New York State IPM Program

October 17, 2018
by Debra E. Marvin
Comments Off on Seed Selection for Resistance to Insects and Diseases

Seed Selection for Resistance to Insects and Diseases

Today’s post is authored by  Jaime Cummings, NYS IPM Field Crops and Livestock

Whether planting a home garden or a one hundred acre soybean field, it’s important to consider all the pest, weed and disease issues that may occur during the growing season.  We have many tools in the IPM toolkit to help us manage these issues, including crop rotation, hand weeding, reliance on natural predators, and use of exclusion barriers, insect traps and pesticides.  But one of the most important cultural practices everyone should consider as a first line of defense against pests and diseases is genetic resistance in the varieties you select to grow.

Selective breeding, or genetic modification, for improved harvests has been occurring since the beginning of agriculture, and all modern crops have been modified in some way from their wild ancestor plants.  Think about corn, also known as maize, as one familiar example.  All modern corn was derived from the ancestral grass called teosinte through selective breeding by our ancestors (Figure 1).  Many advancements in breeding methods and technologies have developed in recent decades, but the goal is the same:  To develop elite varieties that are well-adapted to specific regions with resistance to common diseases and pests to achieve high yields.  We now have a wide range of corn varieties and hybrids with different maturities, different colored and sized kernels, and different levels of resistance to a wide variety of pests and diseases (Figure 2).  Some modern corn hybrids even have specific traits or genes that enable them to tolerate certain herbicides or to ward off some insect pests.  All these breeding advancements have resulted in improved yields and decreased pesticide use.  And there are many other disease resistance genes that have been discovered and integrated into many corn varieties.  These too have significantly reduced farmers’ reliance on pesticides for managing diseases and the harmful mycotoxins produced by some pathogenic fungi.

Figure 1. 

Teosinte is the wild plant that all modern corn originated from 8,700 years ago.  (Image from National Geographic)

Figure 2. 

Diversity in corn varieties developed through selective breeding efforts.  (Image from USDA)

Corn is just one example among all the crops we grow with options for genetic resistance to numerous pests and diseases.  We have similar opportunities when selecting varieties for our fruits, vegetables and grains (Figures 3 and 4).  Choose wisely and consider the advantages of selecting varieties with resistance.  Many insects and diseases plague our crops that are challenging to manage, with or without the natural or synthetic pesticides used in organic or non-organic agricultural systems.  To improve your chances of success in minimizing losses, consider all the strategies of integrated pest management, starting with the seeds you select to plant.

Figure 3. 

Tomato varieties that are susceptible (left) and resistant (right) to late blight.  (Image from Cornell University, Martha Mutschler)

Figure 4.

Soybean varieties that are susceptible (left) and resistant (right) to aphids.  (Image from University of Minnesota)

Whether developed through traditional selective breeding methods or high-tech genetic engineering, all of our crops have been modified from their original form to provide us with improved feed, fiber and fuel yields.  When selecting varieties to plant in your garden or on your farm, take advantage of these breeding advancements, and consider choosing varieties with resistance to the pests and diseases that are commonly problematic in your area.  You’ll be glad you did when you have fewer bugs chomping on your crops and fewer losses to those unsightly molds and mildews.

 

Jaime Cummings

Jaime Cummings

Field Crops and Livestock IPM Coordinator

524 Bradfield Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca NY, 14853
Jaime works with growers, dairy and livestock producers, extension educators, research faculty and staff and industry counterparts to promote the adoption of IPM practices for insect, disease and weed management for all field crops and livestock. Her work includes research and educational outreach throughout New York State.

 

October 9, 2018
by Debra E. Marvin
Comments Off on Pollinator Habitat

Pollinator Habitat

Today, Biocontrol Specialist Amara Dunn addresses a common question.

So you want to grow habitat for pollinators…what’s the best method?

The short answer is that there probably isn’t a single best method. But there may be a best method for you. I know it’s not a very satisfying answer, but let me explain.

