phone.pngThe OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool is a useful resource for planning outdoor work activities based on how hot it feels throughout the day. Featuring real-time heat index and hourly forecasts, specific to your location, as well as occupational safety and health recommendations from OSHA and NIOSH.

The OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool features:

  • A visual indicator of the current heat index and associated risk levels specific to your current geographical location
  • Precautionary recommendations specific to heat index-associated risk levels
  • An interactive, hourly forecast of heat index values, risk level, and recommendations for planning outdoor work activities in advance
  • Editable location, temperature, and humidity controls for calculation of variable conditions
  • Signs and symptoms and first aid information for heat-related illnesses


IMG_1395 2.JPGOn May 19-20th, volunteers and supporters of Alabama Water Watch gathered at the Living River Retreat on the Cahaba near Montevallo to recognize this milestone year of AWW. 

Please take a moment to check out some of the highlights from the weekend in our most recent AWWareness Blog Articles. 
 


Feel free to let us know what you think by leaving comments! 

We are all looking forward to the next 25 years! 

AWW 25th Anniversary Tee-Shirts

If you would like to purchase an AWW 25th Anniversary Tee Shirt, send a check for $20 made out to the AWW Association to the following address:

AWW Association 
P.o. Box 3294
Auburn, AL 36831

Include a note with the quantity and size(s) of the tee shirts you would like, as well as the mailing address where they can be shipped. 

Shirts can be purchased from the AWW Program Office as well. 



5526508.jpgOver the last week, I have received a couple of calls about using our native king snakes as a control method for venomous snakes, such as copperheads. King snakes do hunt and eat many species of snakes, including venomous ones. This is called "ophiophagy". King snakes are also immune to the venom of our local pit vipers, making them adapted to feed on venomous snakes. They use constriction to kill their prey, and are very opportunistic, feeding on a variety of other prey such as birds, rodents, lizards, and eggs.

The king snake's abilities to feed on venomous snakes is well documented, and videos and pictures of king snakes feeding on other snakes regularly pop up on social media such as Facebook and YouTube. I suspect some recent Facebook videos are what prompted clients to call me, looking for a "source" of king snakes to transport to their homes to control venomous snakes.

There are several different species of king snakes in Alabama, including the black king snakes, speckled king snake, scarlet king snake, speckled king snake, and the prairie king snake. Of these, the scarlet, prairie, and speckled king snakes are illegal to buy, sell, trade or capture. Please see the information from OutdoorAlabama.com:

"It shall be unlawful to take, capture, kill, or attempt to take, capture or kill; possess, sell, trade for anything of monetary value, or offer to sell or trade for anything of monetary value, the following nongame wildlife species (or any parts or reproductive products of such species) without a scientific collection permit or written permit from the Commissioner, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which shall specifically state what the permittee may do with regard to said species….."

While there are species of king snakes that can bought and sold, I high discourage displacing native wildlife to new habitats. Many of our king snakes are only native to certain parts of Alabama, and will not survive if moved to a different part of the state. For example, the black king snake is mostly found in the Northern parts of Alabama, while the Eastern king snake is only found in the Southeast portions of the state. Furthermore, each species has slightly different habitat needs that your home may or may not offer. There are also disease issues to consider: transporting wildlife may also transfer diseases to the new location. Finally, the stress of capture, handling, and transportation of native wildlife can lead to death.

There are much better, and easier ways to manage snakes that are around the home. First, snakes that are found in and around building are often seeking the rodents that are found in these areas. Using traps or toxicants to control the mice and rats will often cause the snakes to find other areas to hunt. 

Areas outside can also provide shelter for both snakes, and the food they hunt. Piles of firewood, brush piles, lush ornamental gardens, and long grass are other areas that can be home to snakes. Cleaning these areas up can also persuade snakes to move on.

Finally, it is going to be almost impossible to eliminate all snakes around the home, especially in rural or wooded areas. I encourage you to learn how to identify our native snakes, and learn the characteristics and signs that a snake may be venomous. In North Alabama, all of our venomous snakes are going to have a triangle shaped head, and a vertical pupil. In contrast, non-venomous snakes are going to have an oval or rounded head, plus a round pupil. For more information, please see the Alabama Extension publication "Identification of Snakes in Alabama for Forest Workers".

