“None of us is as smart as all of us.” –Ken Blanchard
Each year, NYS IPM staff are busy blogging about relevant topics. Here’s a recap of some of our more popular 2019 offerings:
ThinkIPM is our catchall blog and a great way to keep a pulse on what’s happening in New York State IPM.
No one wants to find an embedded tick.
We have spent a lot of time in the past year talking about how to prevent tick bites, from dressing in long pants, using repellents, and conducting daily tick checks. But sometimes one gets past you and you discover that new lump behind your knee has legs. There are always question about what to do next, and Help! I found a tick on me! was the most popular 2019 blog post.
Spotted lanternfly distribution map as of November 2019
Spotted lanternfly was also on your mind, and Traveling for the Holidays? provided a checklist for those traveling within the spotted lanternfly quarantine zone. Trust us when we say that you do not want to unintentionally transport Spotted Lanternfly egg masses in New York state.
Other IPM Blogs – Besides ThinkIPM, we have more dedicated blogs, and you don’t need to be a specialist to subscribe to them. Here are some of the more popular posts:
The most popular Biocontrol Bytes offering was a guest post from our collegues in the Cornell’s School of Integrative Plant Science, section of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology, Anna Wallis, Kerik Cox, and Mei-Wah Cho. They discussed moving beyond antibiotics to the use of biopesticides in the post, Battling Fire Blight with Biologicals.
The time of the falling leaves has come again. Once more in our morning walk we tread upon carpets of gold and crimson, of brown and bronze, woven by the winds or the rains out of these delicate textures while we slept. – John Burroughs
Whether conducting a thorough tick check or just examining the lump behind your knee, this is something no one wants to find.
The time has also come again for blacklegged tick adults to look for their last blood meal to fuel the mating process. (To be specific, it’s time for the adult females to secure that last blood meal. It’s time for the adult males to secure a female.) And it’s time for requests such as this one, “I was wondering if you could ID this tick that I pulled off of myself and give me any tips on what diseases this variety tends to carry and transmit.”
First, let’s be clear that the information we provide about tick-borne diseases is restricted to what pathogens are carried by what tick species and how they are transmitted. It is beyond the scope of our roles as IPM Educators to discuss diagnosis, symptoms, and treatment. (For this information, we refer you to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Tickborne Diseases of the United States page.) We will, however, provide you with information you can give your health care professional to help make an informed decision.
Different tick species host different pathogens. Importantly, ticks can transmit more than one pathogen at a time.
The easiest part of the request was what disease pathogens are carried by what ticks. The poster to the right shows what disease pathogens can be transmitted by the three ticks of greatest human concern in NY, the blacklegged tick, dog tick, and lone star tick. You can download and print it out and then go to the next step – identification.
Each species, life stage, and, for adults, whether it is a male versus female have different color patterns. The length of the mouthparts vary between ticks. They have festively named festoons which can also help with ID. As ticks are freakishly small, and we are looking at even smaller parts of their body, it is handy to have a magnifying lens, a good smartphone camera and a steady hand, or, better yet, a microscope. Don’t have one? There are options for having someone identify the tick for you. They include:
The Tick App – a citizen science project with a free smartphone app collecting information on how and where people are becoming exposed to ticks
Courtesy of The TickEncounter Resource Center
If you want to give identification a go, the TickEncounter Resource Center has an excellent guide highlighting the scutum, festoons, and life history. Life history? Yes! As temperatures drop, so does the activity of lone star, dog, and the newly discovered Asian longhorned tick, increasing the odds that the attached tick will be a blacklegged tick. And the active blacklegged ticks are most likely to be adults. Life history should only be used as a clue, however. Ticks don’t read the books and every life stage of the blacklegged tick has been found throughout the year.
What’s the risk?
A question you will likely be asked when reporting a tick is, “How long was the tick attached?”. In my honest opinion, this is a rather silly question. Ticks are very, very good at not being noticed. They want to stick around for up to a week feeding. To help deter detection, they release antihistamines and painkillers in their saliva. And, perhaps more importantly, none of us want to admit to ourselves that a tick was feeding on our blood for days. It’s a hard psychological pill to swallow. There is also some question in the medical literature about the time required for transmission of the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. Especially if the tick was removed improperly. (We covered safe removal of attached ticks in the blog post It’s tick season. Put away the matches and YouTube video How to remove a tick.) And we know Powassan virus can be transmitted in a matter of minutes. But the question will still likely be asked.
