WaspWatch – Early Warning for Invasive Destructive Beetles

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WaspWatch – Early Warning for Invasive Destructive Beetles

By George Giltner, Adv. Master Gardener

Most of us have heard about the destructive effects of the Emerald Ash Borer. This pest is metallic green, ½ inch long and 1/8 inch wide. It lays eggs on the bark of ash trees in spring, which hatch into larvae that invade the cambium, between the bark and the wood. This inner bark feeding essentially cuts off the nutrient supply to the tree’s root system. Ash trees will die within two years of an invasion. EAB is now labeled as the most destructive forest pest ever seen in North America.

We have a wasp on our side that is providing an early warning system for detection of the EAB. This native ground-nesting wasp, Cerceris fumipennis uses EAB and native beetles called buprestids as paralyzed food for its larvae in underground nests. Since the wasp will not sting us, even when handled, you can capture the paralyzed beetles. You may even capture other newly-arrived buprestids, like the European Oak Borer. Contact the Louisiana State Arthropod Museum thru www.lsuinsects.org/cerceris/LSUwaspWatcher@gmail.com. Also go to www.lsuinsects.org/cerceris/LA_waspwatcher_program.pdf for more information on this Bio-surveillance program.

Identification of Cerceris fumipennis:

  1. It is about the size of common yellow jacket wasps, however these are not the aggressive social wasps like ground yellow jackets that attack intruders in mass.
  2. It has dark blue/black wings.
  3. Unlike yellow jackets, the body is primarily black with only a few yellow markings.
  4. A conspicuous single broad yellow band encircles the front of the abdomen.
  5. It is a solitary ground-nesting wasp. A neighborhood of single entry nests will occupy an informal colony of nests. Entrance holes are about the size of a pencil.
2015 cerceris

Left: Cerceris fumipennis , Right: Emerald Ash Borer (U. Conn. Photos)

Mr. George Giltner is an Advanced Master Gardener and Tree Farmer in Beauregard Parish, LA. George is also a self-taught entomologist and write about insects in his “Battle of the Bugs” Series.


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The Internal Garden 2 – A good diet for the Microbial Symbiote and Yourself


The Internal Garden 2 – A good diet for the Microbial Symbiote and Yourself

By George Giltner, Advanced MG

Overwhelming evidence from numerous researchers is now showing a connection between better health, and a complex and diverse microbial symbiote in the large intestine. Garden vegetables play a major role in driving the “symbiote” toward a healthy composition (1). Eat big MAC’s (Microbiota Accessible Carbohydrates) which are dietary fiber to feed the beneficial bacteria, Bacteroides (2).

The gut bugs love the soluble dietary fiber, oligosaccharides (3 – 9 sugar unit molecules) that come from garden vegetables, fruits, beans and peas, and nuts. Colon bacteria rapidly ferment this food into smaller units for absorption. The longer non-starch polysaccharides (10 -100 sugar unit molecules) come from pectin in fruits, inulin in onions, and other plant-manufactured sources. These are converted into important Short-Chain Fatty Acids (SCFA’s) like vinegar, which lowers inflammation, reduces risks of infection, stabilizes blood sugar, and lowers triglycerides and LDL’s. The indigestible polysaccharides and 100+ sugar unit molecules like cellulose keep us regular by passing thru the digestive system.

The prevailing theory of microbial research is that lack of dietary fiber has shifted man’s colon microbes toward Fermicutes (fat-producing bacteria) that has resulted in an increase in modern Western diseases (3). An example – In 1992-94, the U.S. government, American Diabetes Association, and the American Heart Association (AHA) endorsed a high-carb, low–fat diet. Soon after, the rate of diabetes has exploded between 1997 – 2007, by doubling (CDC, Diabetes Report Card, 2012).

Oops, now the AHA recommends a pro-vegetarian diet. It is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, low-fat dairy, skinless chicken, and fish. It encourages low saturated fats and trans fats (none is better), low sodium and limited added sugar and red meat (www.newroom.heart.org.- March, 2015).