Remember that an area that provides food and shelter for pollinators (and, incidentally, natural enemies of pests, too!) contains a mix of plant species that bloom throughout the growing season and variation in plant shapes, sizes, and types. Leaving debris from last year’s growth is also helpful. While there are many good reasons to use native plants, non-native plants are ok too, as long as they aren’t invasive. There are plenty of resources out there for choosing plant species for pollinators, like this list of regionally-appropriate plants, and this database that is searchable by zip code. Other databases are searchable by specific plant characteristics.

Once you’ve selected the species you want to use in your pollinator habitat area, you have two main tasks: managing weeds, and establishing the plants. And here’s where the options can start to feel daunting. How will you manage weeds – hand pulling, herbicides, tillage, a cover crop, mulch? This is a critical step in creating habitat for pollinators, and one that is too-often overlooked. Experts recommend that you plan to spend at least one full growing season focused only on this task.

The weed management strategy you choose may also depend on how you would like to establish the plants you have chosen. The two main options are planting seeds directly into the ground, or transplanting small seedlings (or “plugs”). But should you do this in the spring or the fall? In the Northeast United States, experts recommend sowing seeds in the fall. Fall is also a good time to transplant perennials. And it has the advantage of allowing you to spend the entire growing season controlling weeds. But depending on your project timeline, it may not feel like the best option for you.

To help you make informed decisions about the best way to establish habitat for pollinators, I am working with Dr. Betsy Lamb and Brian Eshenaur to measure the costs, labor, and effectiveness of different methods for establishing pollinator habitat. The work is being done in demonstration plots located at Cornell AgriTech at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, NY. We are comparing six different methods, summarized below.

As you can see, we’ve included a mixture of weed management techniques (cover crop, mulch, mowing, herbicide and tillage, soil solarization) and different plant establishment techniques (seeds vs. plants, spring vs. fall timing). And we’re keeping track of the time and money spent on each method.

You can read more about the details of the methods we’re using and see pictures of our spring planting and seeding on my blog, Biocontrol Bytes. Over the next month or so, we will do our fall seeding. Stay tuned as we finish up the season and calculate inputs of time and money and analyze data collected by NYS IPM’s Bryan Brown on weed management success.

Amara Dunn is the Biocontrol Specialist for the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program, Cornell University, New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, 630 W. North Street, Geneva, NY 14456.  Follow her blog, BIOCONTROL BYTE

October 5, 2018
by Debra E. Marvin
Comments Off on “She Had a Field Day” More with New Field Crops Coordinator, Jaime Cummings

“She Had a Field Day” More with New Field Crops Coordinator, Jaime Cummings

On Thursday, September 6, forty-five farmers attended a free Corn Plot Field Day in Cochecton, N.Y., where IPM staffers Jaime Cummings and Ken Wise gave two presentations. Event sponsors included Cornell Cooperative Extension Sullivan County (CCESC), Cochecton Mills, and Delaware Valley Farm & Garden.

Jaime Cummings, newly minted NYS Livestock and Field Crops Integrated Pest Management Coordinator, discussed two aspects of corn pests—worms and leaf diseases. A field trial tour of over a dozen varieties preceded the discussion and assessment.

Jaime Cummings

As invited speaker, Jaime came with plenty of experience, but admits that while discussing insect pests, she was particularly glad for Ken’s presence and his over twenty years with the IPM program. Three major insect pests were discussed: Western bean cutworm, corn rootworm and common army worm.

Common Armyworm Damage

The second talk centered on corn foliar diseases including gray leaf spot, northern corn leaf blight, eyespot, and common rust.

Both northern corn leaf spot and gray leaf spot are present here.

Attendees learned about the biology and lifecycles of each disease and pest, and IPM management tactics. To aid identification and further understand the impacts on yields, farmers examined samples of insects and diseased leaves.