The answer? Take another look at that tick and refer to TickEncounter who has helpfully created charts showing the growth of ticks as they feed.
Courtesy of The TickEncounter Resource Center
I have found this chart particularly useful when people swear the tick was on them for only a few hours. Having an estimate of the attached time is helpful information for your physician. Take your printed Tick-Borne Diseases and Non-Pathogenic Impacts sheet, circle the identified species, write down the estimated time of attachment, and consult with your health care professional.
Pictures such as this can be helpful, but for an accurate identification, nothing beats the actual tick.
And now back to the original request: “I was wondering if you could ID this tick that I pulled off of myself and give me any tips on what diseases this variety tends to carry and transmit.”. The submitted picture is included to the right. (You can click on it to make it bigger.) Before reading on, what is your identification?
This looks like an adult blacklegged tick which was attached for 2 to 3 days, which is within the time frame that pathogens carried by the tick could have been transmitted. I recommended bringing in the tick for a more certain identification.
One last question often asked – “Should I get the tick tested?”
We follow the CDC recommendation of nothaving the tick tested for diagnostic purposes. The reasons include:
Positive results showing that the tick contains a disease-causing organism do not necessarily mean that you have been infected.
Negative results can lead to false assurance. You may have been unknowingly bitten by a different tick that was infected.
If you have been infected, you will probably develop symptoms before results of the tick test are available. If you do become ill, you should not wait for tick testing results before beginning appropriate treatment.
Having said that, the Thangamani Lab in the SUNY Upstate Medical University is investigating the geographic expansion of ticks and tick-borne diseases in New York. They are conducting free tick testing for research purposes. Please consider contributing to this citizen science project and visit the website for directions on how to submit your tick.
Promoting IPM, including monitoring and personal protection, as best management practices for avoiding ticks and tick-borne disease.
Wild parsnip sap can cause painful, localized burning and blistering of the skin. – New York State Department of of Environmental Conservation
Wild parsnip going to seed. The sap in this widely spreading invasive plant can cause severe burns.
A few weeks ago we discussed the invasive wild parsnip as a hidden danger for weekend weedwackers. Now it is much more obvious with its bright yellow flowers, but if you are looking to control it now, straight mowing is off the table. Some of the heads are going to seed and mowing will simply distribute those seeds, ensuring a new crop of wild parsnip next year.
Whether you choose to dig out the root, cut the root an inch or two below the soil, or mow, first cut the seed head off with clippers and put it in a plastic bag. The bag can then be left in the sun to rot the seeds before disposal. And don’t forget to wear protective clothing to prevent any sap from reaching exposed skin or eyes.
Use a boot brush to clean mud and seeds off your boots. Remember to check the tread!
This is also the time of year when seeds of this and other invasive species can be accidentally transported by hikers and dog walkers. Avoid brushing against plants. Check shoes, clothing, and gear after leaving an area. Remove any seeds that are found and seal them in a plastic bag. (This can double as a tick check!)
For more information on preventing the spread of invasive species while hiking, biking, camping, and, well, any outdoor play, a great resource is PlayCleanGo. And consider taking their pledge to Stop Invasive Species in Your Tracks.
Let’s stay safe out there!
June 28, 2019
by Joellen Lampman Comments Off on Don’t Make Your Own Tick Tubes
“Frugality, I’ve learned, has its own cost, one that sometimes lasts forever.” – Nicholas Sparks
Commercially available “tick tubes” are tubes filled with permethrin-infused cotton. Mice take the cotton to line their nests and are treated for ticks every time they return home. It’s estimated that a typical ¼ acre yard needs six tubes twice a year, with a 12 pack costing ~$45 . Although this cost isn’t excessive, there are many videos and articles on making DIY tick tubes to help people save money. But what is the actual cost?
A dozen tubes covers about a 1/4 acre for $45.
3 Reasons Why Making Your Own Tick Tubes is a Bad Idea:
1) They probably won’t work.
A pesticide product contains inert ingredients that help the active ingredient (in this case, permethrin) perform properly for the uses listed on the product label. The formulation used in commercially available tick tubes is uniquely suited for controlling ticks on mice. Other permethrin formulations are designed for other uses which are specifically listed on the label.
