Monday, November 29, 2010

Beetles invading your home?

Winter has arrived. As people pull out their wool sweaters, they may be disappointed to find a few holes in their frosty frocks. A University of Georgia expert says it isn’t moths eating their way through the clothes.

“Carpet beetles are eating the wool, and they are everywhere,” says UGA entomologist Nancy Hinkle. “Carpet beetles are one of the few animals in the world that can digest keratin, the main component of hair.”

Unraveling sweaters

Hinkle said the insects take small bites out of woolen sweaters, coats and socks. Sometimes the garments aren’t affected at all, but often the small bites start the process of unraveling.

“They don’t usually dine on an entire sweater,” she said.

Carpet beetles are common pests in Georgia. Hinkle hasn’t spent a week at UGA without seeing a sample of a carpet beetle submitted through UGA Cooperative Extension.

“One Atlanta couple installed wool carpet throughout their home; and in a few months, they noticed it was being eaten by carpet beetles, thousands of them,” she said.

The beetles are an eight of an inch long and can be black or have a variety of colors and patterns on their backs. The larvae are very hairy and have tan and white stripes. They are the most likely wool eaters.

“Although it is possible to see the beetles, we most often see larvae brought in as specimens,” Hinkle said. “The eggs are small and hard to spot, and the cocoons are rarely noticed as they blend in with the fabric.”

They can be a food pest as well. Carpet beetles prefer pastas, cereals and nuts. They will also feed on improperly treated taxidermy specimens and unfinished animal skins.

“Good sanitation and vacuuming up shed human and pet hair will reduce populations indoors,” she said.

While it is probably too late to protect sweaters for this winter, Hinkle says to package clean sweaters and other woolen goods in airtight containers when you retire them this spring.

“The beetles prefer dirty sweaters with body oils, sweat stains or food spills on them, so be sure to have them cleaned before packing them away,” she said.

Lady beetles

Another beetle that invades homes in the winter are Asian lady beetles. Commonly called ladybugs, the beetles come inside to stay warm.

They are often found lining windowsills or around doorways.

“They are not dead, but dormant,” Hinkle said. “They maintain a low-level of activity to survive the winter. They are not mating, not eating or drinking.”

Hinkle suggests moving them outdoors by vacuuming them up and releasing them far from the house or sweeping them into a paper bag and storing them in a garage or basement until spring. Once the weather warms up, the beetles will feed on the aphids that destroy roses and other garden plants.
“Don’t crush them,” Hinkle warns. “They release an orange hemolymph, which is reflexive bleeding. It is a defense mechanism that can stain walls and furniture.”

Keeping beetles out

Because of their small size, beetles are difficult to keep out of homes. They crawl and squeeze in through improperly sealed windows and doors.

A tightly sealed house will have fewer beetles. Seal around pipes, wire penetrations, doors and windows.

Remember, adult beetles fly, so they can still find their way inside through open doors.

By April Reese Sorrow
University of Georgia

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Bring springtime inside this winter through flowering bulbs

Flowering bulbs typically herald the coming of spring. By using a technique called “forcing bulbs,” you can enjoy many springtime bulbs during the winter, too.

“My first Christmas in Ringold (Ga.) I bought amaryllis bulbs and held a contest with the ladies in the Extension office,” said Charles Lancaster, a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension agent in Catoosa County. “I bought bulbs in four colors, and we each picked one.”

Watch and wait

Over the next few weeks, the office staff waited and then watched as the stalks began to emerge.
“We all had a great time watching and waiting as our plant blossomed and brought a little sunshine inside our office during the short days of winter,” he said.

Planted now, bulbs may not bloom before Christmas, but you and your family can still watch as they grow in the coming weeks.

From tulips to daffodils

Bulbs can be forced to bloom indoors earlier than they normally would outdoors. Crocus, galanthus, hyacinth, narcissus, daffodil, scilla and tulip are the easiest to force.

Pot the bulbs in October or November using a well-drained soil. The number of bulbs per pot will vary according to pot and bulb size.

Keep them in the dark at about 40 degrees F for 8 to 12 weeks in a cold frame outdoors, an unheated garage or basement, or in your refrigerator. (The bulbs must not be allowed to freeze.) Do not allow the soil in the pots to dry out.

After two or three months, the root system should be extensively developed, and shoots will start to emerge from the bulbs. Place the pots in a cool, bright room at about 55 degrees. If possible, place them in a southern window. Eastern or western windows are second best.

Poor light = weak stems

Once shoots emerge, bulbs will produce blooms in about one month. High temperatures and/or poor light will cause spindly, weak stems.

Crocus, hyacinth, narcissus, and tulip bulbs can be refrigerated at 40 degrees for two months prior to planting, then potted and forced. The results are not usually as satisfactory because the root systems don’t have enough time to fully develop.

Lancaster says most forced bulbs will seldom grow and flower well when replanted in the garden.

