Archived Newsletter Articles

Burn Awareness Week is February 5 – 11

February 2017

Burn Awareness

By Gayle Whitworth UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Family and Consumer Sciences Agent

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), burn-related injuries are a common home safety hazard; sending over 300 children to the emergency room daily, and leading to 730 deaths annually. Young children are at an especially high risk for burns. Because they have thinner skin than older children and adults, they can sustain damage at lower temperatures and can be more severely burned. Safe Kids Worldwide notes children with disabilities are also at high risk of burn-related deaths and injuries, especially from scalding and contact burns.

Scald burn injuries, caused by hot liquids or steam, are the most common type of burn-related injuries among young children. To avoid these injuries, set water heaters at or below 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and always check temperature at the tap or before placing a child in water. Temperatures above 120 degrees can burn a young child’s skin in less than three seconds – enough to require surgery. To avoid scaled-burn injuries in the kitchen, keep food and hot liquids away from the edges of counters and stoves and out of the reach of children. Never leave food unattended while cooking, and keep handles of pots and pans turned to the inside of the stove. When children are involved in cooking activities, provide supervision, or restrict the use of stoves, oven, and microwaves.

Flame burns, caused by direct contact with fire, are more prevalent among older children. Keep flammable materials at least three feet from heating appliances and supervise when in they are in use. When using a fireplace, make sure it is protected by a study screen, and place a safety gate around it if small children are around. Keep matches, lighters, and other fire ignition sources up and out of the reach of children, and teach children that it is never okay to play with matches and lighters.

Children are also at risk for contact, electrical, and chemical burns. To prevent these types of burns, teach children never to touch stoves and ovens; and keep irons and their cords up and out of the reach of children. Check for frayed electrical wires; cover any unused electrical outlets; and make sure ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) are installed in all locations where water is present. Keep all chemicals both inside and outside of the home in locked cabinets or out of the reach of children; if using chemicals while near children, never leave them unattended.

If your child or any member of your family sustains a burn, following the guidelines for first aid offered by the American Burn Association.

Beneficial Insects

February 2017

Ladybug Larva

By Sally Scalera, UF/IFAS Extension Urban Horticulture Agent

Have you ever found ladybugs in your garden? Ladybugs, along with a number of other beneficial insects, can provide you with free pest control.

Beneficial insects can be divided into two groups. Predatory insects consume pests, and parasitic insects that lay eggs in or on the pest. When the eggs hatch, the larvae consume the host! Generally, it is the larvae (not the adults) that eat the majority of pests. Some of the most common predatory beneficial insects are ladybugs, green lacewings, predatory stinkbug, and predatory mites. Parasitic wasps are the most commonly found parasitic insects. Don’t worry about the word wasp, because they are so small you will probably never even see them.

Predatory beneficial insects are easy to spot, so be on the lookout for them in their various forms! The larvae of the ladybugs can be quite different in appearance. Most likely, there will be a few adult ladybugs on the plant which can help in the identification of their larvae. The easiest way to recognize that green lacewings is by their eggs. Each egg is laid on the end of slender stalks which are typically laid in a cluster on the underside of a leaf. This formation prevents newly hatched lacewings from eating one another!! When it comes to stinkbugs, the first thought may be of those that damaging plants. There are actually beneficial, predatory stinkbugs, and you can recognize them by the spines on their “shoulders”. Predatory mites are the hardest to notice because they are so small. Although they are larger than the spider mites upon which they feed, and are bright orange, you really have to be looking closely to see them “running” around!

Parasitic wasps are very tiny, and you are more likely to notice the insects they have killed. Mummified aphids or whitefly nymphs that have been killed are signs of their activity. Another obvious sign is a white cottony mass on the underside of a papaya leaf; over the midrib, where a hornworm has been killed by braconid wasps.

