshop since funding is through a CDC grant focusing on mosquito management education. If you are outside the Lubbock area, the rest of the locations and more information can be found on the flyer here.

You can register for this FREE workshop here or call Heidi at 254-968-4144.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Short High Plains SCA Management Videos

The Texas A&M Agrilife Entomology group on the Texas High Plains just made 9 short videos that encompass the research and experiences learned from the last few growing seasons. Presenters are Blayne Reed, IPM Agent in Hale, Swisher, and Floyd Counties, Dr. Pat Porter, Extension Entomologist in Lubbock, Dr. Ed Bynum, Extension Entomologist in Amarillo, and myself.

Each video is only a few minutes long and full of great information! The videos present data that are applicable only to the Texas High Plains.

1. Aphid overwintering and seasonal abundance (3:41)
2. Early planting is a good idea (3:40)
3. "Resistant" sorghum hybrids and seed treatments (4:23)
4. First insecticide application threshold (3:03)
5. Insecticide application and product efficacy (8:46)
6. Timing of a second insecticide application (4:15)
7. Rate of damage with uncontrolled aphid populations (4:05)
8. Insecticides to prevent sticky harvest problems (5:56)
9. Aphid effects on stalk quality for grazing (3:43)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Cotton Insecticide Performance Trials 2016

Dr. Suhas Vyavhare has just finished putting together the 2016 Cotton Insecticide Performance Trials for the Southern High Plains. It is full of great information on insecticide efficacy trials on thrips, cotton fleahoppers, grasshoppers, and stinkbugs. You can read the report here.

Thanks to Suhas, everyone in District 2 who helped work on these trials, and our cooperating producers!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Southern High Plains RACE Trials Report 2016

Thanks to Dr. Seth Byrd and everyone who worked on the Replicated Agronomic Cotton Evaluation (RACE) trials on the Southern High Plains. This is a great resource as decisions for the 2017 growing season are being made!

You can find the full report here or also at http://cotton.tamu.edu.

Monday, February 6, 2017

South Plains Profitability Workshop - Feb 21

A Profitability Workshop will be offered at the Lubbock Texas A&M Agrilife Center February 21 at 9:00am. There will be additional workshops at other locations. The crop spreadsheet budgets that will be used in the workshop will soon be available for 2017. You can download them here starting Feb 10.

The profitability tool is a set of crop spreadsheet budgets tied together in one file to allow quick and easy comparisons of different crops. The primary objective of the workshop is to introduce participants to the budget spreadsheet to compare various alternative crops. Each participant will receive a thumb drive with the budget spreadsheet on it. Feel free to bring your computer if you want to follow the workshop on your own computer.

If you have questions, call Extension Economist Jackie Smith at 806-746-6101. There will be no charge for the workshop and lunch will be provided. Jackie Smith, Jeff Pate, and Will Keeling will be teaching the workshop.


Friday, January 27, 2017

Benefits of Cockroach Control

Dr. Mike Merchant, Agrilife Entomology Specialist in Dallas, wrote the post below on the benefits of cockroach control for his blog, Insects in the City. It's full of great information!


Benefits of cockroach control

Before starting graduate school in entomology I worked as a pest control technician out of college. My accounts included a sprawling, multi-story public housing complex in Seattle, WA. These visits were frustrating to me, because of the difficulty (impossibility) of putting much of a dent in the well entrenched German cockroach population that scurried back and forth among these apartments.

One of my visits, however, was the home of a single mom. It was a short encounter, and I'm not sure I ever saw her again; but I'll never forget the mother's gratitude for my efforts to battle the cockroaches plaguing her and her daughter.  The woman's apartment, unlike many in the community, was uncluttered and very clean. It was obvious she was doing her part to keep cockroaches at bay, something that made my job a lot easier and more effective. Despite the feeling that I wasn't putting much of a dent in the overall cockroach problem in those apartments, I went home that night feeling a little better about my job in pest control.

Improved technology


Two major changes have occurred in cockroach control since the early 1980s.  First, we've learned a lot more about the health impacts of cockroaches over the past 25 years. Besides being unsanitary and capable of spreading disease pathogens, we now have solid evidence to show that cockroaches are major contributors to asthma morbidity, especially among children living in infested homes.  Indeed, the feces and shed exoskeletons of cockroaches have proved to be among the most important indoor asthma causes we know of.  Children who grow up in cockroach infested apartments have higher rates of asthma, more missed school days, and more doctor visits than do their more affluent classmates from cockroach-free homes.

