Sunshine Weekly Weeder Newsletter
23 April 2014
New Fire Ant Program
Needed - Volunteers
We have changed the way we are going to undertake our Fire Ant control program. After Wizzie Brown"s talk on Red Imported Fire Ant (RIFA) control, we gratefully accepted her offer to do a broadcast treatment using Spinsad. After initial support, concerns arose. Spinosad is naturally produced by certain bacteria, and is a neurotoxin to many insects and caterpillars. While Spinosad is approved for use in organic gardens, some gardeners were against broadcasting a broad-spectrum pesticide that might kill a lot of non-target insects.
A "Bait and Switch" program was proposed which would allow us to target only RIFA using a grid of bait stations. This is based on a City Parks RIFA control program implemented by then City Parks Manager Lee Stone and field biologist Mark Sanders. The goal for their program was to target only RIFA, and to leave unaffected all other ants and bugs. These folks are now joining Wizzie Brown for the Bait and Switch Program. This program will need some volunteers, so if you are committed to evicting Fire Ants from the Garden, please contact coordinator Cedar Stevens at 512-701-1239, firstname.lastname@example.org to volunteer or ask questions.
Here"s how it works: The field biologist team will set survey stakes about every 20 feet, basically at the corners of each plot. This should allow full coverage for all the plots based on what we know the foraging range is for Imported Red Fire Ant.
For most of the garden, there should be no need to put the bait station in people's garden plots. The exceptions to this would be where there is no path between plots, especially the section of the garden southeast of the tool shed.
The orange neon flags will be set out about a week before the actual treatment day. The flags will serve as notification to the gardeners where the bait stations will be. There will be notes on the flags letting folks know what the plan is, where to learn more and who to contact if they have questions or concerns. We do think that it is only respectful to give gardeners the right to opt-out, but also educate everyone about the benefits of opting in. If one gardener opts out, we can move the bait station marker into the plot of a gardener who opts in. Please call or email Cedar Stevens if you want to move a bait station out of your plot. The day of treatment is set for May 7th.
With 200+ gardens and the rest of the garden which needs to be baited as well, especially the compost heap area, we will need about 300 bait stations.
On May 7 the Bait and Switch will take place. The leaders will meet with the volunteers and set out the bait at the flagged stations. They will be first baited with hot dog chunks. Then 15 minutes later a sweep is made and if RIFA is attacking the hot dog, the flag marking the bait station gets a red survey ribbon tag. The hot dog chunk is removed gently so as not to alarm the foraging RIFAs. This is how we target only Fire Ants: it takes advantage of Fire Ants' very aggressive nature. Once they arrive at bait, they will not allow any other bug to come near it, and they attack and kill any other ant or insect that makes an attempt.
The bait stations will be checked every 10-15 minutes, and if Fire Ants abandon the station, the Spinosad will be removed to avoid contact with non-target species.
We will request no watering while the Bait and Switch is in progress. The water will be shut off on May 7. Please plan accordingly.
In addition to the benefits to the gardeners, effective control or elimination of RIFA will mean relief for butterflies and other beneficial or neutral insects, which will mean more food for birds. We hope that ground nesting birds and other birds that nest close to the ground will be able to return to the garden as well.
We intend to do this treatment at least once or twice each spring and fall, which is considered the best times to attack RIFA. We are hoping to train up a number of SCG gardeners to do this professionally and effectively, targeting only RIFA and using less of the Spinosad. While this sort of program has been successful in park and preserve settings, we don"t know of any large organic community garden has tried this. We hope to become a model for responsible Red Imported Fire Ant control consistent with the letter and spirit of Organic Gardening.
Biggest Shovel Handle Breakage of all Time
Question: Do you know what happens when you use a shovel (or any other garden tool) as a crow bar?
Answer: The handle snaps and must be replaced. Handles cost $16 each and must be special ordered. Replacing handles is time consuming. Berk Bettis carves SCG in the handles and Bob Easter replaces them.
Sunshine thanks both Bob and Berk for their commitment to fixing our tools. Sunshine requests that gardeners use tools properly and give Bob and Berk more time to garden.
Fire Ant Identification
Harmless ants and other insects, such as bees, contribute to ecological balance at the garden and do not need to be eradicated. Be observant before you turn to ant poison. Sunshine Gardens is becoming more precise with fire ant abatement efforts. The board has selected a site wide strategy so that individual over-use of the Spinosad bait can wind down at SCG.
