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Thursday, December 21, 2017

Traveling this Holiday Season? Stay Safe from Bed Bugs!

As I get ready to travel myself for the holidays, I am reminded of an unfortunate run-in I had with bed bugs in a hotel last year. I thought it would be a good time to re-post some information I wrote then on how to stay safe from bed bugs when you're traveling. Feel free to contact me with any questions!

Bed bugs have seen a global resurgence in the past 15 years and don’t discriminate between hosts, housing types, or, unfortunately, hotels. As long as they can get a blood meal they are happy campers. They are notoriously hard to control once an infestation gets started, so I wanted to give everyone some tips to stay ahead of this epidemic when you leave the comforts of your home! 

A shed skin of a bed bug on the underside of a hotel mattress I found recently. As they get older, bed bugs outgrow their outer layer (exoskeleton) and leave behind these shed skins. The black spots near the skin are fecal stains from the bug.

My arm in 2016 after sharing a bed with some bed bugs! Several bites in a line like this are characteristic of bed bug bites. 

An adult bed bug (Photo: Bart Drees, Texas A&M Agrilife Extension)

Tips for Travelers: Scouting for Bed Bugs

How to scout your hotel room for bed bugs:
1.     Don’t put any belongings on the bed or unpack before you complete your inspection. I put my luggage on the luggage rack (usually in the closets of most rooms) or in the bathroom until I have checked for bed bugs.
2.     Things you are looking for: 
·      actual bed bugs 
·      shed skin of immature bugs 
·      dark brown fecal spots (dried excrement)
Adult bed bugs are approximately a quarter of an inch long and red-brown with oval, flattened bodies. Immature bed bugs are smaller versions of the adults, but with a much lighter color and approximately the size of a pinhead.
3.     Begin with a preliminary check around the room. Focus on the corners of ceilings and the baseboards. 
4.     Remove the corners of the fitted sheet and look underneath the mattress and box spring. Examine the mattress seams and crevices in the box spring. Pay special attention to head of the bed. Most cell phones have a flashlight that is very useful for this!
5.     You should also inspect crevices in the bed frame. This is especially important if the bed frame is wood!
6.     If there is a removable headboard, remove it from the wall and inspect the crevices on the back. This is a common place for bed bug infestations to begin. If you have never done this before, make sure you have two people to remove it safely.
7.     Other things that can be inspected include behind picture frames or couches and chairs. But limit your search to items near the bed! 

What to do if your hotel room has bed bugs:
1.     Call the front desk and request a new room. Problems are usually contained in a particular area, so try to get a room in a different area.
2.     Quarantine all your belongings in garbage bags (or something similar), especially if they were on/near the bed or if you experienced bites.
3.     Put everything that is safe for laundering in a dryer at high heat for at least 45 minutes. DO NOT wash first! A washing machine does not typically get hot enough to kill all the bugs. After you have dried everything, then you can resume a normal washing routine. 
4.     Keep your luggage/anything that can’t be laundered in a closed garbage bag until you can treat it. Contact your local pest control company for how to do this. 

Important facts about bed bugs:
·      Bed bugs feed only on the blood of animals and spend most of their time where they can get a reliable blood meal from their host. In the case of hotel rooms, this is near the bed. Only when they are very hungry, or there is a bad infestation, will you find them in other places. 
·      Bed bugs do not transmit diseases when they bite. Every person reacts differently, ranging from mild irritation and itching to large, red welts. Some reactions are delayed and occur days or even weeks after the bite.
·      Bed bug bites are usually painless so people don’t always realize they are being bitten. Any exposed skin is vulnerable, such as arms, legs, face, or neck. Bed bugs will typically make several bites at at time, often in a short line. 
·      Bed bugs are mostly active at night and can go months without a blood meal. Therefore, ignoring a problem and hoping that they starve is not a reliable solution.
·      There has been a global resurgence in bed bugs over the last decade and eradicating an infestation can be time-consuming and expensive. Taking pro-active measures when you’re traveling to avoid bringing them home is always worth it!  

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Important Label Updates for Dicamba

Growers in Texas were fortunate to have access to the newly registered dicamba technologies in 2017 for weed control. While complaints in Texas were relatively low compared to other states, the EPA has worked with companies on new label requirements to reduce any chance of off-target movement of the pesticide in 2018. These changes went into effect in October of this year.

The major changes that applicators need to be aware of are the following:
  • XtendiMax with VaporGrip Technology, Fexapan Plus VaporGrip Technology and Engenia herbicides are now classified as Restricted Use Pesticides 
  • Every person applying these products to any crop will be required to attend annual, mandatory auxin-specific training 

Texas A&M Agrilife Extension will be offering these TDA-mandated, 1-hour trainings throughout the winter. We will announce more as they are scheduled, but the first 3 have been scheduled in Amarillo and will be hosted by agronomist Dr. Jourdan Bell.
  • January 12, February 9, March 9
  • 8:30-9:30 am
  • Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Center, 6500 W Amarillo Blvd, Amarillo 
  • There is no fee and each class will be 1 CEU in laws and regulations

We will be hosting trainings in Lubbock, and will get that information out as soon as they are scheduled. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

High Plains Ag Conference - tomorrow Dec 8 in Lubbock!

The annual High Plains Ag Conference is being held tomorrow, Friday, December 8 at the Texas A&M Agrilife Research Center in Lubbock, TX.

Producers can get up to date on the latest crop news in corn, sorghum, and cotton and get 5 CEUs in one day. Topics covered include sorghum, wheat and nitrogen updates, cotton production considerations for 2018, corn herbicide trial results, and nematode and disease management.

Registration and lunch will cost $45 at the door.

Meeting is tomorrow, Friday Dec 8 from 8:30 - 3:00 pm at the Texas A&M Agrilife Research and Extension Center, 1102 E FM 1294 Lubbock, TX.

Call the Lubbock Co Extension office at 806-775-1740 with any questions.