New York State IPM Program

August 27, 2014
by Joellen Lampman
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Punching Out Grubs

Cutting grass roots to the quick — that’s a grub’s stock in trade. But pesticides cost money and time — let alone potential health hazards, whether to ecosystems or us. Cutting grubs to the quick? Now, there’s an idea.

Aerators can often be rented at local hardware stores.

Aerators can often be rented at local hardware stores.

Groundskeepers and savvy homeowners use aerators with their sharp tines to break up hard, compacted soil, letting life-giving oxygen and water deeper into the earth. But those tines have another function, though not by design. They’re like tiny spears, meaning that a grub in the wrong place at the wrong time is a goner. (Aerators can be rented.. In the NY Capital region, I am able to rent an aerator at my local garden store for $40 for four hours and $80 a day. To find one in your area, try Googling: aerator rental “your town”).

grub life cycle

Big grubs make the best targets. And the research … well, just read on.

Research at the State University of New York at Delhi has shown that yes, turfgrass aerators can lower grub populations, sometimes as much as 90 percent — depending, of course, on conditions that vary from site to site and year to year. Building on that, NYS IPM-funded research at SUNY Delhi looked at which cultivator designs do best against grubs.

Results? All aerators can cut grub populations — though the old standard hollow-core aerators did best in these trials. And it’s an inexpensive tactic if you have the equipment. With this information in hand, you can plan your aerate with grub management in mind. Ideally you’d time a tactic like this for when grubs are big enough to easily impale, yet not so big they’ve already dug deep to survive the winter.

So should you get punchy? Our video shows you how to assess your lawn and scout for grubs. If you find 10 grubs per square foot, now is the time! Grubs are pretty big and still close to the surface in late August so aerating might be just the ticket.

For more information, visit and

August 21, 2014
by Matt Frye
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Baiting for Mice, Rats? Try String!

Peanut butter is a staple in managing mice and rats, especially in residential settings. It’s easy to apply to traps, it stays fresh for several days — and a jar of peanut butter has a long shelf life. But peanut butter isn’t always your best bet. Because sometimes that peanut butter is a magnet for other pests — think cockroaches and ants. Besides, a large rodent population might have a wide range of food preferences. And for some, peanut butter might not be at the top of the list.

For those situations, here’s a trick that could help — bait those traps with string! String? Here’s why:

String tied to the paddle of a snap trap is a baiting technique that doesn't feed other pests.

String tied to the paddle of a snap trap is a baiting technique that doesn’t feed other pests.

Females can give birth to six to eight litters of pups throughout the year, though they breed more often when it’s warm. They work hard at building nests for their young, and among their favorite nesting materials is string. So just tie a short piece string or dental floss tightly to the paddle of a snap trap and there’s your bait. Be sure to loop your string closely around the base of the paddle. And this is one bait that’ll never spoil.

Find more info: watch our YouTube video on Trap Selection and Placement.



August 19, 2014
by Matt Frye
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Have No Fear: Pests Are Smaller than They Appear

Are subway rats really the size of house cats? Are there American cockroaches or “waterbugs” as big as your hand? Fortunately, neither is true. But a 2012 study offers insight as to why those beliefs exist.

First, some background. Whenever I give a presentation about structural pests, I like to bring some specimens along for show and tell. Invariably, as I open up a box of pinned insect specimens someone says, “I’ve seen cockroaches twice that big!” Outwardly I might act surprised, but that’s because I’m thinking, “Hmm. I’ve been in some sketchy places and seen some nasty things, but the American cockroach is usually about 1.5 inches long, and the average Norway rat is about 16 inches from nose to tail and weighs about 12 ounces.”

Real-world American cockroaches — note their reddish-brown color — measure about 1.5 inches.

Real-world American cockroaches — note their reddish-brown color — measure about 1.5 inches.

Sure, there are exceptions — some can be smaller, others larger, but a three-inch-long cockroach? Surely there’s an explanation.

