New York State IPM Program

September 18, 2014
by Mary M. Woodsen
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Tiny Fruit-Fly Pest Packs Big Wallop — Now on TV

It’s tiny, but it packs a wallop. That’s SWD — spotted-wing drosophila — a new invasive fruit fly that’s put down roots in nearly every berry-growing region in North America. Losses can range from “lots” to “entire crop wiped out.” In New York alone, that’s millions of dollars down the drain.

CBS2’s Vanessa Murdock reported from the field, interviewing growers and scientists who seek an answer to this menace — along with up-close-and–personal footage of the damage it wreaks.

Your kitchen-variety fruit fly likes overripe or rotting fruit. But SWD zeros in on fresh fruit. And often you can’t see the damage till after you’ve harvested your crop. Which means you can’t market it.

“Growers are losing tens of thousands of dollars on a per-farm basis,” said Cornell scientist Peter Jentsch.

September 16, 2014
by Matt Frye
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What Is That Wasp in the Window?

Those of us who work in “structural pest management” (think office buildings, schools, or homes) tend to see the same cast of characters each year: cockroaches, ants, termites and bed bugs to name a few. But every now and then an interesting critter will show up that has a neat story to tell. Enter Brachymeria fonscolombei.

The Situation. In the past few weeks, I’ve heard from homeowners who’ve found small, compact (1/8 – 1/4 inch), black and red insects in their windowsills — with no apparent explanation for their presence. Indeed, these are wasps. But unlike your garden-variety wasps, B. fonscolombei won’t sting you or your pets.

B. fonscolombei

B. fonscolombei parasitize fly larvae. Photo: M. Frye

How to ID It. Like other wasps in its family, the Chalcididae, B. fonscolombei has large, toothed, dark-red hind femurs with a white dot. And parasites they are — but not the kind that could ever make us sick.

The Story. Brachymeria fonscolombei lay their eggs in the larvae of flies — especially house, bottle, and flesh flies. Finding them in your home follows a series of rather graphic events. It goes like this: not too long ago, a small animal — a mouse, say — died within your walls. Flies attracted to the scent laid their eggs on its body. When those  eggs hatched into larvae (“maggots” in the common lingo) along came B. fonscolombei — and laid its eggs in them. After three weeks or so (or if overwintering, as much as five or six months) a single adult wasp emerged from each maggot and looked for a way to get outdoors.


Small animal carcasses are food for flies such as this green bottle fly. Photo: J. Gangloff-Kaufmann.


Flies lay eggs on food sources that develop into maggots — fly larvae. Photo: M. Frye.

What to Do. It bears repeating: Brachymeria are wasps, but they can’t sting people. To manage them, you have to find and remove their food source (that would be fly larvae) and the source’s source (some kind of decaying stuff). Examples include pet poop, old food stuck on the bottom of a garbage can — and dead animals. If that’s is a mouse or rat that dined on rat bait, then inconveniently died inside your wall, think about using snap traps instead. With snap traps, you can remove dead rodents quickly — before the flies do it for you.

Did You Know? Cluster flies are a pest in upstate New York that congregate by the scores or hundreds in attics and other protected spaces. Whereas Brachymeria is a parasite of flies, cluster flies are parasites of earthworms!

September 11, 2014
by Marion Zuefle
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Late Blight Strikes Again — Blame It on the Weather

This summer New Yorkers have seen more than their share of late blight, a dread disease of potatoes and tomatoes. The abundance of rain we’ve had statewide provides perfect conditions for the “water mold” pathogen that causes this disease. August alone saw 36 late blight reports in New York. Pennsylvania and the New England states have also reported many infections.

And — the growing season’s not over yet. Which means late-blight season isn’t either.

Late blight gets ugly fast, whether you grow tomatoes or potatoes. Photo courtesy Gerald Holmes, California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo,

Late blight gets ugly fast, whether you grow tomatoes or potatoes. Photo courtesy Gerald Holmes, California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo,

How can a farmer or gardener learn where late blight is, the better to protect their crops? Check out the USAblight website.

USAblight maps late blight finds across the US. Farmers can find information on which isolates of the pathogen have been found; this helps them make the best fungicide choices to protect their crops. Gardeners can see if late blight is approaching their area and either protect their tomatoes and potatoes with fungicide or be ready to take out every infected plant — a must to avoid being part of the problem.

