New York State IPM Program

July 2, 2015
by Jody
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The Wannabe Bees

Who wants to be a bee? I don’t claim to know the deepest desires of insects that visit our gardens and farms, except that they want to survive, eat and reproduce. So why do so many mimic other insects that are dangerous, such as yellowjackets? The black and yellow stripes of a typical yellowjacket are easily recognizable to birds, humans and other mammals and signal “Danger! I sting!”. That’s a pretty powerful message that ensures yellowjackets and other wasps and bees are avoided by hungry predators looking to raid the colony for tasty larvae or honey. It’s called aposematic coloration and serves as a warning to other animals not to mess around. From skunks to poison arrow frogs to snakes, aposematic coloration protects both predator and prey from unfortunate interactions.

But what about the harmless insects that are similarly colored? In landscapes and gardens throughout the U.S. you can look closely and find small black and yellow-striped insects

Hover fly on daisy fleabane.

Hover fly on daisy fleabane.

hovering above flowers. Harmless hover flies (a type of fly in the Syrphid family) display a mimicry of yellowjacket coloration, as you can see in the picture. Adults hover flies feed on nectar and pollen, thereby serving as minor pollinators of many flowering plants. The larvae, or maggots, of some hover flies are saprotrophs (feeding on decaying

matter) and some are predatory on smaller insects, like aphids and thrips. Aphids, alone, cause tens of millions of dollars in crop damage each year. Hover flies are considered among the many important natural enemies of aphids and other plant-feeding pests. A gardener’s friend, indeed!

Also in the Order Diptera (which includes all flies and mosquitoes) are the amazing robber flies. The one pictured is called a bee-mimic robber fly. It closely resembles a bumble bee

Bumble bee robber fly

Bumble bee robber fly

and enjoys the protection that such mimicry provides. How could you tell it apart from a bumble bee? All flies, including these, have only one pair of wings. Look closely at the image and you can see a round dot at the base of the wing. That is called a haltere, which is a wing reduced into a flight stabilizer. You can also see very enlarged eyes, relative to the head, small V-shaped antennae and a thick straw-like mouth. Yes, robber flies can bite! But they are voracious predators of other insects – whatever they can catch. Although robber flies are indiscriminate about what other insects they eat, if you have a garden with pests and you see robber flies, they are probably doing good deeds for you.

By looking closely at the many insects that visit your yard and garden, you might be surprised at how many beneficial insects you see. Maintaining your green space using fewer pesticides and incorporating IPM strategies to manage plant feeders will help protect these amazing natural enemies.

June 30, 2015
by Matt Frye
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Fruit Flies of a Different (eye) Color

A common pest in homes is the red-eyed fruit fly: Drosophila melanogaster. Famous for use in genetic studies, and infamous for emerging from store-bought bananas, management of this fly rarely requires more than discarding infested items outside of the home.

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A dark-eyed fruit fly adult

Management of this fly’s cousin, the dark-eyed fruit fly (Drosophila repleta), also requires elimination of breeding habitat. However, finding and addressing that habitat can be more difficult. This is because dark-eyed fruit flies develop in wet, decaying organic material that may be out of sight. They are common pests in bars, restaurants, and some coffee shops where they breed under equipment, near drains, sinks, and beverage taps. In these accounts, customers may observe flies near food, drinks or when they rest on walls. Flies may defecate (poop) on walls and leave black fecal spots on otherwise light-colored surfaces, affecting your client’s brand.

Identify the Problem.

When dealing with dark-eyed fruit flies, the first and most important step is a thorough inspection to identify breeding locations. Focus your inspection on places that remain wet, and where food spillage might be present. In addition to sinks and drains, consider moisture from condensation on refrigerators, ice machines and pipes.

Gaps around sinks and drains allow food and moisture to accumulate, providing breeding habitat for fly larvae or maggots.

Over time, tile grout can break down or be removed, especially in commercial kitchens that are wet cleaned nightly. These spaces can accumulate food and hold moisture to create fly breeding habitat.

Address the Problem.

Whether structural or sanitation issues contribute to fly problems, the solution is to remove breeding habitat. Keeping areas dry and free of food spillage will avoid future problems with fly breeding. Some questions to consider: Is there tile grout missing, allowing water and crumbs to accumulate? Is the floor angled or are depressions present that collect water? Does food fall behind or under equipment and is not regularly cleaned? Are floors power-washed at night, lodging food and water in areas that are out of sight or stay wet throughout the day? Are there cracks and crevices near the sink that do not have a sealant?

