New York State IPM Program

November 29, 2016
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Nature’s Herbicides and Lessons from Black Walnut Trees

Nature’s Herbicides and Lessons from Black Walnut Trees

You’re prepping your garden for winter, muttering about the sapling black walnut trees the squirrels planted on your behalf mere inches away — and the mother tree is in your neighbor’s yard. You know you can’t put off removing them: this might be the last year your loppers can manage the task.

Squirrels are pretty good at finding the walnuts they stashed here and there for winter. But they always miss a few.

Squirrels are pretty good at finding the walnuts they stashed here and there for winter. But they always miss a few.

Black walnuts get a lot of grief from gardeners. For those with small yards and a great love of tomatoes, the black walnut in a neighboring yard is bad news. But for the moment pretend you’ve got couple of acres, mostly meadow. Pretend the mama walnut tree in the hedgerow out back is framed by a couple of invasive ailanthus (aka tree of heaven) and some elderly pines and sugar maples. Pretend also that goldenrod, quackgrass, and garlic mustard are well-established meadow plants that push their way into your garden every chance they get.

And while you’re at it, pretend you planted buckwheat as a cover crop earlier this summer in some beds where weeds have held sway.

Buckwheat contains three allelopathic chemicals. Are they potential herbicides? Could be.

Buckwheat contains three allelopathic chemicals. Plus they grow really fast, out-competing many weeds.

What do all these plants have in common?

They’re alleopathic. That is: they have compounds in their leaves, roots, seeds, or stems that stave off other plants. True, some (think garlic mustard) will only hurt you. But some — buckwheat, for instance — will help. (Hint: click on the fifth bullet point when you open the page.)

NYS IPM’s horticulturalist Brian Eshenaur calls such allelopathic compounds “nature’s herbicides.” If you choose and use them, you might avoid the worrisome traits of conventional herbicides.

What worrisome traits? For starters, the potential for weeds to become herbicide-resistant. If using herbicides is the only way you’ve learned to deal with weeds, you could be in trouble. Could weeds (which, like plant diseases, qualify as pests) also become resistant to nature’s herbicides?

No one is sure. The research has just begun. But by way of example, consider this: insect pests become pesticide-resistant with relative ease. On the other hand, they don’t easily outsmart other bugs that evolved to eat them — which is why biocontrol is a key tenet of IPM.

Worried about walnut trees? Garlic mustard is acquiring a nasty reputation of its own.

Worried about walnut trees? Garlic mustard has a nasty reputation of its own.

Yes, black walnuts freely release their plant-suppressive chemicals. But even they have their soft spot.

Here’s what black walnuts are willing to live with:

lima, snap and soybeans; beets and swiss chard; corn; onions, garlic and leeks; parsnip and carrots; cauliflower; parsley; Jerusalem artichoke; melons, squash and pumpkins.

And here’s what they aren’t:

asparagus; cabbage, broccoli and kale; eggplant, peppers, potatoes and tomatoes; rhubarb; peas.

Where walnuts crowd too close, build raised beds with root barriers in the bottom — concrete or rubber patio blocks are one option. Hefty tubs are another. You could raise those beds even higher: built at waist height, they could keep your back happy too.

Worried about those walnut leaves that blow into your yard each fall? Can you add them to your compost? Have no fear. Exposed to air, water and bacteria, their toxic effect is history in two to four weeks. [1.]

Want to know more about shrubs and flowers that don’t mind walnut trees? Cornell Cooperative Extension is here to help.

Also, take a look at Eshenaur’s Weed-Suppressive Groundcovers. And consider that most of these plants are great when massed in perennial flowerbeds — and could provide welcome food and shelter for pollinators. Multitasking plants? They’re onto IPM.

1

  1. extension.iastate.edu/news/2005/jul/070701; this site also lists some compatible and incompatible plants.

November 7, 2016
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on How to Winterize Your Compost Pile

How to Winterize Your Compost Pile

Let’s make compost. It’s an earthy topic. Does it matter? Oh, yes. Bagging up organic matter and setting it out for trash is a pity — the moment it’s dumped in the landfill, it turns quickly to methane, a greenhouse gas 20-plus times more potent than CO2. And trash trucks bring tons of it to landfills every day. In 2013 alone, Americans generated about 254 million tons of trash; we recycled or composted about 87 million tons.