Then one day I stumbled on a post by ABC News: “Spiders Appear Bigger When You Fear Them” — and it all started to make sense. According to an Ohio State study, being scared can cause an individual to exaggerate the size of the object they fear. A rat racing past you on the subway is sure to induce fear, as is a cockroach in your bathroom. But looking at a dead cockroach, pinned in some entomologist’s specimen box? That’s not so scary.

A challenge: next time you see a critter that would normally make you afraid, take a closer look. You might find that your perception of their size more accurately represents their true size — which in all cases is large enough!

Snout to tail, your average Norway rat is 16 inches long and weighs in at about 12 ounces. Cats? A healthy weight for a small breeds is around 5 pounds; the very largest, 18 pounds.

Snout to tail, your average Norway rat is 16 inches long and weighs in at about 12 ounces. Cats? A healthy weight for a small breeds is around 5 pounds; the very largest, 18 pounds.


August 14, 2014
by Kenneth Wise
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The Cutworms Are Coming

Western bean cutworm — call it WBC for short — is a new pest to us, though farmers in the Midwest and Canada have been battling it for several years. Since field corn contributes $685 million to New York’s economy while sweet corn rings in at $68 million, we can’t take this threat lightly. These green traps — and the dedicated cooperators who monitor them — help us keep tabs on where adult moths are showing up. For though adults don’t damage plants, their cutworm larvae do.

Green lures are best — they're less likely to trap bees.

Green traps are best — they’re less likely to trap bees. That white packet is the lure that attracts males/

The largest capture this week was 516 moths in St. Lawrence County — and numbers are really begin spiking now. Meanwhile, data from the Midwest suggests we start looking for egg masses and larvae when accumulated trap counts exceed 100 moths per trap. Which means we’re out there and looking for the distinctive egg masses WCB moths lay.

That sky-blue line — that's how many more moths we've trapped this year than in the past

That sky-blue line — that’s how many more moths we’ve trapped this year than in the past

Meanwhile, just one WBC larva per ear could cause losses of as much as 3.7 bushels per acre. And while WBC aren’t the only worms (as the larvae you often find in corn are called) than can hammer corn, other species are cannibalistic — they don’t take kindly to competition in the same ear.  By contrast, WBC larvae don’t mind company and you might find two or three in the same ear.

Another problem: damaged kernels might leave corn vulnerable to attack by molds — including some that produce mycotoxins. Mycotoxins can be bad news for livestock — and us. True, not all molds are harmful. Still, we need to be on our toes, because mycotoxins are serious business.

Want to stay informed? Visit our weekly field crops post. For sweet corn, go here (for western NY) or here for info elsewhere in NY — and all the way to the Great Plains.

The eggs look  pretty as they mature, but ...

The eggs look pretty as they mature, but …


... the damage these cutworms cause doesn't.

… the damage these cutworms cause doesn’t.



August 12, 2014
by Elizabeth Lamb
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Tipping the scales of tree health

Seeing spots on your landscape conifers?  It might be elongate hemlock scale.  It’s not just on hemlocks anymore – it’s been reported on firs in the Hudson Valley, western NY, and the Southern Tier.

Scales – and this is a hard scale, so it has a handy protective cover for itself – suck the contents out of the cells of the needle, which causes the yellow spots when there are lots of them.  If you flip the needles over, you can see elongated brown or white scale covers – brown are female, white are male.   Break open that brown cover and you might see tiny yellow eggs.  One of the problems is that the eggs are laid over a long time-span – so there are almost always eggs!

The eggs hatch to crawlers which move to a new site on the same or a neighboring tree and then settle down to eat and build their own covers.  And lay more eggs, of course.

Too much nitrogen fertilizer can make the problem worse.  The scales survive better and lay more eggs.  Stress – like not enough water or too much water – makes the trees more attractive to the insect.  And if you use a pesticide that kills off the good guy beneficial insects like ladybugs, the scale numbers will actually increase!

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Up close and personal — a nasty case of scale. Photo: Eric R. Day, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University,

So what can you do?


Conifer needles infested with Elongate Hemlock Scale. Photo by E. Lamb, NYS IPM.

If you are buying new plants, check them to make sure you don’t bring scales home accidentally.

