How Stokes County Extension Is Adapting to COVID-19!

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N.C. Cooperative Extension logoCOVID-19 continues to impact and disrupt our everyday lives; however, North Carolina Cooperative Extension is still here to serve you. I wanted to share my experience as an Extension agent in Stokes County NC while continuing to work for the citizens of Stokes County throughout COVID-19. Below is a recent encounter with a homeowner requesting assistance with identifying an insect. A Stokes County resident called the Extension office asking for help identifying caterpillars that were eating their blueberry plant. I encouraged the homeowner to bring the caterpillar by the office for identification. North Carolina Cooperative Extension is still open to help our communities and producers across the state during COVID-19. The Stokes County office is open with staff working remotely on a rotating basis. While we are limiting our face-to-face interactions as much as possible, we are still here to help community members with questions or problems. 

Lucky for this homeowner, it was my day in the office. As the Agriculture and Natural Resources agent, I work in the area of Small Farms and Horticulture. So naturally, I was the person for the job! Where possible, we are trying to answer your questions through phone calls, video calling, or email; however, sometimes questions are more easily addressed in person – like caterpillar identification! For this homeowner, we agreed on a time for them to come to the office to drop the caterpillars off. Just like this homeowner, we are encouraging the public to follow our safety guidelines posted at the front of the building and wear a mask when in our office. The homeowner brought not just one caterpillar, but about 50 very hungry caterpillars for identification! With the help of my digital microscope and the NC State University CE database, I was able to successfully identify the blueberry plant-eating culprit!

The yellownecked caterpillar, Datana ministra, is one of the most frequently reported pests of oaks, birches, and other hardwoods. This insect can also be found on blueberry, apple, and other fruit trees .. Learn more about these caterpillars from this extension fact sheet: “Yellownecked Caterpillar in the Landscape” from NC State Extension. 

yellownecked caterpillars

A mature yellownecked caterpillars on a blueberry plant.
Photo by Bryan Hartman, North Carolina Cooperative Extension Agent

While we may be limiting our face to face interactions with the public our ability to provide services to the residents of Stokes County has not changed. What has changed is the way in which some of our services are provided. Our agents remain available through phone and email to better serve you. 

For more information, contact Bryan Hartman, Agriculture and Natural Resources agent at bkhartman@ncat.edu.