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Do Wasps Get a Bad Rap?

All wasps can sting, right? Well, not exactly. While we tend to group them all into the stinging insect category, paper wasps, yellowjackets and aerial yellowjackets (hornets) do most of the stinging. These wasps are in a single-insect family (Vespidae) with ovipositors or egg-laying organs modified into stingers. Of all the species of wasps, over 99% of them do not have an actual stinger. Most of them are beneficial parasites of other plant-damaging insects such as grasshoppers and caterpillars, and they help keep those populations in check. So, think twice before acting against wasps. They are more beneficial than we give them credit for! Consider this information.

  • Wasps can become territorial if they feel their nests are threatened or when the availability of food is low, but most of them are not aggressive. Simply avoiding the nest area can prevent most stings. When wasps are out and about, they are usually searching for food and do not care if humans are near. If you stand still around wasps, they will usually fly away on their own, even if they come within inches of you. They generally want nothing to do with humans. Never swing or strike at them since quick movements can provoke defensive stings.
  • There are no true hornets in Utah. The insects we refer to as hornets are actually aerial yellowjackets that make above-ground nests; other yellowjackets nest in the ground. Paper wasps make nests on structures and trees above ground. They generally build nests on the eaves of homes or other protected areas around the yard, including playground equipment, fences, sheds, etc.
  • Paper wasps, yellow jackets and aerial yellowjackets are social wasps that nest with other individuals. They can sting with their ovipositors, and their group causes the majority of stings to humans in North America. Stings from social wasps are not usually medically significant, other than temporary pain and swelling around the sting area. However, those who are allergic to them can experience severe reactions requiring immediate medical attention. 
  • Since yellowjackets (ground-nesting and aerial-nesting) are often attracted to sugary foods, soda cans and garbage containers, be sure to frequently remove waste and maintain tight lids on all trash receptacles.
  • Management is only necessary when social wasps nest in heavy-traffic areas or if household members could be allergic to stings. Generally speaking, nests in the landscape or low-traffic areas should be considered beneficial because of their predatory tendencies. 
  • If management becomes necessary, many chemicals are available that can reduce wasp populations at the nesting site. Selection depends on the location and size of the nest. Be sure to follow label directions. 
  • Traps can reduce wasp populations around garbage cans. However, the pheromones are generally made for ground-nesting yellowjackets and will not attract aerial yellowjackets or paper wasps unless specifically labeled. 

For further information on social wasps, visit 

 https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1992&context=extension_curall.   

Answer by: Zach Schumm, Utah State University Extension arthropod diagnostician, zach.schumm@usu.edu




A Connection to Our Food – From Seeds to Canning

What gives people a feeling of power? An anonymous author wrote, from least to most important: money, status and growing a tomato.

For those who grow their own produce, there is a personal sense of pride and satisfaction that comes from planting, nurturing, harvesting and preserving. For those who don’t or can’t garden, Utah is home to an abundance of local producers, and supporting them and purchasing from farmers markets and community-supported agriculture programs brings about the same result of having delicious, healthy, fresh food. It also fosters a sense of community by supporting local producers.

Now more than ever, people are interested in obtaining or growing their own food supply and preserving it for the future.

Gardening 

For those who need tips on gardening, whether at the beginning of the season or the end, Utah State University Extension’s website, garden.usu.edu, is full of resources to help you have your best yard and garden yet – even if you’ve struggled in the past. The website includes links to the Gardener’s Almanac with a checklist of month-by-month gardening tasks, a listing of online gardening courses developed by USU faculty, who, collectively have thousands of hours of research, the Utah’s Gardening Experts Facebook group, the Gardening Tips Podcast, a video library and information on the Master Gardener Program. You will also find information on water-efficient landscaping, pest management, apps, advice and more. Nearly any question you might have about gardening will be addressed in this large bank of research-based information. In addition is Extension’s new drought website at drought.usu.edu with resources and tips for water conservation.

Farmers Markets

For those who prefer to support and enjoy the fruits of others’ labors, farmers markets are a wonderful place to visit and shop. Supporting local producers by buying local food and products helps strengthen the local economy, creates local jobs and increases food security. It also helps preserve farms, ranches, small businesses and farmland, ensuring that Utah has farms and ranches for generations to come.  

