Monday, August 25, 2014

All Toads Are Frogs, But Not All Frogs Are Toads


How to control toads and frogs in the garden?

Having found no control manual for toads and frogs, the common sense approach is to change the habitat to make it unfriendly for them. This will include eliminating water sources for their reproduction and moist areas for them to hide – almost an impossibility in areas of heavy rain! But eliminating piles of yard rubbish and trimming back thick ground cover will help. Various types of barrier-fences can be erected either around the property or just around certain desired areas. Since toads and frogs eat insects, controlling the bugs would also be a way of discouraging their presence, again not practical for backyards in Hawaii. But eliminating any outdoor lighting, which attracts many insects, should help. 


For clarity, all toads are members of the family Bufonidae, which falls under the order of Anura, commonly called frogs. Therefore, all toads are frogs but not all frogs are toads.

Toads tend to have a thicker skin allowing them to live away from water longer than most frogs. A toad’s skin is often covered with bumps and glands. The similarities are that frogs and toads both reproduce and develop in water, both ‘sing’ and are both carnivorous.

Of note, when the bufo toad is attacked, its defense is to exude a milky fluid known as ‘bufotoxin’. This poison protects it from some predators but not all. Most snakes and birds seem to be unaffected. Humans need to be careful since the toxin may cause skin irritation and possibly worse, but there are no reports of human fatalities. Unfortunately the toxin can be fatal to small animals such as cats and dogs.  Thus ridding the yard of bufo toads is a protection for your pet.

Pictures from Forest and Kim Starr: Bufo marinus, The Cane Toad

Monday, August 11, 2014

ALBIZIA – Beautiful Tree Or A True Menace?






 Hawaii was recently hit by tropical storm Iselle. Many streets in some locales, especially an area called Puna, were strewn with uprooted trees and fallen branches. The following article is about those trees - ALBIZIA. These albizia trees that quickly spring up in vacant lots or recently cleared land have become one of the worst invasive species on the Big Island of Hawaii. It has been called  “the tree that ate Puna”.


This albizia tree, Falcataria moluccana, is also named Albizia falcate, A.moluccana and others), and is a native to such places as Papua New Guinea, the Bismark Archipelago, and the Solomon Islands. The wood is used for light weight construction, cabinets, furniture, toys, and match sticks.
It is a fast growing tree to over 100 ft. tall. The tree can reach heights of more than 20 feet in the first year and to 60 feet by the end of ten years. It is described as a deciduous tree with wide-spreading branches, capable of shading over half an acre.  The tree produces large seed pods 4-5 inches long and about ¾ inch wide. It grows from sea level to about 3,200 feet elevation.  It is a nitrogen fixer, meaning that with the help of some bacteria residing in its roots, it can pull nitrogen out of the air and convert it to a form that roots can absorb. Because of this ability, it is used in many countries to improve soils as well as provide shade in coffee plantations.
This may make it sound like a pretty decent tree. But Dr. J.B. Friday, Extension Forester with the University of Hawaii, states “In Hawaii this tree is invasive in native`ohi`a forests as well as on land disturbed by human activities (especially bulldozing). It causes the`ohi`a  to die off and makes it easier for other invasive species like strawberry guava, clidemia and possibly miconia to grow under it and further degrade the forest. It also improves habitat for the tiny invasive coqui frog. These trees are a distinct threat to our native wet lowland forest ecosystems such as there are in Puna.”
Because of their brittle wood and weak structure, albizias are an even more serious problem to homeowners. Strong winds can cause large limbs to drop onto whatever may be underneath them, damaging homes, other structures and power lines. The fragile branches often cause traffic hazards by dropping branches on the highway.
A major problem, especially in Puna, is that people sometimes hire a bulldozer to clear their land. They clear the native ohia/uluhe forest, which is somewhat resistant to albizia invasion. If they are absentee landowners, they may not return for a few years and when they do return, an albizia forest has sprung up. Albizia is much bigger and faster growing than ohi`a, so the native trees cannot compete. To complicate matters, there is now a source of seedpods for the albizia to invade the neighbors' land. Dr. Friday advises not to clear the native forest on a lot unless you have another use planned for it. Otherwise albizia will come in and take over and you'll have a huge problem.

What to do: Leave the natural vegetation untouched—don’t bulldoze—until you are ready to utilize the land. Eliminate albizia seedlings and small trees before they become a problem.
Methods of control:  
After trees are cut down, immediately apply herbicide to cut stumps. Triclopyr amine is effective at concentrations of 7-10%.  For larger trees near buildings it may be advisable to first contact an arborist to determine the safest and most effective course of action to take in removing the tree.
The US Forestry Service in Hilo has an excellent publication entitled “Albizia – The Tree That Ate Puna” authored by C. Sumida, F. Hughes and Kathleen Friday.   For a copy write to USDA Forest Service, Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry at 60 Nowelo St, Hilo, HI 96720; or call at (808) 933-8121       

Monday, August 4, 2014

Tiny Flies in the Kitchen




Is the kitchen invaded with tiny flies hovering over a fruit bowl? Are you thinking that fruitflies have come in from the orchard? In all probability these are not fruit flies, but rather, what are commonly known as vinegar flies or drosopila, in the insect family, Drosophilidae.

 Unlike the fruitflies which cause major damage to fruit and vegetables, the vinegar flies are found in association with overripe fruits and vegetables. They do not cause the fruit to rot but are actually attracted to rotting and fermenting food. The larvae feed principally on the yeast in the fermenting fluids. Drosophila flies have been widely used by geneticists around the world in studying the laws of heredity. This is because they are prolific, have a short life cycle and are easy to rear.

Vinegar flies do not bite humans but are strictly a nuisance pest. For control, it is best to concentrate on eliminating the larval feeding sites and the breeding areas. Sanitation is critical. By eliminating overripe fruit sitting on the counter and exposed kitchen garbage, these pests can be controlled. All exposed fruits and vegetables should be refrigerated. Pyrethrin insecticides, organic and non-organic types, are effective in killing vinegar flies, but only when contact is made. 

A Nontoxic Way of Managing Vinegar Flies
From Ohio State University comes this simple trap. Take a Mason or similar jar and cover or paint the outside top third of the jar. Coat the inside of the jar with a sticky liquid such as diluted honey or vegetable oil. Invert the jar over bait such as crushed bananas. Rest the jar upside down on two blocks of wood to allow flies space enough to feed on the bait. After the flies leave the bait, they will fly upward to the light portion of the jar and get stuck on the sides when they rest.