New York State IPM Program

December 17, 2014
by Joellen Lampman
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Child Safe Playing Fields Act – Frequently Asked Questions

A New York law essentially banning pesticide use on the grounds of schools and day care centers has been full effect since 2011. The letter of the law states:

No school or day care shall apply pesticide to any playgrounds, turf, athletic or playing fields, except that an emergency application of a pesticide may be made as determined by the county health department or for a county not having a health department such authority as the county legislature shall designate, the commissioner of health or his or her designee, the commissioner of environmental conservation or his or her designee, or, in the case of a public school, the school board.

Questions about the law still abound. Here are the most common questions we receive:

What areas are affected?

The inside of this fenceline falls under the Child Safe Playing Fields Act.

The inside of this child care center’s fenceline falls under the Child Safe Playing Fields Act.

Besides the playgrounds, turf, athletic or playing fields clearly stated in the law, playground equipment and fence lines around athletic fields and tennis courts are included.

The following areas are left to local discretion, but with the understanding that the intent of the law is to reduce children’s exposure to pesticides:

  • Areas around buildings
  • Ornamental plants such as trees, shrubs, and flowers

Pesticides used inside of schools or day care centers, or to protect a structure, are not banned.

Family day care centers are exempted.

What if a fence line is managed by the surrounding landowner (such as childcare center on a college campus)?

The law applies to the interior fence line that encloses the play area (the side that children may contact).  The law would not apply to the exterior fence line.

If a park hosts school athletic events, such as games and practices, must it be managed under the law?

No.

What pesticides are banned and are there any exceptions?

Pesticides are substances intended to prevent, destroy, repel, or mitigate pests. They include insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, rodenticides, and plant growth regulators. All EPA registered pesticides are banned by this law for use on grounds at schools and day care centers, with the following exceptions:

  1. Antimicrobials such as bleach
  2. Aerosol sprays (18 ounce or less) to protect from imminent danger from stinging or biting insects
  3. Insect and rodent baits in non-volatile containers
  4. Products containing boric acid or disodium octaborate tetrahydrate
  5. Horticultural oils and soaps
  6. EPA exempt pesticides, known as minimum risk pesticides and 25(b) products, are not registered by EPA because they find them to pose little or no risk. Cornell has a list of allowable herbicides for schools and day care centers available for your reference.

Note that all of the above exceptions (except bleach) must be applied by a NYS licensed pesticide applicator. Any off label use of a product – such as the use of bleach, road salt, or home remedies to control a pest – is illegal under state law.

Is there a provision within the law to add additional materials to the exempt list?

No. A change would require either the EPA to add to its 25B list or the NYS legislature to pass new legislation.

clover_field

While clover does not provide the traction and stability of turfgrass, it is considered a repetitive pest problem and not an emergency under the law.

Can you tell me more about these emergency exemptions?

Under the law, a public school can seek permission for an emergency application from their school board. Non-public schools and day care centers ask the Department of Health in the case of emergencies that threaten public health, such as ticks, or the DEC for those significantly affecting the environment, such as an invasive species.

While the law does not indicate what might be construed as an “emergency”, the Guidance document states pest issues are NOT emergencies if they are:

  • manageable with allowed products and practices
  • a routine or repetitive pest problem
  • purely an aesthetic issue

We are used to dealing with the DEC on pesticide issues. Besides deciding on emergency exemptions for environmental issues on private school and day care grounds, what is their role in the law?

The Department of Environmental Conservation, in consultation with the State Department of Education, State Department of Health, and the Office of Children and Family Services has written guidance for alternative management of turf, but has no role in enforcement.

Where can I find help in managing my grounds without the use of pesticides?

Cornell University is committed to helping you provide safe, functional school and childcare landscapes. The Cornell Turfgrass Program connects you to numerous resources, most notably the Safe Sports Fields Management website and the Lawn Care: The Easiest Steps to an Attractive Environmental Asset ibook. The NYS IPM Program has a dedicated page for schools and childcare centers, including a new blog, The ABCs of School and Childcare Pest Management. We also encourage you to take advantage of educational opportunities throughout the year.

