July 10, 2012

Friend or Foe? – The Armadillo Story

Lara Miller, Natural Resource Agent
Michael Barr, Brooker Creek Preserve Intern

Although it is commonly seen foraging in forests, woodlands and backyards, the Nine-banded Armadillo is not a native species to Florida. During the past century, armadillos have migrated from Texas to the Florida panhandle. Just as there are two sides to every story, the armadillo can be perceived as your friend or foe.

Have you noticed that your flower-beds were upturned overnight? Armadillos have poor eyesight and hearing, but a keen sense of smell that they use to find food.  Armadillos feed primarily on insects and their larvae, but will also eat earthworms, scorpions, spiders, snails, and small vertebrates and their eggs. Their ability to eat large amounts of insects harmful to humans such as ants, wasps, flies, and cockroaches can make armadillos beneficial to humans. Unfortunately, their eating habits have been known to cause damage to a wide range of locations including lawns, flower beds, and vegetable gardens.

What happened to my yard? The armadillo searches for food by digging and rooting around in the ground litter and upper soil. They prefer to dig in moist soil and will seek out well kept lawns and gardens, exactly the places where they are least wanted. Armadillos can dig dozens of shallow holes during the night, leading to ruined lawns and upturned flowerbeds. Their deep burrows can also cause damage to foundations, driveways, and other structures.

What can you do about pesky armadillos? There are not many known and effective solutions for armadillos. Most of the methods used to deal with other nuisance wildlife are not effective against armadillos. Trap rates are extremely low and there are no successful repellents, toxicants, or fumigants against armadillos. Development of effective and efficient armadillo control methods is still underway.
While destruction of property can be a problem, the armadillo does not pose a serious threat to the health of humans. They have relatively few parasites compared to other common animals and there have been no armadillos diagnosed with rabies in Florida. Although they are the only other species besides humans capable of hosting the bacteria that causes leprosy, no infected armadillos have been found in Florida and their ability to transmit the disease is not well understood.

Florida is home to diverse habitats and an abundance of wildlife. Living in close proximity with wildlife will sometimes lead to unpleasant situations. Understanding the behavior of armadillos and other nuisance animals is important in designing effective management solutions.

Find out more about critters in your backyard at Unveiling our Urban Wildlife, an educational program offered at Brooker Creek Preserve on July 28th. Free registration is available here. For more information on natural resources in Pinellas County, follow your local extension agent on Twitter.


July 9, 2012

Celebrating 150 Years: Tough Times Demand Courage and Vision

Jack Payne, UF Senior Vice President
for Agriculture and Natural Resources

On July 2, 1862, the Civil War had been raging for more than a year. What is now known as the National Mall was a muddy, makeshift campground for Union troops and a holding area for cattle. The Washington Monument wasn’t finished yet, so it became known as the "Washington Beef Depot.” Confederate troops were close to the Capitol. Times were tough.

One hundred fifty years later, I stood at a podium on the National Mall, speaking at the opening ceremony of the
Sesquicentennial of the Morrill Act. It was difficult to imagine the gloomy scene so many years earlier against the colorful backdrop of people glued to smartphones, tented displays, food vendors and the Washington Monument. It struck me that during one of America’s darkest times, the 37th Congress and President Abraham Lincoln continued working on legislation that would revolutionize American education. In fact, the logs show that July 2, 1862, was a busy day for President Lincoln: he had to inform General George B. McClellan that he wasn’t able to send him more troops; he ruled that former slaves couldn’t be allowed to starve; and he signed the Morrill Act.
Upon signing the Morrill Act, President Lincoln stated, “The land-grant university system is being built on behalf of the people, who have invested in these public universities their hopes, their support, and their confidence.” Lincoln and the act’s author, Justin Smith Morrill, both undereducated, even by the standards of their day, understood that education was the key to America’s economic development. And even though there were monumental and immediate threats to the nation, they had the courage to act upon their vision for the country’s future.
As it turned out, their vision for equal opportunity and educating the masses has been the driving force in our prosperity for the last 150 years. Let’s hope our current leaders will have the courage to continue that legacy. As Frederick Douglass advised back in Morrill’s day: “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

Learn more about UF's land-grant anniversary events: 
UF to celebrate land-grant university system’s 150th anniversary with outreach, events

The University of Florida is proud to be a land grant university that supports the local County Extension offices.

July 5, 2012

Celebrating 150 Years: The University of Florida

Today’s land grant fact: 
The University of Florida. A Grand Example of the Land-Grant University
1895 “Picnic on the Suwannee” 
Students from the Florida Agricultural College in Lake City 
relax at a picnic at Florida’s iconic Suwannee River.

The Morrill Act in 1862 was designed to donate federal land (30,000 acres) to each state and territory as an endowment to support the “land grant universities”. The intent of the bill was to provide a broad segment of the population with a practical education that had direct relevance to their daily lives. Florida Agricultural College became the first land grant college in the state, and the small college emphasized the scientific training of agricultural and mechanical specialists. In 1903, the Florida Legislature changed the name of Florida Agricultural College to the "University of Florida", in recognition of the legislature's desire to expand the curriculum beyond the college's original agricultural and engineering educational missions.

The University of Florida is proud to be a land grant university that supports the local County Extension offices.

July 3, 2012

How to Avoid Post Storm Repair Rip Offs

Nan Jensen,
Extension Agent,
Family and Consumer Sciences

If Debby left you with a list of repairs to take care of, Pinellas County Justice and Consumer Services has some helpful tips to help you avoid becoming a victim of a home improvement scams.

  • Watch out for “fly-by-night” contractors who take deposits and do little or no work. Avoid dealing with anyone soliciting work door-to-door. Take the opportunity to check them out first. 
  • Be wary of contractors who ask for advance payment in full. Pay upon completion or as the work progresses. 
  • Beware of any contractor who claims that extensive or structural repairs do not require a permit. The contractor should pull the required building permits, not the homeowner.

Keep the following tips in mind to ensure that your repairs are completed satisfactory: 

  • Deal only with licensed and insured contractors. Verify that the license is current and active by contacting the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board at (727) 582-3100 or
  • Be sure that you have a written contract that details the work to be completed. Also, retain proof of payment for the work in case you need it later. 
  • Require the contractor to supply a final affidavit indicating that all subcontractors and suppliers used on the job are paid in full. 
  • Ensure that the contractor has had the work inspected by the building department before you make final payment. 

To check the complaint history of a business or if you need assistance with a consumer problem, contact Justice & Consumer Services at (727) 464-6200 or visit

For more information check out the University of Florida publication on Avoiding Frauds and Deceptions at

July 2, 2012

Celebrating 150 Years: Sweet Corn

Female part of corn is silk and husk
Today’s land grant fact: 
UF/IFAS researchers developed some of the first commercially released sweet corn varieties with higher sugar content. In the 1980s, these so-called supersweet varieties were an industry game-changer.

Learn more about growing sweet corn here: 
Sweet Corn - Gardening in a Minute 

One hundred and fifty years ago, President Abraham Lincoln signed into law the Morrill Act, which created the land‐grant university system, made higher education more accessible to more people, and promoted agricultural science and the mechanical arts. The University of Florida is proud to be a land grant university that supports the local County Extension offices.