If you eat the SAD (standard American diet) of hamburgers, French fries, and high carbs, the symbiote drifts toward fat-producing bacteria, Fermicutes. These bacterial types and their products lead toward inflammation, weight gain, and “Western” diseases like heart disease, diabetes, neurological diseases, etc.

A National Institute of Health funded study (4) with nearly 60,000 participants, stated that “Increasing evidence suggests that nutrients from fruits and vegetables have chemo-protective effects on various cancers including hematologic malignancies”. They observed that use of grape seed supplements and garlic supplements are associated with lower incidence of several types of blood cancers. Grape seeds have proanthocyanidins, potent antioxidants that also lower the risks of prostate cancer and some types of skin cancer. Garlic has organic sulfur compounds that prevent cancer through various mechanisms.

Early man had a diet similar to the Mediterranean and traditional Japanese diets of Modern culture. Both of these diets have demonstrated exceptional health and longevity. What they have in common is high fiber content, fermented foods, low saturated fats, and low red meat consumption. Now, we are finally uncovering how these facets support our health.

The American diet is unfortunately loaded with Omega-6 fats, which are from corn oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, and safflower oil. However our hunter-gatherer ancestors consumed Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats in a ratio of 1:1 (5). Omega-3 oils are found in olive, flaxseed, and walnut oil, which help to reach a more balanced ratio. Seafood is an excellent source of Omega-3 along with grass-fed animals like beef, lamb, and buffalo (6). However if animals are feed-lot fed corn and soybeans, they will not have adequate Omega-3’s for the equal ratio with Omega-6’s.

A 2015 Mayo Clinic report (7) linked high levels of Omega-6 fatty acids to increased risk for heart disease and depression. Omega-3’s are thought to provide lower risks of coronary heart disease and improvements in cholesterol. Also studies are reporting promising results for lower risks of cancer, depression and ADHD (hyperactivity in children). The DHA and ERA of fish oil lowers triglycerides and reduces risks of heart attack, abnormal heartbeat, and stroke in people with heart disease. Fish oil may also benefit people with hardening of arteries and high blood pressure. However it is best to skip the fish at the end of the food chain like Mackerel, swordfish, tilefish, and albacore tuna due to high mercury levels. Instead use certified fish oil from cold-water fish like a krill blend.

As with any dietary change, seek medical guidance and discuss this subject with your health provider. Example – High doses of fish oil may be problematic with people with heart disease, sugar control problems, and bleeding issues.

Another serious issue with the SAD (American diet) is the glut of gluten in modern processed foods like wheat breads, cake, doughnuts, breakfast cereals, condiments, ice cream, soups, etc. The range of gluten problems ranges from slight gluten intolerance to Celiac Disease. David Perlmutter, MD, says “When I watch people devour gluten-laden carbohydrates, it’s like watching them pour themselves a cocktail of gasoline” (6).

Neurologist, Dr. Aristo Vojdani (6), has stated that the incidence of gluten sensitivity in Western countries may be as high as 30%. Dr. Rodney Ford (8) emphasizes “Evidence points to the nervous system as the site of gluten damage”. Therefore, if you are gluten sensitive, look for gluten-free products to avoid and reduce bloating, indigestion, diarrhea, headaches, neurological problems, and allergies. “Gluten-free” is in your home-grown garden and in the produce department of grocery stores.

Dietary fiber and anti-oxidants from organic vegetables, balanced Omega fatty acids, and gluten-free products along with exercise are important dietary factors that lead to a healthier you and your microbial symbiote.