Western Bean Cutworm

Since starting her position in July, Cummings has been ‘boots on the ground’ in corn and soybean fields across the state, offering IPM options that help extension educators and farmers identify and manage diseases and pests. From rating a soybean white mold variety trial in western NY to searching for the soybean cyst nematode in central NY, and this corn field day in eastern NY, Cummings has jumped in with both feet to help NY field crop and livestock farmers.

Later this year, Jaime will be speaking at multiple events including these two CCE grower meetings: soybean white mold in Herkimer County, and soybean cyst nematode in Cayuga County.

Soybean White Mold

For more about Jaime, visit our welcome post!

To keep up with ALL aspects of the NYS IPM Program, please consider following our Facebook page  and Twitter account

September 27, 2018
by Debra E. Marvin
Comments Off on Spotted Lanternfly: A Foe You Should Know

Spotted Lanternfly: A Foe You Should Know

Ryan Parker, NYSIPM Program/Extension Aide II, has spent plenty of hours facing Spotted Wing Drosophila. Today he’s discussing the newest spotted pest.

Adult spotted lanternfly. Photo by Emelie Swackhamer, Penn State University, Bugwood.org

Tree of heaven. Photo by Chuck Bargeron, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org

Tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima) is just heavenly to a spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula). This invasive planthopper is sadly all but exclusive to that invasive tree, but has been found on stone fruit, blueberries, grapevine, and a smorgasbord of 70+ species as hosts. Its ability to use favorites such as hop vines and black walnut as preferential hosts for its life cycle will continue to be studied.

Perhaps it would be more accurate to call the spotted lanternfly (SLF) by its alternate name, Chinese blistering cicada. Acting to blister, fester, spread out its cute little wings and become personified as new breed of supervillain. Black widow please step away, Hollywood + spotted lanternfly = horror-able.  All puns aside, everybody loves facts.

The insect has been found in 2014 in PA (now at infestation levels), DE (2018), NJ (2018), VA (2018), and NY (2018). In New York, only one insect was found at both locations (Albany and Penn Yan). NYS citizens who were knowledgeable in the identification of the insect reported the finding, proving that awareness of this pest will play a crucial role in limiting its spread.

SLF is aesthetically pleasing.  Case in point:

Photo by Lawrence Barringer, PA Dept. of Agriculture, Bugwood.org.

Looks aside, its true colors show when its presence leads to crop loss, increased maintenance, and management costs. Don’t forget the reduction of a person’s quality of life and hazardous working conditions.

These insects, with all life stages present, mass on a given plant, sucking sap through their piercing-sucking mouth parts. Unlike the earlier instars, older SLF can pierce through thicker tissue. They do not feed directly on fruit, but may affect fruit quality.

 

 

Mass of lanternflies on tree. Photo by Lawrence Barringer, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Bugwood.org

While feeding, spotted lanternflies’ honeydew excrement encourages the growth of sooty mold that builds up on leaves, fruit, and around the bases of trees–especially if infestation levels are high.  The presence of a fermenting odor caused by SLF feeding damage, and the sweetness of excreted honeydew also attracts nuisance insects, including wasps and flies. And sooty mold can become slippery. There is great concern about the sheer numbers of insects, because SLF abundance can be problematic for agricultural machinery and harvested products.

 

Spotted lanternfly lays eggs on virtually any smooth and strong surface, including plant material, stones, bricks, metal, and plastic. Thus, egg masses can be spread easily and unknowingly, and their dispersal can occur through practically any mode of transportation.

Spotted lanternfly egg mass. Photo credit: Emelie Swackhamer, Penn State University.

One generation occurs per year: adults develop in July, lay eggs from September-November. Overwintering egg masses—each containing 30-50 eggs—are usually covered in a waxy brown substance resembling mud. First instar nymphs emerge between May-June. First three instars are black and white; the fourth acquiring red pigments.

