New York State IPM Program

September 1, 2015
by Lynn A. Braband
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Everything Wants to Prepare for Winter

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A Gray Squirrel checks out a possible winter home.

Although summer heat is predicted for New York State through at least the Labor Day weekend, signs of the inevitable change of seasons are upon us. The daylight hours are becoming shorter, territorial singing by birds has decreased greatly, and many animals, including tree squirrels, begin preparing for the long, cold months of winter. In addition to their well-known behavior of caching nuts during autumn, squirrels look for protective sites for over-wintering. Often, these locations include the attics and walls of houses and other buildings. It is not unusual to have 8, 10, or more squirrels over-wintering in a building. Structural damage caused by the animals’ chewing can be significant. There is also the possibility of infestations of parasites associated with the animals, and at least the potential risk of disease transmission.

As with the management of any pest situation, prevention is preferred over seeking to rectify a well-established problem. For squirrels, this would include an inspection of the building exterior looking for potential entry sites and routes of access. August and early September are optimum times for inspecting. This is ladder work so safety is a very important consideration. Consult ladder safety sites such as the American Ladder Institute.

Cage trapping is a common tactic of many homeowners and businesses in seeking to rectify a squirrel or other wild animal problem. The animals are then transported off-site. However, this is illegal in New York State, and many other places, without a state-issued permit. Read Dealing With Wildlife and the New York Laws That Protect Them for a synopsis of the legal framework for dealing with nuisance wildlife.

Individuals who operate under such a permit are referred to as Nuisance Wildlife Control Operators or, simply, Wildlife Control Operators. These individuals have passed a comprehensive exam on solving wildlife problems and have the experience and equipment to address nuisance wildlife and wildlife damage situations. For names of permit holders, contact your regional office of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Another source is the NYS Wildlife Management Association, the state trade group for wildlife control operators.

For more information on dealing with squirrel issues, see:

Controlling Squirrel Problems in Buildings

Wildlife Damage Management Fact Sheets: Tree Squirrels

August 24, 2015
by Matt Frye
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Carpenter Ant Satellite Nest – Elimination!

Of the ant species that invade homes, carpenter ants cause considerable distress due to their large size. This is particularly true in the spring and early summer, when foraging ants may be found in many rooms within a home. While these foragers are not much more than a nuisance, it is the nearby ant nest that is alarming to homeowners. Especially since carpenter ants can damage wood.

Carpenter ants can be thought of as an indicator species, since they tend to nest in wood that is damaged by moisture. Their presence is suggestive of a roof leak, clogged gutters, poor drainage from the home, or other structural issues that result in water-damaged wood. When nests are found in homes, they are often satellite colonies of the larger nest that is located outdoors in rotting wood such as a tree stump. It should be noted that carpenter ants do not eat wood as food (like termites), but rather use the structure for nesting purposes.

As an urban entomologist, my home is a laboratory of pest management trial and error. This spring and summer I observed carpenter ants in one corner of my garage. On the workbench below, I would occasionally see a dead ant or some frass (the excavated wood and food-stuffs kicked out of the nest). It wasn’t long before common house spiders (Parasteatoda tepidariorum) discovered the ants and started to feed on them, adding to the carnage on my work bench.

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House spider dining on a carpenter ant, with egg-sacs and newly-hatched spiders.

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What’s left after a spider feeds on many ants.

As summer progressed, I decided the experiment was over and wanted to rid myself of what I believed to be a satellite ant colony. I inspected the area around the ant sightings, and in the very corner of the garage, in a recessed void, I found what I was looking for – a large pile of frass and many ants. With my vacuum in hand (the same one I’ve used for eliminating yellowjackets), I vacuumed up as many ants as possible, plugged the end and left the vacuum in the heat of the sun for two days. Problem solved! Now I just need to find the parent colony.

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The spiders showed me exactly where the nest would be – the void in an upper corner of the workshop.

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Carpenter ant frass includes sawdust and pieces of insects.

Learn more in our carpenter ant factsheet!

August 18, 2015
by Matt Frye
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Trap Failure or Human Failure?