Visit Utah’s Own for a general listing of farmers markets around the state. The website will also help you find and support local producers, learn more about the farm-to-fork process and understand the rigorous food safety protocols for the local food supply. Also included are FAQs and tips to help support local producers.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

Since many areas in Utah do not have access to local farmers markets, community supported agriculture is a way for citizens to directly support farmers in their communities. Members purchase a share of a farm’s produce for the growing season. Shareholders pay their money upfront, then typically receive a weekly delivery of what is in season and available at that farm. Benefits include reduced transportation costs, a varied diet from a local source and a direct, positive impact on communities. Click here for more information on community supported agriculture.

Preserving the Harvest

Once you have your produce in hand, you will likely have more than you can eat before it spoils. This is where food preservation comes in – enabling you to enjoy the harvest year-round. Fruits and vegetables, jams and jellies, pie filling, jerky, salsa and other produce items can be preserved through freezing, dehydration and pressure canning.

When canning and using other methods of food preservation, safely preserving it with scientifically tested recipes should be the top priority. No one wants to waste their time and effort preserving food that will spoil before consumption, not seal properly or create an accidental food-borne illness or toxin in the product. Also, be aware that recipes passed down through families and neighbors or found on Google searches may not be safe.

Trusted food preservation resources include:

USDA’s Complete Guide to Home Canning, which provides a free e-book download. The information is based on research conducted by the National Center for Home Food Preservation in cooperation with USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

The Ball Canning Company website provides recipes, tips on canning and information about products, services and support.

* The Extension canning resources website includes research-backed information on preserving the harvest, food preservation fact sheets and the master food preserver program. Visit canning.usu.edu

Though the harvest only lasts for a season, the need to eat does not. The more we learn about and become connected to our food supply, the greater our ability to provide for, strengthen and nourish our families and communities.

Writer: Julene Reese, 435-757-6418, Julene.Reese@usu.edu




Bats Making Recent Appearances

If you have spotted bats near your home or nearby structures, you are not alone. Bats are migratory and may take up residence in chimneys, structures and homes when they can find an opening. Once inside, they may form a nursery colony where they raise their young. About this time of the year, the young will take flight, and the increased activity may result in a noticeable number of droppings.

Luckily, in the next month or so, bats will migrate to find a suitable hibernation area. Until then, consider these tips to help you check your home and structures for possible points of entry.

1. Around dusk when bats become active, walk around areas where you think they might be roosting and watch for them to emerge. They typically will crawl out and then drop to take flight. If you have a brick chimney that does not have a cover, they could be roosting there. 

2. In daylight, walk around the areas and look for smudge marks on the walls, soffit or facia. When bats enter a structure, they typically land near an opening and crawl in. Over time this creates smudge marks caused by body oils and urine. 

3. Once bats leave a structure, seal the openings permanently with building materials. Secure loose-fitting soffit or facia, and clean and spray-wash the openings. In many cases re-caulking the areas will eliminate openings.

If you have had physical exposure to bats, consider this information. 

1. Any bat that is active by day, is found in an unusual location like a home, lawn or structure, is unable to fly or is easily approached has the potential to have rabies, which can be fatal if contracted. Statistically, however, most bats do not have rabies. Even among bats submitted for rabies testing that were weak, sick or had been captured by a cat, dog or human, only about 6% had rabies. Since rabies can only be confirmed in a laboratory, it’s not possible to tell if a bat is infected just by looking at it.

2. Rabies is contracted through direct contact with a rabid bat or other wild animal. In the cases reported, those who were bit did not recognize the risk of rabies from the bite or contact with the saliva and did not seek medical advice. Each year, tens of thousands of people are successfully protected from developing rabies through vaccination after being bitten by an animal.   

3. If you encounter a dead, sick or easily captured bat, immediately contact your local county health official to have it tested for rabies, particularly if your family members or pets have been exposed to it.

For information about keeping your interactions with wildlife positive, visit  WildAwareUtah.org.

By: Terry Messmer, Utah State University Extension wildlife specialist, terry.messmer@usu.edu




Safely Cleaning Your Home After a Flood

Many parts of the state have recently experienced flooding. It is important to properly clean and sanitize wet and muddy household furnishings, carpets, clothing and surfaces as quickly as possible to avoid damage and contamination. Consider these tips from the American Cleaning Institute (ACI) for cleanup.

            * Call your insurance carrier within 24 hours if possible.