Many people buy beneficial insects and release them in their yard. An easier and more inexpensive way to achieve the same results is to create a habitat by planting flowers that provide food in the form of pollen and nectar for the adults. Add some of the following plants throughout your landscape to support the beneficial insects all year long. Because many of the beneficial insects are small, tiny flowers like those found on herbs, provide the best pollen and nectar for beneficial insects, and are easiest for them to feed from.

Mitigating Mosquitos

February 2017


By Joe Walter, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Agriculture Agent

Brevard Mosquito Control does a great job keeping mosquitoes in check, but mosquitoes in containers pose a special challenge that can be addressed by everyone.


Mosquitoes are opportunistic, and will find a wide variety of places in which to breed around the home. Any water-holding location can become a breeding site for mosquitoes. A half-cup of water can offer a breeding area large enough for mosquitoes to cause a problem. Mosquito problems can be eliminated simply and without using pesticides, by eliminating breeding locations around the home and yard. Here are some common breeding locations for container mosquitoes and suggested solutions:

Location Solution
Potted plants with pans Don't overwater; remove pan if possible
Drainage ditches Remove vegetation and obstructions to water flow
Low spots that hold water Fill and regrade
Plugged roof gutters Keep gutters clean
Pet dishes Change water frequently
Trash piles Remove or cover
Old tires Remove or cover
Water holding containers Remove or cover
Poorly maintained pools Follow recommended maintenance
Bromeliads Flush to remove larvae
Debris on roofs Remove debris
Ponds Keep clean, and stock with minnows
Boats Cover or turn upside down
Bird baths Flush at least once per week

Although these precautions will not rid us of all mosquitoes, it will significantly reduce the those that transmit diseases. The effects of diseases such as Chikungunya, Dengue, Dog Heartworms, Zika, Yellow Fever, Chikungunya, and Dengue Fever can be as slight as flu-like symptoms or as serious as death. In particular, the Zika virus has been associated with Microcephalus and other neurological diseases in newborns when the mother has been exposed during pregnancy.

If everyone will do their part keeping these water holding containers free of standing water, the transmission of these serious diseases can be greatly reduced.

New Mosquito Species in Florida

February 2017


By Joe Walter, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Agriculture Agent

Two mosquito species never identified before in Florida have been found in South Florida by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences entomologist Nathan Burkett-Cadena and Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory researcher Erik Blosser in late 2016. Both of these mosquito species, Aedeomyia squamipennis and Culex panocossa, are known to transmit disease causing pathogens that affect humans and animals. While collecting a native mosquito, Culex cedecei in Florida City and Homestead, Burkett-Cadena and Blosser discovered the new species. The quantity of each species that were trapped indicate that they have established a breeding population in the state.

Culex panocossa is known to transmit some encephalitis viruses such as Venezuelan equine encephalitis, a family of viruses that includes the Everglades virus, which is currently found in South Florida. Due to the relative isolation of its wetland habitat, the Everglades virus is seldom transmitted by Culex cedecei. However, Culex panocossa is thought to live closer to human habitation, and as it breeds in aquatic vegetation, particularly water lettuce, that can be found in waterways throughout Florida, there is a likelihood the species will spread north throughout our state.

Aedeomyia squamipennis transmits bird malarias, and since these viruses already are present in Florida, an additional carrier of these viruses could be devastating to our bird population.

Only time will tell if these two introduced disease carrying mosquitoes will become a significant concern. Choice of host, habitat, cooler temperatures, and competition from other species may mitigate their ability to spread disease in Florida.

Good Bug…Bad Bug…Managing Insects in Your Lawn

February 2017

Chinch Bugs

By Glen Bupp, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Commercial Horticulture Agent

For many, the only good lawn insect is a dead lawn insect, and the sight of any bug incites a holocaust-like pesticide spraying spree. The more deadly the poison the better right? Simply kill em’ all. While these actions may satisfy our baser instincts, they are also WRONG! Not only is this kind of spraying bad for the environment, our families, and us, it’s also an overly simplistic response. There is another way that is not only more economical and environmentally friendly, but is also smarter. I like to think humanity’s separation from the insect world (and perhaps its superiority) comes in the form of intelligence, not our ability to kill. After all, insects are pretty good at killing each other already and we are smart enough to recognize that fact, and to use it.