Mites are mighty helpful in compost piles. Credit compostjunkie.com

Mites are mighty helpful in compost piles. Credit compostjunkie.com

Which is all well and good, but we can do better. Compost encourages healthy and balanced populations of soil organisms that can suppress plant pathogens by (good IPM!)

  • parasitizing them or
  • out-competing them for food and water.

Bacteria, molds, mites, and more — these good guys are on your side. But what happens to that compost heap when the ground is frozen or the snow is deep?

Like biannual and perennial landscape plants, soil organisms normally go dormant in winter. Yes, you could keep adding your kitchen scraps and recyclables to the pile. But they’ll freeze in place unless you can keep the good guys active through most of the winter. And it’s not that hard.

The lasagna method is hot — even when it's not. Credit organicgardensnetwork.

The lasagna method is hot — even when it’s not outside. Credit organicgardensnetwork

So while it’s still fall, harvest finished compost to make room for winter compost. Then insulate the pile with bags of leaves or bales of straw. Meanwhile, if you want to cut back on trips outside, make a pre-compost bucket.

Think of it as a mini-compost bin for food scraps, old newspaper, and the like. You’ll want to mix browns and greens just like you would outside using the “lasagna method” with its alternating brown and green layers for your outdoor compost. (Think of your pre-compost bucket as the “ravioli method.”)

Best you chop those food scraps first, though. Because the good guys will slow down a tad when they get chilly, you want to make it as easy on them as you can. Smaller particle sizes give them more surface area to do their work and keep them cozier while they do it. Then come spring they’ll really rev up.

 

 

 

Want more info? Check out:

  • ccetompkins.org/resources/compost-winter-composting — our inspiration for this post
  • ccetompkins.org/resources/compost-lasagna-layer-composting

Or browse online for more:

  • compostjunkie.com/Compost-blog
  • compostingcouncil.org
  • pinterest.com/ertf/lasagna-gardening-and-composting

September 28, 2016
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Move Over, Medusa: Pretty? Poisonous! in the Caterpillar Clan

Move Over, Medusa: Pretty? Poisonous! in the Caterpillar Clan

Our gratitude to Paul Hetzler, CCE St. Lawrence County, for letting us use this post. The IPM connection? ID those fuzzy beasts before you add them to your “warm and fuzzy” petting zoo. 

When I was a kid I was fascinated by caterpillars but had trouble with the word. To me, the sweet little woolly-bear traversing my hand was a “calipitter.” It was only years later I learned that a calipitter is an instrument used to measure the diameter of a caterpillar to the nearest micron.

Caterpillars continue to interest me, although I no longer find them universally cute. Imagine the letdown and loss of innocence following the discovery that some of these fuzzy, fascinating, gentle creatures that tickled their way across my hand were venomous. This revelation was akin to finding out Bambi was a dangerous carnivore, which in fact is a fear that haunts me to this day.

Stunning — and striking in a not-so-nice sort of way. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Stunning — and striking in a less-than-pleasant sort of way. White-marked tussock moth larvae, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

It seems a further injustice that many of the so-called “stinging-hair caterpillars” are among the cutest and most colorful out there. But at least they are not aggressive the way yellow jackets can be. They are strictly defensive, the defense being hollow hairs connected to poison glands that secrete toxins. The chemical cocktail is species-specific, and often involves serotonin, histamine, formic acid and various amino acids.

The hairs inject their charge only when the critter is roughly handled. Or falls down your shirt, or gets in your sleeping bag, or is pressed against your skin in some other way. Their stings cause a painful rash which could persist a week or more. Some people have more severe reactions requiring medical treatment.

You’d think poisonous caterpillars would be from exotic locales, but to my knowledge all in our region are natives. One large group is the tussock moth clan. These caterpillars look about as terrifying as teddy bears. Two examples are the hickory (Lophocampa caryae) and white-marked (Orgyia leucostigma) tussock moths, common locally. I’ve had many encounters with these and their kin over the years.

Hickory tussock caterpillars are mostly white, peppered with a smattering of longer black “whiskers.” White-marked tussock moth larvae look like they’re fresh out of clown school, with a yellow-and-black striped pattern, bright red head, a pair of super-long black appendages as a headdress, a row of lateral white hairs on each side, and four bright yellow (sometimes white) tufts behind their heads like a row of smoke stacks.

