It’s tick season and social media is blowing up with recommendations for removing ticks. Petroleum jelly, a hot match, twisting tools, and swirling with a cotton swab are a few on the list. They all promise to cause the tick to release with the head intact. People are very concerned about leaving the head behind.
Deer tick embedded in leg. Photo: Wellcome Images flickr
But when it comes to ticks, the head and mouth parts are the least of your worries. Hot matches, petroleum jelly, etc. — just know that if the tick freaks out (and it will), more saliva or even what’s in its stomach — and both carry pathogens — will get into you. May the thought of a tick throwing up into your blood stream give you pause.
Though a literature review on tick removal techniques put out by the London based Health Protection Agency Centre for Infections shows the lack of research in this area, it concludes that grasping the head as close to the skin as possible using forceps or pointy tweezers and pulling straight up is the best method. This mirrors the current CDC recommendation and is what the NYS IPM Program advises.
Grasp the head as close to the skin as possible using pointy tweezers and pull straight up. Photo: Fairfax County
And if you accidentally break off the head? Don’t sweat it. Just treat it like you would a splinter.
After removing the tick, place it in a plastic bag, put the date on it, and stick it in the freezer. If you start to feel poorly in the next few weeks, take the tick with you to the doctor. Different ticks carry different diseases and knowing what species bit you can help the doctor decide on the best course of treatment.
It’s BioBlitz time. Beginning on Earth Day (Friday, April 22) and running through Migratory Bird Day (Saturday, May 24), hundreds of Audubon International-certified golf courses are hosting events for golfers, their families, their friends (kids too) — to see who can find and ID as many plants and critters (bugs and mushrooms count too) as they possibly can.
Fluffy owlets have a home at Bethpage State Park’s golf course. Photo courtesy Audubon International.
In fact, any golf course in the world is welcome to participate. Most will have skilled group leaders on hand to help with ID or offer a pair of sharp eyes and ears to help people distinguish among the range of plants and animals whose homes border on fairways and roughs — especially those rare or endangered species.
And prizes? There’ll be prizes — but the biggest prize of all is engaging local interest, understanding, and support of the environmental advantages golf courses can provide to their towns.
Staghorn sumac at Bethpage State Park provide great winter food reserves for songbirds. Photo courtesy Audubon International.
April 19, 2016
by Joellen Lampman Comments Off on iMapInvasives Training
Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you. – Frank Lloyd Wright
Do you go outside? Then the NY Natural Heritage Program is looking for you to help map invasive species! And they are providing free training throughout the state for your convenience.
iMapInvasives is now available on your smartphone.
iMapInvasives New York is New York State’s on-line all-taxa invasive species database and mapping tool. It’s one stop shopping to provide information on your invasive species observations and surveys in NY and control efforts. You can even use your smartphone to report new findings (a new feature for those that have already received training).
Citizen scientists, educators, and natural resource professionals are part of New York’s invasive species early detection network. Join them by learning how to use iMapInvasives. Visit www.nyimapinvasives.org for schedule details and registration.
Now, I don’t have a greenhouse or even a grow light on my windowsill. But sometimes IPM ornamentals specialist Elizabeth Lamb’s posts are so much fun to read that I just want to share them with the world.
From now on, it’s Elizabeth’s voice you’re hearing.
I just figured out how to hyperlink in my emails. I’m quite the dinosaur! Click on the blue words to get the link if you are a dinosaur like me.
This generalist rove beetle eats more than just western flower thrips — it’ll eat the thrips specialists like Neoseiulus cucumeris, too. Photo courtesy natural-insect-control.com.
Lots of information from Tina Smith at UMass and Leanne Pundt at UConn
Keeping an eye on those calis. Calibrachoa troubleshooting for diseases and disorders. Or tackling thrips with bios and pesticides (remember to check for NYS labels on any pesticides) Lots of other resources linked to this report.
While you’re at it, be nice to your nematodes. This article makes the point about not storing nematodes in a refrigerator that is opened frequently. Another temperature shock could be mixing chilled nematodes with too warm water. Not sure we have the research on this yet, but it makes sense.
What are those strange lumps? It could be crown gall – found on some lobelias this spring. It is caused by a bacterium and can be spread by water splashing, although it needs an entry point to get into the plant. No good control so add it to your scouting list.