Quick Fix.

Once a maggot has completely developed, it will crawl out of its moist breeding habitat and find a dry place to pupate. This fly developed in the moist gap below, and is seen here in a corner of the sink.

Addressing structural or sanitation issues are a long-term solution that will prevent fly breeding. But what can be done in the immediate future to address customer concerns? Dark-eyed fruit flies are attracted to insect light traps, which can be installed in kitchen areas. Traps may also be placed out at night when all other lights are off to harvest active flies. In addition, fans can be used to dry out breeding areas or to keep flies out of customer spaces.

What NOT To Do.

Bug bombs and general pesticide applications do nothing to address the breeding fly population, and therefore do nothing to prevent future problems. Similarly, pest-strips containing dichlorvos are sometimes used illegally for management of fruit flies in restaurants. According to the label, these products are intended for use in confined spaces where people are present for no more than four hours at a time. They are not to be used in areas where food is prepared, stored or consumed. For more information on pest-strips, see our previous post, Pest-Strips: A Kitchen No-No!

June 26, 2015
by Lynn A. Braband
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NYS IPM Program Participates in Forthcoming Launch of a Statewide School Environmental Health Program

On June 18, NYS IPM Program staff met with a diverse group of people and organizations to develop a comprehensive effort to ensure that every child and school employee in the state have safe and healthy learning and working environments. The last of four meetings over a two-year period, the interaction was organized by the NYS Department of Health under an EPA grant. Partners came from several state agencies, the US EPA, schools, BOCES districts, and school stakeholder NGO’s.

Photo: NYS DOH

Photo: NYS DOH

Photo: NYS DOH

Photo: NYS DOH

According to the draft New York State Clean, Green, and Healthy Schools program plan, the goals will include:

  1. Eliminate or reduce health risks from environmental hazards to occupants of all school environments;
  2. Eliminate school environmental health and safety disparities;
  3. Improve attendance among students and staff; and
  4. Improve academic achievement and other educational outcomes for all students.

These goals will be addressed by four action priorities.

  1. Priority Area A: Promote policies and best practices to manage environmental issues in all school environments. Included in this priority is the prevention of pests and reduction of pesticide use and exposure through Integrated Pest Management.
  2. Priority Area B: Create, maintain and disseminate educational materials appropriate for the school community.
  3. Priority Area C: Develop and sustain partnerships among all stakeholders.
  4. Priority Area D: Strengthen organizational infrastructure and resources to promote and support environmental health.

This program will be a collaborative effort among all the partners involved. The kick-off event for the program will be a statewide school environmental health meeting to be held in the Albany area in October, which is Children’s Health Month.

June 23, 2015
by Joellen Lampman
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Don’t Let Carpenter Ants Renovate Your Home!

Carpenter ants are the most common ant pest found in the Northeastern United States. They cause structural damage when they excavate wood for nest sites. Unlike termites, carpenter ants do not eat wood, but rather scavenge on dead insects and collect sugary secretions (“honeydew”) produced by other insects such as aphids. Carpenter ants are a nuisance pest when workers are spotted inside foraging for food and when winged swarmers are found inside.

Carpenter Ant Damage
Carpenter Ant Damage

Did You Know … ?

  • Wood is Not-So-Tasty: Carpenter ants tunnel through moisture-damaged wood and spit out wood shavings. The resulting waste piles look like sawdust and often include ant body parts.
  • A Numbers Game: There are approximately 24 species of carpenter ants that are pests in North America; nine of these species are present in the northeast.
  • Hanging Out: Carpenter ant larvae are clumped together by J-shaped hairs, and cling like Velcro to the roof of their galleries.

See Don’t Let Carpenter Ants Renovate Your Home! for more information on carpenter ants and how to manage them.

June 19, 2015
by Matt Frye
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Pest-Strips: A Kitchen No-No!

Beginning in about the year 2000, nearly all organophosphate pesticides became unavailable for use in homes. This was done primarily to limit exposure of children to active ingredients that negatively affect their health and development. Despite this extensive cancellation of organophosphates for structural pest management, one holdover active ingredient from that era remains today: dichlorvos (2,2-dichlorovinyl dimethyl phosphate, or DDVP).