If your trees are already planted, check them carefully for scales.  If there are just a few, prune out and destroy the needles or branches if possible.  Check other trees nearby to see if any crawlers have made the long hike.

Also, if you are working in trees with scale, always go there last so you don’t spread crawlers from tree to tree on your clothes.

Horticultural oil applied when the trees are still dormant in spring can help.  Remember that oils remove the blue color of trees like blue spruce.

Want to be sure that you have elongate hemlock scale?  Send a sample to the Insect Diagnostic Lab at Cornell.

See pictures of all the stages at Forest Pest Insects in North America: a Photographic Guide.

August 5, 2014
by Matt Frye
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Dog-day Cicadas — and the Wasps That Do Them In

Midsummer in New York is when things really start to heat up. And as if hot days aren’t enough, the sound of the dog day cicada makes it seem even hotter.

Cicadas are robust insects —  up to 1 ¼ inch — with piercing mouthparts that suck up plant juices. Cicada nymphs live underground, feeding on sap from roots. Adults, on the other hand, feed from trees and shrubs. 

But this story isn’t about dog day cicadas. It’s about the predator that eats them.

Bold yellow stripes on a black body have "wasp" written all over them.

Bold yellow stripes on a black body have “wasp” written all over them.

Cicada killer wasp measure from a little over an inch to 2 inches. And that’s big. Cicada killers are solitary wasps: each female digs her own burrow, usually in light or sandy soil. The males that guard a female can be aggressive — but as far as we’re concerned, it’s all an act.  Why? They don’t have stingers. They pose little threat to humans — besides intimidation.

But females — they have stingers (though not for us). And that’s where the action begins. In fact,  female cicada killers can catch cicadas in flight, then inject them with a paralyzing venom. Next, they drag them into their burrows — each female to her own — where the cicada serve as food for the wasp larvae as they grow.

For their own nourishment, though, these females dine on plant nectar. Just don’t provoke them too much — they can sting in self-defense.

Don’t want them too close to home? Just don’t use a wasp and hornet spray; learn why here. Putting down grass seed on exposed soil in sunny spots or mulching your flower beds will make the habitat less suitable for cicada killers.


July 31, 2014
by Elizabeth Lamb
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Best Bets for Bees

Make your yard ‘bee-friendly’!  It’s everywhere in the news these days. So how can you keep your garden a haven for pollinators of all types?

1. Keep it blooming – all season long

Have lots of different blooming plants – annuals, perennials, shrubs, trees, even weeds (ahem — wildflowers) for ample pollen and nectar for honey bees, bumble bees, and all those native bees — as well as other beneficial insects that hang out in your garden from spring to fall.

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Lots of flowers all season long and season-long care with the fewest pesticides make for the healthiest bees. Using organic sprays? Still take care not to spray when flowers are open. Photo: E. Lamb, NYS IPM.

2. Use as few insecticides as possible

Usually pests and beneficial insects, like bees, manage to stay in balance. If the bad guys get out of hand, try Bacillus thuringiensis products, soaps, or oils that are less harmful to most pollinators.

3. Never spray pesticides when flowers are open

Bees are most likely to visit open flowers for their pollen and nectar. So pollinators and pesticides apart by spraying only before or after flowers are in bloom, or at least when they’re not open.

Worried about the pesticides on plants you buy at garden centers or nurseries? Talk to the growers. Most try to avoid using pesticides harmful to bees and are looking at options to control pests that won’t leave residues on the plants.



July 29, 2014
by Matt Frye
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Beware This Beetle: It Is B-A-D

This year New York celebrated its first Invasive Species Awareness Week. Across the state, organizations and communities rallied to educate people  about the damage caused by invaders. They gave workshops on pest ID. They even pulled weeds. Awareness Week was a great success, serving as a reminder for year-round vigilance in dealing with invasive species.

Big and bold in designer black and white makes ABL a standout.

Big and bold in designer black and white makes ABL a standout.

Among the worst is the Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB). Because it’s a killer; because of the potential for re-infestation, nearly 130,000 trees have been cut down since it first appeared in 1996. Last summer a new infestation was found on Long Island. More than 450 infested trees and many others at risk had to be cut down and chipped. If it gets into our forests — watch out.