Do you have a pH or EC (electrical conductivity) meter stashed in your greenhouse that you last used last season? It probably needs to be recalibrated. Have you ever done that? Here’s how! And to keep Margery happy – lovely photos of Thielaviopsis – and how to avoid having your own.
Where have all the archived updates gone? Well, NYS IPM is in the process of getting a new website and we consolidated all the updates into one blog to archive them Coming soon.
’Tis the season for greenhouse information — from my email to yours. Have a good week!
Grow greenhouse crops — or for that matter, Christmas trees? Want to learn more? Give Elizabeth Lamb a shout at Elizabeth M. Lamb <firstname.lastname@example.org> and she’ll subscribe you. You can, of course, opt out anytime you want.
April 7, 2016
by Mary M. Woodsen Comments Off on Trees and Threes: Prune Now to Keep Trees Healthy
Our gratitude to Paul Hetzler for this lovely piece, adapted for “Think IPM.” Here in one place is most everything you need to know about pruning to keep your trees fit and trim.
As far as trees are concerned, early spring is the best time to prune. (Late summer is second–best.) In the 4 to 6 weeks before bud-break, trees’ internal defense systems are perking up. It’s sort of the best of two worlds: Trees’ growth processes remain offline, but their shields are up against infection. (Like IPM says: give plants every opportunity to deal with pests the way they evolved to.)
A few warm days will fire up these buds. Prune now.
Plus it’s a lot nicer working outdoors in early April than in January or February. OK, I guess that’s three worlds.
But first, a word about tools. Three kinds of tools. If you had to shovel your driveway with a spatula, you’d soon despair. Proper tools make a job easy. A professional-quality hand saw and bypass-type hand pruners are essential, and a good lopper is a welcome bonus. Good tools will last a lifetime, and you’ll be amazed at the difference they make.
That orange streamer helps you find pruners hiding in the mulch.
Actually, many “threes” are involved in good pruning. For example, no more than a third of a tree’s live branches should be removed in any pruning cycle. (For older or stressed trees, however, 20% is maximum). But don’t remove a third of the leaf-bearing material each year. A typical pruning cycle for a shade tree is (surprise) three years.
Another guideline is that two-thirds of a tree’s leaf area should be in the lower half of the crown. In other words, don’t clean out interior foliage or remove lower branches unless there is a compelling reason to do so, such as safety or disease management. (It’s basic IPM — reach for the loppers before you reach for the spray.) Lower and interior branches are essential on hot sunny days when leaves in the upper canopy get above 85 degrees, which is too hot to photosynthesize. (IPM again: foster healthy plants that better resist pests.)
Get started with the three Ds: dead, damaged and diseased branches. (“Diseased” rings those IPM bells. Prevention!) They get the ax first. With those out of the way it’s easier to see what else needs attention. For crossing or rubbing branches, take the less desirable of the two. Whenever possible, favor wide branch-to-trunk attachments over narrow ones, which are more prone to breakage. (Broken branch-to-trunk? IPM again: prevent pathogens from finding an easy way in.)
In most cases, a branch is pruned back to the main trunk. But sometimes pruning back a large limb to a side branch is aesthetically preferable. Just be sure that side branch is at least one-third the diameter of the branch you remove.
Prune the branch, not the trunk. At the base of most branches you’ll see a swollen area — the branch collar. It produces fungicides. (Classic IPM biocontrol, only the tree takes charge) Branch collars also close wounds more rapidly than ordinary tissue. This is part of the trunk and should never be cut. To put it simply, flush cuts are bad.
For branches over an inch thick, use a 3-stage cut to eliminate or reduce tearing the bark. First, cut the underside of the branch about one-third of the way through, a foot from the trunk. Make cut #2 directly above the first to sever the limb. Holding the stub, make the third cut just outside the branch collar.
Prune away those water sprouts, and root suckers if you see some too. Image courtesy CCE.
Obviously, maples bleed if cut in March or April. While research tells us the loss of sugars is not significant, you could prune maples in the 3rd week in July, which is the other good pruning window. For fruit trees that water-sprout excessively, late-summer pruning reduces this problem. Park your saw, though, during spring leaf-out and again in the fall before leaf drop—wounds made then can lead to serious long-term problems.
In the past, pruning cuts were painted with wound-dressing compounds, but research shows this can actually accelerate decay (an IPM no-no). As far as I know, people-wounds can still be covered up with Band-Aids. Good pruning tools are really sharp, so keep one on hand. Maybe you should bring three, just in case.
