New York State IPM Program

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!

May 20, 2015
by Matt Frye
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Inside-Outs of Dermestid Beetles

After a long, cold winter it seems we skipped spring and jumped into summer! The days are growing longer and May’s flowers are in full bloom. Concurrent with this change in seasons is a programmed response of many insects to emerge from overwintering and start their annual cycle. In some cases, these insects have spent the winter inside buildings and homes, and are now trying to get out!

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Dermestid beetle larvae. Photo by Joseph Burger, Bugwood.org

Overwintering insects such as the brown marmorated stink bug, boxelder bug, and ladybird beetles (ladybugs) are notorious for their emergence within homes in the spring. Meanwhile, a small colorful beetle that develops in homes year-round goes largely undetected. Dermestid beetles, such as the varied carpet beetle, develop as larvae on a tremendous variety of food sources. As pantry pests, dermestid larvae may feed on spices, grains and other dried food items. As fabric pests, they may feed on natural animal fibers such as wool, cashmere, silk and leather. As decomposers, they may feed on human and pet dander, or even dead insects and animals within the walls.

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Adult beetles may go undetected because of their small size.

Adult dermestid beetles are much more refined in their food preferences. In the spring, adults may be observed on walls or windowsills attempting to get outside to feed on pollen from those flowers that are just starting to pop. Once they have fed and reproduced, beetles are attracted to come back indoors and lay eggs near food sources.

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Adult dermestid beetles are approximately 2-4 mm long (seen here next to a quarter)

If you find dermestid beetles in your home, consider revisiting your spring-cleaning! Vacuum to remove dust, dander and food spillage, especially in rooms where you see beetles. Focus on those out of sight, out of mind places such as under furniture and in corners. During the summer when windows are open, make sure that screens fit snugly in the window frame and that no tears are present. This will prevent dermestid beetles from entering the home to lay eggs.

For additional information, see our What’s Bugging You? page.

May 14, 2015
by Elizabeth Lamb
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Blossoms for your honey(bee)

It’s time to think about gardens full of flowers – and to visit greenhouses full of color to add to your own landscape! If you’ve heard about garden center plants containing pesticides – in particular neonicitinoids – that are toxic to honeybees and other native pollinators, you might wonder if you should still buy those plants.

It is a complex issue and we don’t have all the answers. But there are some things that you can do to promote pollinators in your own garden:

Talk to the growers where you buy your plants and find out what they are doing to reduce potential pesticide effects on pollinators.

Growers only use pesticides when they have to. Some growers have stopped using neonicitinoids, others are applying them early so that no residues are left. Some plants are never treated with neonics. You won’t know until you ask!

Plant a wide diversity of flowers that bees use as food and shelter.

Another factor that leads to bee deaths is lack of habitat as wild lands become urbanized. You can create your own pollinator haven and have the pleasure of both the flowers and the bees and butterflies. You could even (gasp!) let a few weeds go to flower. It’s all habitat when you’re a honeybee!

Use IPM in your own backyard.

Grow your garden with pollinators in mind. Identify things you think are pests. Maybe you can just live and let live! Keep your plants happy and healthy with proper watering, fertilizer, and spacing! Don’t spray any pesticides unless you REALLY have to (and then think again!). And that’s not just on the flowers and veggies but the lawn, too. And if you have to, read the pesticide labels to find out their effects on bees and other pollinators.

Learn more about the issue.

Check out IPM’s pollinator page – and keep coming back. There is new information coming out all the time.

Dr. Dave Smitley at Michigan State University is doing a lot of research on ornamentals and pollinator issues and has written articles for home owners, too.

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Be a honey to your bees!

May 13, 2015
by Joellen Lampman
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Ticks are disgusting

Ticks are disgusting, but don’t take my word for it. Aristotle, Cato, and Pliny all referred to ticks as “disgusting parasites”. Unfortunately, they pose a greater risk than making you feel like you have things crawling on you. They are a public health risk because they can transmit several diseases, including Lyme disease.

This black-legged tick is half the size as the one depicted on the tick ID card. These critters are small! Photo credit: J. Lampman
This live black-legged tick nymph is half the size as the one illustrated on the tick ID card. These critters are small! Photo credit: J. Lampman

With this in mind, I always conduct a careful tick check from head to toe after spending time outdoors. After finding two ticks, one adult and one, well, not an adult, I knew it was worth my time. I was eager to get the small one under a microscope to see if I had found a larva, as they are not capable to passing along any diseases. Alas, it was a nymph, meaning that it had already taken a blood meal and was a possible disease carrier. You can understand my confusion, as it is half the size indicated on the New York State Tick ID Card!