While transporting king snakes to your home is not a viable option, they are a unique species that feeds on venomous snakes, and should be left alone if found. Managing the property around your home and learning to identify our native snakes are important when working to prevent harmful snakes from making your property their home.


Spenser E. Bradley

Forestry, Wildlife and Natural Resources Management

Alabama Cooperative Extension System

seb0043@aces.edu/mobile: 256-303-4924/office: 256-773-2549



​With springtime's warm weather, you're not the only thing wanting to dig in your yard, flower beds and vegetable gardens. The eastern mole becomes active in the warmer, wet weather, burrowing through yards and gardens in search of grubs, beetles, insect larvae and earthworms.  It's a common misconception that moles feed on roots and bulbs, however they are mostly carnivorous. Moles are often blamed for plant damage, but it is usually rodent species, like voles, house mice, and white-footed mice, that share the mole's tunnel system and forage on plants.   As a member of the shrew family, not rodent, these voracious eaters weigh 3 to 4 ounces and consume 70 to 100% of their body weight a day.  This can be beneficial to yards and gardens by controlling nuisance insects, however moles become problematic when their burrows damage the grass in lawns or wash out during heavy rains.

 

Moles have have sharp claws and webbed feet that assist them in digging tunnels through the soil in search for food.  Typically more active at night when the soils are moist and cool, moles will dig comprehensive feeding tunnels in search for food. Along with feeding tunnels, moles with construct their nesting burrows in dry warmer soil under trees or solid structures.  Moles remain solitary for a majority of the time, however will breed in March and April.  The gestation period is around 5 weeks and litter size ranges from 2 to 5.  The young will remain with the mother about a month before they're weened, however still may use her tunnels system until they can establish their own.  On average, there are usually 5-6 moles per acre.

 

When it comes to controling moles in your yard, there are several avenues, some more effective than others.  There are commercialy available repellents and toxicants, however they are typically not the most effective due to the dificulty of getting the moles to accept the baits as a food source.  Another option homeowners have is to target the moles' food source, however food items like earthworms provide valuable services and may not be the most viable option to eliminate.  Additionally, eliminating the moles' food source can be time comsuming and may not rid a yard of moles for some time.

 

The most effective means of mole contol is typically trapping.  There are three types of lethal traps available:  harpoon, scissor-jawed and choker.  From my experience, harpoon traps are more effective in sandy soils, while scissor-jawed and choker traps are more effective in loamy soils.   Before setting your trap, you must first determine which mole tunnel, or runs, are being used the most frequently.  This can be done by stepping on the raised portion of the tunnel and then returning the next day to see which ones have been raised.  These tunnels are the most active and best place to set the trap.  When setting a harpoon trap, flatten the tunnel again and then set the trap and trigger on the flattened part.  Before setting the harpoon, allow the harpoons to penetrate the soil several times to make sure there are no obstacles in the way when it is triggered by the mole.  When setting the scissor-jawed or choker traps, dig out a portion around the tunnel and place the trap in the hole.  Then fill the hole back with the removed soil, being sure to make sure no light penetrates into the tunnel.  When using scissor-jawed or choker traps, I recommend wearing rubber or latex gloves to prevent your scent getting on the trap.  Traps can sometimes be triggered without catching the mole, so be sure to check traps daily and reset if needed.  If the mole doesn't use the tunnel with the trap after a few days, relocate the trap to another tunnel.

 

For more information on controlling moles in the lawn and garden, please contact the Coffee County Extension Office at 334-894-5596.


"Pine bark beetle" is a broad term used to describe several species of native Dendroctonus beetles that cause mortality in pine trees. Pine Bark Beetles are typically attracted to stressed pines, and once established, can infest healthy neighboring trees. Pine bark beetles can become a major concern in urban forests during droughts, following hurricanes or as a result of root damage or poor growing conditions.   Beetles can impact vast numbers of trees and potentially devastate large acreages if left unmanaged.

 

In the urban forest the management techniques for controlling beetles are different that those implemented in rural timberlands due to the higher values and removal costs of landscape pines.  This publication is aimed at addressing the causes, identification, and recommended integrated pest management techniques for pine bark beetles in the urban landscape.


What attracts pine bark beetle?