2) You could be putting yourself, others, pets, nontarget animals, and the environment at unacceptable risk.
Tick tubes target ticks attached to field mice. When spending time in the nest, mice expose themselves to the tick-killing products.
The EPA will register the use of a pesticide only if rigorous safety testing shows it will “pose no unreasonable risks to people or the environment when used according to label directions.” Only those uses listed on a pesticide label have met this standard, and making your own tick tubes is NOT a use listed on the label of any permethrin product. One potential risk: Permethrin is highly toxic to bees. Bumble bees often nest in abandoned mouse burrows, so making your own tick tubes could harm these important wild pollinators.
3) It is against the law.
Because of Reason #2, the first sentence in the Directions for Use section of all permethrin products is “It is a violation of federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling.” Which, by the way, also means it is against your state’s laws.
Commercially available tick tubes cost more because it takes time and money to develop the right mix of ingredients and conduct the required safety testing to ensure that the product will control ticks without putting people, pollinators, and the environment at risk. DIY tick tubes that pose greater risks while providing poorer control of ticks are hardly a bargain; be sure to use the real thing.
“As everyone knows, when fighting a zombie, you grab a shovel and aim for its head. The same with wild parsnip, except you aim for its feet.” – Paul Hetzler
That’s a lot of green. Would you have noticed the wild parsnip? The celery like stalk is a good clue.
There is no lack of invasive species in New York – but some do raise more of a concern than others. One such is the wild parsnip. In a few weeks it will proclaim itself with its wide, yellow flower cluster. But it is currently a few feet tall and whether it is bedecked with flowers or not, its sap is just as risky. So if your weekend plans involves weed whacking, beware!
Wild parnsip will soon be in flower, but it is just as dangerous, and harder to see, in the pre-flowering stage.
According to the New York Invasive Species Information Clearinghouse, wild parsnip produces furanocoumarin, “a compound in its leaves, stems, flowers, and fruits, that causes intense, localized burning, rash, severe blistering, and discoloration on contact with the skin on sunny days”. Avoid the sap and avoid the chemical burns.
Digging out the root, mowing, and herbicides can be effective in managing wild parsnip, with the caveat that you protect yourself from any and all contact with the sap.
If you want to learn more about wild parsnip and its management, our favorite guest blogger Paul Hetzler covered it well and humorously in his blog, Vengeful Veggies.
It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one destiny, affects all indirectly. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Ahhh, the weed. Despised by many, almost to the point of violence. Once, while waiting for my older child to get out of preschool, I sat in the lawn and blew dandelion heads to the delight of my infant. I’ve never forgotten the sudden manifestation of a red-faced man screaming at me about terrorizing the neighborhood. (I like to think my son was unaffected.)
The first step in IPM is determining if you have a problem. All those years ago, a large, angry man was a problem, but I contend to this day that the dandelions were not. An unknown author penned that weeds are people’s idea, not nature’s. And many through the years have found inspiration from weeds. While researching this post, I had the option of strictly sticking to quotes about weeds (don’t worry, I didn’t), but I will add a few. There are quotes about their survivability:
You can’t help but admire a plant that has adapted to lawn mowers.
A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows. – Doug Larson
A fresh and vigorous weed, always renewed and renewing, it will cut its wondrous way through rubbish and rubble. – William Jay Smith
Quotes about weeding:
Plant and your spouse plants with you; weed and you weed alone. – Jean-Jacques Rousseau
And many waxed poetic about their hidden value:
What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have never been discovered. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
When life is not coming up roses, Look to the weeds and find the beauty hidden within them. – F. Young
But beyond their value as a philosophical aid, can weeds be beneficial?
In fact, what weeds you find can tell you something about the soil. Is it wet or dry? Lean or fertile? Compacted? Acidic, alkaline, or neutral? Check out the short overview from the University of Vermont, What Weeds Can Tell You. Then act accordingly.
Often, weeds we find troublesome are plants we once valued. Dandelions, garlic mustard, plantain, and burdock are examples of plants brought over and cultivated by settlers to North America for food and medicine. And there are efforts to regain that value. One doesn’t need to spend too much time on the internet to find many resources on edible weeds. Take a look at this short video, Edible Weeds | From the Ground Up, developed by the University of Wyoming Extension (which includes some precautions you should take if you want to try eating your problems away). The Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education recently funded a project looking at bringing edible weeds from the farm to the market.