There is no current lure for SLF. Sentinel trees of tree of heaven are used to monitor, trap, and kill insects with systemic insecticides. Wrapping trees trunks with sticky bands, or scraping off egg masses can help. Or simply squish the nymphs and adults.   

DEC Press Release: Think You Found a Spotted Lanternfly in New York?

Anyone that suspects they have found SLF is encouraged to send a photo to spottedlanternfly@dec.ny.gov. Please note the location of where the insect was found, egg masses, and/or infestation signs. Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Dept. of Ag and Markets (DAM) also encourage the public to inspect outdoor items such as vehicles, furniture, and firewood for egg masses. Anyone that visits the Pennsylvania or New Jersey Quarantine Areas should thoroughly inspect their vehicle, luggage and gear for SLF and egg masses before leaving and scrape off all egg masses.

A Smartphone application is also available to help citizens and conservation professionals quickly and easily report new invasive species sightings directly to New York’s invasive species database from their phones. For more information, visit http://www.nyimapinvasives.org/

For More Information Please Visit:

Emelie Swackhamer, Horticulture Extension Educator at Penn State Extension, explains how the Spotted Lanternfly impacts Berry and Small Fruit production in Pennsylvania (June, 2018)

Spotted Lanternfly IPM Invasive and Exotic Pests Factsheet

Drum Roll: The Spotted Lanternfly (NYSIPM Blog Mary M. Woodsen, 2018)

Spotted Lanternfly DEC Factsheet (May, 2018)

Spotted Lanternfly Management Calendar (Penn State Extension, 2017)

 

 

July 12, 2018
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on It’s Invasive Species Week, and …

It’s Invasive Species Week, and …

We’re smack-dab in the middle of Invasive Species Week, and we’ve got info for you.

Are you a gardener? Take a look at our Alternatives to Ornamental Invasive Plants. We’ve got garden flowers. Vines. Trees. Shrubs. Aquatics—plants that like wet feet but will do fine in many gardens.

Like to walk in the woods? Our Landscape and Forest Pest webpage alerts you to emerging pests.

New York is a hotspot for invasive species. Curious about the State of the State (as it were)—where things stand here? Take a look at our 2017 conference and watch this video.

Or you could go to NYIS.INFO … your gateway to science-based information, innovative tools, news and events—all for coping with biological invaders in New York.

Granted—it’s not the cheeriest of weeks, but it’s best we be aware. It is, after all, in our collective self-interest.

July 10, 2018
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on New Field Crops and Livestock Coordinator Joins NYS IPM

New Field Crops and Livestock Coordinator Joins NYS IPM

Greetings!  I’m Jaime Cummings, the new Field Crops and Livestock Coordinator at NYS IPM. My job? To work with field crop and livestock farmers on more than 3 million acres statewide who grow corn, hay, and other field crops and contribute to New York’s livestock industry. These farmers know all too well the problems that come with insect, disease and weed pests—problems that can change year to year.

They need IPM. Which means that each person who lives in New York and eats or drinks anything produced on a farm also needs IPM.

Jaime Cummings

Meet Jaime Cummings. Farmers, you’ll be seeing a lot of her soon.

My background is in plant pathology, and I come from Cornell’s Field Crops Pathology program. While there I focused on field research for dealing with plant diseases and mycotoxins (aka fungal toxins). I also provided diagnostics for statewide disease surveys on all major field crops. Along the way I also earned my Certified Crop Advisor certification (CCA) for the Northeast.

Integrated Pest Management for Field Crops and Livestock

Field crop and livestock farmers in New York face problems both new and old. For starters, unpredictable weather patterns can favor a different spectrum or intensity of disease and pest problems that vary from one year to the next. Meanwhile, invasive pests of all sorts are ever knocking at our borders. It’s critical to know not only how to address each issue, but also know when it’s economically feasible and environmentally responsible to do so. IPM scouting networks and forecasting methods help us better understand pest levels. This in turn helps farmers use well-defined thresholds for making solid management decisions.