  1.  www.nutritionfacts.org/video/tipping-the-balance-of-Firmicutes-to-Bacteriodes
  2. www.microbewiki.kenyon.edu/index.php/Firmicutes_and_Obesity
  3. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Environmental and Gut Bacteriodetes: The Food Connection
  4. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Vitamin, Mineral, Specialty Supplements and Risks of Hematologic Malignancies in the Prospective Vitamins and Lifestyles Study (July 29, 2011).
  5. P.M. Kris-Etherton, et al., “Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in the Food Chain in the United States,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 71, no. 1 (January 2000) S179-S188.
  6. David Perlmutter, MD, “Grain Brain” (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2013) p.76, 64, 60.
  7. www.mayoclinic.org. Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Fish Oil, and Alpha Linolenic Acid (2015).
  8. Rodney P. Ford, “The Gluten Syndrome: A Neurological Disease,” Medical Hypotheses 73, no.3 (September 2009): p. 438-40.









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SW LA Forestry Association Board Meeting – April 22, 2015

SWLAFA Board Meeting – April 22, 2015


Attendees: Keith Hawkins, David Meaux, George Crain, George Giltner, Jeff Peterson, and Harvey Kieffer.

David Meaux stepped up to President to conduct the meeting in the absence of Dick Meaux who was still recovering  from health issues.

Two members of the board are retiring from their positions, Dick Meaux, President, and George Crain, Treasurer.  George Crain received a Burl Pin from David Meaux for his many years of service to the Forestry Associations that he has served with.

Treasurer’s report:  The present total was $3967.50.  Future checks were approved for 2 teachers to attend the annual Forestry Teachers Tour at a cost of $800.  Jackie Cantrell and Debbie Callaway of Pinewood Elementary will represent our forestry association.  Also a $500 contribution to the Beauregard LSU AgCenter was approved.

A critique of the 2015 meeting, and planning for next year’s agenda were discussed.  The War Memorial Civic Center was selected as the site for the 2016 Annual meeting. A topic discussed was invasive weed control.  Keith suggested having a weed scientist as a main speaker.  A second topic was forest invasive insects like the emerald ash borer.

Forest stumpage prices were discussed along with all the variables that have to be considered in pricing.  Keith provided a website as a global guide, www.lsuagcenter.com/en/environment/forestry/extension/prices/index.htm.

The next SWLAFA Board Meeting will be August 5 at the War Memorial Civic Center, in the Gun Room, at 0900.  David Meaux will review the election of officers based on By-Laws.  David will also report on the tax exemption legal work of the organization that he has been engaged with.

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2015 Prescribed Burn Workshop in SW Louisiana


2015 Prescribed Burn Workshop in SW Louisiana

Keith Hawkins, Area Extension Forester

The LSU AgCenter in partnership with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture & Forestry had a prescribed burn workshop to enable attendees to become “Certified Burn Managers”. Dr. Niels de Hoop, LSU Forestry Professor, was the lead instructor. Mark Davis and Darrell Eaves, both of the LDAF, also provided instruction.

2015 PB field exercise

Attendees cutting a firebreak during a field exercise.

Topics will include: fuels, burning techniques, proper tools, optimal weather conditions, smoke management, liability management, planning, fire behavior and more.

The successful graduates of this workshop are:

  1. Anderson, Becky
  2. Anderson, Harold
  3. Battaglia, Charles,
  4. Breland, Bradley
  5. Cooke, Dan
  6. Doffitt, Chris
  7. Fitzsimmons, Robert
  8. Garrett, Cody
  9. Gutierrez, Mariamar
  10. Holten, Ben
  11. Koepp, Russell
  12. Lawson, RaHarold
  13. LeJeune, Aubrey
  14. Parker, Kenneth
  15. Perkins, Robert Shane
  16. Reynolds, Matthew
  17. Richmond, Cecilia
  18. Rose, Gardner
  19. Shirley, Charleston
  20. Smith Vivian
  21. Sonnier, Cliff
  22. Tate, Jon

Congratulations to all students.