The most common use of this product is as a slow-release vapor from impregnated resin plastic blocks. Pest-strips, as they are called, are used to treat a variety of pests including flies, gnats, mosquitoes, moths, silverfish, cockroaches, spiders, beetles, and earwigs. Like all pesticides, the label instructions are the law, and pest-strips have very strict requirements for use. The guidelines for these products are not intended to make the life of pest professionals difficult, but to reduce human exposure to active ingredients that can cause nausea, headaches, twitching, trembling, excessive salivation and tearing, inability to breathe from a paralyzed diagram, convulsions, and if concentrations are exceedingly high — death.

Legal Uses.

In general, products containing dichlorvos are intended for use in confined spaces where people will not be present for more than four hours at a time. Depending on the size of the product (16 or 65 grams), each pest-strip can treat an area of 100 to 1,200 cubic feet for up to four months (1,200 cubic feet is a room that measures 10 by 15 by 8 feet). Some areas where these products can be used include garages, sheds, attics, crawl spaces, storage units, trash bins, and for the small sizes (16 g): pantries, cupboards, and closets. Many other commercial applications are listed on the label.

Illegal Uses.

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Pest-strips in restaurants are often illegally placed near drains.

Unfortunately, these products are sometimes used in violation of the label directions to treat pests in spaces where people are present for more than four hours, or where food is present. A common example that makes me cringe is the use of pest-strips in food establishments. Especially cringe-worthy is when numerous strips are used in a kitchen where food is prepared and workers are present for a full day. Yes, I’m talking about your average restaurant.

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Do you see the pest-strip? Yes, right next to the Spanish and red onions!

Address the Problem.

It is critical to understand that the use of pest strips for fly control at a drain or cockroach control by a grill line are not treating the problem, only the symptom. The real problem in these scenarios is the presence of food and shelter: accumulated organic debris in drains, food spillage behind and under equipment, and cracks or crevices in structures that provide harborage. If you remove these conditions you treat the problem and eliminate the symptoms.

Remember, for all pesticides and pesticide products, the label is the law. As an applicator, you are responsible and legally obligated to follow the instructions that are intended to reduce health risks for you and your clients.

For more information on pest-strips in structural pest management:

CDC Warning on Misuse of Pest Strips by Gwen Pearson

Careful Use of Nuvan Strips by Mike Merchant

June 16, 2015
by Joellen Lampman
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“Sopping, and with no sign of stopping, either- then a breather. Warm again, storm again- what is the norm, again? It’s fine, it’s not, it’s suddenly hot: Boom, crash, lightning flash!” – ― Old Farmer’s Almanac

Early June and the grass still has not come out of dormancy.
Early June and the grass is still dormant.

What a spring it has been. After a spring drought, the grass is now recovering (or finally coming out of dormancy!) as parts of New York have received inches of rain over the past two weeks. Wet soils, higher temperatures, and humidity can lead to turf damage and pest pressure. What can you do to help prepare for summer stress?

What a difference a week, and rain, makes.
What a difference a couple of weeks, and rain, makes.

Hold off on fertilizers

Spring fertilization promotes top growth at the expense of root growth. Grass needs deep roots as a buffer against summer heat, drought, insect damage, and diseases. Unless you are maintaining high quality, high traffic turf, such as on golf putting surfaces, wait until the fall to fertilize.

IrrigationPicture1

Ideally, your grass should be receiving one inch of water per week. If you have the ability to irrigate, keep track of rainfall using a rain gauge, and supplement when needed.  You can also monitor the ForeCast: Weather for the Turf Industry website, which has a link that can help you determine if you should water your lawn today.

Mow high

Set your mower to its highest setting. The longer the leaf blades, the deeper the roots, providing a buffer against drought, diseases, and insect damage.

Make sure those blades are sharp.

If you haven’t yet sharpened your blades this season, don’t wait any longer. Dull blades shred rather than cut, allowing more moisture loss and increase turf stress. You can find information on blade sharpening here. Resharpen the blades after every 10 to 12 hours of use. As an added incentive, dull blades can increase fuel costs 20%, so sharpen those blades and save money!

Timing is important

Warm, rainy days can lead to significant growth, leading to mowing anxiety. Mowing when soils are saturated, however, and can lead to rutting and compaction. Try to wait until the soil has had a chance to dry.

On the flip side, if you wait too long, you can end up leaving clumps of grass clippings, which can block out the sun and seal in the moisture, leaving the turf susceptible to humidity-loving diseases. Under these conditions, collect clippings and compost them, if possible.Picture2

Grass specific weather information, including weed development, heat stress, and when and how much to water, can be found at ForeCast: Weather for the Turf Industry. For weekly  information on turfgrass conditions, listen to the weekly ShortCutt podcast by Cornell’s Frank Rossi.

