March is extension month in Tennessee.

Extension is a national educational program supported by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) through the nation's land-grant universities and administered with funding from state and local governments.

In Tennessee, there are extension offices in each of the 95 counties.

County extension offices across the state are planning various celebrations and commemorations for the state's 108-year-old extension program.

An integral part of the land-grant mission, extension programs are delivered by subject-matter specialists, county agents and volunteers associated with the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture (UTIA) and the Tennessee State University (TSU) College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Sciences.

Extension's programs can be seen in Tennessee as an excellent investment of public resources. The statewide educational programs in 4-H youth development, agriculture and natural resources, family and consumer sciences are estimated to have impacted the state's economy by more than $575 million from July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2017. That amounts to a return of investment of $8.65 for every $1 in public funds invested in extension in Tennessee.

Controlling seasonal bugs

Recent warmer weather has awakened the pesky boxelder beetles, the Asian lady beetle and the brown marmorated stink bug.

The creepy crawlers are coming out of hibernation and seeking the warmest spot in the house -- or exterior of your home and car -- in which to gather.

It's an event that happens every year around this time, yet there's really not a lot one can do to prevent their invasion. However, there are ways to keep them at bay.

Pest control companies can be hired to spray a treatment of pesticide around the perimeter of the house, or homeowners can purchase ready-to-use products that do the same. These chemical sprays residual won't last very long, so this may not be the most practical method of deterring the pests.

For those who prefer to go the all-natural route, soapy water will kill the bugs, but it has to be used on a daily basis. Some diluted essential oils can also be used, such as peppermint oil and water.

If possible, it may be best just to vacuum them up with a shop vac or like vacuum machine.

Before homeowners go on an insect killing spree, keep in mind that only one of the three pests are actually bad for the environment. That's the brown marmorated stink bug, which causes damage to the garden by feeding on fruit and vegetable crops.

The Asian lady beetles feed on aphids and soft-body insects, which is actually good for the gardens, and the boxelder beetle feeds on the seed of the maple tree.

Even better news is that by the end of March the pests will most likely have found a cozy home away from our doors and windows. They will have moved to the trees and landscape areas soon because they are looking for a place where they can feed, reproduce and raise their young.

Upcoming Beef Heifer Development School

The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture will conduct a Beef Heifer Development School on March 22. The event kicks off at 10 a.m. The school will be conducted at the Tennessee Beef Heifer Development Center, located at the University of Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center in Lewisburg, and the cost to attend the one-day event is $15 per participant.

"Replacement heifers are critical to the future of any beef herd," UT Extension director and agriculture agent in Marshall County Matthew Webb said. "This event will hit on some topics that will definitely benefit beef producers and their herds. Plus, this will be an excellent opportunity for producers to see the center's facilities and learn more about our efforts to improve the state's beef herds and help Tennessee producers prosper."

The Tennessee Beef Heifer Development Center, which opened in October of 2015, was built specifically to develop and breed heifers. In addition, UTIA researchers have been evaluating intensive management practices in an effort to educate producers on the best ways to improve the replacement heifer process.

The school will emphasize reproductive success and calving management for heifers through hands-on demonstrations of reproductive and carcass ultrasound, breeding management, feed bunk management, grazing and a calving simulator.

"Replacement heifer development is expensive, because of the time and resources it takes until a young female produces a marketable calf on her own," says Kevin Thompson, director of the Middle Tennessee and Dairy AgResearch and Education centers. "This program is demonstrating proper replacement heifer development to beef cattle producers and increasing the opportunity for custom replacement heifer development."

The cost to attend the school is $15, which includes lunch. Contact the UT Extension Office in Marshall County at 931-359-1929 to pre-register by March 16, and interested individuals can also email Webb at dwebb15@utk.edu.

Onsite registration will also be available, but lunch can only be guaranteed to those who pre-register.

>> The Upper Cumberland Master Small Ruminant program will be held on March 16 at the White County Agriculture Complex in Sparta.

Also, there will be a commercial vegetable meeting held in Lafayette on March 27 at 6 p.m. The location will be announced soon.