Pine bark beetle are attracted to stressed pines with declining health.  Common stressors in the urban forest include:

  1. Construction root damage: Cutting or adding soil fill over the tops of roots within the tree's dripline causes trees health to decline.
  2. Physical damage to the trunk:  Physical damage to the trunk exposes wood and resin whose odor attracts beetles.
  3. Lightning strikes:  Strikes cause a wide range of damage to trees and are often a point of introduction as they cause physical wounds and impact tree health.
  4. Overcrowding:  Competition from trees planted too close together causes  growth to slow and become more susceptible to pine infestation.
  5. Drought:  Periods of prolonged drought reduce tree vitality and increase susceptibility to infestation.
  6. Storm damage: Broken limbs cause resinous wounds that attract beetles.

     

    How can I tell if I have pine bark beetles?

    Signs of pine beetle infestation include:
  1. Pitch tubes:  Pitch tubes on pine are easily identified as white popcorn-like spots of dried pine resin that is a result of the tree's natural response to insect injury caused by the adult beetles.  These pitch tubes occur on the main stem of the pine from the ground up into the canopy, depending on the species of pine bark beetle.  New pitch tubes will be soft and have a white or pinkish hue.  Older pitch tubes will be white and hard and in some cases start to turn yellow with time.
  2. Egg galleries: The adult beetles will feed on the vascular tissue under the bark causing galleries or etched marking on both the wood and inside of the bark (once removed).
  3. Yellowing and rusty-red needles:  As beetle populations and damage increases beetles will initially turn yellow followed by a rusty red color.
  4. Exit holes:  Once the beetles have completed their life cycles of between 18 to 25 days the beetles will exit the tree leaving small round pin sized holes.  This signified the beetles have left the tree and surrounding trees should be evaluated.

     

    How do beetles kill the trees?

    Trees die as a result of beetles and larval girdling the vascular tissues of trees and by introducing a "blue stain" fungus.  Blue stain plugs up the water conducting tissues often causing mortality before girdling is complete.  This process can be exceedingly fast often occurring in one to two weeks depending on the stress levels of the tree.

     

     

    Are all pine trees susceptible to pine bark beetle?

    Yes and no, while no tree is beetle proof there are certain species of pine that are less likely to become infested and die from pine bark beetles.  Loblolly (Pinus taeda) and shortleaf pines (Pinus echinata) are highly susceptible to pine bark beetles and rarely survive an infestation.  Longleaf (Pinus palustris) and slash pines (Pinus elliottii), however, are more resistant to pine bark beetles due to their higher sap flow, which helps repel beetles by expelling beetles with sap.  However, in drought conditions and low sap flow, even longleaf can have problems surviving beetle attacks and should be closely monitored in case it is attacked.

     

    What kind of pine beetle do I have?

Several species of bark beetles affect pines in southern urban landscape. These include the black turpentine beetle (BTB), Ips engraver beetles, and the southern pine beetle (SPB).  For homeowner management options it is most important to distinguish Ips and SPB from BTB.   Both Ips and SPB beetles introduce blue stain fungus which cannot be treated and will often result in tree mortality. BTB seldom carries the fungus and as result does not always kill trees.   It is important to note that more than one species of beetle can be found in an infested tree.

 

The difference between these beetles are subtle, however, a few key points will help distinguish the beetles.

 

Black turpentine beetles

  • BTB attack from the ground up to 8 or 10 feet high on the stem.
  • Dried resin from pitch tubes are larger than Ips or SPB and are about one inch or the size of a quarter 
  • Dried resin from the pitch tubes is purplish to reddish in color.
  • Attacks typically occur on damaged trees or on stumps of recently cut trees and may spread to adjacent trees.
  • Healthy longleaf pine and slash pine often survive BTB attacks, even with no treatment. 

     

    Ips and SPB beetles
  • Attack along the whole trunk, often moving from the upper canopy towards the ground.
  • Pitch tubes are much smaller, about the size of a dime.
  • Pitch tubes are a soft pinkish-white when fresh and turn a hard white and eventually yellowish color and resemble popped popcorn.
  • If you remove dead bark the wood will have carved etchings in a "Y" or "H" shape for Ips and "S"  or serpentine shapes for SPB. These carvings are caused by larvae feeding on the cambial tree tissue.
  • Pines attacked by Ips or SPB beetles will often result in tree mortality.