And of course, IPM works for organic and conventional farmers alike. They all know there are no silver bullets or one-size-fits-all management strategies when it comes solving disease or pest problems—which is why we need to integrate pest management strategies for the best success. Any approach to managing pests and protecting crops that minimizes health and environmental hazards by the most economical means should be thoughtfully considered and implemented.

The goal? To prevent problems in the first place. True, sometimes nature tosses us a wild card we couldn’t have guessed at. Regardless—IPM helps farmers avoid wasteful treatments while offering other options that are good both for the environment and the farmer’s bottom line.

Looking Forward

Want to learn about IPM options for your farm? Please email me at jc2246@cornell.edu.  And if you haven’t already, please subscribe to the weekly field crops pest report http://blogs.cornell.edu/ipmwpr/ to stay up to date on statewide scouting and management updates.

I look forward to the opportunity to work with you and wish you a safe and productive season.

June 8, 2018
by Matt Frye
Comments Off on Tick and Mosquito Repellent Safety—for You and Yours

Tick and Mosquito Repellent Safety—for You and Yours

You might have noticed that we’re having a bit of a crisis with ticks and mosquitoes. They bite, they suck, and they can transmit pathogens to us during their feeding. One of the many things that we can do to avoid ticks and mosquitoes is to use repellents. But there are two important ideas to consider before picking a product from the shelf:

  1. Not every product has been proven effective, and
  2. The safety of a product depends on how you use it.

Product Efficacy
More than ever, an old adage reigns true: buyer beware! When it comes to tick and mosquito repellents, there are a number of products that claim to be effective—but offer no evidence or data to support the claim. This is especially true of many “natural” products with essential-oil active ingredients. Why? Products with essential-oil active ingredients don’t have to pass a scientific review by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and can go to market without demonstrating that they work. These products give users a false sense of security that they are protected against biting insects when they are not. Learn more about this topic from our Tick FAQ section, What natural products can I use to repel ticks? For details on what products work, see the Insect Repellent Buying Guide from Consumer Reports

A confusing mix: some of these products can be applied to skin, others should not under any circumstance contact skin while wet. Read the label before using any pesticide product.

Product Safety and Use Restrictions: The Label Is the Law
As a pest management educator, I’ve said a million times, “the label is the law.” This is literally true—all labels of EPA registered products read, “It is a violation of Federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling.”

Here is a critical distinction about the products you might see on a shelf:

  • Products with the active ingredient permethrin can actually kill ticks and mosquitoes. According to one label, “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. In other words, if you’re going to use permethrin, you have to treat your clothing or gear before you intend to use it so the pesticide can dry. According to the label on one product, this may be two to four hours.
  • On the other hand, products with active ingredients DEET, picaridin, and IR3535 can be sprayed on clothing and skin to repel biting pests. These products work by masking the cues that make you smell tasty to mosquitoes and ticks. According to one label for these products, Use just enough repellent to cover exposed skin… Do not use under clothing… Frequent reapplication and saturation is unnecessary for effectiveness.” 

We want you to enjoy the outdoors—and we want you to do it safely. Both types of products can be used to protect you, your friends, and families from the bite of blood-feeding organisms. To further protect health, always read and follow label instructions.

For more information:

May 23, 2018
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on The Invasive of the Month Is … (Drum Roll)

The Invasive of the Month Is … (Drum Roll)

Drum Roll: The Spotted Lanternfly

Southeastern Pennsylvania, the epicenter of spotted lanternfly’s arrival in 2014, might seem far enough away to give us in New York prep time for dealing with this new pest, a weak flyer that usually hops to get around. But with the spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula—and SLF for short), all bets are off. After all, it took over Korea, whose climate is surprisingly like our own, in no time flat. And now it’s in Maryland. Delaware. Virginia. New Jersey.

New York’s first find happened to be dead. Blind dumb luck.