June 11, 2015
by Karen English
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Black Widow Spiders – Not Just a Southern Thang!

Every so often the local news reports that a dangerous spider was found in supermarket-bought fruits, such as grapes and bananas from South America. Black widow spiders have appeared in the Northern part of the United States where, presumably, these spiders do not belong! And it’s newsworthy.

What many people do not know is that a native species of black widow, the Northern black widow spider, exists as far north as Ontario, Canada. They have been recorded in several Northeastern states. Compared to its cousin, the Southern black widow, the Northern widow is somewhat rare in its native range, but loves the same habitats, including barns, sheds, basements, wood piles, greenhouses and other dark, damp corners of the human environment. The Northern widow can be distinguished from the Southern species by the red hourglass spot on the underside of the abdomen. Northern species have a distinctly separated hourglass, while the Southern spider’s is joined. Northern widows also have white markings and red spots on the top of the abdomen. Both species have a body length of about ½ inch, long legs and a globe-shaped abdomen.

black widow spider

Northern Black Widow Spider (Latrodectus variolus) underside view, displaying red hourglass marking. Photo from Michigan State University Diagnostic Service

The venom of each widow species is similar and can cause reactions ranging from pain in the abdomen, sweating and nausea to serious systemic reactions like weakness, tremors, muscle spasms, and in extremely rare cases, death. Basically, you want to avoid being bitten. But widow spiders are reclusive and usually retreat when provoked. People are bitten when widow spiders are cornered (in a shoe or glove) or handled. Many times, people don’t even know that they have been bitten until the pain begins.

On a recent IPM visit to a plant nursery in Staten Island, we identified a healthy population of Northern black widow spiders living in the corners of greenhouses, underneath benches and in folds of cloth lining planting beds. Workers reported seeing these spiders for years, yet nobody has ever been bitten. Our IPM recommendations were to:

  1. Clean out spider webs, spiders and the egg sacs (perfectly round, tan balls hanging in webbing) with a broom or power-washer on a regular basis.
  2. Increase light and decrease moisture whenever possible and especially where people are working.
  3. Raise awareness among workers to look for spider habitat and recognize spiders and egg sacs. It was also advised that employees wear gloves when working with plants and soil.
  4. As a last resort, a pyrethrum or pyrethrin spray can be used to knock down spider numbers and the insects they dine on in greenhouses.

Ordinarily we don’t see a need for controlling or killing spiders because they are beneficial and generally harmless to people. In this case, no worker has ever been bitten by a black widow, despite their long-term presence in this nursery. Precautions, such as live spider and egg sac removal and spider awareness among workers, may be all that is needed to protect people from spiders and pesticides that may otherwise be used for black widow spider control.

Authored by Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, NYS Community IPM Coordinator

June 5, 2015
by Matt Frye
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Inspect for Wasps and Avoid the Sting

Yellowjackets, bald-faced hornets and paper wasps are stinging insects that nest on or near structures. While colony sizes start small, the population of stinging insects in nests grows over time and can result in hundreds to thousands of individuals in the case of yellowjackets. Whereas management of large nests requires the assistance of a professional, starter nests can be easily knocked down, repeatedly if necessary, to discourage future nesting. Here are some steps to inspecting for wasps to avoid the sting!

1. Inspection: starting in early June, weekly walks around the perimeter of your property or facility can be used to identify the start of stinging insect nests. This might include paper wasps, which create an open-comb nest, or yellowjackets and bald-faced hornets that create nests wrapped in a papery envelope.

2. Removal: early nests may only contain a few individuals. These can be knocked down with a pole or by spraying with a hose from a safe distance. It is advised that you wear thick clothing, and conduct work at night using indirect light (do not shine a beam of light directly at the nest). Red filtered light will not be detected by wasps.

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3. Extermination: Once nests are on the ground, stomp on them to kill any adults or larvae that are inside.

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4. Repeat: if queens escape, they may return to rebuild the nest somewhere nearby. However, repeated removal of the nest will ultimately discourage wasps from nesting there.

Note: some yellowjacket species will nest in wall voids, and you will see wasps flying in and out of the space during your inspection. A vacuum can be used to reduce the number of wasps that nest in wall voids, as shown in this video.