December 5, 2014
by Joellen Lampman
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Dealing With Wildlife and the Laws That Protect Them

When we think about pests, bugs and mice are the first things that typically come to mind. But what if larger critters such as squirrels, bats, woodchucks, deer, or pigeons become troublesome? IPM works for them too. You must, however, be aware of laws that apply to nuisance wildlife and how they might affect  your IPM plan.

Voles are an example of a non-protected wildlife species. They chew the bark off woody plants and their above ground tunnels can be seen in turfgrass after snow melt. Photo © cyric

Voles are an example of a non-protected wildlife species. They chew the bark off woody plants and their above ground tunnels can be seen in turfgrass after snow melt. Photo © cyric

In New York, the regulatory players involved are the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (all species) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (migratory birds and federally endangered and threatened species). Through these agencies, every wildlife species in the state has a legal classification. What is of upmost concern is determining whether your nuisance is classified as “unprotected” or “protected.”

Legal Classification: Unprotected

Unprotected mammals include shrews, moles, bats (except Indiana bats, which are federally protected), chipmunks, woodchucks, red squirrels, flying squirrels, voles, mice, and Norway rats. Unprotected bird species include rock doves (feral pigeons), house sparrows, and European starlings.

An unprotected species can legally be taken by the property owner at any time of year and by any means as long as other laws (i.e., pesticide regulations, firearm discharge ordinances, trespassing laws, etc.) are not violated. The DEC defines taking as pursuing, shooting, hunting, killing, capturing, trapping, snaring or netting wildlife and game, or performing acts that disturb or worry wildlife.

Some might consider it too cruel to take an animal and decide that capturing your nuisance pest with a live trap is best. Before heading to the hardware store, recognize that you cannot release an animal off your property without a permit. An unprotected animal can be released on the same property where it was captured or must be killed and buried or cremated.

Legal Classification: Protected

Canada geese are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, but there are still things you can do to manage them. Harrassing them, such as with dogs or lasers, does not need a permit. Interfering with their nest, such as addling their eggs, does need a permit. Photo: Joellen Lampman

Canada geese are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, but there are still things you can do to manage them. Harassing them (such as with dogs or lasers) does not need a permit. Interfering with their nest — such as addling their eggs — does need a permit. When in doubt, contact the DEC. Photo: Joellen Lampman

For some protected species, if an individual animal is causing damage (not merely being a nuisance), it can be taken by the property owner. Mammals that fall under this category include opossums, raccoons, weasels, and gray squirrels. (Skunks may legally be taken if they are only a nuisance, even if they are not causing damage.) But the animal, dead or alive, cannot be transported off the landowner’s property without a nuisance wildlife control permit obtained from the DEC.

A few mammals (including bear, beaver, deer, mink, and muskrat), most birds, and (currently) all reptiles and amphibians are not only protected but cannot be captured or removed from the property without special case-by-case permits.

Animals with a legal hunting or fur trapping season can be taken as long as the proper hunting or trapping license has been obtained.

Nuisance Wildlife Control Permits

Nuisance wildlife control permits are issued to people who have gone through the prescribed application process. These permits allow protected species to be taken in any number, at any time, and from any location — with permission of the landowner — within the state. Permits must be renewed annually. Private nuisance wildlife control operators, pest control operators dealing with nuisance wildlife, municipal animal control officers, and some wildlife rehabilitators must obtain the proper permits.

Laws change, so if you have a question concerning the legal status of a species or contemplated action, contact the Wildlife section of the regional office of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.

For information on IPM for nuisance wildlife, refer to Beasts Begone!: A Practitioner’s Guide to IPM in Buildings  and Best Practices for Nuisance Wildlife Control Operators.

(Adapted from Legal Framework for Nuisance Wildlife Control in New York State by Lynn Braband, NYS Community IPM Program at Cornell University)

December 2, 2014
by Mary M. Woodsen
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Grape and Hops Winter Workshops: Now!