When preparing for any job, my dad will remind me to choose the right tool for the task. In a way, this is an extension of another one of his gems: work smarter, not harder. Selecting the right tool can increase your efficiency and help you to get the job done correctly. Time and again I have reaped the benefits of this wisdom.

On a recent inspection of a food service establishment, management informed me that they had seen a small rat in the service hallway. Traps had been placed by the pest professional, but as of yet, the stealthy rat had not been caught. My interest was piqued.

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Tripped trap with piece of rodent tail

In the hallway I found that several rat snap traps had been baited and placed along the wall where the rat had been observed. One trap had been tripped, and actually had a small piece of the rodent’s tail attached, which seemed rather odd. How would a rat trigger the trap and get only its tail caught? That is when the real detective work started.

 

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Teeth marks in bait on snap trap: pairs of teeth 1-2 mm wide suggest feeding by mice.

No droppings were present along this runway to help with identification, but the now short-tailed rodent had fed on the bait, leaving behind impressions of its teeth. I pulled out my ruler and found that the pair of teeth were less than 2mm wide, which is suggestive of mice. Indeed, mice tend to leave impressions that are 1 to 2mm wide, while a pair of teeth for rats tends to be 3.5 to 4mm wide. Now the pieces of this mystery were adding up. A small rat was not the culprit, but rather a mouse. The traps had not been effective (except for taking off a piece of tail) because mice are unlikely to exert enough force on the trigger to engage a rat trap. So, what is the right tool for this task? You guessed it, a mouse trap!

Did you know…

The term rodent (the group that includes mice, rats and their relatives) is a derivative of the Latin word rodere, which means “to gnaw.” Rodents gnaw on objects to obtain resources, in the process wearing down their teeth. In fact, rat teeth grow approximately 5 inches per year, and are kept short by their gnawing behavior or by grinding their teeth.

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For more information, watch our YouTube video: Signs of a Rodent Infestation

August 12, 2015
by Joellen Lampman
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The German Cockroach: America’s #1 Cockroach Pest

German cockroaches are one of the most common insect pests found in urban areas throughout the world, and are the number one cockroach pest species worldwide. They are well-adapted to human environments, even enjoying similar humidity and temperature levels as we do. IPM can be used to exclude and eliminate this pest from our homes, schools, restaurants, ships, and greenhouses.

German cockroach Photo: Gary Alpert
German cockroach Photo: Gary Alpert

Did you know…?

  • By the Numbers: Roughly 3,500 species of cockroach are identified worldwide, with 70 of those species reported from the United States.
  • What’s in a Name? Despite its name, the German cockroach, Blattella germanica, probably originated in Africa. In the 375 years since its original description as a species, it has had 23 different scientific names.
  • Codependents: German cockroaches depend on humans for their survival. There are no known populations of this species that exist in the wild!
  • Ancient Animals: Scientists have found cockroach fossils that date as far back as 300 million years, making cockroaches about 300 times older than humans. The largest fossil, from Ohio, measures nearly 3.5 inches long!
    Sticky traps can help you identify both what species of cockroach you have and where their populations are highest.
    Sticky traps can help you identify both what species of cockroach you have and where their populations are highest.

Integrated pest management of cockroaches not only relies on the proper identification of German cockroaches, but also identifying their hiding areas, which tend to be in areas with high moisture and easy access to food (think: under the kitchen sink or refrigerator). Baiting and trapping can then be used most efficiently. And, as usual, good housekeeping and sanitation will go a long way to reduce both food and areas where cockroaches hide. For more information, see The German Cockroach: America’s #1 Cockroach Pest. For information on other species of cockroaches, click here.

August 5, 2015
by Elizabeth Lamb
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Bad news for basil

Planning on pesto?  Basil downy mildew can leave you with a pot of pasta and no sauce – and we have had reports of it in NY already this summer.

Basil downy mildew is a disease that can survive on the seed and infect the plant as soon as it germinates.  It can also travel by airborne spores and infect plants that started out clean.  It only affects basil – but that isn’t good news when you’re hungry for fresh basil on your mozzarella.