Amaryllis can grow indoors and out

“Amaryllis bulbs will do okay planted outside, but the flower color will be different than when it’s grown indoors,” he said.

According to UGA Extension horticulturist Bodie Pennisi, when amaryllis blooms fade indoors, cut the bloom stalk off near the soil surface. Sometimes a bulb will send up a second stalk.

When the blooms are gone, allow the leaves to remain on the plant, she said. Keep it in a sunny window until May and then plant it outdoors.

Amaryllis will grow in almost any well-drained soil as long as they receive adequate moisture and some shade.

By Sharon Dowdy
University of Georgia


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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Jekyll Island Authority Contributes Nearly $500,000 to Tree Relocation and Rehabilitation

/PRNewswire/ -- With the revitalization of Jekyll Island underway, significant resources are being used to save and relocate trees that would otherwise be in the way and possibly harmed during construction. The Jekyll Island Authority will spend nearly $500,000 in tree relocation activities including a five-year "aftercare" program to ensure the likelihood of survival.

The trees are being relocated from the area that will soon become the new Jekyll Island convention center and beach village. Some trees are being immediately relocated to new, permanent locations, while others are being stored in hardening beds and will be replanted once the convention center and beach village nears completion.

"Trees and the tree canopy are special elements on Jekyll Island, and it makes sense for us to save the larger specimens instead of cutting them down," stated Jones Hooks, Executive Director of the Jekyll Island Authority (JIA).

Approximately 275 Cabbage Palms are being relocated with the potential of some being used in the Jekyll Island Historic District in a historic landscape restoration project. Twenty large Canary Date Palms have been moved and transplanted to beautify public areas on the island. Large Crepe Myrtles and 34 Live Oaks are also being saved.

Arborguard Tree Specialists are assisting with tree protection and tree relocation activities. The work, in addition to responsible environmental stewardship, will also provide points for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification. The new Jekyll Island convention center and beach village is expected to achieve a minimum LEED Silver rating.

"Obviously, we all love the trees on Jekyll Island and many of these specimens are decades old," stated Cliff Gawron, Landscape Superintendent, JIA. "I'm proud the decision was made to save the trees so they can continue to live, grow and provide shade and habitat for many more decades."

The Authority also set aside time for the community to retrieve any remaining plant material, bricks, irrigation components and landscape edging from the former shopping center site and convention center last week prior to its demolition. Jekyll Island Authority landscape personnel helped to direct those interested in digging and claiming for reuse any available small shrubs, grasses and pavers prior to full-scale demolition. This public opportunity to save remaining plant material is not only a positive step toward environmental stewardship positive for environmental stewardship but it also reduces the amount of waste material that will be sent to off-island landfills.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Across The State, Teams Prepare To Put Fire On The Ground For Conservation

After weeks of scorching weather, cooler temperatures are a welcome sign to wildlife biologist Shan Cammack of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. When fall arrives, Cammack knows it is only a matter of time before she laces up her fire boots and buttons up the Nomex.

And she’s not alone. All over Georgia others have been pulling out smoke-stained clothing and weighted vests, pounding the pavement to stay in shape in anticipation of attending an annual refresher and passing a work capacity test known as the pack test. This class held around the state ensures that those who work to conserve our natural resources through prescribed fire do so safely and efficiently.

Cammack, along with fellow wildlife biologist Nikki Castleberry, coordinate the fire program for DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section and the Parks & Historic Sites Division. Both Cammack and Castleberry serve as fire safety officers, working to keep staff up on training and equipment.

Since 2003, more than 200 people have completed the basic wildland fire training program offered by the Nongame Conservation Section through an annual interagency burn team effort. In the beginning, the participants, most of them volunteers, were referred to as ecoburners, a name that stuck and is used fondly among team members. The fall refresher is an opportunity for those who have been trained to brush up on their skills, learn about new techniques and receive revised safety regulations. They also must pass a few key tests required to remain certified at the national level. These tests include fire shelter deployment and the infamous pack test, which can include covering up to four miles in 45 minutes carrying a 45-pound pack.

“Annual refreshers can be challenging,” Cammack said. “We have to take the required information given at the national level and put it into a prescribed fire context. Most of the national stuff is directed at wildfire, while our people focus on prescribed fire.”

From humble beginnings, the Nongame Conservation Section fire program has grown from those first ecoburners to include a formal partnership with The Nature Conservancy in 2004 followed by the hiring of shared AmeriCorps crews. Next came a shared seasonal burn crew, and finally seasonal burn crews for each agency, available to help all partners of the interagency burn team, or IBT. The latest partner to come on board is the U.S Forest Service. This partnership has allowed for significant growth in the ecological conservation of lands around the state with the number of acres burned by the Nongame Conservation Section jumping from 2,635 in 2003 to 25,662 in 2010.