It’s that time of year — growers (some of them, anyway) get a break from fieldwork and start taking advantage of workshops around New York.  Here are two, coming right up.

Grape Pruning Workshop

Friday, December 5, 2014 (repeats on or Friday, March 6, 2015)

vineyard

A vineyard in the Finger Lakes Region. Photo: K. English

Interested in learning how to prune grapevines? Don’t miss the Finger Lakes Grape Program’s hands-on pruning class and demo. A brief indoor session provides time to get familiarized with proper techniques and ask questions. Then outside we go — and everyone will have the opportunity to prune vines on three different training systems. Instructor: Mike Colizzi, Viticulture Community Educator with the Finger Lakes Grape Program. Dress for the weather — and bring your own pruning sheers.

Fee: $25.00/person
Preregistration required. Call Yates County Cooperative Extension at 315-536-5134 or Register on-line

9:00 am – Noon
Finger Lakes Teaching and Demonstration Vineyard
Anthony Road Wine Company
1020 Anthony Road
Penn Yan, NY 14527

Cornell Hops Conference

Saturday, December 6, 2014

hops

Starting a hopyard? Growers take heed: hops vines are high climbers. They’re also perennials. So plant varieties that resist disease, varieties that’ll hang in there for the long haul. Photo: T. Weigle.

A great networking and learning opportunity — meet with brewers, educators, growers, and prospective growers. Registration includes lunch and trade show. The conference consists of one full-day session, all on hops-related topics, along with two additional separate tracks:

  • growing hops for beginners
  • brewing

Please note — seating is limited.

Events & Pricing
Registration Fee: NeHA Members $75.00
Registration Fee: Nonmembers $85.00
Friday Beer Pairing Dinner: $45.00 (only 100 seats available)
Saturday Post-conference Happy Hour: $15.00
Saturday Beer Pairing Dinner: $30 (only 50 seats available; drinks not included)
Click here to register8:00 am – 5:00 pm
Morrisville State College
Morrisville, NY

Northeast Hop Alliance Complete Agenda
For more information contact: Steve Miller or phone 315-684-300 x 127 or Alycia Schick or phone 315-684-3001x 108.

This event is brought to you by the USDA Agriculture/NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets Specialty Crop Block Grant, and by a NYS Farm Viability Institute grant.

November 25, 2014
by Mary M. Woodsen
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“No Surprises” Trip Prep? IPM, Prevention Are Key

So you’re thinking of a trip south, camper or boat in tow, or maybe a little winter getaway to your cabin in the North Country.  For “no surprises” trip prep, take advantage of every spell of mild weather to make sure you’ve

  • kept rodents from settling into cozy quarters (or disinvite those that have)
  • removed those enticing extras that make critters do their best to bust through your defenses

Here’s the IPM approach. Put on your overalls, grab a flashlight, and crawl under

Your cabin is more secure with mesh pushed into critter entry points.

Your cabin is more secure with mesh pushed into critter entry points.

your camper or into the crawl space under your cabin — or climb up a ladder to take a closer look at your eaves and loose siding as well as cable entry points. Plug every likely entry point and with something like copper stuff-it — a fine wire mesh that helps keep critters out — or by caulking those places where propane pipes, internet cables, or phone or electric lines come in.

Be careful. If need be, hire an electrician. Even turning off the breaker box doesn’t mean dangerously high voltage won’t zap you.

This can be tricky work, because rodents can squeeze through what look like impossibly small spaces. Sometimes they’ll pull out your wire mesh, but caulk worked into the mesh — or a spray foam that expands into it — will help keep the mesh in place. So look again. And know that foam alone won’t do the trick — even if the can says it deters mice, chipmunks, and the like.

Besides critter-deterrent foam, here’s what else won’t provide long-term control: ultrasonic devices and boom boxes blasting rap music (yes, it’s been tried!). Sure, you might get short-term control — but critters acclimate to predictable or constant sounds. And forget that persistent rumor that mothballs (or dryer sheets) will deter them. For one, it’s illegal to use mothballs this way. And any seeming deterrence is probably illusory.