Daily tick checks are the best way to protect you and loved ones from ticks and the diseases they carry. The TickEncounter Resource Center has a nifty application that shows which ticks will most likely be found on different parts of your body. The tick species, sex, and age matter! Another handy app is TickClick, a comprehensive, educational application designed to help you identify ticks, have a safe plan of action should you be bitten by a tick, assess disease risk if bitten, and prevent tick bites altogether.

By the way, don’t depend on swimming or showering to remove ticks. They can survive being submerged. Ticks can even survive a trip through the washing machine. (A hot dryer, however, will do them in after 15 minutes. It is best to throw clothes in the dryer prior to washing.)

If you find one embedded in your skin, tweezers are best! Use fine-pointed tweezers to grab the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull straight up until the tick releases. Grab it too high, or using other methods such as matches, nail polish, or petroleum jelly, could irritate it, causing it to regurgitate its disease ridden stomach contents directly into your blood stream. Need a video?

Awareness and a little precaution can help you steer clear of tick-borne illness and the discomfort of being bitten by ticks. See our Understanding and Managing Ticks – A Guide for Schools, Child Care and Camps fact sheet for more information on ticks and how to manage them.

May 8, 2015
by Lynn A. Braband
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Survey Provides Insights into IPM within NYS Schools

A 2013 survey of the pest management policies and practices of New York State public schools was recently published on-line: Pest Management Practices: A Survey of Public School Districts in New York State.  A partnership of the NYS IPM Program, the NYS Department of Health, the NYS Education Department, and the NYS School Facilities Association, the goals of the survey were to evaluate the status of IPM in public elementary and secondary schools, provide guidance on assisting schools in improving pest management, gauge changes since a 2001 survey, and ascertain the impacts of the state’s Neighbor Notification Law and the Child Safe Playing Field Act.back-to-school-183533

Highlights include a large increase in the number of school districts with written pest management policies, a low rate of issues associated with pesticide applications, and reductions in pesticide use. Prominent needs that exist concerning pest management in schools include the pervasive issue of food in classrooms and other non-cafeteria locations and the challenges associated with maintaining quality athletic fields in light of the Child Safe Playing Fields Act. The implications of the drop in certified pesticide applicators employed by schools needs to be assessed. Also, geese are increasing as a troublesome pest on school grounds.

Approximately 73% of the districts responding to the 2013 survey indicated that they had a written pest management policy, up from 45% in 2001. Official written policies provide a consistent framework for implementing safe and effective pest management. However, most school districts did not have a policy concerning food outside of cafeterias. This is a frequent attractant for pests such as ants and mice.

The percentage of school districts that employed staff certified as pesticide applicators dropped from 50% in 2001 to 34% in 2013. Most districts did not have regularly scheduled pesticide applications. However, the rate of those that did, around 23%, changed little from 2001 to 2013.

The most frequent and troublesome pests in NYS schools in both surveys were ants, stinging insects, mice, and weeds. The only pest situation that significantly increased was geese, from 14% of the districts in 2001 to 25% in 2013.

In 2013, we asked schools about their use of minimum risk pesticides, as products with boric acid or plant essential oils. Fourteen percent of the districts indicated that they used these products routinely, while 62% stated that minimum risk pesticides are used infrequently. Future trends in the use of such products by schools would be informative.

Most NYS school districts received complaints about pests within three years prior to 2013. Not over two per cent had received complaints about pesticide applications during the same period.

Almost 90% of the survey respondents indicated that they had not experienced any problems implementing the Neighbor Notification Law, and almost 50% stated that the law resulted in a significant reduction in pesticide use by their school districts. Almost 60% indicated little impact of the Child Safe Playing Field Act since they had already implemented pesticide alternatives. About 22% stated a major impact and anticipated difficulty in maintaining quality of the grounds. Another 20% indicated moderate changes to their practices and that they were looking into pesticide alternatives. Over 60% of the survey respondents indicated that the Child Safe Playing Field Act had caused a reduction in pesticide use by their school districts.

May 5, 2015
by Kenneth Wise
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Field Crops PESTS! Time for the NYS IPM Weekly Field Crop Pest Report !

