Monday, April 25, 2011

Aldo Leopold Documentary May 9

Join us at the Watauga County Extension Center for a world premiere showing of Green Fire! See the first full-length, high-definition documentary film ever made about legendary conservationist Aldo Leopold and his environmental legacy. Green Fire shares highlights from his extraordinary career, explaining how he shaped conservation and the modern environmental movement. It also illustrates how Leopold's vision of a community that cares about both people and land continues to inform and inspire people across the country and around the world, highlighting modern projects that put Leopold’s land ethic in action in a multitude of ways.

DATE: May 9, 2011 (Monday)
TIME: 6:30-8:30 PM
LOCATION: Watauga County Agricultural Conference Center
ADDRESS: 252 Poplar Grove Road, Boone, NC 28607
PHONE: 828-264-3061

Thank you to our major sponsors who have helped makes this event possible:
North Carolina Cooperative Extension
Watauga County Extension Center
The Aldo Leopold Foundation
US Forest Service
The Center for Humans and Nature

Monday, April 18, 2011

New Formulation for Varroa Mite Control

Written by David Tarpy
Associate Professor and Extension Apiculturist, NC State University

It has now been over 25 years since the introduction of varroa mites, and we are still faced with the ongoing struggle of keeping our colonies healthy from these parasites. The mounting evidence that the easy-to-use synthetic acaricides, specifically the pyrethroid fluvalinate (Apistan®) and the organophosphate coumaphos (CheckMite+®), have some major drawbacks. First, the mites are now showing resistance to these pesticides, so that they are unreliable at best of ineffective at worst. Second, these chemicals are lipophilic, meaning that they get absorbed and remain in the wax comb, which can have negative consequences on our bees. Finally, these two chemicals have been recently shown to synergize their effects, so that in concert they can be more deadly to the bees than when used alone. These and other problems have prompted the development of several alternative means of mite control, including screened bottom boards, mite-tolerant stocks, and thymol-based products such as Apilife VAR® and Apiguard®.

Varroa mites on adult honeybee (
Several years ago, there was an organic acid product called Mite-Away II™, the active ingredient of which was formic acid. Treating a colony with formic acid controls varroa by turning the hive into a “fumigation chamber”, where the formic acid vapors actively kill the mites. It was a ready-to-use product consisting of a fiberboard pad soaked with 250 ml of 65% food-grade formic acid inside a perforated plastic pouch. While formic acid treatment has been shown to be quite effective in the control of varroa mites, the Mite-Away II™ pads have now been removed from the shelves.
In its place, a different product has been recently granted Section 3 registration from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the control of varroa mites in beehives, and thus beekeepers in North Carolina have received regulatory permission to use this new product. Mite-Away Quick Strips™ (MAQS for short) is a formic acid gel strip product that requires only one 7-day application of two strips per treatment placed on the top bars of the hive. This new product has some important pros and cons of which every beekeeper should be aware before using.

1.     Can be used during the honey flow. The previous label stipulated that if treatment is conducted before a honey flow, honey cannot be harvested within two weeks after the end of treatment. The current label does not include this restriction, so that the product can be applied while honey supers are on a colony during the honey flow.
2.     Claims to kill mites inside the brood cells. MAQS™ are reported to achieve “up to 95% mite kill and penetrates the capping to destroy the male mite and immature female mites as well as the phoretic female mites on the adult bees.” There are no scientific peer-reviewed results on their efficacy, however, so the basis of these numbers are the original EPA registration data.

1.     Respirator is required by the label. Care must be taken by the beekeeper while applying formic acid, as it is highly corrosive and poisonous to humans. Importantly, a breathing respirator is required to apply the product. In addition, the label requires coveralls, a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, socks, shoes, protective eyewear or goggles, a veil, and beekeeping or acid-resistant gloves (latex gloves will degrade upon exposure to formic acid and therefore are not adequate). Avoid contact with skin, eyes, and clothing, as formic acid can cause skin burns or even be fatal if inhaled or swallowed.
      Can easily burn brood. Formic acid vapors have been shown to kill larvae, which can be very disruptive to colony productivity. This is particularly true at temperatures above the label maximum of 93°F. Thus sufficient foresight in weather conditions and time of year is recommended to minimize the negative impact on colony brood rearing.
3.     Can overwhelm small units. Small colonies (fewer than 6-10 frames of bees) can be overwhelmed by the fumes and drive the adult population out of the hive.

The current availability of Mite-Away Quick Strips™ pads is somewhat limited, thus there may be some difficulty in locating the product. A list of U.S. suppliers and additional information can be found at or toll-free at 866-483-2929.
“Recommendations for the use of chemicals are included in this publication as a convenience to the reader. The use of brand names and any mention or listing of commercial products or services in this publication does not imply endorsement by North Carolina State University, North Carolina A&T State University or North Carolina Cooperative Extension nor discrimination against similar products or services not mentioned. Individuals who use chemicals are responsible for ensuring that the intended use complies with current regulations and conforms to the product label. Be sure to obtain current information about usage regulations and examine a current product label before applying any chemical. For assistance, contact an agent of North Carolina Cooperative Extension.”