If rodents haven’t made your camper or cabin home yet — if you don’t see mouse poop, for instance — count your blessings and roll up your shirtsleeves. Besides the obvious (boxes of crackers, say, or plastic jars of peanut butter), remember that crumbs beneath the couch cushions or inside drawers and hard-to-reach corners attract critters with sensitive noses.

Because rodents appreciate a cozy place to curl up as much as you do (and because prevention is key to good IPM), stash everything from paper napkins to blankets and pillows in tightly sealed containers. If you can, empty the drawers; leaving them open makes the space less of a hidey-hole — and less appealing.

Occasionally you might do such a good job on the outside, you actually trap a critter that was already inside your walls when you began. Though it seems harsh, the best thing is to place snap-traps at those key exit points you discovered during your inspection — and check them as often as you can. (Animals caught in live traps and released elsewhere often end up in some other critter’s territory, and the consequences aren’t all that pretty.)

Traps come in two sizes: mouse and rat; rat traps work also for squirrels and chipmunks. What size to put out? If you hear noise at night it’s probably a mouse or rat. If during the day, it’s probably a chipmunk or squirrel.

November 21, 2014
by Mary M. Woodsen
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DIY “Strip-Trials” for IPM On-Farm Research

Field corn is the king of crops in New York. This highest net-value and most widely grown crop occupies more than a million acres statewide. Some years it’s hammered by leaf blights that can cost considerably if not treated in time. Other years your crops get off almost unscathed. So — how to know which conditions tip the scales for health or disease on your farm — and thus whether you should spray or put that money to a different use?

Just because you needed a fungicide one year doesn't mean you will the next. Photo credit: G. Bergstrom, Cornell University

Just because you needed a fungicide one year doesn’t mean you will the next. Photo credit: G. Bergstrom, Cornell University

A savvy farmer who knows the risks and benefits of pesticides needs ways to tell if a given fungicide will provide higher yields and profits, and under what conditions. To help, IPM researchers have taught and tested new materials that guide growers in setting up side-by-side strip trials — three or more pairs of treated and untreated corn, each strip at least 10 feet wide, so you can do your own on-farm research.

For if good judgment is the best IPM tool a farmer has, the best place to hone it is in your own fields, under your growing conditions. There’s no better way to know which combination of best-management tactics work best in the microcosm known as your farm — regardless what a specialist or salesperson might say.

Find these new protocols and their companion data sheets on our website. (Hint: both are links to pdfs.)

Special thanks to Professor Gary Bergstrom, Field Crops Pathology Extension Program, Cornell University

November 18, 2014
by Mary M. Woodsen
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For New Invasive Lanternfly, Best IPM Tool is Your Eyes

Spotted lanternfly, aka Lycorma delicatula — put it on your radar now. True, as far as we know it’s not in New York. Yet. And with winter blowing in, any likelihood of seeing it this year is grows smaller by the day. But considering the havoc this new invasive could wreak if it breaks through the quarantine in Berks County, Pennsylvania, this is one pest to remember. And — especially if you’ve been in southeastern Pennsylvania of late — you can take action now.

Yes, it's pretty. Pretty bad. Even though it's probably not in New York yet, scout now for egg masses (below); next year for nymphs and adults. Photo credit: L. Barringer, PA Dep't of Agriculture.

Yes, it’s pretty. Pretty bad. Though it’s probably not in NY yet, scout now for egg masses; next year for nymphs and adults.
Photo credit: L. Barringer, PA Dept of Agriculture.

This pest lays egg masses — beginning in September and up till the onset of winter — on just about anything with a smooth surface. So check your truck or camper, or any smooth-surfaced outdoor furniture or equipment you picked up during your travels. Here’s what to look for: a grey, puttylike, waxy coating over a mass of seedlike eggs that look as if they’re trying to poke through it.