Where is the pest, what is the pest, what damage do the pests do to my crop, what can be done to control them … You got questions on pests with field crops? I got a weekly publication for you: NYS IPM Weekly Field Crop Pest Report . The pest report provides a summary of pest issues to be aware of each week throughout the growing season. It has timely information on the current pest status, how to identify the problem, make an analysis of the issue and what are the integrative ways of managing the pest.  There is a summary called “View from the Field” on what pests extension educators, crop consultants and growers are seeing in the field. There are featured articles on certain pests of concern in each issue. There are also weekly updates on serious pests like fusarium head blight, western bean cutworm, and more. You can subscribe for the publication at the   NYS IPM Weekly Field Crop Pest Report  website on the right side of the page by entering your email. See you there!Capture1

 

 

April 30, 2015
by Elizabeth Lamb
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Make Every Day Arbor Day – contributed by Paul Hetzler

Muskrat Day. Velcro Appreciation Month. Hair Follicle Hygiene Week. Arbor Day. You know it’s an obscure event when the greeting-card trade hasn’t bothered to capitalize on it. I like to think the industry knows Arbor Day is worthy of a Hallmark line, but that they’ve decided to honor its spirit by conserving paper. (C’mon, it’s possible.)

While it’s not the best-known observance, Arbor Day has a respectable history, as well as local, um, roots. Begun in 1872 by Adams, NY native J. Sterling Morton, Arbor Day was intended to highlight the need to conserve topsoil and increase timber availability in his adopted state of Nebraska. Though it began as an American tradition, Arbor Day, which is observed on the last Friday in April, is now celebrated worldwide.

Not only was Morton passionate about planting trees, for him the act seemed to verge on the sacred. He said “The cultivation of trees is the cultivation of the good, the beautiful and the ennobling in mankind,” and believed every tree planted made this nation a little better. J. Sterling went on to become rich and famous with his Morton Salt Company, and Arbor Day went on to become a somewhat obscure, if virtuous, tradition.

I tend to agree with Morton’s lofty pronouncement. To plant a tree is to invest in the future, and is an act of generosity and responsibility. When we add a tree to our community, it’s likely that many generations of people after our passing will enjoy it.

Trees add value to our lives in surprising ways. Many of us have heard the spiel about how trees decrease home energy costs, increase property value, filter pollutants and all that. But did you know that shoppers spend more money when there are trees in a downtown shopping district, and that homes sell faster on tree-lined streets?

How many of us are aware that hospital patients who can look out on trees from their bed have better outcomes? And did you know that crime rates drop significantly when urban neighborhoods are planted with trees? And that lying under a shade tree in summer cures acne? OK, I made that last one up, but the rest is true.

It may be noble to plant a tree, but it has to be done right or you might as well rent it. A poorly planted tree will only live a fraction of its potential lifespan. Location is the first thing to consider. Kids and trees generally look cute when you bring them home from the nursery, but they grow up fast and often take up more room than you expected. If your site is under wires or has restricted space for branches or roots you need the right species and variety of tree that can grow full-size without causing conflicts.

The old adage “dig a fifty-dollar hole for a five-dollar tree” may need to be adjusted for inflation but the idea still has currency, so to speak. Ninety percent of tree roots are in the top ten inches of soil. To reflect this fact, the planting hole should be saucer-shaped and 2-3 times the diameter of the root system, but no deeper—ever. Otherwise the Planting Police will ticket you. OK that’s fiction too, but if I happen to come along I may scowl at you. It’s imperative the root flare (a.k.a. trunk flare) be right at ground level, because deep planting leads to serious future health problems. For the tree, primarily.

Before backfilling, remove all fabric and twine on ball-and-burlap trees, and yes, those wire cages should be cut away. Container-grown trees may have circling roots that need to be teased out straight.

Adding loads of organic matter to the backfill likely dates back to ancient times, when folks might grab an arborist, if one was handy, and throw them in the planting hole. Possibly in response to this, arborists these days recommend little or no additional organic matter in most cases.

With very sandy or heavy clay soils, moderate amounts of peat moss, compost or other amendments can be used in the backfill. Adding more than 30% by volume can cause a “teacup effect,” and roots can suffocate (water is held in the hole and doesn’t move into the soil quickly). Fertilizer is stressful on new transplants, so wait at least a year on that. In healthy native soils, trees may need little or no fertilizer.

Water thoroughly as you backfill, and prod the soil with a stick or shovel handle to eliminate air pockets. Unless the site is very windy it’s best not to stake the tree—movement is needed for a strong trunk to develop.

Two to four inches of mulch over the planting area (but not touching the trunk) will help conserve moisture and suppress weeds. Throughout the first season, check the soil every few days to be sure it’s moist but not waterlogged.

If you’re looking for a suggestion, here are some exceptional trees for street and yard planting:

  • Washington Hawthorn – small, disease resistant, white flowers, tolerates road salt
  • Japanese Tree Lilac – small, drought tolerant, large cream-colored flowers
  • Heritage River Birch - med-large, few insect pests, pinkish-white peeling bark
  • Skyline Honeylocust – med-large, tolerant of wet soils, drought & road salt, thornless
  • Prairie Pride Hackberry – large, drought tolerant, wildlife eat berries
  • Kentucky Coffeetree – large, disease and pest free, drought tolerant
  • Bur Oak – large, tolerant of both drought and intermittently wet soil, and can live 800+ years

Have a happy Arbor Day on April 24th – or any day. Planting a tree is a great activity to share with loved ones, and a great investment in the future.