The stubby brown hag moth caterpillar (Phobetron pithecium) definitely does not look like a caterpillar. It could easily be mistaken for a dust-bunny or bit of lint. Sometimes known as the monkey slug, this oddity has eight furry, arm-like appendages and should get a prize for its resemblance to a plush toy. If you come across the monkey slug, do resist the impulse to cuddle it.

Much like the way poison-arrow frogs dress flamboyantly to advertise they’re a poor choice as prey, some toxic caterpillars have paint jobs even brighter than those of the tussock moths. For example, the brilliantly attired stinging rose (Parasa indetermina) and saddleback (Acharia stimulea) caterpillars might make you think some practical joker has set out miniature party piñatas. Eye-catching and bristling with barbs, no one is going to mistake them for a plush toy.

Fortunately, many poisonous caterpillars look the part. The Io moth (Automeris io), a huge moth bearing a striking eye-spot shape on each wing, starts out as a neon-green (red until its first molt) caterpillar crowded with serious-looking barbs. Going further afield, the giant silkworm moth caterpillar (Lonomia oblique) of southern South America has been responsible for as many as 500 human deaths — and it looks terrifying, too.

Keep in mind that just about every fuzzy caterpillar, venomous or not, can induce asthma. Those hairs are fragile and readily become airborne. Pests such as the eastern and forest tent caterpillars — and gypsy moths too — sometimes  occur in numbers so great enough to trigger asthma, especially in children. Even the beloved woolly bears (many species of the family Arctiinae) trigger attacks in some people.

What to do for a sting? Use Scotch or packing tape on your skin to pull out embedded caterpillar hairs (along with a few of your own). Wash the area and isolate clothing you think might harbor stray hairs. Monitor for several hours for signs of a serious reaction and otherwise treat the rash the way you would any sting with calamine lotion, antihistamines, or hydrocortisone lotion as directed by your doctor.

Let’s hope that having a few bad apples around will not keep you from appreciating caterpillars. Even the ugliest ones grow up to be moths and butterflies, many of which are beautiful. And they’re all important pollinators. Stay away from the ones described here but feel free to investigate all others.

Just be sure to take along your callipitter.

 

September 21, 2016
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Trees and Drought Make for Less Colorful Fall (and the IPM Connection)

Trees and Drought Make for Less Colorful Fall (and the IPM Connection)

Many thanks to Paul Hetzler, CCE St. Lawrence County, for permission to use this piece.

It turns out that, in terms of fall foliage, the color of too dry is officially known as “blah.” This would undoubtedly be the least popular color selection if it was included in a jumbo pack of Crayolas. Basically, it is a jumble of faded hues with a mottled brown patina throughout. This year’s dry summer could mean that “blah” may feature prominently in Mother Nature’s fall hardwood forest palette.

Why would a prolonged lack of moisture affect autumn color? Let’s look at what makes leaves colorful in the first place. Among the things we learned — and probably forgot right away — in Junior High Biology is that leaves are green because of chlorophyll, the amazing molecule that converts light, water and carbon dioxide into sugar and oxygen. Its intense green tends to mask colors such as orange and yellow that are present in leaves in lower concentrations. When chlorophyll dies off in the fall, those “weaker” colors are revealed.

The Adirondacks in full autumnal glory — but not in the mega-drought of 2016.

The Adirondacks in full autumnal glory — but not in the mega-drought of 2016. Photo courtesy Sharp Swan.

It’s not like yellow and orange are just randomly painted on the insides of leaves, though. Molecules other than chlorophyll are involved in various metabolic pathways within a leaf, and they happen to be colorful. By comparison, we are boring. Our hemoglobin is red, at least in the presence of oxygen, but we are not as flamboyant on a cellular level as leaves are.

Red, however, is a horse of a different color where leaves are concerned. Trees spend energy that they would otherwise save for next year’s growth to make the molecule responsible for red. It is called anthocyanin, mostly because short words embarrass scientists, and it is “expensive” for trees to make. No one knows why trees do this. OK, there are some explanations out there, but they are so flimsy they don’t even hold up in the rain.

In wintertime, I make my own bread. Although quality varies because I never use a recipe, more than likely the bread would turn out worse than usual if I omitted water. Similarly, all the ingredients need to be there for photosynthesis to work properly. When water is in short supply, production at the sugar factory, also known as the chlorophyll molecule, drops off sharply.