What can you do to prevent the disease?  Start with a variety that is resistant –red leafed, Thai, lemon, lime and spice types are less likely to get sick than the common sweet basil varieties.  Space your plants far enough apart to get good air flow between them and some sun reaching all the leaves.  Basil downy mildew is a water mold so it likes high humidity – and tight plants make for damp conditions. Water from below  – drip irrigation if you have it – to keep the leaves dry.

If the basil is already looking lush, scout your plants. Look for yellowish areas on the upper surface of the leaves.  When you turn the leaves over, you will see gray speckles and fuzzy growth – that’s the disease producing more spores to send out on the next air current.    Sometimes the yellowish areas on the leaves will turn brown and die.  If only a few plants are affected, remove them as soon as possible – bagging the sick plants to avoid spreading spores to the healthy ones.

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Fig.1: Yellowing of the upper surface of affected basil leaves often occurs in sections of the leaf delineated by veins because the downy mildew pathogen cannot grow past major veins in leaves. Photo: Margaret Tuttle McGrath, Dept. of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology, Cornell University.

basil with downy mildew

Fig.2: Purplish gray spores of the downy mildew pathogen only develop on the lower surface of leaves. These are the same leaves in Fig. 1. Sporulation coincides with yellowing on the opposite side of the leaf. Photo: Margaret Tuttle McGrath, Dept. of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology, Cornell University.

One positive note?  Just like late blight in tomatoes, basil downy mildew does not survive in the soil so you can start clean again next year.

Want more information? See Meg McGrath’s website on basil downy mildew – updated for 2015.

July 10, 2015
by Joellen Lampman
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Paper Wasps: Friend or Foe?

Paper wasps are social, stinging insects that build open-comb nests. These nests are often found on the protected undersides of natural or man-made overhangs. Soft-bodied insects, nectar, and honeydew are important food sources for paper wasps. These insects can be a public health concern when they nest near human activity because of their potent sting.

Wood scraped off this split rail fence will be mixed with saliva and used as nest building material.

Did You Know…?

  • By the numbers: There are 22 species of paper wasps in North America. The two most common paper wasp species in the Northeast are the native northern paper wasp and the invasive European paper wasp.
  • Watching it’s figure: Paper wasps can be distinguished from other wasps and yellowjackets by its very thin “waist”.
  • What’s in a Name?: Paper wasps use their mandibles (jaws) to scrape wood from plants, decks, or siding and combine it with saliva to make a papery nest.
  • Danger!: Paper wasps have unbarbed stingers, so they can deliver multiple stings. European paper wasps in particular are very aggressive when protecting their nest.
  • Look-alikes: European paper wasps are often confused with yellowjackets due to their similar black and yellow color. This species can be distinguished by its dainty waist and the position of its legs when it flies, which dangle below its body. (Yellow jacket legs are much shorter and held tight against the body.)
  • Beneficial Predator: Paper wasps feed their larvae caterpillars which can be garden pests.
    Paper wasps can build their umbrella comb nests under any protected ledge or overhang. Although they are beneficial predators, paper wasps can deliver a painful sting.
    Paper wasps can build their umbrella comb nests under any protected ledge or overhang.

Integrated pest management can help to determine if a paper wasp nest is a danger and what to do if it should be removed. For more information visit:

For more information from the New York State IPM Program on other stinging insects, click here.

July 8, 2015
by Joellen Lampman
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Get Rid of Carpenter Bees? Yes, Please!

Carpenter bees are common spring and summer insects in the eastern United States. They first come to attention when males “buzz” or “dive bomb” people passing by and females are seen excavating holes in wooden structures. Like carpenter ants, carpenter bees do not eat wood, but rather use the substrate for nesting. They are important pollinators, but can become a nuisance pest of structures.

Carpenter bee females create galleries or tunnels in dry wood during the spring. Bees bore into the wood, then turn 90 degrees to tunnel along the grain.
Carpenter bee females create galleries or tunnels in dry wood during the spring. Bees bore into the wood, then turn 90 degrees to tunnel along the grain.