            * Document the damage with photos prior to the cleanup process. Even if all items are not covered under your policy, it is best to have full photo documentation.

            * Consider calling a disaster recovery expert. Floodwater may carry silt, raw sewage, oil or chemical wastes that can cause a range of bacterial, viral and parasitic diseases. Proper cleanup methods are critical and require disinfecting, not just cleaning.

            * Consider all water unsafe for drinking, cooking and cleaninguntil you have checked with your local health department.

            * Check with local authorities to determine how to dispose of household items that have been contaminated by sewage or that have been wet for an extended period of time. Some locations have regulations and specific procedures for bagging, tagging and disposing of contaminated items.

            * When cleaning, wear protective clothing including long-sleeved shirts, long pants, rubber or plastic gloves and waterproof boots or shoes.

            * Take anything that was wet for two or more days outside. These items could have mold growing on them, even though you may not see it.

            * Throw out any items that absorb water and cannot be cleaned or disinfected, such as mattresses, carpeting and stuffed animals.

            * Launder your flood-soiled fabrics when water is clean and safe, electricity is restored and the washing machine has been checked for damage.

            * Throw away fresh foods that may have come in contact with flood water, including glass jars of commercial or home-canned foods. Canned food items may rust and weaken sealed seams, allowing contamination into the contents. Cardboard and plastic containers are also easily contaminated.

            * All countertops, appliances, floors, shelves, pots and pans, etc., should be washed with warm/hot soapy water followed by disinfecting. To disinfect, use a solution of ¾ cup of liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water. Keep surfaces wet for two minutes, then rinse with clean water. Never mix bleach with ammonia or other cleaners. Discard wood and plastic items such as cutting boards, utensils and food storage containers that have been in contact with contaminated water, as they may harbor bacteria.

            * Clean clothes and other water-soaked fabrics. Wet textiles are the perfect breeding ground for mold and mildew. Although your first instinct may be to wash these items in very hot water, high-water temperatures may set any stains. Click here for instructions from the American Cleaning Institute on how to “scrape and shake,” pre-wash, pre-treat and wash.

            Experiencing damage to personal property by flooding can be devastating, but knowing there are steps to salvage items that have been exposed to mud and debris can help give you some peace of mind.

By: Kathleen Riggs, Utah State University Extension family and consumer sciences professor,  kathleen.riggs@usu.edu, 435-586-8132




Twelve Tips to Help Make Sense of Home Canning

While many people know and understand basic freezing and dehydrating methods for preserving foods, it becomes a different story when they contemplate bottling.

Food preservation is a science- and research-based practice. It is not the same as creative cooking. When preserving food with water-bath or pressure canning, a kitchen must be turned into a laboratory by following instructions exactly and using proper procedures. That is why many home canners are disappointed to learn that their favorite fresh salsa or grandma’s stew is not recommended for home canning, nor are things like butter, bacon or pureed squash.

Here are 12 tips to help guide both the novice and the seasoned home preservation enthusiast:

  1. Follow canning directions exactly.
  2. Always use up-to-date, scientifically tested recipes, and only use approved canning methods (boiling water-bath or pressure).
  3. Make altitude adjustments by adding more time to water bath canning or increasing pressure for pressure-canned products.
  4. Be certain that canned products have a proper lid seal.
  5. Don’t add extra starch, flour or other thickeners to a recipe.
  6. Don’t add extra onions, chilies, bell peppers or other vegetables to salsas.
  7. Be sure to properly vent the pressure canner.
  8. Get your dial-type pressure canner gauges tested annually.
  9. Don’t use an oven instead of a water bath for processing.
  10. Be sure to properly acidify canned tomatoes.
  11. Do not cool the pressure canner under running water.
  12. Do not let food prepared for “hot pack” processing cool in the jars before placing them in the canner for processing.

If you have questions, the best option for finding safe, scientifically based answers for proper food preservation is to contact your local USU Extension office. For location and contact information, visit https://extension.usu.edu/locations. Additional canning information can be found at canning.usu.edu.

The satisfaction that comes from preserving food is well worth the time and effort it takes. With instruction from approved resources along    with a dash of common sense, this season may be the best ever for adding to your food storage shelves!

By: Kathy Riggs, Utah State University Extension family and consumer sciences professor, kathleen.riggs@usu.edu, 435-586-8132