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THE Internal Garden 1 – the Symbiote

THE Internal Garden 1 – the Symbiote

By:  George Giltner, Advanced Master Gardener

Growing all of those fantastic varieties of veggies is an enjoyable and rewarding task of Spring.  All of those diverse varieties bring in multiple flavors and nutrient levels into our diet.  Now let’s follow all of these nutrients into the “Internal Garden” where the microbes function in a symphony of symbiosis within our bodies.  Our health, sleep, behavior, moods, and mind are affected by microbial chemicals which have an astounding impact on our lives.

Our knowledge of personalized medicine took a springboard leap back in the late 1980’s with the beginning of the Human Genome Project. One of the unexpected outcomes was innovation in DNA sequencing technologies.  This led to the realization that humans are more than the product of their human genes.  We also needed to sequence the genomes of our bacterial inhabitants.  In 2008 the National Institutes of Health began working on the Human Microbiome Project.

In the past 7 years, scientists have been sequencing our gut bacteria, and are investigating the ocean of chemicals produced by these bacterial inhabitants.  Within the next ten years, we are expected to have a higher level of understanding of relationships with disease prevention and treatment. You can even participate.  Contact the American Gut Project, and send $99 with a stool sample for a personalized list of bacteria in your colon.  Obviously, there aren’t overwhelming contributions other than those of neuroscientists, cardiologist, immunologists, and other researchers. But, you are invited to participate by Dr. Rob Knight, professor of pediatrics and computer science and engineering, and director of the Microbiome Initiative (R.Knight, 2015).

Some physicians are acting on information gathered from numerous studies already completed.  Graham Rook (2014) at University College London suggests that the absence of our “Old Friend-Soil Microbes” could explain the increases in inflammatory diseases, as diabetes, arthritis, and even depression.  Our granddaughter’s pediatrician recommends “dirt and dog contact” to expose her to microbes that have been with man through history.

Animals provide numerous microbes to counterbalance the ultraclean lifestyles of modern homes and “clean-wipe” mindsets. Also she is encouraged to have soil contact by planting a small garden and containers with pesticide-free and chemical fertilizer-free soil.

At LSU School of Medicine, Dr. James M. Hill (Senior scientific investigator and professor of neuroscience) is studying the relationship between the gut’s microbiome and the risk for brain disease.  His recent report (J.M. Hill, 2014) demonstrates multiple ways in which the brain and its functioning are influenced by activity in the gut.  He’s explored how good gut bacteria produce important brain chemicals (Brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA), and glutamate).  Low levels of these chemicals are observed in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease patients.  GABA allows the nervous system to weather stress better.  Glutamine is a neurotransmitter involved with cognition, learning, and memory.  BDNF is a critical brain growth protein for thinking and learning, and higher brain functions.

Actually hundreds of scientists are researching and exploring the many interactions between man and microbes.  This exciting field of studies offers a better life for man with the understanding of numerous diseases (cancer, autism, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, etc.).  So far it appears that gardening, farming, and animals increases our own diversity of bacteria – that leads to a healthier and happier life.

In the next article, the Internal Garden 2, we’ll look at how to feed a healthy “symbiote”, your own personal bacterial composite.

A. Rook, C. L. Raison, and C. A. Lowry, “Microbiota, Immunoregulatory Old Friends and Pyschiatric Disorders”, Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology 817(2014): 319-56.

M. Hill et al., “The Gastrointestinal Tract Microbiome and Potential Link to Alzheimer’s Disease,” Front. Neuro.5 (April 14, 2014): 43,doi: 10.3389/fneur.2014.00043, eCollection2014.


  1. Knight, “Follow Your Gut”, TED Books@TED.com, 2015.


  1. Sonnenburg and E. Sonnenburg. “The Good Gut, Taking Control of Your Weight, Your Mood, and Your Long-Term Health”, New York: Penguin Press. 2015.