What’s at risk? Apples. Grapes. Peaches. Dogwoods. Lilacs. All told, this natty but nasty critter (adults and nymphs alike are handsome little devils) hammers 70-plus species of smooth-barked trees and shrubs — plants we rely on for everything from apple pie and fine wine to the beauty they bring our yards and landscapes. And right now, our eyes are the best IPM tool we have for keeping this pest at bay.

Like a waxy gray putty — that's what you're scouting for to find hitchhiking egg masses. Photo credit: L. Barringer, PA Dep't of Agriculture.

Like a waxy gray putty — that’s what you’re scouting for to find hitchhiking egg masses. Photo credit: L. Barringer, PA Dept of Agriculture.

Actually, spotted lanternfly isn’t a fly. Not even a moth, though with wings spread it sure looks like one. It’s what entomologists call a “true bug” — an insect that pierces a plant with specially adapted mouthparts that suck up sap, rather as we might drink soda with a straw. But that sap is a plant’s lifeblood. Get enough sap-sucking bugs on your grapevines or cherry trees, and you’ve got a problem on your hands.

True, lanternfly gets around by hopping and seems not to move quickly on its own, despite the adults’ pretty wings. Problem is, this adaptable pest can hitchhike unseen on just about anything — not just on trucks cars and campers but flowerpots or outdoor furniture. Suddenly, Berks County doesn’t seem so far away.

New York’s orchards and vineyards alone contribute about $330 million to the state’s economy. When you factor in the value fine wines and grape juice, peaches and cherries, landscape and forest trees and shrubs, it looks lots worse. So of course we’ll remind you about spotted lanternfly next spring.

If you think you found egg masses, take a photo, scrape some off, place your sample in alcohol or hand sanitizer in a leak proof container and report to the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, Division of Plant Industry at 518-457-2087 or via email at plants@agriculture.ny.gov. Think you’ve seen the bug itself? Do the same photo-hand sanitizer-report-it thing. Now.

 

November 11, 2014
by Elizabeth Lamb
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Roses are red but rose rosette virus will make you blue

Did your roses look odd this past year — stems and leaves that stayed red all summer, or lots of stems or buds all bunched together? (Those bunches are called “witches’ brooms.”)  If so, they could have rose rosette disease — a virus carried by a miniscule mite.

Those decorative purple spiky things adorning your bouquet are actually symptoms of dreaded rose rosette disease. Photo credit S. Jensen, Cornell University.

Those decorative purple spiky things adorning your bouquet are actually symptoms of dreaded rose rosette disease. Photo credit S. Jensen, Cornell University.

It may be just a small branch affected at first but rose rosette is a serious disease. It can infect and kill almost all types of roses and spread from plant to plant.  What to do? Remember your IPM principles and scout! Inspect your roses often for first signs of the virus.  Even wild roses can carry it, so look at those too. You can check this fall and if you are not sure, mark those plants to look at again in the spring.

Found symptoms? Remove symptomatic plants to keep rose rosette from spreading.  It’s unlikely that pruning out infected parts will save your roses or keep the mites from hopping onto neighboring plants to feed and infect them.  And bag each plant right away!  Don’t carry them through the garden dropping mites as you go.

Classic "witch's broom" on your roses mean you must be ruthless about roguing your roses. Photo credit D. D. O'Brien, Cornell University

Classic “witches’ broom” on your roses mean you must be ruthless about roguing your roses. Photo credit D. D. O’Brien, Cornell University

When you buy roses next time, inspect them carefully — not just the ones you are buying but all the roses around them. If you see symptoms, try a different store.  The symptoms don’t show up right away. And the last thing you want to do is bring home a Typhoid Rosie.

Can you replant in the same place?  Some resources suggest the virus can move from the old roots to the new. So give your new rose a new home.

Stay tuned!  While we don’t have answers now on how to protect your rose garden, there is research in progress that should help us keep our roses red and our growers not so blue.

For more information, see University of Tennessee’s Observations on Rose Rosette Disease.