Did You Know…?

  • By the numbers: Carpenter bees are solitary insects that do not form colonies, but many females may nest in the same area.
  • Mock attack: If males feel their nests are threatened, they will aggressively pursue and harass, but they have no stinger.
  • Look-alikes: Both carpenter and bumble bees are black and yellow, but bumble bees have fuzzy abdomens while carpenter bees are smooth.
  • Galleries: On average, galleries are 4 – 6”, but tunnels can extend up to 10 feet long.
  • Collateral Damage: In addition to the structural damage caused by carpenter bee tunneling, empty galleries can invite secondary pests such as beetles, moths and scavengers, and even fungal rot when moisture enters openings.

Integrated pest management can help to prevent carpenter bees from redecorating your home. See Get Rid of Carpenter Bees? Yes, Please! fact sheet for more information on carpenter bees and how to manage them.

July 2, 2015
by Jody
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The Wannabe Bees

Who wants to be a bee? I don’t claim to know the deepest desires of insects that visit our gardens and farms, except that they want to survive, eat and reproduce. So why do so many mimic other insects that are dangerous, such as yellowjackets? The black and yellow stripes of a typical yellowjacket are easily recognizable to birds, humans and other mammals and signal “Danger! I sting!”. That’s a pretty powerful message that ensures yellowjackets and other wasps and bees are avoided by hungry predators looking to raid the colony for tasty larvae or honey. It’s called aposematic coloration and serves as a warning to other animals not to mess around. From skunks to poison arrow frogs to snakes, aposematic coloration protects both predator and prey from unfortunate interactions.

But what about the harmless insects that are similarly colored? In landscapes and gardens throughout the U.S. you can look closely and find small black and yellow-striped insects

Hover fly on daisy fleabane.

Hover fly on daisy fleabane.

hovering above flowers. Harmless hover flies (a type of fly in the Syrphid family) display a mimicry of yellowjacket coloration, as you can see in the picture. Adults hover flies feed on nectar and pollen, thereby serving as minor pollinators of many flowering plants. The larvae, or maggots, of some hover flies are saprotrophs (feeding on decaying

matter) and some are predatory on smaller insects, like aphids and thrips. Aphids, alone, cause tens of millions of dollars in crop damage each year. Hover flies are considered among the many important natural enemies of aphids and other plant-feeding pests. A gardener’s friend, indeed!

Also in the Order Diptera (which includes all flies and mosquitoes) are the amazing robber flies. The one pictured is called a bee-mimic robber fly. It closely resembles a bumble bee

Bumble bee robber fly

Bumble bee robber fly

and enjoys the protection that such mimicry provides. How could you tell it apart from a bumble bee? All flies, including these, have only one pair of wings. Look closely at the image and you can see a round dot at the base of the wing. That is called a haltere, which is a wing reduced into a flight stabilizer. You can also see very enlarged eyes, relative to the head, small V-shaped antennae and a thick straw-like mouth. Yes, robber flies can bite! But they are voracious predators of other insects – whatever they can catch. Although robber flies are indiscriminate about what other insects they eat, if you have a garden with pests and you see robber flies, they are probably doing good deeds for you.

By looking closely at the many insects that visit your yard and garden, you might be surprised at how many beneficial insects you see. Maintaining your green space using fewer pesticides and incorporating IPM strategies to manage plant feeders will help protect these amazing natural enemies.

June 30, 2015
by Matt Frye
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Fruit Flies of a Different (eye) Color

A common pest in homes is the red-eyed fruit fly: Drosophila melanogaster. Famous for use in genetic studies, and infamous for emerging from store-bought bananas, management of this fly rarely requires more than discarding infested items outside of the home.