This strategy is called integrated pest management (IPM). It is the combined use of cultural, biological, and chemical methods (when necessary) for effective pest control with little impact on non-target organisms and the environment. The first element of IPM is cultural; applying good plant growing techniques to limit pest growth. The second element is biological, and it is directly connected to cultural practices. Knowledge of plant types, soil types, and pest types inform cultural practices. Chemicals are rarely needed when biologically informed cultural practices are applied, because they promote beneficial (GOOD) insects that kill destructive (BAD) insects for us.

To practice IPM and to make biologically informed cultural decisions about insects, we can start by determining which insects damage the lawn, which insects are good for the lawn, and some cultural reasons destructive insects might have taken hold in the first place. The over-use of pesticides is actually one of the reasons destructive insects are attracted to certain landscapes. Insects can develop resistance to chemicals; when beneficial insects are killed by pesticides as well, they are not around to stop the next invasion of those resistant insects. So, which are the destructive insects? Which are the beneficial insects?

Bad Bugs Good Bugs
Southern Chinch Bugs Minute Pirate Bug and Big-eyed Bug
Hunting Bill Bug
Mole Cricket Earwig
Tropical Sod Web Worm Pasimachus sublaevis
Army Worms and Striped Grass Looper Assassin Bug
Tachinid Fly
  Paper Wasp
  Yellow Jackets

UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County, Local Food Systems, and the Family Farmer

January 2017

Fast Access Bucks

By Mel Morgan-Stowell UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Community Development Agent

Paul was reared on a family farm in Pennsylvania, and although his career path led him away from agriculture, retirement brought about a desire to return. He started with a small operation…only an acre…and began to sell his produce at the Brevard County Farmers’ Market. Over the course of three years, demand for his produce rose exponentially with the advent of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) sales, the Fresh Access Bucks (FAB) program, and the University of Delaware Randomized Control Trial…which infused cash into the Farmers’ Market through incentive matches for purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables.

Paul shared some of his early concerns with the programs, “I’ve got to tell you. I never thought all of this would work. I’m surprised every week with the number of tokens (used for SNAP and FAB purchases) we take in. It’s made a big difference to us. I wish more of our markets would join up.” The monetary difference has been significant enough to encourage Paul to expand his operation, and to rent several acres in order to increase his production. Along the way, he has asked his son to join as a junior partner, adding another generation to agriculture when so many have chosen to leave the field. Paul and his son plan to continue the expansion of an increasingly more viable family farm, which has recently included agritourism elements with a sunflower maze, Halloween activities, and farm tours.

This is where our message to small producers and the community really resounds. The narrative concerning the SNAP program’s focus on bolstering local food systems, and its value to both producers and the local economy is making its way into discussions through so many different sectors of our county. The value of the program is becoming known as a holistic support to our community. We are changing perceptions as to the costs and benefits of purchasing local foods through educational programs, and creating a winning proposition for farmers, patrons, and our local economy.

Florida households spent an estimated $1.8 billion at farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and U-pick farms in 2011 (Hodges, A. W., Stevens, T. J., & Wysocki, A. F.2014. Local and Regional Food Systems in Florida: Values and Economic Impacts). For every dollar those 10 patrons spend in the local economy, $1.26 in economic stimulus will be returned to the community according to the study cited above.

What of Paul’s wish for more markets to join the program? That’s becoming a reality as well. After working with our partners to encourage participation in available grant funding for SNAP, FAB, and equipment (through the Farmers Market Coalition), two new markets have joined this year…the Sumter County Farmers’ market and the Audubon Farmers’ market…with more to come!

UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Increases Cattle Profitability

January 2017


By Joe Walter, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Agriculture Agent

Tom is the cattle manager for a large ranch in Brevard County. The company for whom he works faces pressure from urbanization, and costs associated with feed, barbed wire, equipment, fuel, and veterinary supplies continue to increase, outpacing the increase in value of livestock.