Lee Telega loves farming. Respects science-based knowledge. Cares deeply for the environment. Navigates the halls of New York’s legislature as comfortably as he once navigated a tractor.
These attributes were a perfect match for Telega’s steadfast advocacy for the NYS IPM Program, because advocate he did. As a member of Cornell’s Government Affairs office, Telega knocked on thousands of doors — of lawmakers, agency officials, and stakeholder groups — to spread the word about the benefits of IPM. For this and more, Telega has received an Excellence in IPM award.
Lee Telega advocated for IPM, science, the environment, and communities across NY.
“Lee wasn’t just our guide in Albany,” says former NYSIPM Director Don Rutz. “He was perceptive, intuitive, and gifted with getting IPM’s message across quickly with no loss in clarity.”
Telega did more than schedule appointments and shake hands. A born networker, he went floor to floor, door to door in Albany’s Legislative Office Building, says Jennifer Grant, director of NYS IPM, who accompanied him on some of those jaunts. “Did you know the toll that ticks and Lyme disease are taking on your constituents — and what IPM is doing about it?” “School IPM is critical for providing healthy places for children to learn.” “Senator, I understand you like to play golf. So you might be interested in IPM’s groundbreaking research at Bethpage.” “Did you know the organic sector in your district is booming and how IPM helps?”
Telega didn’t grow up on a farm. His dad was a steelworker in Pittsburgh. But though he went to Penn State to study engineering, he left with a degree in animal science, followed by a masters in dairy nutrition at the University of Tennessee. He used it farming in West Virginia, then managing the University of Missouri’s dairy research and teaching operation.
Telega came to Cornell University in 1988 as a senior extension associate with the Pro-Dairy Program and was based in Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Albany office, where he shared space with NYS IPM. Among his mandates? Crafting environmental policies that benefit both farms and the communities growing up around them.
After a six-month appointment in Senator Hillary Clinton’s office in 2001, bringing her up to speed on ag issues in New York, Telega returned to Cornell and in 2004 became the agriculture and natural resource specialist for Cornell’s Government Relations Office in Albany. During these twelve years of state budget ups and downs, Lee was invaluable to IPM in securing and expanding its funding, says Charles Kruzansky, Cornell’s associate vice president for state government relations.
“Lee has both feet in both worlds — the farmers’ world and the urban world,” Kruzansky says. Telega knew how important IPM was to communities everywhere, because everyone must deal with pests — some of them daunting. “Plus he understands the care that goes into bridge-building policy work,” Kruzansky says. “IPM couldn’t have a better friend than Lee.”
Most recently, Telega’s appointment as New York’s state director for USDA Rural Development in 2013 brought together everything Lee most loved doing, says NYS IPM’s Jennifer Grant. “Lee did a world of good for growers and communities all across New York. We can’t thank him enough.”
Telega received his award on March 28 at the Statewide IPM Grower Advisory Committee meeting in Albany, held at the Department of Agriculture and Markets. Learn more about IPM at nysipm.cornell.edu.
March 24, 2016
by Mary M. Woodsen Comments Off on pollination potpourri: wasps, moths, flies, beetles, and oh yes … bees
Let’s start with a short pre-blog quiz: which of these native insects pollinate plants?
all of the above — plus flies, wasps, butterflies, moths
The answer? #4. If you left out flies and wasps because they freak you out … well, just know there’s scads of different wasps and flies — not to mention bees, moths, and beetles — that’ll pollinate your posies, not to mention your apples and pears, your melons and cukes.
Male carpenter bees seem to help protects nests. Get too close and they’ll act aggressive — even though they don’t have stingers. Females could sting but won’t unless you start handling them.
Let’s look at bees first — native bees! Because the natives outnumber honey bees (originally imported from Europe) in apple orchards. A NYS IPM-funded study from 2009 – 2011 found 102 species of native bees busily pollinating apple flowers — and Cornell’s Bryan Danforth, who led that study, estimates that the native bees outperform honeybees by 200 to 300 percent. Yes, honeybees have a value-added bonus: honey rang the registers in New York at over $10 million in 2015. But if apples or pears (or blueberries or strawberries) are your crop of concern, look to the natives.