All told, of the 175,205 burnable acres of DNR-managed lands in Georgia, 32,845 acres or 19 percent were burned in 2010. The DNR hopes to increase that total, burning roughly a third of the burnable acres the agency manages each year.

Those numbers mean good news for rare species and habitat restoration. Prescribed fire is recognized by Georgia’s State Wildlife Action Plan as one of the primary tools for conservation and restoration of managed lands in the state. The plan is a comprehensive strategy guiding DNR efforts to conserve biological diversity.

Whether you are visiting a state park, hunting on a wildlife management area or enjoying the solitude of one of Georgia’s natural areas, you can usually see firsthand the benefits of the prescribed fire program. Longleaf pine, bobwhite quail, pitcherplants, gopher tortoises and red cockaded woodpeckers are only a few of the many species benefiting from the use of fire around the state.

As the date for the last annual refresher nears, the ecoburners grow more excited; ready for another year of putting fire on the ground, in the name of conservation.

This program is an example of how buying a nongame license plate or donating to the Georgia Wildlife Conservation Fund through the state income tax checkoff and other ways supports wildlife conservation. Contributions benefit the Nongame Conservation Section, which receives no state general funds for its mission to conserve wildlife not legally hunted, fished for or trapped, as well as rare plants and natural habitats in the state.

The license plates – featuring a bald eagle or a ruby-throated hummingbird – are available for a $35 specialty plate fee at county tag offices, by checking the wildlife license plate box on mail-in registrations and through online renewals (http://mvd.dor.ga.gov/tags). Specialty plates include an annual renewal fee.

For the Give Wildlife a Chance checkoff, fill in an amount more than $1 on line 27 of the long state income tax form (Form 500) or line 10 of the short form (Form 500EZ). Contributions can be deducted from refunds or added to payments.

Georgians can also donate online at www.georgiawildlife.com. Click “Donate the Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund” and follow directions. The process is secure. Donations are tax-deductible.


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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Federal Conservation Agency Conducting Statewide Sign-Up for the Wetlands Reserve Program

James E. Tillman, Sr., State Conservationist for the USDA- Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Georgia has announced that the NRCS has opened the application period for applications for financial assistance through the USDA Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP). The application period to receive consideration for 2011 WRP funds runs until December 10, 2010.

“Farmers and landowners interested in protecting, restoring or enhancing wetland habitat should contact their local office of the Natural Resources Conservation Service”, said Tillman.

Applications received in NRCS offices will be evaluated and ranked according to levels of environmental benefits pending available funds. Although NRCS offers a continuous application period for WRP, applications must be received by December 3, 2010 for FY 2011 funding.
Applications received after December 3, 2010 will be deferred to the next funding cycle.

"WRP is an important conservation program because it protects and restores wetland habitat that was lost due to intensive farming and urbanization. Georgia has enjoyed tremendous success during our previous enrollment periods by assisting landowners in installing wetland conservation practices. In 2010, we provided over $5,000,000 in funds to farmers that allowed us to secure conservation easements on over 3,394 wetland acres in Georgia,” Tillman said. Since 1999, NRCS Georgia has enrolled over 21,000 acres into WRP.

Participants in WRP voluntarily limit future use of the land, but retain private ownership. Landowners benefit by receiving financial and technical assistance in return for protecting wetlands, reducing problems associated with farming potentially wet and difficult areas, and developing wildlife and recreational opportunities on their land.

Wetlands benefit the Nation by providing fish and wildlife habitat; improving water quality by filtering sediments and chemicals; reducing flooding; recharging groundwater; protecting biological diversity; as well as providing opportunities for educational, scientific, and recreational activities.

The program offers three enrollment options:
1. Permanent Easements: a conservation easement in perpetuity. USDA pays 100 percent of the easement value and 100 percent of the restoration costs.
2. 30-Year Easement: an easement that expires after 30 years. USDA pays up to 75 percent of the easement value and up to 75 percent of the restoration costs.
*For both permanent and 30-year easements, USDA pays all costs associated with recording the easement.
3. Restoration Cost-Share Agreement: an agreement to restore or enhance the wetland
functions and values without placing an easement on the enrolled acres. USDA pays up to 75 percent of the restoration costs.

No easement shall be created on land that has changed ownership during the preceding 7 years. Eligible acres are limited to private and Tribal lands.

“NRCS and its partners continue to provide assistance to landowners after completion of restoration activities,” said Tillman. “This assistance may be in the form of reviewing restoration measures, clarifying technical and administrative aspects of the easement and project management needs, and providing basic biological and engineering advice on how to achieve optimum results for wetland dependent species,” he added.

NRCS is USDA’s lead conservation agency and has worked hand-in-hand with farmers and landowners for 75 years to conserve natural resources on private lands. Georgia landowners can learn more about conserving natural resources by contacting NRCS Georgia through USDA Service Centers or by visiting the NRCS Georgia homepage at www.ga.nrcs.usda.gov.

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