Pressure to increase efficiency had become a reality. Tom knew he could no longer raise cattle the way his grandpa did. Genetic improvement, feed efficiency, and reproductive efficiency seemed to be the areas that could increase the net return per acre of land. In order to make the operation cost effective, each cow in the herd needed to breed; produce a live calf; and wean a heavy live calf that would not be discounted for color, size, or conformation. The profitability and ultimately the sustainability of the ranch was negatively affected by feeding cattle that did not meet these goals.

UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County provided Tom with the assistance he needed through our Beef Cattle Reproduction Management with artificial insemination program. This program addressed the many aspects of cattle management that have a direct impact on the health, wellbeing, reproduction rate, and genetics of the beef herd. New technologies were introduced for pregnancy diagnosis that is more accurate early in gestation. Tom decided to try one of these newer technologies, a blood test to determine pregnancy. He tested a herd of 1,184 cows using the old method of palpation first. He then tested the 184 “non-pregnant” cows using the blood test. The results were eye opening, 60 of the animals that had been palpated and thought not to be pregnant actually were.

UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County provided Tom with the assistance he needed through our Beef Cattle Reproduction Management with artificial insemination program. This program addressed the many aspects of cattle management that have a direct impact on the health, wellbeing, reproduction rate, and genetics of the beef herd. New technologies were introduced for pregnancy diagnosis that is more accurate early in gestation. Tom decided to try one of these newer technologies, a blood test to determine pregnancy. He tested a herd of 1,184 cows using the old method of palpation first. He then tested the 184 “non-pregnant” cows using the blood test. The results were eye opening, 60 of the animals that had been palpated and thought not to be pregnant actually were.

Microbeads, Nurdles, and our Environment

January 2017


By Holly Abeels Florida Sea Grant Agent

Did you know that the type of toothpaste we use impacts our environment? Dean, a member of the Sebastian Inlet Surfrider Chapter, and leader of the Surfrider Foundation Gemini Elementary Club does. His club consists of youth in grades K-6th grade and their parents, of whom 22 youth and adults attended a club meeting to learn about microplastics. What are they? Microplastics include plastic particles that are less than 5mm or 1/5 of an inch in size. They include pieces from the degradation of larger plastic items; pre-production resin pellets used to manufacture plastic items called nurdles; and microbeads that are added to personal care products for color, shine, or as fillers.

Why should we care? There are rising concerns about microplastics because they can both collect and concentrate toxins that are harmful to marine life that consume them. Many published studies have shown that plastics occur in the gut contents of marine species in the wild, from small animals like plankton, oysters, and corals to larger animals such as fish, sea turtles, and birds. Studies published in 2013 and 2014 showed it is possible for microplastics to be passed from predator to prey (in a lab setting). Other studies have shown chemicals that are absorbed into the surface of plastics could leach into tissues of marine worms, fish, or mussels that consume the plastics. What can we do about it? Talking with youth at a young age about microplastics helps them to understand they can have an impact on making decisions to help their environment…especially when they talk with their parents about the kinds of toothpaste they use every night to brush their teeth.

The Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the oceans and beaches. They are a voice for causes focused on our coasts. They are also a perfect fit with the Florida Microplastics Awareness Project (FMAP). FMAP is a citizen science project funded by an outreach and education grant from NOAA’s Marine Debris Program. Volunteer citizens collect coastal water samples, filter the water, and look for microplastics. Through the Surfrider Foundation’s Rise Above Plastics campaign, the Foundation is spearheading microplastics awareness.

Local Florida Surfrider chapters such as Dean’s have started to become involved in FMAP regional programs across the state. In Brevard County, both the Sebastian Inlet Surfrider Chapter and the Cocoa Beach Surfrider Chapter have attended a microplastics workshop to learn more about the issue.