So help save our trees. It’s easy — learn  the signs! ALB is large and leaves dime-sized emergence holes on tree trunks and branches — especially in August, when peak numbers of adults emerge from trees. Look for big, shiny black beetles about 1 to 1.5 inches long. They’ll have white spots and long, black-and-white antennae. And if you or your friends have an outdoor pool, check filters and skimmers for this critter. It could just be the least-expensive tactic for finding them yet.

Found one? Put it in a jar with a tight lid and contact the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Now.

Early detection and rapid response are our best hope against ALB. Join the fight!


Egg-laying site: Female ABLs chew a depression in the bark where they lay a single egg.

More Resources:

August is Tree Check Month



Exit Hole: dime-sized and perfectly round, these holes are most common in August when adults emerge from the tree.


Frass: as larvae develop inside the tree, sawdust-like frass (insect poo!) gets pushed out and will accumulate on the truck, branches or ground below.


The Asian longhorned beetle is 1 to 1.5 inches long, black with white spots.


July 16, 2014
by Joellen Lampman
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Tis the Zzzzzzzzzz Season

After a long winter, warm weather is  a welcome change. But no season is perfect. The air is abuzz with the zzzzzzzzzzz’ing of mosquitoes, a small insect that more than makes up for its size in its capacity to annoy.

The Asian Tiger Mosquito (Aedes albopictus) is an invasive day-biting mosquito from Asia.

The Asian Tiger Mosquito (Aedes albopictus) is an invasive day-biting mosquito from Asia.

But mere annoyance is not the extent of the problem with mosquitoes. Itching and swelling are one thing. Mosquito transmitted diseases are another. West Nile Virus (WNV) and Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) show up annually in New York. As of July 10th, WNV has been reported. EEE has not been found yet. No reports of human positive cases have been filed. (Interested? Follow reports at the NYS Department of Health: Mosquitoes and Disease).

Conditions conducive to mosquito breeding.

Conditions conducive to mosquito breeding.

The most common mosquito is Culex sp., which has a very small territory. It usually stays within 300 feet from its breeding site — so ensuring there are no breeding sites on your property can go a long way in protecting you and yours. These mosquitoes aren’t picky about where they lay eggs. Almost any standing water will do. In fact, a bottle cap full of water can provide a breeding site. So check your yard for water in containers, tires, tarps, boats, children’s toys, rain gutters, bird baths, and unfiltered pools. Don’t forget to check your recycling bin.

When you find standing water, simply dump it out. (This just might be the easiest IPM solution ever!) Any existing eggs and larvae will desiccate and die.

The next step? Be sure that water can’t collect in that area again (what a great excuse to clean up) — or regularly dump, clean, and refill items such as birdbaths and children’s pools.

Adult mosquito emerging from its pupal skin. Dump any standing water to prevent this from happening.

This female mosquito emerging from its pupal case was found on a plastic sled that was put out of the way for the summer. Dump any standing water and put the sled in a storage unit to prevent this from happening.

For more information on mosquitoes and how to protect yourself, please read our publication, What’s all the Buzz About Mosquitoes, also available in Spanish.


July 15, 2014
by Mary M. Woodsen
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IPM’s Pest Pinochle Debuts at Empire Farm Days

efd_leaf_CMYK_richBlackEmpire Farm Days is coming back to Seneca Falls from August 5 – 7 for the umpteenth time. So, of course, is NYS IPM, with a table in the Cornell University barn just off the north parking lot.

We’re mixing it up a little this year — building our presence around a couple of pinochle decks. Pest Pinochle, to be exact. Decks are complete with:

Ken playing Pest Pinochle

Farm Aid attendees have fun learning about IPM the easy way.

  • Trouble and Solution cards for common farm or home pests (match them and get another turn)
  • Wild cards (discard the Trouble card of your choice)
  • Joker cards —lose your turn (and that’s no joke)

Choose between our IPM Farm or IPM Home decks — whichever’s the best fit for your situation. Be the first to get rid of all your Trouble cards and you’re the winner.

pest pinochle