     

    What can I do to treat or protect my pines?

In most cases it's too late to save a trees once they have been infested, with the possible exception of BTB.  Instead management is aimed at preventing the spread of pine bark beetles.  While pine beetles are not great flyers and cannot buzz from an infested tree in your front yard to one in the backyard, they can easily glide to neighboring pines.  Trees standing in close proximity or within 20 yards of an actively infested tree are at greatest risk.

 

Begin by make regular inspections looking for the pitch tubes up and down the stem of your pines, especially those trees that have undergone one of the previously mentioned stressors (construction damage, lightning strikes or during drought). Once beetles have been identified use the following integrated pest management short and long-term management strategies:

 

Short Term Management Strategies:

Short term strategies are meant for dealing with currently infested trees and preventing the spread of the pest.

  • First, identify the species of tree that is infected; longleaf pine is likely to survive BTB attacks.
  • Second, identify the type of beetle impacting your tree (BTB can be treated).
  • Third, if the tree has Ips or SPB remove the tree immediately and grind the stump.
  • Fourth, consider using chemical treatments on neighboring pines to prevent the spread of pine beetles.

     

Long Term Management Strategies:

Long term strategies are meant for ensuring the future health of the tree to reduce stressors which attract pine beetle outbreaks.

  • Mulch the areas around trees to help hold soil moisture, avoid soil compaction, and grass maintenance damage.
  • Avoid damaging the trunk or roots with lawn equipment or construction.  The resinous smell associated with fresh wounds are known for attracting beetles.
  • Remove fresh broken limbs or snags to avoid attracting beetles.
  • Avoid soil compaction by not parking inside the tree's dripline.
  • Thin overcrowded pine stands to improve tree health and vigor.

     

    What preventative treatments are available?

    There are several chemical products and one density regulator pheromone labeled for pine bark beetles.  Each of these products has both benefits and drawbacks to consider in relation to specific trees, sites and possible impacts to non-target species and applicators.

Contact pesticides:

There are several contact pesticides labeled for pine bark beetle prevention.  These include Bifenthrin, Permethrin and Carbaryl.  If pesticides are used, high risk trees should be sprayed in late winter or early spring before beetles become active.  High risk trees include: trees adjacent to infested areas, trees with root or above ground damage and lightning struck trees.

 

Each of these pesticides is sprayed on the trunk of the pine. This can pose some challenges on large trees as the entire trunk from the ground to the lower canopy must be sprayed to effectively prevent Ips and SPB attacks on high risk trees (these beetles often start in the canopy and move downwards).  This will require the use of either a high pressure sprayer or a bucket truck to reach the canopy of larger pines.  For BTB beetle only the bottom 12 to 15 feet should be sprayed. This method provides between 1 to 3 months of protection depending on the product and weather conditions. 

 

Pesticide drift, non-target species toxicity (pollinators, aquatic species, etc.) and applicator safety are concerns and thus the use of a professional applicator is highly recommended. Also, some formulations of these chemicals are restricted use.  Always carefully read and follow label recommendations when measuring and applying pesticides.

 

 

Injectable systemic pesticides:

There are several injectable pesticides labeled for pine beetle use.  While this approach removes many of the challenges associated with the contact applications, it does require a professional arborist to drill into the base of trees and macro-infuse the tree.  Injections are not recommended during periods of drought or for severely stressed trees as the system relies on the tree's vascular system to translocate the product throughout the tree. It should be noted this technique is invasive to the tree and there is a risk of introducing fungal decay. However, these technique do provide longer protection and avoid many of the non-target species and applicator safety concerns.

 

Pheromone Treatments:

An alternative to pesticide use are the anti-aggregate pheromones, such as Verbenone, that help disperse adult beetles.  Pine beetles naturally produce pheromones to communicate and attract or disperse beetles.  Verbenone is a synthesized anti-aggregate that is packaged in slow-release pouches that are stapled to trees at risk from pine beetle infestation.  Like pesticides this is only a preventative treatment. Also, research has found this product to exhibit mixed results and it's generally considered to be less effective than pesticides.


