Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Enjoy the Sun...While Protecting Ourselves

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

Whether you are working in your yard, involved in watching children play sports, enjoying the outdoors as a family or working in some other way, we have been enjoying some decent weather lately.  This good weather has also resulted in some minor sunburns already from what I’ve seen.  Please listen to the following Extension resources about how to enjoy our weather safely. 
Protect your children.  Damage to their skin now will have serious effects in future years.  Plan summer work so that inside activities occur from 10 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. to avoid being outside during the hours of most intense sunlight.  Don’t forget, it is possible to burn on an overcast day.

When working outside, cover skin with gloves, a hat with ear and neck protection, long sleeves, and pants.  Button up the neck of long sleeve shirts.  Light cotton reflects heat and is cooler for working outdoors. 
On skin that can’t be covered with clothing, use an SPF 15-50 sunscreen. SPF (sun protective factor) is a measure of effectiveness in preventing sunburn.  A sunblock is different from a sunscreen and may protect against more ultraviolet rays.  Look for a block containing titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.  These chemicals are generally safer for children because they aren’t absorbed into the skin. The new “sport” sunscreens are less likely to sweat off.  Otherwise, if working and sweating, reapply the sunscreen or block every hour.

Even with a sunscreen on it is still possible to get burned.  Reapplying the sunscreen doesn’t extend the time of protection, it only replenishes what sweats off.  Don’t forget a sunblock for lips.  Chapped lips may really be sunburned.
Generously apply sunscreen and sunblock 30 minutes before sun exposure.  Sunscreen chemicals take time to bind to the skin’s surface.  Wear a hat to cover your forehead.  By not applying a sunscreen there, one can avoid stinging eyes from sunscreen chemicals in sweat. 

Don’t neglect your eyes in sunlight.  Studies have shown an increased risk of early cataract formation with prolonged sun exposure.  Protect eyesight with sunglasses, but don’t get extremely dark lenses.  Behind darker lenses eyes dilate, allowing more ultraviolet light to enter the eyes.  Buy good quality glasses coated with a UVA blocking filter.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Tick Talk Take Two

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

I’ve been hearing about ticks recently so let’s do another session of tick talk this year.  The following information comes from a recent Montana Urban IPM alert. 

The common ticks in Montana this time of the year are the Rocky Mountain wood tick and the American dog tick.  The two species look very similar.

The Rocky Mountain wood tick is very common in the Rocky Mountain region and is found on livestock, companion animals, and humans in the spring/summer in Montana.  It likes stream corridors, grassy meadows, and south-facing sagebrush slopes.  The American dog tick is found in eastern Montana so we won’t spend any more time on that today.  Neither of these species vector Lyme disease.  We don’t have either of the two species of black-legged ticks otherwise known as deer ticks in Montana that vector Lyme disease.
The Rocky Mountain wood tick transmits Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Colorado tick fever.  Rocky Mountain spotted fever transmission is rare in our state, with most cases occurring in the south Atlantic Region.  Colorado tick fever occurs only in western states.  In Montana cases have been diagnosed west of the Continental Divide, and in the southwest and southcentral parts of Montana.  Symptoms of Colorado tick fever occur within four days and include chills, headache, fever, muscular ache, and general malaise.

Illustration courtesy of TickEncounter Resource Center
To try and prevent ticks from finding a ride home on you use a repellent like DEET or picaridin. Use these especially on pants and check for ticks after being outdoors.  If you’re in a brush-type area or an area with tall grasses, always do your tick checks right afterwards.
You want to find and remove ticks as soon as possible.  There are some common folklore tick removal methods such as “backing out of the tick with a burning match” that should not be attempted.  This method is not safe and doesn’t work.  It is important to try to thoroughly remove the tick and the mouthparts.  The tick has mouthparts which are barbed and used for insertion into the skin.  If these break off, it can be a further source of irritation and possibly infection.  Also, the crushing of the mouthparts can allow for disease transmission to occur through the skin if not removed properly.  Place your forceps such as blunt curved forceps or tweezers around the tick mouthparts as close to the skin as possible.  Remove the tick with a slow, steady pull away from the skin.  Don’t jerk or twist the tick.  Avoid getting or crushing any tick parts on you.  Disinfect your skin with alcohol and wash your hands with soap and water.