Learn more about how to recognize late blight by viewing videos on how to scout for late blight — or other diseases you might mistake for blight.

NYS IPM is part of the team that manages reports on USAblight.  We’re also supporting the trial of a new forecasting system that helps farmers cut down on fungicides when they’re growing disease-resistant varieties. We hope late blight hasn’t found your farm or garden yet — but if it has, study up to so you can be prepared next year.

Late blight at the micro level: pretty on the inside — but ugly on  the outside,.

Late blight at the micro level: pretty on the inside — ugly on the outside. Photo courtesy R. V. James,  Cornell University.

Late blight, up close and personal: Each plant disease’s root cause? A pathogen. But pathogens have enablers. First among them is the weather. Though the weather is entirely outside our control, still — with DSS and other forecasting tools, we can do something about it.

September 9, 2014
by Elizabeth Lamb
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Bee Alert When Using Pesticides

If you’ve seen neonics in the news lately, you know that there’s a debate raging on the connection neonics might have with the health of honeybees and native bees that pollinate so many of our food and ornamental crops. Neonics — that’s short for neonicotinoids. And neonicotinoid — well, this mouthful of a word is short for something, too.

Native to New York, the eastern bumblebee is a big help in gardens, orchards, and fields.

Native to New York, the eastern bumblebee is a big help in gardens, orchards, and fields. Photo courtesy of David Cappaert, Michigan State University,

“Neo” means new; but you already knew that. And “nicontinoid” — look twice and you might see the family resemblance. Because thanks to that “-oid” at the end, nicontinoid means resembling nicotine.

Nicotine has been used as an insecticide for centuries; neonicotinoids, for about 15 years. Because neonics are so effective; because they have relatively low toxicity — when used correctly — to many nontarget organisms (that’s anything but the insects on the label), these pesticides have become increasingly popular. But that “used correctly” part — that’s the stickler.

Growers and homeowners both need to understand complex ecological interactions to be sure they’re not harming honeybees, bumblebees, and all the native bee pollinators when they apply neonicotinoids — or any pesticide. Unlike growers, who must be licensed to apply pesticides, homeowners are not. Some studies suggest that the homeowner use of pesticides has a greater ecological cost than use by qualified applicators.

What does this mean to you? Whoever you are, whatever you do — do the bees a favor. If you’re going to use pesticides, educate yourself. Call Cooperative Extension in your county to find out what you need to know.

And if you buy that insecticide, follow the label instructions. Because — the label is the law.

Want more activities to help maintain our native pollinators? Check out this pdf Wild Pollinators of Eastern Apple Orchards — an 11-page booklet that applies to other crops as well.

September 4, 2014
by Mary M. Woodsen
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Alien Plant Take Over Your Flowers? No — It’s “Aster Yellows”

Are your purple coneflowers suddenly looking weird — as in truly weird, almost like some alien plant highjacked them and replaced their gorgeous flowering heads with its own? Ah … but it’s really a disease called aster yellows. And those green flower heads? They’re tufts of deformed coneflower leaves erupting amidst the blossoms.

Posies in a panic: tufted leaves that erupt amid a flower head tells you a deadly killer is at work. Read on ....

Posies in a panic: tufted leaves that erupt amid a flower head tells you a deadly killer is at work. Read on ….

Aster yellows, a microscopic organism known as a type of phytoplasma, has a vector — an enabler. Vectors are insects that could carry a disease; sometimes even dozens of diseases! The disease doesn’t generally infect its vector; it simply uses it as a handy way to hitchhike around. Likewise, on its own that insect vector might not even hurt your plants as it feeds. But if a potential vector has the phytoplasma in its gut, some of that disease may sneak out in its saliva — and into your plants.

With aster yellows, the vector is a tiny leafhopper that migrates northward each summer on storm fronts out of the south. You never know when, where, or if this leafhopper might drop out of the sky and into your garden or nursery bed. Nor could you know which plants might end up becoming phytoplasma food, since aster yellows can hammer about 300 species of garden plants , and weeds .

If it does, then you have exactly one remedy at your disposal: dig up damaged plants and destroy them. Because — aster yellows has no cure. And don’t put off this unwelcome task. The sooner you rouge out infested plants, the better your hope of containing this disease’s spread. And do keep an eye out for foliage that turns yellow while the veins stay green — another telltale symptom of this silent killer.

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!

Add Caption Here

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.