A bit creepy, how cool it looks. (Photo insectimages)

How anything so pretty could be so nasty boggles the mind. But it’s the nature of nature. Since ID’ing SLF correctly is key to good IPM, let’s start with the nymphs—the young-uns. In this case they come in two snazzy colors. The early-stage nymphs are straight-on black or, once they’ve molted, black and white—handsome devils or trendy fashionistas; take your pick. For late-stage nymphs (late-stage means they molted—again—and outgrew the skin they had after they hatched), add blobs of blood-red, and that critter looks ready to conquer the world.

Which it might.

Does that bright, traffic-light red signal toxicity, as it does for many other potential prey? Right now all I know is that birds have been seen throwing up after grabbing one for a snack—and yes, they are toxic to us.

Red is ever a reminder to other critters: this might be toxic. (Photo Penn State)

Meanwhile, adult SLFs look positively benign. Lovely, in fact. Don’t believe it for a minute. These classy lads and lassies resemble butterflies or moths, but don’t believe that either—they are, you’ll recall, planthoppers; the name refers to its mode of locomotion.

Whatever. Spotted lanternflies have a destiny. Their natural expertise in the pole-vault isn’t their only way to get around. How many roads (think interstates especially) wend their way from southeastern Pennsylvania to points north, south, east and west? Lots.

Consider your car or camper, for starters. Firewood? You’d be slack-jawed at the degree to which firewood fits into the equation. Just the eggs alone—not easy to see with a cursory look—can easily hitch rides to new areas, meaning that New York is a mere hop, skip and a jump away. Trains, tractor trailers, wheel wells, the cargo hold in a jet—this pest doesn’t need to lay its eggs on organic matter.  Planning a long-distance road trip? California, here we come.

“I don’t want to scare people,” says Dr. Surendra Dara, an IPM and crop advisor at the University of California, “but it has the potential to spread, and we do not have a biological-control agent.”

Which is why you, dear reader, are our eyes on the ground.

But wait. Other than toxicity, I haven’t even told you why to be alarmed about this critter. Grapes, apples, hops—these and more high-value crops rank in the billions for New York. Apples alone ring the register at about $317 million.

New York’s forestry crops are vital, too. Here’s what forest crops provide:

  • jobs for 49,200 people with payrolls of over $1.6 billion;
  • manufacturing, recreation and tourism providing over $11.0 billion to our economy;
  • removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, sequestering carbon, and producing oxygen critical for all life on earth;
  • filtering and buffering clean drinking water for millions of New Yorkers.

As our eyes on the ground, here’s what you need to know. Signs that spotted lanternfly are at our collective doorstep include:

  • sap oozing or weeping from tiny open wounds on tree trunks;
  • a yeasty smell (been near a brewery lately? That’s it);
  • inch-long, brownish-gray egg masses—like waxy mud when new, brown and scaly when old
  • heaps of honeydew under trees and vines and covered, often as not, with black sooty mold.

When you see this many SPFs in your orchard (this is Pennsylvania, mind you) — watch out. (Photo Smyers, Penn State)

Besides fruit and hops, what’s at risk? Everything from willows to walnuts—and smooth-barked trees especially. But keep in mind that many a mature tree which, once it has packed on the pounds around its waist and takes on a decidedly rough or furrowed look, looks svelte and clean-cut while still relatively young. Go outside and look at any gently-furrowed tree, and chances are you’re looking at a host. For those areas where tree-of-heaven runs rife, well—you’re looking at what might be its most favorite host of all.

Though it’s hard to wrap your mind around, it sups on some—maybe all—field crops. “We’ve seen it in some of the grain crops that are out there, soybean and what have you,” said Fred R. Strathmeyer Jr., Pennsylvania’s deputy secretary of agriculture. “It’s able to feed on many, many different things.”