Arnold “Beau” Brodbeck, PhD
Alabama Cooperative Extension System
251.259.6507
brodbam@auburn.edu


 

​Watching wildlife is a favorite past time of many Alabamians and I am certainly no exception. Each year, these folks spend millions of dollars traveling to places to watch wild animals in their natural habitats. However, sometimes you don't have to travel at all to get the opportunity to see wildlife behaving as wildlife. For example, a good friend of mine snapped these pictures of the red-tailed hawk catching and eating a squirrel's in the heart of the Auburn University campus. He was also able to video this Mockingbird harassing the hawk as it was trying to eat. My friend was able to get both pictures and video on his phone as he set in his office. The hawk consumed almost the entire squirrel, hide and all. Red-tailed hawks and many other raptors have become quite common on campus and in neighborhoods and, in many instances, will carry on their daily routines in surprisingly close proximity to humans. If you would like to get more information on these fascinating animals, check out Southeastern Birds of Prey (http://www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/Y/YANR-0193/YANR-0193.pdf).

IMG_2530.JPG



Today we conclude going through some silvicultural practices forest landowners and managers can use to promote good health and resiliency to prepare for drought by focusing on the benefits of eliminating and controlling invasive species and an overall summary and conclusion.  

 

Eliminate and control invasive species:

  • Many invasive exotic species outcompete native species for resources
  • Removing invasive species eliminates additional competition for resources and stress to trees

Invasive species can rapidly encroach native systems and cause stress to forests that can make them more vulnerable to drought. Removing invasive species and preventing establishment is essential for eliminating and controlling their spread. The picture below is Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense) an invasive plant species of ecosystems in Alabama and across the Southeast.  

 chinese privet1.jpg

Drought causes stress to trees and stressed trees experience poor growth and health that increase the risk of insect pest attacks and disease. Specifically, drought can cause decreased growth and poor health, decreased resistance to disease and insects, increased risk of catastrophic wildfire, and tree mortality. Proactively managing your forest with appropriate silvicultural practices can minimize these risks associated with drought when it occurs.

The management practices highlighted over the last few days are focused on improving the overall health and vigor of your forest. As I mentioned earlier in the week, healthy forests are better equipped to withstand and recover from drought and many risks to forests associated with drought, but that does not mean they are drought-proof.

In summary, species selection for planting is critical to the long-term health of a stand. Planting the wrong species on a site can result in poor survival, growth, and vigor. Thinning reduces overcrowded conditions, increases nutrient and water availability to remaining trees, and removes trees in poor health. Prescribe fire provides many benefits including reduced competition and reduced fuel loads that can minimize the risks of catastrophic fire. However, prescribe fire can cause stress to trees and should be avoided during times when trees are already experiencing stress from other factors, especially for forests systems not burned regularly. Taking account of the current condition of your forest and proper timing is essential when using prescribed fire.

Specific site conditions, environmental factors, and landowner objectives should be considered in forest management. For assistance with managing your forest, contact your local forestry professional.

 

Multiple workshops on the effects of drought on forests and forest management practices that help minimize the impact of drought will be offered by ACES professionals at different locations across the state of Alabama this summer. Specific locations, dates and times will be announced in the coming weeks.

 

Additional information on invasive species can be found at:

http://www.aces.edu/natural-resources/invasive-species/index.php

Additional information on drought can be found at:

https://www.drought.gov/drought/

Additional information on forest management and drought can be found at:

http://www.pinemap.org/

For further information on forest drought or the upcoming forest drought workshops, contact Adam Maggard at (334)-844-2401 or adm0074@aces.edu.


*Picture citation: Nancy Loewenstein, Auburn University, Bugwood.org


 


Today we continue to go through some silvicultural practices forest landowners and managers can use to promote good health resilience to prepare for drought by focusing on the benefits of prescribed fire.

Prescribed Fire:

  • Increases soil nutrients and removes competition

                        Competition for water can amplify drought conditions for desired species

  • Reduces fuel loads to prevent catastrophic wildfires
  • Should be conducted during times that minimize tree damage
  • Is not recommended if permitted during periods of drought or significant reductions in water availability as it could increase tree stress

 

Along with increasing soil nutrients, removing competition, and reducing hazardous conditions, there are many other benefits of prescribed burning. It can be used to control insects and disease, improve wildlife habitat, enhance the appearance of your forest, improves access for timber operations, and improves forage for grazing opportunities. The specifics of prescribed fire are highly dependent on the site, weather conditions, and landowner objectives. The benefits of prescribed burning greatly outweigh its costs if conducted appropriately.  Anyone interested in conducting a prescribed burn should contact a local forestry professional and follow all local laws and guidelines. Pictures below show a prescribed burn at different stages highlighting the forest floor before and after fire passes. 