November 7, 2014
by Mary M. Woodsen
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IPM Watchwords for Adaptable Pest | Lessons Learned

Launching Our “Lessons Learned” Series:

With winter coming on and much of the fieldwork done, what better time to go into “lessons learned” mode? Each growing season is different, with nature dishing up some new entrée — something new on your plate. Sometimes it’s good. Sometimes it’s not. If it’s noteven if it happened to someone many miles away, why not learn from another grower’s ill fortune to better plan your IPM strategies for next year?

In this case — published in our 2013 – 2014 Year in Review  — corn growers are the ones most in need of paying heed. And it took but one case for people sit up and take notice.

Drama from on high: there's no helping this corn now. Photo credit E. Shields, Cornell University

Drama from on high: sometimes it’s high winds that make corn lodge — that is, to just topple over. But not in this case. Photo credit E. Shields, Cornell University

The symptoms were telling: large swaths of corn suddenly flat to the ground with goose-necked stalks, badly pruned roots — and nothing else to blame it on. The larvae that most likely pruned the roots had, by then, grown and flown. But long experience pointed a finger at corn rootworm — CRW for short.

A natural insecticide, Bt, has long been incorporated in some genetically modified corn to battle CRW. It works great if managed correctly. But pests (and CRW is a great example) have a long history of becoming resistant to most any pesticide. Growers can and should use IPM tactics that greatly lessen the likelihood of resistance.

Crop failures associated with Bt corn surfaced as far back as 2007 in America’s corn belt. Still, it was a surprise to find the first probable instance of Bt resistance in corn in the Northeast this past year — in a cornfield in upstate New York.

For those grown accustomed to the convenience of high-yielding, almost pest-free corn — well, you can see why some farmers might let down their guard.

CRW adults look innocent and do little damage, but ... Photo credit W. Upham, Kansas State University

CRW adults look innocent and do little damage, but …
Photo credit W. Upham, Kansas State University

For these growers, three IPM watchwords:

  • Give it a break: continuous corn means continuous pests
  • Rotate! plant soybeans, alfalfa or wheat — corn rootworm doesn’t eat them
  • Plant a refuge: a belt of non-Bt corn along the edge of your main crop helps sideline CRW

 

Corn contributes more than $685 million to New York’s economy. Which is why IPM strategies for halting the spread of corn rootworms newly resistant to Bt corn are critical. Because — this could happen to you.

... but their larvae, hidden underground, do the dirty work. Photo credit S. Bauer, USDA

… their larvae, hidden underground, do the dirty work. Photo credit S. Bauer, USDA

Thanks to Elson Shields and Keith Waldron for reporting this story.

November 4, 2014
by Mary M. Woodsen
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This Wasp Pollinates Your Posies — and Makes Nests of Grass

With IPM, half the battle is knowing what not to kill. After all, sometimes a beneficial could look like a pest. That’s why an accurate ID is so important. Case in point? The grass-carrying wasp.

At about ¾ inch, these shiny black wasps with the smoky wings and almost impossibly narrow waists look just a little scary. And yes, you might be tempted to run for the spray. But we are not their prey. Instead, they help pollinate flowers. Only if you try to handle them would these wasps ever sting you.

Grass-carrying wasps make great pollinators. Photo credit: Linda Dahlberg.

Grass-carrying wasps make great pollinators. Photo credit: Linda Dahlberg.

But their main task in life? Building nests — of grass, no less — then paralyzing tree crickets or the occasional katydid, tugging them into those grassy wads, and laying their eggs close by. Then it’s off to sup on some flower nectar among your posies. Each nest is the work of just one female — no worker caste, no helpful male schlepping prey to the nest. Presumably males spend their days cavorting among the flowers.

Once hatched, the larvae feed on those paralyzed crickets. In less than a week they’re ready to pupate. Two or three weeks later the adult wasps break free of their cocoons and fly away. Their first stop? Maybe to tank up back among the flowers on your windowsill and spread some pollen around.