Now think about honeydew. Not the drink, not the melon; rather the stuff bugs secrete as they feed. A case of in one end, out the other as they move down the chow line. Although native insects also secrete honeydew, the size of the SLF and staggering numbers that congregate from place to place makes for a remarkable amount of honeydew. Parked your car beneath an infested tree? Time to clean off those sticky windshield wipers.

For sure—this sticky mess and the swarms of insects it attracts gets in the way of outdoor fun. In Pennsylvania, where SLF populations are the densest, people near the heart of the problem can’t go outside without getting honeydew on their hair, clothes, and whatever they’re carrying. At which point “outdoor” and “fun” no longer have all that much in common.

So that’s it in a nutshell and, for spotted lanternfly, all the news that’s fit to print. For now.

Wait … now for the late breaking news:

Lanternflies Eat Everything in Sight. The U.S. Is Looking Delicious …

 

May 2, 2018
by Joellen Lampman
Comments Off on Let’s work on being less attractive (to blood-thirsty mosquitos)

Let’s work on being less attractive (to blood-thirsty mosquitos)

We have been thinking a lot about ticks these days, so we are particularly grateful to our guest contributor, Paul Hetzler, for writing about another blood-sucking ectoparasite – mosquitoes.

Originally published on April 28, 2018 – Courtesy of Paul Hetzler, CCE St. Lawrence County

Hooray—it’s the end of April and the snow has mostly receded. Before it warms up too much, though, we really should try to solve our attractiveness problems. I recommend doing this through some tweaks to our attire, diet and lifestyle. With all the bloodthirsty mosquitoes outside, there is no sense being more alluring than necessary.

The Asian Tiger Mosquito (Aedes albopictus) is an invasive day-biting mosquito from Asia.

We are lucky in Northern New York that of the approximately 3,000 mosquito species on the planet, fewer than 50 live here. (If only that was the number of mosquitoes, not species.) Some, such as the Culex species which carry the West Nile virus, overwinter as adults and can appear on the first breath of spring. Most spend the winter in the larval or egg stages, and may take a week or more before they take to the skies in the spring.

An article which appeared on April 16 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences spilled the beans on what mosquitoes find most attractive about us. Number one on the list of what drives female mosquitoes wild: unwashed socks worn for several days by malaria-infected children. You may as well take those out of your sock drawer right now. That particular study, by the way, was aimed at finding the best chemicals to use in mosquito traps, not at giving practical wardrobe advice.

Because all mosquitoes are annoying, and a tiny fraction of them (two species in the U.S. at the moment) can transmit life-threatening illnesses such as the Zika virus, they are the subject of a lot of research. It is good to separate fact from fiction regarding what mosquitoes like and what they don’t.

They like compounds we give off, especially carbon dioxide. Aldehydes are semi-aromatic chemicals, mostly naturally occurring (formaldehyde is an exception; mosquitoes do not fare well in that) on out skin, especially after a beer or two. Lactic acid, another ’skeeter treat, accumulates on our skin when we sweat.

We can rinse often, or maybe skip the drink at a cookout, but some things are harder to avoid. Most people like to exhale on a regular basis, for example. If you have Type O blood, tough luck—you’re a ’skeeter magnet. Type A blood on the other hand, is not at the top of mosquito menus. And expectant women can expect twice as many visits from mosquitoes than those who are not pregnant.

DIYers can treat their own clothing with permethrin. Be sure to read and follow label directions carefully.

Where ’skeeters are concerned, the best defense is a good defense. Clothing that is factory-treated with the insecticide permethrin is excellent at repelling both mosquitoes and ticks. It remains effective for months, through dozens of wash cycles. Permethrin spray can also be purchased at hardware stores for use on clothing and gear. Just don’t use it on your skin.

N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide, known affectionately as DEET, has been around since the 1940s, and is labeled for use on both clothing and skin. DEET is effective for roughly seven hours depending on conditions and its strength, which typically ranges from 12 to 30 percent, although 100 percent formulations are available. Picaridin is a less-toxic option which is becoming more widely used. It is equally effective as DEET but may have to be reapplied slightly more often. (Picaradin is not suggested as a tick repellant, though.)