Without sugars, many cellular processes slow or even stop. Damaged chlorophyll is not replaced, and that deep forest-green color starts to pale. Those yellow and orange molecules (xanthophylls and carotenes, if you are insecure about word length) also begin to disappear.

As trees dry out further, their leaves start to brown along their edges. This is called marginal scorching, not to be confused with marginally scorched, which describes my bread. In drought-prone locations with thin soils, some tree leaves will entirely brown and turn crisp, calling it quits for the year. This of course is not good for trees, because they are not able to plug up the vascular connections between leaves and twigs, making them prone to even more desiccation over the winter.

As if that isn’t enough sepia tones for one season, our sugar maples once again are looking tawdry due to yet another infestation of the native maple leafcutter. This is a tiny colorful moth whose newly hatched larvae eat circular patterns inside leaves, eventually getting big enough to emerge onto the leaf surface and excise little holes in it to make a mini turtle-shell case for itself. A single infestation causes only minor harm to the maples, but repeated infestations can weaken them somewhat.

Between marginal scorch, brown leaves, holey maples and a general shortage of leaf pigments, we might not get the brightest display this fall. Cool nights and sunny days tend to favor the production of red in the few tree species capable of producing it, and this could at least offset the brown tinge that infuses our woodlands at present. Here’s hoping for a good crayon selection this autumn.

The IPM Connection? Well, you can’t run the well dry trying to keep your trees happy. But worse yet would be thinking your trees have some horrid disease and it’s time to dash over to the garden center for a jug of fungicide. In this case you’ve got two fundamental IPM precepts to guide you now and for the future: an accurate diagnosis and preventive action.

  • Identify (i.e. diagnose) your problem before you act. Trees that look sick or pest-ridden could suffer instead from to a surfeit or lack of three critical things their fine feeder roots need: the oxygen, water, and nutrients. Because if those roots aren’t happy, neither is your tree.
  • Prevent the problem: learn which trees will work for your landscape and how to help them deal with the hand Nature deals them. Right plant, right place, proper care: these help reduce infestations and impacts of pests.

Check out this helpful guide.

September 8, 2016
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Skip the Shampoo and Get Rid of Head Lice Just the Same

Skip the Shampoo and Get Rid of Head Lice Just the Same

This post courtesy of Chris Gonzales, Northeastern IPM Center.

Kids go back to school this season, and this could mean an encounter with head lice. I made a mistake by not consulting an expert before treating my kid for head lice in late August. Don’t repeat my mistake!

I bought the pesticide shampoo because I thought that’s what you were supposed to do. I was wrong. Since then I asked an expert.

According to Consumer Reports, pesticide shampoo for head lice is a $130 million dollar over-the-counter market, and the shampoo likely doesn’t work. Most head lice are resistant to the active ingredient nowadays. Unfortunately, Google search results prominently display advertisements from pesticide sellers, not the free web pages from academic types who say to comb them out.

This fine-tooth comb picks those nits for you.

This fine-tooth comb picks those nits for you.

I contacted Matt Frye, a scientist who specializes in insects at the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program.

“Don’t panic,” he said. “Head lice are not a sign of poor sanitation. Lice are communicable like a common cold. Pesticides are not needed. Instead, comb!”

You can usually find a fine-toothed metal comb for lice on the shelves at drugstores. It’s all you need. The fine teeth are so close together they capture the nits (eggs), nymphs (babies), and lice (adults).

“It is important to be vigilant with combing,” said Frye. “Parents should be aware that they will need to comb thoroughly and systematically at least daily. If this sounds too difficult, seek out the services available where someone will comb your child’s hair.”

For school officials and parents, there’s no need to treat classrooms or homes. Head lice don’t survive long off the body. And there’s no need to pull kids out of school if head lice are found during the day (they’ve already had head lice for a while at that point.)

There was probably little harm in having treated my nine-year-old-boy’s head with pesticide last month. But why take the risk? Mostly it was wasted money and didn’t solve the problem.

I hadn’t had to deal with lice before. I should have searched the website of experts like the New York State IPM Program and the Northeastern IPM Center before heading off to the drugstore!