In Montana, we cannot test the tick itself for diseases.  The website www.tickencounter.org has further information on testing ticks for diseases and where you can send them.  You must keep the tick alive to test for diseases.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Spring Runoff and Water Testing

Kari Lewis

As MSU Extension educators, we commonly recommend soil tests, forage tests, and water tests.  Well water testing should be done annually and is especially recommended in years like this where there has been increased runoff.  If your well has been flooded or if you notice a change in water quality, it’s especially important to have a test done. 

There are a vast number of people and resources devoted to monitoring municipal water supplies.  For the private well water user, however, it is up to them to monitor the well water quality and ensure water quality meets drinking quality standards. 

The MSU Extension Well Educated program provides well owner education as it relates to health and quality of life.  Through the Well Educated program, free water collection bottles are available at your local Extension office that can then be sent to a Montana lab for analysis.  A few of the frequent questions related to this program include what parameters should be tested for, and how much does the testing cost?

What the water will be used for determines what the water should be tested for.  If the water will be used for drinking water and hasn’t been tested in recent years, then a basic domestic analysis that measures alkalinity, bacteria, nitrate, pH, and total dissolved solids, is an appropriate choice and is only $35.   A basic annual analysis is the minimum test that all private well owners should complete each year.  The basic analysis, available for $20, measures bacteria and nitrates, and is a valuable tool to track water quality through time. 

Farmers and ranchers should also consider testing their livestock drinking water and irrigation water.  The ‘Suitability of Water for Livestock’ test is $50, and can help identify any parameters which could deter livestock from drinking water and potentially cause health issues or lower livestock performance. 

Another reason to test livestock water is to measure nitrate presence.  If livestock are consuming feeds that contain nitrates (such as grain hay), and are also drinking nitrate containing water, the cumulative effect can reduce livestock performance and cause abortions.  Nitrate levels are often higher after spring runoff. 

Water quality can frequently change from year to year depending on amount of runoff, severity of drought, and other environmental conditions.  Rural residents drinking well water, farmers, and ranchers should stop by the MSU Extension office to pick up a free water testing kit to collect a water sample from a home well, livestock water, and/or irrigation water.  Water samples should be collected and shipped the same day, Monday through Wednesday, and results are typically available within two weeks. 

For additional information regarding water testing or for your free water collection bottles, please contact your local MSU Extension Office. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Taking the Fight to Mosquitoes

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

Over the past week with the moisture we’ve seen I’ve seen an uptick in mosquitoes flying around and trying to make a meal out of me.  This has made me think about how we can reduce the number of mosquitoes where we live and why they bite some people more than others.

If my wife and I or my youngest son and I are outside together, it is almost guaranteed that the mosquitoes will bite them more.  Why is that?  Mosquitoes are attracted to CO2 we exhale while breathing, our body heat and movement.  When the female mosquito gets close she makes her final choice based on skin temperature, odor, as perfumes and colognes work as attractants, and other chemical and visual factors.  Dark colored clothing also attracts mosquitoes more than light colored clothing. 
As far as reducing the number of mosquitoes around your yard, I have some tips from Missoula County Extension.  Dispose of all water-holding containers, such as plastic jugs, empty barrels, tin cans, buckets, bottles, garbage, etc.  If you have old tires around, dispose of them.  Old tires have become one of the most productive breeding sites in this country.  Turn over canoes and small boats, or cover them with a tarp.  If covering with a tarp, make sure tarp does not sag down and collect water.  Cover trash containers, or drill holes in the bottom of recycle containers to keep rain water out.  Empty wading pools weekly, or store them inside when not in use.  Change water in birdbaths weekly.  Keep drains and ditches clean so water will drain properly.  Fill in any ruts or low spots that could collect and hold water for more than one week.  If storing wheelbarrows outside, store upside down, or cover with a tarp.  Keep grass cut short and shrubbery trimmed so adult mosquitoes don't hide in the shaded areas during the day.  Fill in hollow stumps with sand or concrete.  Inspect eave troughs to assure water is draining properly.  Aerate ornamental pools, or stock them with fish.  Water gardens may become major mosquito producers if allowed to stagnate.  I know I have several things out of those tips that I can do better at to cut back on mosquito habitats. 