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“Comparison Between Leaf-Footed Bug and Milkweed Assassin Bug Nymphs”


Comparison Between Leaf-Footed Bug and Milkweed Assassin Bug Nymphs

 By George  Giltner,  Advanced. Master Gardener

Probably the last thing a gardener would want to do is kill off a beneficial insect, like the milkweed assassin bug, that is controlling pests ( flies, mosquitoes, caterpillars, cucumber beetles, the Asian  citrus psyllid, aphids, army worms, and other prey 6x their size).  The milkweed assassin bug is the common predator that is effective in our landscape and vegetable gardens.  Therefore its similar identity in the nymph stages to leaf-footed bug nymphs needs to be distinguished.

2015 leaf footed bug nymph

Harmful insect: a nymph of the leaf-footed bug, Photo by Lyle J. Buss, U. Florida

2015 MW Assassin bug

Beneficial Insect: a nymph of the milkweed assassin bug, Megha Kalsi, U. Florida

From looking at the above photos, the casual observer probably will not be able to distinguish between the two nymphs.  The juvenile insect in the top image will attack apples, blueberries, blackberries, cowpeas, cucurbits, eggplants, okra, tomatoes, pecans, hibiscus, etc.

The MW assassin bug nymph in the bottom image is a desirable predator to have in the garden.  Therefore you would definitely not want to bring out a broad range pesticide to kill what may or may not be a harmful bug, unless you are certain of the identification.

There are a few behavioral characteristics that may help.  The assassin bugs are usually loners that are observed sneaking up and “assassinating” their prey.  If you get near them, they may rare-up on long thin legs and extend their proboscis (nose) forward.  Also carefully observe the surrounding vegetation for assassin bugs that have captured prey.  Their proboscis has injected digestive enzymes into the prey for liquefaction, which does take time. Handling the latter nymphs and adults can result in a nasty bite.  So, be careful in capturing these bugs for children. A positive ID at the LSU AgCenter is recommended.  The preferable method is to take a close-up photo with a digital camera or a newer cell phone.

The nymphs of the leaf-footed bugs usually stay together to attack plants in packs that may include adults, and other pest-bugs.  A joint pest-effort in overcoming the plants defense system is typically seen on unhealthy plants. The proboscis will be kept under the belly of the bug. It never goes forward like the assassin bug’s exhibit.

The message is to make an effort to ID and keep the beneficial bugs, for they are the balance in the ecosystem of your garden or ornamentals.  Killing all bugs in a wide-spread area throws this system out of balance in favor of the pests that have the quicker and more abundant reproductive cycles.


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By:  Emily Shirley, Advanced Master Gardener

Soil is the most precious resource in your garden.  Some have well-tended soil (from previous owners), while others, particularly those moving into new homes, inherit a rubble-filled mass.  However, any soil can be improved through time and effort.  For example, when the Master Gardeners began gardening in the Demonstration Garden a few years back, we were given use of the property that was formerly an old rodeo arena.  It was very compacted, and after just a few inches we hit red clay that had been hauled in for years and driven over with tractors.  By the time we finished amending the soil we were growing beautiful plants – vegetables and ornamentals.

If you have been around the gardening world very long, you have heard the terms “black gold”.  What we are referring to is composted material that is very precious in terms of gardening use – or compost.  Composting is the natural process that turns raw organic ingredients into humus – that earthy, dark crumbly, fully decomposed end product.  If you regard your soil as a living entity, you will see that essential plant nutrients are cycled by a microscopic army of inhabitants and larger worms, insects and grubs.  All these creatures need air, moisture and food.  Using manure, garden compost and other sources of organic matter is the key to sustaining this soil life and keeping the soil healthy.

It is always good to start by working with what you have – compost what your yard produces first, and import materials only when they are convenient and of special value to your composting.  Compostable materials from your kitchen, such as fruit and vegetable scraps, plus garden materials can easily be reused to cycle their nutrient value, carbon and nitrogen back into the soil to grow more food or plants.