September 1, 2016
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Tick Talk, Tick Checks, Tick Folklore — and More to Come

Tick Talk, Tick Checks, Tick Folklore — and More to Come

I needed some quick advice on ticks. So I went to NYS IPM’s tick webpage and saw — oops. This page is due for a makeover. Now.

Why? Conventional wisdom has it that a (so-called) deer tick needs to be attached to its host for at least 24 hours before it can transmit Lyme disease. (We’ll acknowledge the co-infections later.) Only … conventional wisdom is wrong. Now the best we can say is … no one knows. It varies. The main thing is to get the tick off asap. Just keep in mind that a rush job isn’t necessarily in your best interests. Better to remove it carefully than to remove it too quickly.

Buddy, can you spare a dime? It's easy to miss a tiny tick that's about to have dinner at your expense.

Buddy, can you spare a dime? It’s easy to miss a tiny tick that’s  about to have dinner at your expense. Photo credit Boston Public Health Commission.

The other little problem? Back in the day, biologists thought there were two related tick species: the blacklegged tick and the recently discovered deer tick. But turns out they’re one and the same, so biologists reverted to the old name. Folks: we proudly bring you the (drum roll) blacklegged tick.

Back to removal. Some people swear by “tick tornados.” (Look them up.) And yes — if you need to get a tick off a furry animal, by all means. But for us hairless humans, at IPM (short for “integrated pest management) we still recommend pointy, fine-tipped tweezers as the best way to remove ticks without ticking them off. Enlist help if you can’t reach the tick. Your helper, after all, might need someone to return the favor down the line.

That folklore about gooping them up with petroleum jelly or snubbing out a lit match on their buts? It’s not only folklore — it’s dangerous. Because next thing you know they’ve vomited everything that was in their stomach into your bloodstream.

In a panic? Scraping at them with your fingernail and decapitating them … same result.

Fine-tipped tweezers. Check. (Straight tweezers are fine.) Grasp right behind head. Check. Etc. Photo courtesy HealthHub.

Fine-tipped tweezers. Check. (Straight tweezers are fine.) Grasp right behind head. Check. Pull gently but firmly straight up. Check. Photo courtesy HealthHub.

So here’s what you do. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Try not to twist or jerk the bugger; it’s tricky enough getting the head and mouth-parts out as it is.

But if they break off? Not to worry. After all, you got the all-important abdomen off; that’s where the toxins are. So see if you can tug the head out with your tweezers. Can’t? Swab the site with rubbing alcohol (which you’d do in any case) and leave it be. Eventually they’ll come out as your skin regenerates itself from below.

Actually, the main thing is to prevent the tick getting on you in the first place. (Prevention is key to good IPM, right? Right.) Use repellents and permethrin-infused clothing. While outside, check your legs and arms periodically to see if any critters are climbing up. Shower after you come in.

Most important? The daily tick check. Make it check part of your evening routine — floss, brush teeth, tick check.

I promised to acknowledge those co-infections. Right now it’s just this simple list: anaplasmosis, babesia, bartonella. (Can ticks actually transmit bartonella? Unclear. Also: you might find ehrlichiosis listed in online site. It’s actually a complex of several different bacterial diseases. One is anaplasmosis. This stuff gets complicated fast. Which is why I’ll get to the details in another post.)

And yes, there’s lots more tick-borne diseases, but to our knowledge here at IPM, blacklegged ticks don’t carry them. That promised post, btw, will note not just characteristics of these diseases, but list diseases carried by other types of ticks.

Closing remarks: Best reason for ditching the name “deer tick”? It suggests that deer are the problem. Well, yes, ticks do infest deer, and deer can travel widely, so yes, they carry them around in the literal sense and ticks will drop off here and there. But no, deer don’t vector (aka “carry”) Lyme disease. Look to mice, chipmunks, and shrews for that.

August 26, 2016
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on World-class Golf Comes Home. Thank You, IPM

World-class Golf Comes Home. Thank You, IPM

The Barclays PGA Tournament kicks off the FedEx Cup playoff in professional golf. This year it’s right here, right now — at Bethpage State Park on Long Island in downstate New York. The IPM (integrated pest management) piece of this story? Here’s where we tested, developed, and showcased preventive, threshold-based IPM protocols that can steeply reduce year-in, year-out pesticide use on any golf course, anywhere — all while protecting habitat for pollinators and many other creatures. In fact, we’ve scored environmental impact quotients up to 96 percent lower than conventional practices.