If you do have bodies of water near your home that might need some attention I would encourage you to visit with your local mosquito control district as they have chemical sprays that they are certified to use. 
To wrap things up this week, to protect yourself from bites, make sure window and door screens are “bug tight.”  Try using proper lighting, such as fluorescent lights as incandescent lights attract mosquitoes.  Lastly, wear an insect repellent that is right for you.  For some people, this might be something containing DEET, but for others it might be a repellent containing picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus.  No matter, what you use, please consider using something if you are not wearing long sleeves and pants.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

"Scaling" back on Residential Tree Pests

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

Have you ever noticed little, white spots or specks on your spruce or pines trees?  If so, what you are seeing is a very minute, very un-insect-like insect called the pine needle scale.  The pine needle scale is very common on spruce and causes white “specks” that look like bird droppings or paint splatter.  It will also infest Mugo pine, Austrian pine, Scots pine, Ponderosa pine, Douglas-fir, and fir.  Now is the time to start monitoring for the “crawler stage” on those hosts I just listed.

According to a recent Montana Urban Ag Alert, the damage the scale causes is yellowing of needles, premature needle fall, and defoliation with heavy infestations.  They are, after all sap-sucking insects.
The scale spends most of its life under a protective or “armored” shell, which is what we see most often.  The only active stage is the “crawler” stage.  They are mobile for several days and then become stationary.  The crawler stage happens to coincide with the bloom of common lilac.  The crawlers are a purplish color and are about ½ mm long or about the size of a pinhead.

You can check for the crawler stage by putting a white piece of paper underneath some pine needle branches and shaking the vegetation.  If the crawlers are active, they will fall on the piece of paper and will be moving around.
"Crawler" pine needle scale with mature pine needle scale.
Photo courtesy of University of Minnesota Extension.
When the crawlers are active, you can apply foliar sprays or “crawler stage” sprays.  Some of the active ingredients for the crawler sprays include horticultural oils, insecticidal soaps, acephate, permethrin, and cyfluthrin.  Be careful with spruce and oils; they can change the color on Colorado blue spruce trees.  Please note that these are not systemic options; systemics, if choosing this route for control, that have active ingredients such as dinotefuran or imidacloprid, should be applied early in the spring (check the label for timing of application).

As old pine needle scale stay on the needles and don’t often fall off all the time, it can be difficult to tell the difference between old and new populations of scale.  When testing for this, use your fingernail and press down on one of the white shells on the needles.  If a purplish “ooze” comes out or purple eggs are present, then these are new or live populations.  Otherwise, they will be dried out, have an exit hole, and can be scraped off.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Branding Your Estate Planning Future

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

Most people recognize that some form or manner of estate planning is important so that when a person or family member dies their wishes are carried out in an orderly manner.  While we often think of things such as bank accounts, homes, land and other material things that are mentioned in an estate plan, how often do we think of things like a livestock brand?

Dr. Marsha Goetting, long-time MSU Extension Family Economics Specialist, has recently distributed a MontGuide that deals with the question of livestock brands and how they figure into estate planning.  There are multiple ways of owning a brand, either through sole ownership, joint tenancy, tenants in common, in the name of a business entity or in the name of an estate or trust.  Each of these brand ownership ways can be explored in greater detail with examples too large for one single article.  For that reason, I would encourage you to pick up a copy of this MontGuide at your local county Extension office or download it free from www.msuextension.org. 

There are some things to consider when owning a brand though that I hope will help you through the estate planning process.  First, who are the owners of the brand?  You may want to review your brand certificate to be sure the brand is recorded as you want.  If the brand is owned by more than one person, are the co-owners joint tenants with right of survivorship or tenants in common.  With this and other options, I would encourage you to visit with an attorney so that you are choosing what you really intend for you and your family.  If an “or” separates the names of owners on the brand certificate, the brand generally is owned as joint tenants with rights of survivorship unless otherwise indicated.  If an “and” separates the names of owners on the brand certificate, the brand generally is owned as tenants in common unless otherwise indicated, with the presumption that each co-owner owns an equal interest.  If your brand certificate is an old one that says “and/or,” seek the advice of your attorney to clarify ownership.

The third question to ask is, whom do you want to own the brand upon your death?  This is at the root of all the estate planning you’ll ever do.  The last question to address is, when you transfer a brand, either by gift or will, do you want to distinguish between ownership of the brand and ownership of the livestock bearing the brand?  If so, you need to make your intent clear and seek the advice of an attorney. 

Determine whether current ownership of your brand is consistent with your estate planning wishes.  If not, correct those inconsistencies.  Please take the time now to be prepared for the future and your specific estate planning situations.