During burn212.jpg

 During burn11.jpg


during burn311.jpgMultiple workshops on the effects of drought on forests and forest management practices that help minimize the impact of drought will be offered by ACES professionals at different locations across the state of Alabama this summer. Specific locations, dates and times will be announced in the coming weeks. Remember to join us again tomorrow for one more post on preparing your forest for drought. 


Additional information on prescribed fire can be found at:

http://www.aces.edu/natural-resources/forestry-wildlife/documents/PrescribedFireinSouthernEcosystems.pdf

Additional information on drought can be found at:

https://www.drought.gov/drought/

Additional information on forest management and drought can be found at:

http://www.pinemap.org/

For further information on forest drought or the upcoming forest drought workshops, contact Adam Maggard at (334)-844-2401 or adm0074@aces.edu.

 


Today we continue to go through some silvicultural practices forest landowners and managers can use to promote good health and resilience to prepare for drought focusing on the benefits of thinning 

Thinning:

  • Reduces overcrowded conditions and increases water and nutrient availability to remaining trees
  • Reduced stand density minimizes the risk of insects, disease, and catastrophic wildfires in case of drought
  • Removes diseased trees

 

Thinning promotes growth of remaining trees and improves the health and vigor of the stand. Thinning also improves wildlife habitat and produces revenue for landowners. Besides improving the health and vigor of a stand, thinning can also be beneficial to landowners from increased economic gain at final harvest. Most Larger trees are more valuable than smaller trees because the products they can produce have greater value. Pictures shown illustrate the differences between a thinned versus unthinned stand. dense stand2.jpg

 Thinned stand1.jpg

Multiple workshops on the effects of drought on forests and forest management practices that help minimize the impact of drought will be offered by ACES professionals at different locations across the state of Alabama this summer. Specific locations, dates and times will be announced in the coming weeks.

Additional information on drought can be found at:

https://www.drought.gov/drought/

Additional information on forest management and drought can be found at:

http://www.pinemap.org/

For further information on forest drought or the upcoming forest drought workshops, contact Adam Maggard at (334)-844-2401 or adm0074@aces.edu. 



33753866632_73e7ddf893_h.jpgDrought is defined as a shortage of precipitation over a certain time period that causes impacts. Drought has impacted forest health and productivity in the past and will continue to do so into the future. Across the southeastern United States little change in total precipitation is projected in the coming years. However, larger and more intense precipitation events along with increased number of dry days between such events are projected, thus increasing the potential for and frequency of drought.


Drought does not impact every forest the same. Forests in good health and vigor are better equipped to withstand the effects of drought and recover from its impacts, but appropriate management is often needed. Forest landowners and managers can use silvicultural practices that promote good health and resilience prior to drought that can minimize the risks and equip forests to better withstand potential impacts. Over the next few days we will go through some of these practices. Today we will start with site preparation and planting.

Site Preparation and planting:

  • Eliminate competing vegetation to improve soil moisture condition
  • Select the correct species to plant for your sites soil type(s)
  • Plant high quality seedlings consisting of a mix of genetic traits; planting species with the same genetic origin are more susceptible to significant impacts of drought and accompanying threats

Species selection for planting is critical to the long-term health and vigor of a stand. Planting the wrong species on a site can result in poor survival and poor growth. 


Remember to check back tomorrow. We will continue with the benefits of thinning

Multiple workshops on the effects of drought on forests and forest management practices that help minimize the impact of drought will be offered by ACES professionals at different locations across the state of Alabama this summer. Specific locations, dates and times will be announced in the coming weeks.


Additional information on drought can be found at:

https://www.drought.gov/drought/

Additional information on forest management and drought can be found at:

http://www.pinemap.org/


For further information on forest drought or the upcoming forest drought workshops, contact Adam Maggard at (334)-844-2401 or adm0074@aces.edu. 




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