County Extension Agent, 4-H & Youth Development

There are always ants at a picnic. While you can see ants and avoid them, it's not always possible to see, taste or smell dangerous bacteria that may cause illness if food is mishandled. Before having a picnic, be sure you pack safety in your basket: prepare and store food safely, then pack it safely for traveling.

With great weather and holidays, picnics are in season. However, it's also the season when more people become ill from foodborne bacteria. Why? Bacteria grow and multiply rapidly in the danger zone between 40 degrees F and 140 degrees F (out of the refrigerator or before food begins to cook). So, food transported without an ice source or left out in the sun at a picnic won't stay safe for long. Family and friends who eat mishandled food may get what's known as the "Summer Bug," the flu-like symptoms caused by foodborne illness.

Follow these tips for packing a safe picnic basket:

* Try to plan just the right amount of foods to take. That way, you won't have to worry about the storage or safety of leftovers.

* Clean preparation is essential. Wash hands and work areas; be sure all utensils are clean before preparing food.

* Foods cooked ahead need to be cooked in plenty of time to thoroughly chill in the refrigerator. Use an insulated cooler with sufficient ice or ice packs to keep the food at 40 degrees F. Pack food from the refrigerator right into the cooler.

* If you're planning on take-out foods such as fried chicken or barbecued beef, eat them within two hours of pick-up or buy ahead of time and chill before packing the foods into the cooler.

* Don't put the cooler in the trunk; carry it inside the air-conditioned car.

* At the picnic, keep the cooler in the shade. Keep the lid closed and avoid repeated openings. Replenish the ice if it melts.

* Use a separate cooler for drinks so the one containing perishable food won't be constantly opened and closed.

* Place leftover foods in the cooler soon after grilling or serving. Any left outside for more than an hour should be discarded. If there is still ice in the cooler when you get home, the leftovers are OK to eat.

Meat requires special care:

* When handling raw meat, remove from the cooler only the amount that will fit on the grill. USDA recommends that you don't eat raw or undercooked ground beef since harmful bacteria could be present.

* To be sure bacteria are destroyed, cook hamburgers and ribs to 160 degrees F (medium doneness) or until the center is no longer pink and the juices are clear. Cook ground poultry to 165 degrees F and poultry parts to 180 degrees F. Reheat precooked meats until steaming hot.

* Do not partially grill extra hamburgers to use later. Once you begin cooking hamburgers by any method, cook them until completely done to assure that bacteria are destroyed.

* When taking foods off the grill, put them on a clean plate. Don't put cooked food on a platter that held raw meat.

* Remember, bacteria can be present in most any food as well as on people's hands. Safe food handling is essential for safe picnics.

Source: ISU Extension

Pine wilt disease

The central U.S. pines turning color now could be victims of either drought or pine wilt. In either case, they also could be a kind of time bomb for healthy pine trees.

The reason is a long-horned, cylindrical insect called the pine sawyer beetle. It prefers laying its eggs on stressed or dead pines including recently cut pine logs. Its newly hatched larvae will overwinter there.

Unfortunately, these sites are also prime spots to find a microscopic worm called the pinewood nematode. Its claim to fame is that it can reproduce so fast during a typical summer that its numbers can literally shut down a pine's circulation system within weeks. The result: deadly pine wilt.

The only way to stop the disease's spread is to break the unique tie between beetle and nematode.

The two don't truly get together until spring. Then a new generation of pine sawyer beetles gears up to fly to find another pine on which to feed. At the last minute, though, up to 100,000 tree-clogging nematodes quickly hitch a ride in each beetles' windpipe.

The nematodes will enter their new host through the feeding holes the beetles create. The symptoms of that death sentence will usually appear by August through December.

Typically, the needles of an infested tree will wilt. The symptoms can appear across all of a tree or in progressive parts. The tree itself will die within a matter of weeks or a few months. The dead needles will hold on for up to a year.

The way to break this cycle is to get rid of the beetles' and nematodes' overwintering sites. Dead pines must be down and gone by May 1 at the latest. Even a stump can foster pine wilt's spread. The resulting wood must be chipped, buried or burned to eliminate any possible haven for the deadly pests.

This information is to make the community aware of the need to be watching their pine trees for any signs of the pine wilt disease and the proper time to remove the diseased trees.

Also remember to water your trees so they are not stressed from the drought.

Volunteers needed

Check that garden and flower bed for a perfect specimen. Finish up that special sewing or craft project. Put your prized collection in a shadow box display. It's time to get ready for the Finney County Fair.

But while crafters, gardeners and those raising animals put the finishing touches on their entries this summer, the fair needs volunteers to help with judging, events and activities.

Volunteers are also needed to help register and display the entries, after judging. Others will be assigned to help set up the exhibit areas and take them down after the fair.

This year, the fair is Wednesday through Sunday, July 24 to 28.

Each department must keep its own records, so clerical help is also needed. There are more than 30 exhibit division departments for 4-H, FFA and Open Class. All these departments could use four to six helpers, generally contributing only a couple of hours during the fair.

The Finney County Fair would welcome the assistance of anyone who is interested. Volunteers should be able to give the fair about two hours of time.

People often say they want to help wherever needed. To volunteer in a specific department, call the Finney County Extension Office at 272-3670, email, register online at or drop by our open door at 501 S. Ninth St. All volunteers should be lined up by the first of July. Superintendents and volunteer orientation will be available in July.

Fair books, with entry information and forms, will be available later in June.