Friday, April 8, 2011

Buyer Beware... Avoiding Invasive Plants

How many times have you bought a new type of plant for your landscape and later discovered that it was considered an aggressive or even an invasive species? Chinese Wisteria, English Ivy, Chinese Privet, Burning Bush, Vinca… all of these carry the invasive label and characteristics, though they can also be easily found at plant nurseries. So what exactly makes a plant invasive?

First, they are exotic plants. These plants were not native to the area they now readily grow in. Ironically, some species such as Kudzu and Multiflora Rose were actually once recommended for erosion control and living fences, respectively. They now are the bane of millions of North Carolina residents. True, there are some native plants that have aggressive tendencies, but they are not considered to have the same threat level as invasive plants.

Exotic invasive plants do not support native wildlife. The mountains of North Carolina are an incredibly rich, diverse ecosystem. When native plants disrupt the natural balance of plants growing in an area, this has subsequent effects on birds, amphibians, mammals… the web of life.

Invasive plants tend to also have extreme growth, whether through the ability to vegetatively spread or by producing massive amounts of seed. Excessive growth of these invasive plants outcompetes native plants, literally “choking” our native plants out of room, light, and soil nutrients and water. Some invasive plants actually release natural compounds from their roots to prevent other plants from germinating and growing.

There are several intriguing arguments regarding invasive plants. It is true that many of our common edible crop plants are not “native”, though most don’t tend to have invasive characteristics. Inevitably, when we build a new home and convert natural areas to neighborhoods, businesses, or roadways, we are disrupting the ecological balances… and invasive plants excel at taking advantage of those disrupted sites. Yes, some invasives can be utilized for food purposes, and some are very ornamental and fragrant. However, the extreme ways in which they alter our native ecosystem are dramatic and largely negative. Consider the loss of our native hemlocks, which are being killed by a tiny invasive insect that was carried over from Asia on a non-native hemlock species.

As a landscaper, gardener, and resident of North Carolina, it is in our collective interest to avoid the intentional spread of invasive plants. The NC Native Plant Society ( provides a comprehensive list of invasive species and their respective threat levels. This list was compiled by research professionals from a variety of state organizations and should be referenced before purchasing or planting any new plant into the landscape.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Heritage Apples Still Available

Heritage apples are special because they are rooted in the history of the area. For many people, apples were an integral part of the farmhouse pantry, a staple grown throughout the summer and then stored in cellars for winter. In the late 1800’s, over 1,000 varieties of apples were grown in the south and over 8,000 across the nation. Growing heritage apples is a great way to preserve and learn about history and local food ways. They have stood the test of time and help ensure agricultural diversity. Many people are interested in making sure they are preserved.

The Watauga County Extension office has
five varieties available through the 4-H Fruit Plant Sale.
Varieties include:
     Summer Banana
     Rusty Coat
    Virginia Beauty
    Yellow Transparent

Click here for more information on heritage apples.

Contact 264-3061 for details

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Volunteers Enhance Habitat for Spring Peepers.....

....and all the other amphibians in the constructed wetland.

The spring peepers are loving the constructed stormwater wetland in Boone this spring. They have certainly made themselves known through their high-pitched peeping sounds that bring smiles to peoples faces. These tiny well-camouflaged amphibians are rarely seen, but by mid March their crescendo of sound is a sign that spring is here. In the High Country, we have the commonly found Northern Spring Peeper subspecies, Pseudacris crucifer. You can find (most likely hear) Peepers in wetlands, marshes, ponds and even along roadside wet ditches, so long as there are ephemeral water sources that support their eggs and tad poles throughout the spring months.

These tiny frogs, the size of a paper clip, are mainly nocturnal carnivores, perching on lower portions of reeds, grasses and bushes waiting to eat beetles, ants, flies and spiders. Spring Peepers are tan or brown in color with a dark cross that roughly forms an X on their backs (thus the Latin name crucifer, meaning cross-bearer).

Only males make the high pitched singing noises to attract their mates. When the females lay eggs, they don’t mess around, they will lay about 1,000 eggs, which attach to twigs and leaf litter at the waters bottom. Last spring, when the wetland was just finished with construction, one could watch “herds” of tadpoles work their way across the wetland bottom consuming all the algae along the way. It was amazing how much they ate!

You might be wondering what’s going to happen to the Spring Peepers when we get a late spring freeze. Don’t worry about the peepers, they can allow most of their bodies to freeze during winter hibernation and still survive. Their bodies will freeze but their cells don't rupture from freezing. They have a natural sugar (glucose) that serves as a kind of biological antifreeze.

Volunteers are adding seed mixes that were harvested last fall to the bare areas of the wetland to create more habitat for all the “critters” that use the wetland. If you are interested in learning more about the constructed stormwater wetland, email