While botanical oils are not effective against ticks, many do keep mosquitoes away. Eucalyptus oil in particular seems to be one of the best. The down side is that they are often only effective for one to two hours.

Apps available for mobile devices claim to keep biting insects at bay, but evidence shows they do not work. Not even a little. And though some people swear by home remedies such as garlic or B-vitamins, repeated trials indicate these are also of no use as repellents. Since these are good for you, in moderation, there is no need to quit — just use something that works in addition.

I always assumed mosquitoes whined to raise the blood pressure of their victim to ensure a fast fill-up. Apparently that is how they communicate — their antennae sense this vibration. In one experiment, if female mosquitoes did not whine, the males paid no attention to them.

In case you think mosquitoes have no redeeming quality, they actually pollinate certain flowers. Photo: k yamada flickr

In case you think mosquitoes have no redeeming quality, they actually pollinate certain flowers. The males in particular, which do not drink blood, can be found visiting sunflowers if you go out at night with a flashlight. Just leave the beer at home.

For more information on mosquitoes and using IPM to prevent them from breeding near your home, visit https://nysipm.cornell.edu/whats-bugging-you/mosquitoes-and-other-biting-flies.

Paul Hetzler is a natural resource and horticultural educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County.

March 14, 2018
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on When It Rains, It Pours: Anatomy of a Wet Year

When It Rains, It Pours: Anatomy of a Wet Year

Remarkable, how much things can shift in a single year. Case in point: the growing season in 2017 compared to that in 2016. The contrast was stark, with ’17 as wet as ’16 was dry.

These things matter to all of us. After all, there are over 35,000 farms in New York, covering over 20 percent of the state’s land. New York ranks in the top six nationally in the production of more than 22 agricultural commodities. Our ag economy contributes a lot to New York’s economic well-being. Milk alone is worth nearly $2.5 million.

True, it wasn’t wet everywhere in New York. But the places that were? Like they say: when it rains, it pours. Results?

  • Saturated soil.
  • Flooded fields.
  • Delayed planting (or no opportunity to plant).
  • Unable to get equipment into the field.
  • Crop disease (wet soils promote disease).

More than half of farmers ranked these as extremely or very important. All were all directly linked to yield loss. But here’s something: 95 percent noted a negative effect on the quality of their crop.

So many options! A pie chart can be worth a thousand words.

Farmers in the wettest areas were the ones who responded to a recent Cornell survey seeking to learn the impact these heavy rains had on farmers and what they’d have done differently—had they but known. It’s title: The Anatomy of a Wet Year: Insights from New York Farmers.

For instance, 82 percent of farmers use drain tile or ditches to help cope with relentless rain. Seventy-two percent said the rains showed weakness or limitations in drainage infrastructure.

Here, farmers noted which practices lessened the impact of heavy rains.

If you know the IPM mantra, you know that prevention is key to good IPM. But how do you stop the rain? The take-away: our farmers are likely to face new and potent climate-related problems, whether it’s increasingly heavy rains or short-term droughts. Researchers, extension educators, NYS IPM, NGO’s, planners, engineers, NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets—anyone with ties to agriculture in New York will be called on to help farmers adapt to an uncertain future.

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References:

Northeast Regional Climate Center (NRCC) www.nrcc.cornell.edu/regional/monthly/monthly.html.
National Climate Assessment (NCA; 2014) nca2014.globalchange.gov/report/our-changing-climate/heavy-downpours-increasing#graphic-16693.
Sweet et al. (2017). www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168192317302800
Wuebbles et al. (2014). journals.ametsoc.org/doi/pdf/10.1175/BAMS-D-12-00172.1

“Anatomy of a Wet Year” was funded by Cornell University’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future and The Nature Conservancy. For more information, contact Shannan Sweet: 607 255 8641, sks289@cornell.edu

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