 

Article courtesy of Paul Hetzler, Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County

Bur oak  Photo by Jason Sharman, Vitalitree, Bugwood.org

Bur oak
Photo by Jason Sharman, Vitalitree, Bugwood.org

April 28, 2015
by Matt Frye
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Ground Bees Come in Peace

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A female ground bee

One of the first springtime insects that homeowners observe are ground bees. These insects create ant-hill like mounds in areas of bare soil with a ¼” opening in the center (about the thickness of a pencil). On warm, sunny days there may be dozens to hundreds of bees flying low to the ground among the mounds. Despite a general and perhaps debilitating fear of bees – the truth is that this species is relatively harmless and may not require any management. Here’s why:

 

  1. Ephemeral: ground-nesting bees are pollinators of early blooming flowers. Because their lifecycle is tied to the cycle of these plants, ground bees are only active for a short period of time in early spring.

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    Two female ground bees hunker down in their burrows in response to movement.

  2. Solitary: fear of bees arises from the idea that disturbing a nest will provoke an entire colony of stinging insects. However, as it true of carpenter bees, cicada killer wasps, and mud dauber wasps, ground bees are solitary with only a single female bee per mound.
  3. Shy Gals: female bees make nests for the purpose of reproduction. After gathering nectar and pollen as food for their offspring, females will mate and lay eggs in the nest. While in the nest, females appear shy, and will retreat into the burrow if they see an approaching object.
  4. Males Hover, but Can’t Sting: All those bees you see flying low to the ground en masse – are males! And male bees do not possess a stinger. Their low, hovering flight is part of their effort to pair up with a female. Indeed, male ground bees are quite docile.

 

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Male ground bees cannot sting and are quite docile.

If you wish to discourage ground bees from living in your yard, an effective, safe and long-term solution is over-seeding with grass. By creating a dense lawn, bees will not be able to dig in the soil and will nest elsewhere.

For more information please see Ground nesting bees in your backyard!

April 23, 2015
by Joellen Lampman
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Lawn IPM—Getting Ahead of the Weeds

“…winter, will be forced to relent, once again, to the new beginnings of soft greens, longer light, and the sweet air of spring.” – Madeleine M. Kunin

This turf along the edge of a walkway could use some help recovering after months of shoveled snow was piled on to it.p
This turf along the edge of a walkway could use some help recovering after months of shoveled snow was piled on top of it.

As spring progresses and temperatures continue to rise, lawns are recovering from the long winter. As the grass grows and the dry tips are mowed off, areas that need help will become more obvious. What can you do to help prevent weeds from taking over bare patches or thin areas? It’s time to break out the seed!

Mary Thurn from Cornell University guides us through the process of patching small weak or bare spots.

 

Want more? Download the free iBook, Lawn Care: The Easiest Steps to an Attractive Environmental Asset and visit IPM for Landscapes, Parks & Golf Courses.

 

April 21, 2015
by Joellen Lampman
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An Unwelcome House Guest: the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

The shield-shaped adult brown marmorated stink bugs (BMSB) are between ½ to ¾ inch long with grayish-brown speckling on the top and bottom. “Marmorated” refers to the light and dark bands along the edges of the body. Now (April – May) is the time that they emerge from their overwintering places in our houses to mate and lay eggs through the summer. Although the BMSB is not a threat to human health, people become alarmed when large numbers invade their homes (and even hotel rooms).

Note the light and dark bands along the edge of the body.

Note the light and dark bands along the edge of the body.

Did You Know…?

  • Unwelcome, but not demanding: Indoors, BMSB do not form a nest, do not feed, do not reproduce and do not cause damage to the structure.
  • Northward (or Eastward) Ho! The majority of insects will enter on the south or west facing side of a building, which are warmed by afternoon sunlight throughout the winter.
  • Just pretend we’re not here: Once inside, they will hide in protected and dark places, such as wall voids, folds of curtains, and furniture.
  • They stink! While they do not form health risk, they will give off an unpleasantly pungent smell if crushed.
  • Build them out: This summer, seal cracks, crevices, corners, and other dark areas around windows and doors, gutters, flashing, etc. with a highly elastomeric sealant.
It's spring! Time to go! Photo: Dr. Matthew Frye
It’s spring! Time to go!

See The Unwelcome House Guest: Brown Marmorated Stink Bug —A Guide for Residents, Property Managers, and Pest Management Professionals fact sheet for more information on BMSB and how to manage them.