There are three cases that need action: 1) fire ants 2) tawny crazy ants and 3) a native-ant colony that has set up in your garden to guard and tend to aphids or other honey-dew producing pests on your plants. Watch the "ants" video on the website for further details.
Fire Ant ID
The acronym "FIRE-Up, Curl-Up" can be remembered as a check-list for
ID of fire ants:
F - For Fighter...when you disturb the mound they aggressively come toward the disturbance.
I - For Irregular SIZE...this is key! The ants vary in size among each other. This is easily seen with the naked eye.
R - For their Round hill-beds that form a high gopher or mole type mound of light, crumbly soil.
E - For the many Entries/Exits to their mounds which have a maze of underground tunnels; therefore there is NO center hole.
Up - Disturbed ants rapidly climb Up anything they can...up blades of grass, sticks, rocks...and human shoes and legs.
Curl-Up - When preparing to sting, a fire ant first latches on to skin or fabric with their mouths, with only a slight prick. They then curl-up their body into a C-shape before stinging with that fiery venom from their abdomen that we all dread.
Tawny Crazy Ants: Next week we will talk about ID of the dreaded Tawny Crazy Ant from southeast Texas. Sunshine members are asked to contact Travis County Extension Services immediately if these are detected at our site. Stay tuned...
Fire Ant Sting Remedies
Suggested remedies for fire ant stings...choose the level of response
that you personally need:
1) Immediately rinse the area with undiluted white vinegar, liquefied meat tenderizer or diluted chlorine bleach. Some people have found success using the "bleach pen", a stain treating device, to precisely dab each bite (rinse the bleach off as soon as it has done its job!)
2) Those prone to strong reactions to insect stings may want to immediately take an over-the counter anti-histamine (e.g., Benadryl.) Each person should confirm this option with your doctor.
3) Those with known insect allergies will need a doctor's prescription for an "epi pen" for self-injection. Keep the pen with you at all times in case systemic signs of anaphylactic shock arise, such as tongue swelling, throat-closing or a choking sensation. See more detail,
Events of Interest to Gardeners
Rebates for Compost, Mulch and
Great news! The City of Austin is offering rebates for things we should all be doing in our yards - mulching plants & trees, and aerating & topdressing our lawns. If you do all three things (according to their rules, of course) you can get as much as $180 back! Buy what you need, and be sure to keep your receipts. For rules and more details, visit the City of Austin's website.
A site with a multitude of links of interest to gardeners in Central Texas: http://gardeninglaunchpad.com/Aus.html"
Vegetables to plant in April
All month: Snap Bush and Pole Beans, Lima Bush Beans, Cucumber, Muskmelon, Southern Peas, Radish, Summer Squash, Winter Squash, Watermelon. Put in Pepper and Eggplant transplants.
Officer and Zone Coordinator Contacts - Sunshine Garden
- President - Ila Falvey email@example.com
- Vice-President - Janet Adams firstname.lastname@example.org
- Secretary (acting) - Janet Adams email@example.com
- Treasurer - Jack Reynolds firstname.lastname@example.org
- Director - Michael Hall email@example.com
- Director - Kay McMurry firstname.lastname@example.org
- Zone 1, Jody Trendler email@example.com
- Zone 2, Katy Davis firstname.lastname@example.org
- Zone 3, Ludmila Voskov email@example.com
- Zone 4, Ila Falvey firstname.lastname@example.org
- Zone 5, Mary Gifford email@example.com
- Zone 6, Charlotte Jernigan firstname.lastname@example.org
- Zone 7, Jing Li email@example.com
- Zone 8, Irina Kaducova firstname.lastname@example.org
- Zone 9, Cheryl Hazeltine email@example.com
- Zone 10, Christopher Schroder firstname.lastname@example.org
- Weekly Weeder Newsletter - Margaret Powis email@example.com
- Plant Sale - Michael Hall firstname.lastname@example.org
- TSBVI Liason & Volunteer Coordinator - Janet Adams jartdaht@gmailcom
- Plot Rental - Kay McMurry email@example.com
- Carpentry & Repairs - Robert Jarry firstname.lastname@example.org
- Water Leak Repairs - Stewart Nichols email@example.com
- Tools & Wheelbarrows - Bob Easter firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website Coordinator - Sharon Rempert email@example.com
Record Service Hours Online - the Virtual Green Binder