Bill, a member of the Sebastian Inlet Surfrider Chapter, and a leader of the Westshore Junior/Senior High School environmental club, asked the local FMAP regional coordinator to come speak to his club about microplastics. The eight youth in that club, and their science teacher, learned about microplastics, where they come from, and how they can be involved in the project. They pledged to collect water from the Indian River Lagoon and bring it to a regional coordinator who would show them the filtering process, and how to look for plastics under a microscope.

Sallie and Sandy, members of the Cocoa Beach Surfrider Chapter, invited the FMAP regional coordinator to come speak to chapter members at one of their monthly meetings. There were 20 chapter members present who learned about microplastics and their sources. This group is very involved in the Rise Above Plastics campaign, and are ready to help remove and reduce plastics in the environment. Their plan is to both eliminate buying products with microplastics and to help clean coastal waters and beaches of plastics that will eventually degrade into smaller pieces of plastic.

Over 160 people in Brevard, including adults and youth of all ages, have learned about microplastics; how they can avoid buying products with microplastics in them; and how they can be involved in FMAP. In Brevard, other groups in addition to the Surfrider Foundation have learned about microplastics. They include concerned citizens, the Brevard Zoo Education Department, the Brevard Zoo Conservation Teens, and Satellite Beach High School students. Brevard County is just one of many regions in Florida involved in this project.

UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County, Kids, and Yum! Combine for Healthier Lifestyles!

January 2017


By Elizabeth Shephard, UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Family and Consumer Sciences Agent

Kylie, a kindergarten student participating in the Yum! curriculum, became very excited about the food groups and nutrients she learned about in class. According to her mother, after just one lesson, she came home with a new interest in healthy foods, and started sharing the information she learned in class with her family. The whole family became enthusiastic about making changes to their eating habits. Kylie was so excited about making her body healthy and strong, she wanted to share what she had learned through a writing contest. She wrote about different nutrients and how they have big impacts on the body. Her book did very well, and she impressed readers with her knowledge. As a result, Kylie won a Fresh award for her efforts, and through her writing, she was able to share how exciting nutrition can be.

UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County is dedicated to providing the means to encourage healthier lifestyles in our community. The Family Nutrition Program teaches classes once a month in various schools throughout the county as part of the Yum! curriculum developed at the University of Florida for grades K-5. The program offers different aspects students enjoy, including taste testing, reinforcement games, and various activities designed to reach students in a number of ways.

Program Assistants reach out to different schools within Brevard County once a month to provide nutrition education. This year the Family Nutrition Program reached 12,000 Kindergarten through 6th grade students with the Yum! curriculum. Each student was taught a minimum of six lessons covering:

  • MyPlate
  • USDA’s food guide
  • Dietary Guidelines
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Being active

In order to measure efficacy, students in 3rd through 6th grade were given a pre- and post-behavior survey. Through these surveys, students showed significant increases in consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole grains; water intake; and physical activity. Students also showed a decrease in consumption of sugary beverages and electronic screen-time. Why is this important? Numerous studies show positive changes to eating behaviors and physical activity have been correlated with a longer and healthier life.

UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County and Financial Fitness

January 2017

Financial Fitness

By Gayle Whitworth UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County Family and Consumer Sciences Agent

Susan, a Brevard Workforce participant, was looking for a way to support herself. She joined one of the UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County programs focusing on buying and selling on eBay as a way to increase income for those who are unemployed. She shared, “I have learned how to sell my items on eBay and set up my PayPal account. The class that I attended was so helpful for me, and I have discovered I can now sell the jewelry I make, online. Thank you!” As a result of our program, this new business woman is now able to bring in income due to the skills she learned in class.

UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County collaborates with the local workforce development office and housing authority to provide programs on financial management, with a focus on budgeting, credit management, and buying and selling on eBay.