Think fruit growers are the only ones to benefit? Dairy farmers take note — leaf-cutter bees pollinate your alfalfa, according to Cornell’s Emma Mullen at NYS IPM’s pollinator conference in 2015. And while many vegetable crops are wind- or gravity-pollinated, key crops like melons, squash, pumpkins and cukes need a pollinators’ help.
Syrphid flies? Harmless. This one’s looking for a flower to pollinate.
So … what about flies? More than meets the eye. Finding New York-specific info is a struggle, so let’s just note that vast numbers of fly species all over the world make their living off nectar. Spreading pollen around is a sideline for them but critical for us. In fact, ecologist Alison Parker (University of Toronto) modeled how bees and flies visit flowers — and showed that lots of bees might not always benefit the flowers because bees take so much pollen. But in this computer model, pollination increased with each fly visit.
Not only that, but with some (perhaps many), their larvae serve as biocontrols for crop-damaging aphids. Most nectar-guzzling flies resemble bees or wasps — after all, if you’re harmless but you look like something that defends yourself with a stinger, you’re more likely to be left alone.
What about beetles, moths, butterflies? Beetles were the very first insect pollinators, with ancient evolutionary origins — and according to the US Forest Service, a global pollination rate of 88 percent. The butterflies and moths? Ranking their value is a tough call, but hey — they have a job; they show up. Actually, those second-shift moths way outnumber day-duty butterflies. But you don’t often see them at work, so we don’t know how much good they do, especially since sometimes their larvae can be troublesome for certain plants.
How about wasps? If you’ve done enough noodling around online to see that wasps do little in the way of pollination because their bodies are hairless, unable to capture and carry much pollen, keep looking. No, they’re not as competent as bees. But many do have hairy bodies, and they do help. Plus they’re great garden predators, tackling all sorts of pests.
Bringing it all together, a NYS IPM-funded project now underway at the State University of New York at Cobleskill will evaluate the efficacy of different native plant combinations in attracting native pollinators of every stripe and color — and invite visitors to view the farm and orchard demonstration plots to learn more.
What to worry about? Well, yes, the big bruisers in the pollination game often have stingers, and we don’t like being stung — but that’s for another post. And of course there’s the issue of bee health and bee declines — again, for another post. No, there’s a couple of somethings that over time could take a toll on any number of critters and plants, and we’re just beginning to wrap our arms around them. One: the impact that changing climates could have on pollinators. Not that we understand the dynamics well. The other: lost and fragmented habitats.
If you go back to Emma Mullen’sslides, you’ll see that bumble bees, for one, are unable to track climate change. And they are not alone. You’ll also find references for habitat loss and fragmentation and if you’re so inclined, you can watch the video of her talk.
More than enough info for now, no? Stay tuned — this is a perennial topic.
March 16, 2016
by Mary M. Woodsen Comments Off on Farm Demos, Scouting, Resourcefulness Earn IPM Award
Always positive. Wonderful to work with. An invaluable resource. Accolades like these don’t just pop up out of nowhere. In Sandra Menasha’s case, they speak to the qualities that earned her an Excellence in IPM award.
Menasha’s field days demo IPM on farms.
Menasha is a vegetable specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) on eastern Long Island. A few short decades ago, Long Island was blanketed with working farms that shipped produce, mostly potatoes, to New York City and points west. Now a different sort of blanket covers much of western Long Island — suburbs. But Suffolk County in eastern Long Island, with its equable climate and a soil both sandy and rich, still hosts several hundred working farms. Some go back 10 or 15 generations.
Menasha works with these growers. She scouts their fields — a classic IPM tactic — alerting them to disease and insect pests (and diseases are pests) as well as the beneficial organisms that can save a crop. After all, about the costliest thing a grower can do is treat for something that isn’t there. And she digs deep into each pest’s why, when, and what, since the cause of seemingly similar problems could be one thing one year but another the next. She also holds twilight meetings at the farms to demonstrate her research to other growers.
Mustard in full bloom packs a punch — now it’s time to till it under and let it do its work.
What research? Well, lately Menasha has worked with plant pathologist Margaret McGrath at Cornell’s Horticultural Research and Extension Center. Their focus: soil-borne diseases that can outlast even the most careful crop rotations (another classic IPM tactic). Diseases that can cost growers as much as $4,000 per acre. Menasha and McGrath wanted to test biofumigants: plants that, if planted early and tilled in before the main crop, release chemicals that do in soil pests. It’s a new technique that has “IPM” written all over it. Right now farmers are using biofumigation on well over 400 acres. The Long Island Farm Bureau expects that number to grow.