Second, with the discovery of effective baits, we have much better tools for cockroach control today. The insecticides available to me in 1980 were mostly residual sprays and dusts that had to be applied directly to cockroach hiding places.  If counter-tops were not cleared and covered, or cupboards not emptied before I arrived, there was little I could safely do with my Ficam®, diazinon and malathion sprays and dusts.  In addition, many of these sprays were repellent to cockroaches, something that I learned later in grad school greatly reduces their effectiveness against insecticide-avoiding cockroaches.

Today pest management professionals and even homeowners have access to technologies that are safer and vastly superior to the old insecticides.  Containerized and gel baits, in particular, have revolutionized our industry's ability to manage cockroaches.  Although sanitation is still important for cockroach IPM, baits have shown an ability to suppress cockroach numbers even in cluttered and poorly maintained living quarters.

A number of studies have shown over the past 20 years that cockroach control and sanitation efforts could significantly reduce the quantity of cockroach allergens in apartments.  Indeed, the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program recommends reducing cockroach exposure as a critical step to take in reducing asthma risk.

Research news

new study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology out this week is the first to show that cockroach baiting by itself can result in measurable improvements in the health of children. The researchers looked at the apartments of 102 children (aged 5-17 years), all of whose homes had some level of cockroach infestation.  Half of the children were assigned to homes that would be treated by researchers with cockroach baits, and half of the homes were left untreated by researchers.  All of the homes were sampled for cockroaches using Victor® Roach Pheromone Traps, and health indicators were measured for all the children (such as number of school days missed, medication used, days of wheezing, number of nights where children woke up, etc.).


Treatment of homes consisted of placing either Maxforce® FC Magnum, or Advion® cockroach bait gels in areas with evidence of active cockroach infestation.  Those who put out the bait were not trained PMPs, but were research staffers instructed to place baits in the back corners of kitchen cabinets, behind kitchen appliances, and inside bathroom vanities.  No other control methods were used.

The median cockroach numbers were significantly lower in treated homes vs. untreated. By the end of the study none of the baited homes had evidence of cockroach activity, compared to a 20% infestation rate of the untreated homes.

Interesting to me was that after the study began cockroach numbers in the untreated homes went from 100% infested to only 20% infested.  The authors of the study attributed the drop in untreated homes to "study effects".  People whose homes did not get treated, but were being monitored for cockroaches, took extra pains to clean up before the research team arrived, and they conducted additional cockroach control on their own, apart from insecticide baits applied by the researchers. This lead to an almost 85% reduction in trapped cockroach numbers in the control homes.

So it's even more remarkable that, despite the cockroach reductions in homes not receiving bait treatment, researchers still noted significantly better cockroach suppression with bait-treated homes and significant improvements in children's health.  In treated homes, for example, children had 47 fewer days a year with asthma symptoms compared to homes that were not treated with baits. Children in treated homes also had improved lung function and significantly fewer doctor visits compared to untreated homes, despite the relatively small sample size and relatively low cockroach levels in untreated homes.

These results should be carefully noted by the pest control industry.  With readily available, high-quality cockroach baits, and relatively easily taught skills, pest control technicians today can make a significant impact on the health and well-being of customers. In fact, I'm sure that the benefits of a highly skilled technician applying baits would accrue even faster and be more significant compared to untrained applicators.

When I consider how far cockroach control has come since my days with a B&G sprayer, these results are truly amazing.

I've said it before, and will say it again: the work you do as a PMP is very important.  Cockroach management in multifamily housing may not be very glamorous, but few other accounts provide the opportunity to better your customers' lives more.  And that's something that should make you feel even better when you go home at night.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Spread of Fever Tick Spooks Texas Cattle Industry

Fever ticks can spread parasites to animals such as cattle, horses, or deer causing illness and sometimes death. A recent find in a previously quarantined area has raised some concerns. Here is some more information on the fever tick from the Texas Animal Heath Commission as well as some FAQ



Spread of fever tick spooks Texas cattle industry

Fever ticks are turning up farther north of the border, alarming inspectors

January 14, 2017


The dreaded cattle fever tick, carrier of a blood disease that once nearly wiped out the U.S. cattle herd, has landed farther north in the Texas interior, worrying state and federal inspectors that the once-eradicated pest is no longer under control.