To avoid waste from what you do not use in the kitchen, don’t throw it in the garbage, compost it!  Once you start saving your food scraps from the kitchen two things will happen.  You will simply be amazed at how much you have been throwing in the garbage that could have been used for composting.  And, you will never go back to throwing these things in the garbage again because you will soon realize how valuable these materials are for your gardening.  Most landscapes produce plenty of fallen leaves, grass clippings, and withered plants to toss in there.

This is a very simple process.  You need something for collecting your kitchen food waste to get started.  You can spend a lot of money for products that are sold for this purpose, or you can make it simple by having a simple five-gallon bucket with a lid, just outside your kitchen.  As you prepare food or clean out the refrigerator, just toss things into a small container and each evening empty that container into your larger bucket just outside the kitchen door.  Once you have enough in the outside container to throw out, you take the contents from your food scrap container to a compost pile.  You can even get creative and even make it even easier by having some trenches dug outdoors in an area you plan on gardening in at a later date and bury your food scraps in those.  Now, just let things sit in your compost pile a while and decompose and when it is ready, start using it.

So how do you know when your compost is ready to use for planting projects?

To evaluate your compost to determine if it is ready you can get very complicated, (that science thing again) or you can just use what you have – your eyes, nose and hands – to determine if it’s ready.  Visual inspection will reveal even color and consistency with a sprinkling of still-identifiable, undecomposed items, such as a peach pit or chunks of corn cob.  Your nose will detect an inoffensive, earthy smell with no sharp or sour odors.  To the touch, your finished compost will feel cool (no apparent heating), moist, and crumbly.  Once your compost meets these standards, let a few lettuce (or other) seeds pass final judgement.  Combine compost with an equal amount of potting soil and plant seeds in the mixture.  Sow the same kind of seeds in plain potting soil at the same time, and compare the progress of each planting.  If the seeds grow equally well in both, your compost is ready to roll; slower growth in the compost mixture means your compost needs more time to mature before you use it in planting projects.


  •  Composting is not fast – you have to be patient and give it time. Slow compost is good compost.
  • Place a thick layer of newspaper (not the slick colored sheets) at the base of a curing compost pile to deter invasive tree roots.
  • Inadequate moisture is one of the most common reasons for compost to fail to make good progress.  Compost microorganisms need moisture.  You have to give your pile some moisture during these Louisiana hot days.  It is important to moisten ingredients as you add them to your pile, and to replenish moisture as you turn or aerate compost.
  • In an open heap, you don’t have to aerate, because the heap has plenty of exposed surface area, and will make its own air pockets as the materials shrink and turn into compost.  (Note:  I have a very large compost pile and I just use the tractor front-end loader to move it around occasionally.)
  • After a year or two of using compost In the garden every chance you get, you will discover a new pleasure in gardening.  You will notice that you can pull weeds more easily.
  • It is a good idea to only use your composting pail for just composting.  Don’t contaminate it with other things, for example, using your bucket to pick up behind the dog in the yard.

So how do you then actually use this compost once it is decomposed and ready?

  •  Treat every plant you grow to some form of compost.
  • Blanket beds as you renovate them between plantings.
  • Amend planting holes, or mix your best batches into homemade potting soil.
  • Use rough-textured, partially decomposed compost as mulch.
  • You can use it as a soil conditioner for all type of plants.
  • You can use your compose to mix with potting mix that you already have.
  • You can use it as a slow release fertilizer, gradually feeding plants over a long period of time.
  • You can use it for mulch for pots and gardens to protect plant roots from the sun and wind and to prevent erosion and reduce soil diseases.
  • (composting – continued)
  • You can use compost as a top dressing for lawns, to add nutrients and fill in gaps to encourage healthier grass roots and thatch.
  • Use it as an amendment to prove sandy and clay soil structure by binding soil particles together – helping aerate, retain moisture and nutrients.
  • Make a liquid “compost tea” fertilizer.
  • Compost mixed into the soil between plantings is the best way to keep the soil from becoming exhausted.
  • When you are ready to plant, mix in the compost along with organic fertilizer sufficient to meet the needs of the crop, and you are good to go.






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