Happening as we speak — at Bethpage State Park, also home to IPM research that informs thoughtful, preventive tactics for golf-course care.

Happening as we speak — at Bethpage State Park, also home to IPM research that informs thoughtful, preventive tactics for golf-course care.

The IPM tactics we honed on Bethpage’s Green Course over 12 years are also used on its Black Course — among the most challenging courses you could find anywhere. Think of it. Putting greens buzz-cut to within an inch of their life. Talk about stress! (Technically, that’s an 1/8th inch of their life.) Fairways mowed to about ½ inch. Roughs to an inch or so — and even that’s a height we don’t recommend trying at home.

Which is why we can’t stress how important long-term, real-world research is. Whether it’s searing heat and no rain or relentless rain and chilly weather — or any combination thereof — well, you just don’t get truly useful results until you’ve tested your work in widely differing seasons and situations. And in dealing with pests on golf courses, it’s all about the season. It gets even more impressive when you consider that Bethpage (along with the other 24 public-park golf courses across New York) is open to all comers, facing heavy traffic and tight budgets.

92-plus: that's an impressive number of pollinators to find in mid-April 2015 after a long, difficult winter.

92-plus: that’s an impressive number of pollinators to find in mid-April 2015 after a long, difficult winter.

We’ve always known how important beneficial insects and other organisms are to ecosystem health. In fact, many of our IPMprotocols are built around using beneficials and biocontrols to keep pests at bay. Equally as important: protecting nontarget organisms — frogs, for example — from exposure to pesticides. Which is why we were happy to find this fine fella hanging out at Bethpage in a marshy verge during an Earth Day trek around Bethpage. And a 2015 survey of pollinators in naturalized areas at Bethpage revealed at least 92 species of bees, wasps, and other pollinators as well as a diversity of plants that attract them.

Good stuff. Thank you, Integrated Pest Management.

A green frog? Bullfrog? From this angle, hard to tell.

A green frog? Bullfrog? From this angle, hard to tell.

August 24, 2016
by Matt Frye
Comments Off on Fighting Waterbugs — with Water

Fighting Waterbugs — with Water

Plumbing issues lead to pest problems — there’s little doubt about that. Leaks offer standing water to rodents, and clogged, scummy drains are breeding sites for flies. How curious that one of the most common plumbing-related pest problems I see is drains and pipes without water.

Unused, uncapped drains are an open door for cockroaches and more.

Unused, uncapped drains are an open door for cockroaches and more.

Case Study
At a multi-story office building, workers reported the presence of waterbugs, aka American cockroaches, on unconnected floors. Sanitation at the site was great, and no obvious leak created harborage for cockroaches: both excellent IPM practices. But a thorough inspection uncovered an unused bathroom on one floor where the water had been shut off during renovation. Not only could we smell sewer gasses — this bathroom contained several dead American cockroaches, suggesting this was the source for that floor. On another floor a drainpipe in a mop closet was open, and we could see cockroach frass.

A drain trap — and never mind the large gap at the wall. Exclusion is an entirely different topic.

A drain trap — and never mind the large gap at the wall. Exclusion is a whole different matter.

Plumbing Traps 101
If you’ve ever looked under a  sink, you’re familiar with a plumbing trap: that U-shaped pipe that changes the flow of water from vertical to horizontal. Its job: to create a water seal that prevents odors and harmful sewer gasses from escaping into the living or work space. Each time the drain is used, fresh water replaces standing water in the trap to maintain a permanent seal.

Uncapped and unused.

Uncapped, unused — except as a highway for pests.

As side benefit, this design deters pests from using pipes to move within or between buildings. Sure, cockroaches and rodents (especially rats) can overcome plumbing traps by crawling through a small amount of water (see National Geographic video on rats in toilets). But when drains are regularly used, they’re unlikely to harbor pests.

Drain Fails
Problems with trap seals occur when drains are infrequently used and water evaporates over time, or if drains are clogged with debris. Floor drains are susceptible to drying out if

  • no one wet-mops the floors
  • they’re in production areas with lots of small spilled items or
  • they’re near a deep fryer
Water cannot penetrate drain grates clogged with dirt and debris. This drain should be cleaned (drain brush or shop vacuum) and flushed with water.