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A dark-eyed fruit fly adult

Management of this fly’s cousin, the dark-eyed fruit fly (Drosophila repleta), also requires elimination of breeding habitat. However, finding and addressing that habitat can be more difficult. This is because dark-eyed fruit flies develop in wet, decaying organic material that may be out of sight. They are common pests in bars, restaurants, and some coffee shops where they breed under equipment, near drains, sinks, and beverage taps. In these accounts, customers may observe flies near food, drinks or when they rest on walls. Flies may defecate (poop) on walls and leave black fecal spots on otherwise light-colored surfaces, affecting your client’s brand.

Identify the Problem.

When dealing with dark-eyed fruit flies, the first and most important step is a thorough inspection to identify breeding locations. Focus your inspection on places that remain wet, and where food spillage might be present. In addition to sinks and drains, consider moisture from condensation on refrigerators, ice machines and pipes.

Gaps around sinks and drains allow food and moisture to accumulate, providing breeding habitat for fly larvae or maggots.

Over time, tile grout can break down or be removed, especially in commercial kitchens that are wet cleaned nightly. These spaces can accumulate food and hold moisture to create fly breeding habitat.

Address the Problem.

Whether structural or sanitation issues contribute to fly problems, the solution is to remove breeding habitat. Keeping areas dry and free of food spillage will avoid future problems with fly breeding. Some questions to consider: Is there tile grout missing, allowing water and crumbs to accumulate? Is the floor angled or are depressions present that collect water? Does food fall behind or under equipment and is not regularly cleaned? Are floors power-washed at night, lodging food and water in areas that are out of sight or stay wet throughout the day? Are there cracks and crevices near the sink that do not have a sealant?

Quick Fix.

Once a maggot has completely developed, it will crawl out of its moist breeding habitat and find a dry place to pupate. This fly developed in the moist gap below, and is seen here in a corner of the sink.

Addressing structural or sanitation issues are a long-term solution that will prevent fly breeding. But what can be done in the immediate future to address customer concerns? Dark-eyed fruit flies are attracted to insect light traps, which can be installed in kitchen areas. Traps may also be placed out at night when all other lights are off to harvest active flies. In addition, fans can be used to dry out breeding areas or to keep flies out of customer spaces.

What NOT To Do.

Bug bombs and general pesticide applications do nothing to address the breeding fly population, and therefore do nothing to prevent future problems. Similarly, pest-strips containing dichlorvos are sometimes used illegally for management of fruit flies in restaurants. According to the label, these products are intended for use in confined spaces where people are present for no more than four hours at a time. They are not to be used in areas where food is prepared, stored or consumed. For more information on pest-strips, see our previous post, Pest-Strips: A Kitchen No-No!

June 26, 2015
by Lynn A. Braband
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NYS IPM Program Participates in Forthcoming Launch of a Statewide School Environmental Health Program

On June 18, NYS IPM Program staff met with a diverse group of people and organizations to develop a comprehensive effort to ensure that every child and school employee in the state have safe and healthy learning and working environments. The last of four meetings over a two-year period, the interaction was organized by the NYS Department of Health under an EPA grant. Partners came from several state agencies, the US EPA, schools, BOCES districts, and school stakeholder NGO’s.

Photo: NYS DOH

Photo: NYS DOH

Photo: NYS DOH

Photo: NYS DOH

According to the draft New York State Clean, Green, and Healthy Schools program plan, the goals will include:

  1. Eliminate or reduce health risks from environmental hazards to occupants of all school environments;
  2. Eliminate school environmental health and safety disparities;
  3. Improve attendance among students and staff; and
  4. Improve academic achievement and other educational outcomes for all students.

These goals will be addressed by four action priorities.

  1. Priority Area A: Promote policies and best practices to manage environmental issues in all school environments. Included in this priority is the prevention of pests and reduction of pesticide use and exposure through Integrated Pest Management.
  2. Priority Area B: Create, maintain and disseminate educational materials appropriate for the school community.
  3. Priority Area C: Develop and sustain partnerships among all stakeholders.
  4. Priority Area D: Strengthen organizational infrastructure and resources to promote and support environmental health.

This program will be a collaborative effort among all the partners involved. The kick-off event for the program will be a statewide school environmental health meeting to be held in the Albany area in October, which is Children’s Health Month.