Staples White Plains (2)

June 2, 2015
by Matt Frye
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Understanding Over-the-Counter Sprays for Mosquitoes and Ticks

Unknown-1Summer is the season that brings us outdoors to enjoy picnics, barbecues and campfires. Unfortunately, blood-feeding arthropods such as mosquitoes and ticks can ruin our outdoor experiences by making us itch or by spreading disease. Over-the-counter sprays are one way that people avoid a forced retreat to the indoors. Choosing the right product and understanding how it works is important to keep you and your family safe. Here are a few considerations.

Repellant vs. Pesticide. There are two classes of products that you might see on the shelf. Products that contain DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus and IR3535 are repellants. These products interfere with the host-finding abilities of biting insects, making you hard to find. On the other hand, products that contain permethrin are pesticides that kill these organisms on contact. Permethrin is used to treat clothing, hats, shoes, and gear (backpacks, tents, etc.), and should never be applied to the skin for safety reasons.

Repellant Formulation. Repellants differ in their effectiveness at keeping pests away. On the bottle is a “percent active ingredient” listing, which is a measure of how long the product will remain effective. The higher the percentages, the longer it lasts. In general, products with less than 10% active ingredient provide only limited protection (1-2 hours at most). Here are some specifics about two of the common active ingredients.

  • DEET comes in concentrations from 4 to 100%. Despite this broad range, studies have shown that concentrations over 50% do not provide any additional protection. Therefore, products with 20 to 30% DEET are recommended for outdoor exposure of four to five hours.
  • Picaridin concentrations range from 7 to 20%, with a 20% concentration providing four to five hours of protection (equivalent to DEET at the same concentration).

How to Apply. For repellents, use just enough product to cover exposed skin and clothing – do not over-apply. Never directly spray your face, but rather spray your hands and apply to areas as needed. Follow label instructions carefully for applications, especially for children.

Treatments using permethrin to protect clothing should be done outdoors in an area with limited wind. Treat materials according to the label, paying particular attention to the amount of time needed for the product to dry. In most cases, once the material is dry, it is safe to wear. Additional information can be found on the TickEncounter website, including information about having your clothing professionally treated.

Clean Up. After outdoor exposure, a shower is recommended to remove repellants applied to skin. This should be followed by a tick check. See TickEncounter’s Shower Cards for more information.

Other Options. Screenhouses and appropriate clothing, such a long pants, long-sleeved shirts and a hat can be utilized to reduce problems with biting insects. Visit the following links for information on managing mosquitoes and ticks in your yard.

May 28, 2015
by Matt Frye
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All Buzz and No Sting

The sound of buzzing in our ears is one that evokes terror. Even as an entomologist, I can only stand the sound for a short time before I involuntarily swat at my winged assailant. If this is your reaction too – know that you’re not alone. Our distress over the buzzing of a flying insect, the rattle of a snake, or the rustling of leaves may be an evolutionary response to avoid danger. But not all things that buzz are harmful!

This time of year, female carpenter bees are making nests in horizontal tree branches, flagpoles, and other wooden structures. If you happen to approach such an area, unaware of the nest-building activity, you might find yourself face to face with a large black and yellow bee. While its dive-bombing behavior may induce panic, in reality there is nothing to fear. Why? Because those obnoxious assailants are male carpenter bees, which lack a stinger and pose no real threat. Their behavior is an attempt to mate-guard, or protect females in their nesting sites. If you stand by long enough, you might observe several of these bees buzzing and tumbling with each other, and you can identify the males as those having a yellow patch on their “face”.

Carpenter bee females create galleries or tunnels in dry wood during the spring. Bees bore into the wood, then turn 90 degrees to tunnel along the grain.

Male carpenter bees (left) have a yellow clypeus, which is black in females.

 

But male carpenter bees are not alone in their buzz-terrorizing of human intruders. Later in the year, a larger and even more intimidating insect will buzz to guard female nests. This time, however, female nests are in the ground and are marked by piles of soil. As the name implies, cicada killer wasp females capture and immobilize cicadas, which they use to provision their young. While females bare a foreboding stinger (even if they are reluctant to use it), the males are harmless and unable to sting.

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Cicada killer wasp females dig burrows in areas of bare soil. Captured cicadas will be paralyzed and wasp larvae will feed on the food source.

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Cicada killer wasps are large black and yellow insects that are active in mid- to late summer, concurrent with cicada activity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, next time you are buzzed by a male carpenter bee or cicada killer wasp – you can stand by and appreciate their complex behaviors. You can watch them fight each other for females and ultimately ignore your presence.

For more information about carpenter bees and their management, see our factsheet: Get Rid of Carpenter Bees? Yes Please!