In 2016, 115 consumers participated in budgeting; credit management; and buying and selling on EBay classes:

  • Of 18 participants surveyed in budgeting classes, 100% indicated they had learned ways to reduce their expenses, and had also learned new ways to save money. All of them also intended to adopt a tip to save money.
  • 94% indicated they had learned how to use a spending plan, and intend to use such a plan to make better use of their income.
  • 78% intended to either open a new or add to an existing savings account for emergencies, or to reach financial goals.
  • Of the participants surveyed in credit management classes:
    • 100% learned both how to build and/or rebuild credit, and ways to reduce their debt.
    • 100% also intended to evaluate their need of credit before obtaining/using it.
  • Of 80 participants surveyed in buying and selling on eBay classes:
    • 95% learned how to list an item to sell on eBay, and 66% intended to sell items on EBay.

Quality financial literacy programs help individuals practice good financial behaviors, which, over time, can result in positive changes in their financial lives. Tracking income and expenses (budgeting); saving; and practicing other sound financial behaviors can lead to improved financial outcomes. Changes made as a result of financial education can include an increase in assets; a decrease in liabilities; an increase in net worth; reduced financial distress; and improved financial and overall wellbeing. When applied, these changes allow individuals to become better able to succeed financially; to reach their financial goals; and to have a more secure future.

UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County 4-H Develops Youth’s Business Skills

January 2017

4-H Youth

By Andrea Lazzari UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County 4-H Agent

“I can’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t involved in 4-H,” wrote Mary Beth in a thank you letter to the UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County 4-H Program. Why was she grateful? An annual 4-H Youth scholarship was presented in her name as a testament to her dedication to our program.

Mary Beth grew up as a 4-H member in the San Luis Valley in south-central Colorado. During her nine years as a 4-H’er in Colorado, Mary Beth participated in a wide variety of 4-H projects. While she focused primarily on sewing and angora goats, she also completed projects in cooking, sheep, plants, photography, career development, and junior leadership. While she learned about the sewing-sheep-and-more, she was also gaining valuable life skills such as planning and scheduling; financial accounting; organization; public speaking; analytical thinking; and decision making.

Today, Mary Beth resides in Brevard County, where she works in the defense industry. She finds many parallels between the demands of her job and her 4-H experience. “Giving a 4-H demonstration has many similarities to quarterly review meetings with the customer,” she says. “When you begin giving demonstrations when you’re ten years old and compete in contests annually, you develop a broad range of experiences, and are seasoned and tough by your mid-teens. You need to be able to think on your feet, look your audience in the eye, and project your voice to the back of the room.” These experiences have come in handy on a day to day basis in Mary Beth’s career.

In fact, Mary Beth believes so strongly in 4-H that she had her daughter participate throughout her childhood. Now, Mary Beth’s daughter works in corporate accounting, and extols the many virtues of 4-H, and how it positively impacted her life. For example, 4-H demonstrations gave her the foundation she needed to excel in conducting accounting training sessions for other departments in the company. She is able to effectively organize information; make pertinent visual aids; and explain content clearly.

Even though her daughter is grown, Mary Beth still has strong ties to 4-H. Each year, she volunteers as a judge for County Events, District Events, and more. She’s always happy to provide assistance to the UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County 4-H Program in any way she can. In fact, her dedication to the program is why an annual scholarship for 4-H youth was created in her name. This scholarship helps provide youth the opportunity to attend college. When asked why she enjoys contributing so much of her time to 4-H, she simply says, “I just truly enjoy giving back to the 4-H program, because it gave so much to me.”

Employers nationwide have shared that new workforce entrants are ill-prepared for today’s and tomorrow’s workplace (Casner-Lotto & Benner, 2006). One of the skills employers cited as most needed by new entrants in the job market is communication skills. Brevard County 4-H youth development program provides various educational opportunities, like public speaking competitions, mock legislatures, and club presentations to help youth develop effective communication skills.

The development of work-force preparation skills has been cited by researchers as a major outcome of positive youth development (Lippman, L., et al. 2008). Each year, almost 1,500 youth in UF/IFAS Extension Brevard County 4-H participate in hundreds of educational opportunities to improve the communication, decision-making, responsibility, and leadership skills that prepare them to be successful members of the workforce and productive members of society.