Texas animal health inspectors recently found new fever ticks Nov. 30 on a bull on a Live Oak County farm, about 110 miles north from the Mexico border where they were thought to have been permanently quarantined. Since then, the ticks have been found on seven neighboring premises, prompting the Texas Animal Health Commission to set up a temporary "Control Purpose Quarantine Area." It's the fourth such quarantine zone, following ones set up in Willacy, Kleberg and Jim Wells counties.

There are more than 450,000 acres in Texas under various types of fever tick quarantines that have been set outside of the permanent quarantine zone since the ticks started showing up farther inside U.S. territory in 2014. The most recent quarantine zone has grown by nearly 45,000 acres in the past six weeks as more fever ticks have been found, and now covers 57,541 acres.

Inspectors are using genetic tests and epidemiological investigations to try to pinpoint how the ticks ended up in Live Oak - from transporting animals from quarantine areas near the border or from wildlife such as white-tailed deer and nilgai antelope carrying them farther into Texas. The latter is the biggest concern, indicating that previously successful efforts to contain the ticks to the border region are failing.

The ticks are carriers for bovine babesiosis, a blood disease that in the 1800s wiped out much of the U.S. cattle herd and caused Kansas and other states to shun or restrict cattle from Texas.
In 1943, the ticks were declared eradicated from the U.S. save for a permanent quarantine zone along the Rio Grande established to control ticks that find their way across the river from Mexico. But during the past few years, the ticks have increasingly been found outside that zone, prompting expanded quarantine zones in border counties and temporary quarantine zones in three counties farther north.

"I don't want to jump to conclusions," Schwartz said of the possibility the ticks are migrating north on the backs of wildlife such as nilgai, a non-native antelope that's become a nuisance carrier of the tick. "The concerning thing is we haven't determined the source of those ticks yet."

While cattle owners in quarantine areas are required to round up, inspect and treat cattle for ticks, the Live Oak County discovery was unexpected. A veterinarian called to examine the sickly bull called a state livestock inspector to check some of the ticks he found on the animal's skin.

"That day she tentatively identified those as fever ticks, that's the day we sprang into action there," Schwartz said of the inspector.
The bull likely was anemic from all the ticks drawing his blood, Schwartz said, but did not suffer from babesiosis.

While babesiosis is still an issue for cattle south of the border, it has not shown up in U.S. cattle for decades, he said.

"I think it's a tribute to the success of the program to have kept the fever ticks, the hot fever ticks with babesiois, out of the country," Schwartz said. "We've had some fever tick incursions, but none of them have been carrying babebiosis."

As in other quarantine zones, cattle in the Live Oak area must be "dipped" in a treatment solution every 10 to 14 days or injected with a vaccine every 25 to 28 days, which in either case usually involves costly helicopter roundups that are stressful to cattle. Hunters also are required to call inspectors to check any harvested deer for the ticks.

Once hunting season is over, state and federal officials also plan to set up feeders full of deer corn treated with a poison that kills the ticks and is aimed at preventing them from spreading from the infested ranches. Nilgai, which aren't native to the U.S., have become particularly worrisome in South Texas as they travel long distances and can easily jump fences, but they are not believed to have strayed as far north as Live Oak County.

Ron Gill, head cattle extension specialist at Texas A&M University, said the Live Oak County discovery worried ranchers who thought that as long as they followed protocol the fever tick wouldn't spread.

"It periodically jumps out of the quarantine zone but not that far out," he said. "Normally it will be one of the adjacent counties and they'll fight it back into the quarantine zone. So I think the thing that's got everybody more vocal about it now is it jumped a little further than usual."

Coleman Locke, who runs cattle in affected areas in Kleberg and Willacy counties, fears the tick could once again threaten the entire Texas cattle industry.


"It concerns me as a cattleman," he said. "We've got to get it under control. … A lot of Texas cattle go to feed yards in Kansas and Nebraska to feed out. We need our Texas cattle to be able to go anywhere."