These trichogramma wasp parasitized European corn borer eggs aren’t going to hatch.
There is research looking at the ecosystem services provided by weeds in agricultural settings. In their project, Integrating Insect, Resistance, and Floral Resource Management in Weed Control Decision-Making, Cornell researchers make the argument that while weeds can compete with crops, they can also benefit the entire system. They use milkweed along a field of corn as a case study. There are aphids that feed on the milkweed and produce honeydew, which benefits beneficial insects such as wasps that lay their eggs in the eggs of insect pests such as European corn borer. And that’s before they discuss the benefit to monarch butterflies.
Early flowering weeds, such as this purple deadnettle, provide an early spring food source for pollinators.
And speaking of butterflies… and bees… and other pollinators, in the write-up of a study looking at the capacity of untreated home lawns to provide pollination opportunities, they reclassified weeds as “spontaneous lawn flowers”. So much friendlier! By the way, they found 63 plant species in those lawns. In a parallel study looking at mowing and pollinators, they found that lazy lawn mowing led to more spontaneous lawn flowers leading to more pollinators. So now I have also given you an excuse to mow less. You’re welcome.
While visiting our blog, you have also been checking out older posts. Our second most popular post viewed in 2018 was a 2014 post, Identifying Your Pest – with Poop?. There are a lot of budding scatologists out there.
Other IPM Blogs – Besides ThinkIPM, we have more dedicated blogs, and you don’t need to be a specialist to subscribe to them. Here are some of the more popular posts:
Our new Spotted Lanternfly video, Have YOU Spotted Lanternfly Egg Masses was just posted, but it has already reached the number two spot. This invasive insect is getting a lot of attention and we need your help to keep track of it in New York.
December’s wintery breath is already clouding the pond, frosting the pane, obscuring summer’s memory… ― John Geddes
Winter had an early showing in New York this year. So when the temperature hit 50oF yesterday, I took the opportunity to spend some time outside. And, as I had warned people that follow me and NYS IPM on social media with this great graphic by Matt Frye earlier today, the ticks were out and about. (Side note: follow us at www.facebook.com/NYSIPM and twitter.com/NYSIPM for up-to-date information you can use.)
Now, the ticks weren’t as active as the 70 oF day last February. I had to put in a little more effort to find them. But while tick dragging, I noticed where others regularly go off the beaten track (or, rather, create their own beaten track). We’re going to call this The Dog Zone.
There’s a perfectly good paved path, but the dog print laden path is inches from the woodline.
Let’s face it. Dogs want to stick their noses into interesting places, and there just aren’t that many interesting places on the pavement. So they will take advantage of the length of the leash to get off the pavement and follow the scent trails. And the smells of mice, chipmunks, squirrels, raccoons, deer, rabbits (you get the idea), are more likely to be wafting at the edge of the woods than in the short grass. I watched dog walkers leave the pavement themselves to indulge their furry friends. Unfortunately, ticks are more likely to be in those areas.
Talk to your vet about options to protect your pets from ticks and tick-borne diseases.
But the really important message here is that ticks are active during the winter. And even if the air temperature is less than 37oF, a protected, sun-exposed area next to a woodline can be significantly warmer. Last week a site we were monitoring had an air temperature of 40oF, but the ground temperature was 50.6oF. So I will end by emphasizing the need to protect yourself from ticks year-round and conduct a tick check EVERY DAY.
Seasonal items will fill with water and provide mosquito breeding habitat.
So, with all the rain, it’s time for a quick yard inspection. When I conducted mine, it was too easy to find collected rainwater. The wheelbarrow was left right-side up. A snow rake tucked behind the shed was filled with water. An upside down garbage can collected water in its grooves. For these items, I simply flipped them over and the mosquito problem was solved. This simplest of IPM method is highlighted in the video, Managing Mosquito Breeding Sites, by Dr. Matt Frye.
These mosquito larvae are thriving in a driveway puddle – at least until the puddle evaporates.
Keeping an eye on the weather can also help with management decisions. Take, for example, the puddles formed in my driveway. Getting into inspection position (head down, butt up), it was easy to see the wriggling larvae. I checked the weather, saw it was going to be dry through the next day, and made the decision to let the puddle dry up. When I checked the driveway the next day, the puddle, and the mosquito larvae, were gone.