You might see these wasps wafting along on a breeze, each female trailing a long, slender blade of grass trailing behind her to the nest she’s building. But you’re just as likely to discover, much later in the season, that you’d cohabited with a female wasp and her offspring. As did I. I was out scraping old, peeled paint from old, peeling window frames to prepare for some primer and then a fresh coat of paint. On one frame the paint was bulging out, almost like a paint balloon.

Late-season evidence: sheltering the grass-carrying wasp. Photo credit: M. Woodsen.

Late-season evidence: sheltering the grass-carrying wasp.  Top R: wasp cocoons. Top L: fly pupal cases. Photo credit: M. Woodsen.

And as one long strip fell to the ground I saw grass-carrying wasp cocoons, yes, but also the pupal cases left behind by hatchling flies. Probably it was the fragrance of fresh-cut grass (flies do lay eggs in decaying grass clippings) that attracted them.

In your case, you might’ve removed window screens from their tracks so you could put up the storm windows. Or maybe you just wanted the screens out so you could clean the glass for a better view of the cardinals at your birdfeeder. You might even spy a nest half-hidden in a broken branch now that the leaves have fallen. And wonder at the diminutive black beauty (because if any wasp deserves the name, surely this one does) you unknowingly sheltered, back in an almost forgotten summer.

Meanwhile, go ahead and toss that wad of dry grass aside. No one will claim it next year.

October 30, 2014
by Mary M. Woodsen
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Deal with “Empty Nester” Wasps Now — Prevent Problems Next Year

Anxious about that wasp nest near the back door that you hadn’t noticed till now?

Not to worry. By this time of year, most wasp colonies have disbanded. Fertile young queens fly off to hide under tree bark or some other place to wait out the cold weather — to chill out, as it were. And all those worker wasps? Their lifespan is over and most will wander off to die, unremarked in the great scheme of things.

Those empty nests they leave behind — it’s easy to think that something live is still lurking there; that come next year, those same nests will still be that colony’s home-sweet-home. And indeed a few workers might hunker down in the nest — but rarely if ever do they survive the winter. Even if they did, they’d have no purpose in life without a queen to care for come spring. And new queens want new homes.

Those worker wasps would be goners, pure and simple.

Come spring, though, it might be tricky to tell those old nests from new. And though wasps provide clear services as predators of pesky caterpillars, still, a nest too close to home could be a hazard.

So that you don’t get unduly worried next year (and miss an easy way to tell which nests are new and worth dealing with), get rid of old nests now.

Here’s your simple, tried-and-true IPM solution. First, take a close look at the undersides of porch railings, the eaves over doors and window, the undersides of picnic benches or swing sets — you get the idea. Note where the nests are.

Super-soakers, a hose, a broomstick, a shop-vac — you get the idea. Photo credit K. English

Super-soakers, a hose, a broomstick, a shop-vac — you get the idea. Photo credit K. English

Then on some cold night take a stick, broom handle, high-pressure hose, shop vac — even your kid’s super-soaker — to every abandoned nest you can get to. Vacuum them up or knock them to the ground. Then just for good measure, stomp on them with your boots.

Why choose a cold night? Just in case, that’s why. If a few wasps remain, they need light to see by. Plus, wasps move very slowly on cold nights. But how to manage without a light that you can see by? By using red-filtered light. You might have a flashlight on hand with a red-filter lens you can screw on. Or you could just buy “light filter film” online. (Get the “orange-red” kind.) Then get out your scissors, cut a piece the size of your lens — a piece that include four half-inch tabs at each point on the compass (as it were). Next, fix the filter snugly over the lens with tape or rubber bands.

In fact, you could even use red holiday wrap. But you’d have to cut a strip wider than your flashlight (you want an inch or two to spare) and fold it end over end to make a small square about 1/8 in thick — then do the tape or rubber-band thing.

And there you have it. Now all you need is a chilly night, in abundance this time of year. And come next spring, we’ll walk you through the same process — this time, to deal with the new nests you find. (And no pesticides needed. Mostly.)