Water can’t penetrate clogged drains. Clean (drain brush or shop vacuum) and flush with water.

Inspection Tips and Solutions
Another core IPM practice: owners or facilities maintenance personnel need to check drains often to verify that water is present in the trap. Check them each time floors are cleaned. For traps that have dried out the solution is easy – pour water down the drain until the trap is full. While you’re at it, make sure that drains are clear of debris. If the pipe is cut and no longer used, cap the end for a permanent seal.

August 16, 2016
by Matt Frye
Comments Off on Ultrasonic Devices? Ultra-Ineffective

Ultrasonic Devices? Ultra-Ineffective

Sometimes I get questions about using ultrasonic devices for coping with pests. “Mrs. Jones uses them and she never sees a mouse!” is often how it goes. I understand the appeal: plug in this thing and my problem is solved. Sure! They also have great marketing campaign: this device will emit a sound you can’t hear that scares or annoys pests — forcing them to leave.

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Cute, but ... wrong place, wrong time.

Cute, but … wrong place, wrong time.

History Lesson
The concept of using sound or vibration to deter pests was invented long before electricity. Ancient civilizations might well have used wind and water-powered devices to create vibration, movement or sound to ward off pests. And the concept of ultrasound as deterrent? Well, that might be based on the observation that some insects such as moths and crickets avoid high frequencies that mimic bat predators; similarly, certain sounds could distress rodents.

The Science
This theoretical frameworks aside, there’s no proof that ultrasonic devices really deter pests. In fact, scientific evaluations of ultrasonic devices have found no effect on target pests: German cockroaches, bed bugs and rodents. (See Literature section below.) In some cases, the frequency and intensity manufacturers claim don’t match up with actual output. Not only that, but some devices exceed limits imposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) for human tolerance of sound exposure.

Can this really repel all of the above? Think twice before you invest.

Can this really repel all of the above? Think twice before you invest.

What Does Work?
So why doesn’t Mrs. Jones have mice? Well, prevention is cardinal to good IPM, and perhaps her house is well constructed and sealed against outdoor pest invasions. Or perhaps she keeps a clean home with no spilled food or water. Again, prevention is numero uno in IPM.

If a pest did invade her home, her best chance at management would involve eliminating access to food, water and shelter, then reducing the pest population by trapping or baiting. Again, core IPM.

Next time you’re dealing with a pest problem, figure out why they’re there and address that issue. Consult our IPM pest fact sheets to guide your way. And put away those ineffective ultrasonic devices.

Selected Literature

  • Bomford, M, & PH O’Brien. 1990. Sonic Deterrents in Animal Damage Control: A Review of the Device Tests and Effectiveness. Wildlife Society Bulletin 18(4): 411-422.
  • Gold, RE, TN Decker, & AD Vance. 1990. Acoustical Characterization and Efficacy Evaluation of Ultrasonic Pest Control Devices Marketed for Control of German Cockroaches (Orthoptera: Blattellidae). Journal of Economic Entomology 77: 1507-1512.
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August 10, 2016
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Climate, Weather, Data Conference: farm, landscape, and human health

Climate, Weather, Data Conference: farm, landscape, and human health

Climate change. Farming (and pests), landscapes (and pests) — even human health (and pests). How we track pests, monitor them, predict and plan for them — looking ahead, these provide critical information for growers, gardeners, landscapers, and public health officials.

Which is why NYS IPM is hosting a new conference: Climate, Weather, Data: Protecting Our Crops and Landscapes. The date: August 15, 2016. The place: Albany County’s Cornell Cooperative Extension Office, 24 Martin Rd., Voorheesville, NY, 12186. Register and check out the agenda at The Climate and Weather Conference webpage.

We’re honored that Richard Ball, the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, will kick off the conference. Speakers from New York and across the Northeast will discuss the current state of knowledge on climate change, changes in weather patterns, and how collecting climate and weather data can help predict and manage pests. Open discussion sessions are included so you can ask your own questions. Join us.

Space is limited. Preregister here by August 10 — today! The Climate, Weather, Data portal has maps, the agenda and registration details. Questions about registration? Email or call Amanda Grace at 315-787-2208.

The program runs from 9:00-4:15 and costs $45 and includes lunch, breaks and materials. Yes, get NYS DEC credits, too!

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