Yes, planting two crops instead of one is more labor-intensive. “But you also get more benefits,” says grower Don McKay. “The mustard decomposes into organic matter that enriches the soil.” McKay uses it on pumpkins, a high-value crop on Long Island and one plagued by a soil-borne blight. And Menasha? “Sandy’s always on it,” he says. “Without her, I’d have given up on pumpkins.”
Sandra Menasha received her award at the Empire State Fruit and Vegetable Expo in Syracuse, NY.
March 10, 2016
by Mary M. Woodsen Comments Off on Spider FAQs One Two Three
These three things you should know about spiders. But first, know this. They’re not bugs. In fact, insects probably outnumber spiders roughly 10 to one. Too bad so many things get blamed on spiders — insect bites, say, or medical conditions that require intervention.
One. We are not their prey.
In fact, most couldn’t bite us if they wanted to. Their fangs are too small, too weak to break our skin. Only one species that could make us really sick lives in the Northeast: the black widow spider, and it’s rare in New York. Sure, if we accidentally blunder into a spider, it does what we might under similar circumstances. It reciprocates, only with its fangs.
We’re about to set this spider free outside. But first, some gentle play.
With so many kinds and no real threat, spiders make a wonderful subject for nature walks with kids, says Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, community coordinator with NYS IPM. “What’s cooler than watching a spider eat a fly?”
Two. Spiders help with indoor pests.
Worried about cockroaches, flies, earwigs, clothes moths? Your friendly neighborhood spiders will take them down. In fact, spiders will do in most of your household pests if you but let them — and long-legged cellar spiders will take down black widows in the dark, hidden places they like to call home. Meanwhile a study in Kansas, where brown recluse spiders abound, collected 2,055 from one home over a six-month span. Yet not a single person was bitten. Inside your home, “live and let live” is the ideal IPM solution.
Three. Spiders help with outdoor pests.
Next time you see a webbed funnel in the grass, see if you can find the grass spider hidden within.
Flies, mosquitoes, ants, caterpillars, slugs, that sort of thing — spiders are on the hunt for them. Not for us. And they’re great in the garden. Some leap on their unsuspecting prey; a silken tether helps keep them falling too far if they miss. Some run down their prey. Some build funnel-shaped (but not sticky!) webs in low vegetation, dashing out to snag insects that wander by. Some wear camouflage, taking on the color of whatever blossom they’re waiting in.
Apparently some even narrow their “feeding niche” to concentrate on an abundant prey source — a good thing if that prey is something we’d rather not have in yards, buildings or farms. Want to welcome spiders to your garden? Learn how here.
If you still don’t want spiders in your home, you’re hardly alone. IPM solutions? NYS IPM’s Matt Frye suggests scooping them into a container and escorting them outside. Alternatively, vacuum them up.
March 2, 2016
by Mary M. Woodsen Comments Off on Excellence in the Berry Patch
Dale-Ila Riggs, president of the New York State Berry Growers Association, has amassed a lifetime of expertise in IPM and berry farming. Combine that with inventiveness, insatiable curiosity, and determination — tackling head-on what could be the berry growers’ worst pest ever — and it’s no surprise she earned a recent Excellence in IPM award.
Those iconic wing-tip spots are a dead giveaway — if you can get close enough to see them.
That worst pest ever? That would be SWD: shorthand for “spotted wing drosophila.” This new, barely visible pest blew into New York in 2012. If you remember your biology, you know drosophila are fruit flies — useful experimental subjects in the lab. In nature most are harmless; after all, it’s fruit well past its prime that they go for.
But not SWD.
SWD, hardly bigger than this comma, sneaks in just as berries ripen. By the time you notice the damage, your crop is unsalable. Riggs wants to reverse that trend.
Late-bearing raspberries are especially hard-hit by SWD. Thanks to research conducted in high tunnels at Riggs farm, she demoed that growers using IPM methods can harvest tasty fruit into November.
So while many berry growers dug out entire plantings, Riggs dug in — aggressively seeking Cornell research collaborations and the money to support them. After all, berries are worth $15 million; the market is growing. Per capita consumption of blueberries alone is up 411 percent since 2000. Results? IPM solutions already benefiting berry growers across New York and the Northeast.