Alas, the rainy forecast will cause it to refill with water, again providing a good location for female mosquitoes to lay her eggs. Next step? Fill in the low spots in the driveway with sand to prevent standing water.
This dried puddle is no longer able to support mosquito larvae.
Diligence in monitoring is the key to preventing mosquitoes from breeding on your property. Monitor regularly and take steps to prevent standing water from becoming mosquito breeding sites.
“I already found a tick on me!” – many people across NY
Many New Yorkers still equate tick activity with summertime, but blacklegged ticks, the ones that carry Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, Powassan virus, and Borrelia miamyoti, are most active in the spring and fall. (They can actually be active year round if the temperature and humidity levels are just right. Thus the heavy activity on the warm days in February.)
The goal is to prevent ticks from becoming embedded in the first place. But if you do find an embedded tick, remove it properly!
And in the springtime the blacklegged tick nymph turns to thoughts of questing. And nymphs are small. Poppy seed-sized small. If you are not intentionally conducting a daily tick check, you could easily miss one. And even if you are intentionally looking, one can occasionally get through your visual defenses. Which is why I was able to take this tick removal video after finding this tiny nymph on my leg when using my fingertips to search by feel. Since Powassan virus can be transmitted after 15 minutes of the tick being embedded, the incentive for not being bitten has risen dramatically.
Which brings us to the use of clothing treatments to protect ourselves. Permethrin is a pesticide that can be applied to clothing, footwear and gear before exposure. Researchers for the Center for Disease Control recently conducted a study showing how permethrin interferes with blacklegged, American dog, and lone star ticks’ ability to move and, thus, to bite. Read about it here.
Now the easiest option is to buy pretreated clothing or have your clothes professionally treated. The TickEncounter Resource Center has an excellent section of their website about tick repellent clothes, including where to get them.
For DIYers, permethrin can be purchased at many sporting goods and big box stores as a liquid or aerosol spray. But it must be applied safely and correctly. I try not to react in horror as people tell me they will spray the clothes they are wearing just prior to walking out the door. This product must NOT be applied to clothing while it is being worn. Or when one’s husband announces that he left his newly treated clothing in the basement. (And, yes, he sprayed the clothes down there too.) Permethrin must be applied outdoors. Don’t take my word for it. This information, and more, is found on the label. Let’s take a close look at the label from a commonly found product. (Does not imply endorsement.)
The label is the law and will tell you everything you need to know about using a pesticide correctly and legally.
The label, which is vetted through the EPA and, in NY, the DEC, provides information on the following topics (with a few examples thrown in):
Signal Word – this is your clue to how dangerous the pesticide is. To put it simply, categories include Caution (slightly toxic), Warning (moderately toxic), and Danger (highly toxic). This formulation of permethrin is labeled Caution.
DIRECTIONS FOR USE – includes, but is not limited to:
SHAKE WELL BEFORE USING. (Emphasis theirs. It must be important!)
This product must not be applied to clothing while it is being worn. Under no circumstances should bare skin or clothing on the body be treated. (Emphasis also theirs.)
Make all applications outside.
STORAGE & DISPOSAL
Store in a cool, dry place inaccessible to children.
Never place unused product down any indoor or outdoor drain
PRECAUTIONARY STATEMENTS – includes “Do not use on humans.”
FIRST AID – in case you didn’t follow the precautionary statements.
This product is extremely toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms.
We hit just some of the highlights, but it is all important. The label not only provides suggestions for using the product safely – the label is the law. That too is on the label: “Buyer assumes all risks of use, storage or handling of this product not in strict accordance with directions given herewith.”
So what is one to do? Why, follow the label of course. Decide which clothes you might wear into tick infested places and “select an outdoor area protected from the wind, spray outer surfaces of clothing (while not being worn) with a slow sweeping motion to lightly moisten the surface of the fabric, holding pump at a distance of 6 to 8 inches. Treat outer surfaces of each outfit, front and back, for 30 seconds on each side and allow to dry for at least 2 hours (4 hours under humid conditions). Pay particular attention to socks, trouser cuffs, and shirt cuffs.”
Then plan for the next application. “Clothing should be retreated after six weeks or after the sixth laundering to maintain adequate protection” I both mark the day I sprayed in my calendar and schedule an appointment for six weeks later.
By the way, professionally treated clothing also has a label, often found on the hang tag when purchased. Be sure to follow those instructions carefully as well.