From Livestock & Field Crops IPM Extension Area Educator KEN WISE:
What I remember the most of Earth Day is when I taught high school forestry and fishery. On Earth Day, we would plant several acres of Douglas fir seedlings or release salmon in rivers with my students in the Cascade Mountains. We would grow our own seedlings and had a built our salmon hatchery.
Earth day for me is an everyday state of mind. My work in a small way I hope helps sustain the land.
Mountain Lake in the Cascades (public domain)
From Community IPM Extension Area Educator MATT FRYE:
In grad school I coordinated an annual trash removal project in our woodlot, and prior to that I helped with tree plantings. But it’s been a few years, so this is more of a reflective thought on Earth Day…
Earth Day for me is a reminder. It’s a day to slow down. To take a deep breath. To experience and admire the wonders that this world has to offer. Equally, it’s a call to action. For if we fail to nurture and actively protect them, someday those wonders may be but a memory.
Photo of Matt from Matt’s collection
From Ornamentals IPM Coordinator BETSY LAMB:
To me, it is the power of people coming together for a cause. And sometimes even people on apparently opposite sides of an issue who see that environmental improvements actually have benefits for both sides.
It is easy now to say that it is just a meaningless ‘holiday’ but we need to be reminded of how far we have actually come and what some of the changes have been and are. Like some other issues, the changes have become the expected norm – which is perhaps a victory in itself. And that is not to say that there are no longer challenges. There certainly are – and some new voices pointing them out and encouraging new responses. Hope, frustration, action, and change!
Betsy teaching biocontrol in a greenhouse meeting. (Photo NYSIPM)
From Program Administrator AMANDA GRACE:
Photos from Amanda’s collection
Each year, we plant a tree with the boys to celebrate Earth day. We try our best to educate and raise awareness, especially to our future generation(s), on the importance of unity and coming together to protect and nourish our global home.
“if you want a child’s mind to grow, You must plant the seed.”
Happy Earth day!
From Community IPM Educator LYNN BRABAND:
Here is a photo of my participation in the first Earth Day as a sophomore in community college. I am at the red arrow. I was one of the organizers of the day’s activities in that municipality. Personally, the event was part of a journey that I was already on.
Newspaper article from Lynn’s college years, see the close up below.
Lynn Braband (at red arrow)
Tomorrow, we’ll be sharing a few more thoughts on the significance of Earth Day. Thank you to Jennifer Grant and Joellen Lampman for helping to pull this post together!
April 10, 2020
by Joellen Lampman Comments Off on It’s Bat Appreciation Week
The sun was set; the night came on apace, And falling dews bewet around the place; The bat takes airy rounds on leathern wings, And the hoarse owl his woeful dirges sings. – John Gay
Little brown bats capture beetles, true bugs, moths, flies, wasps, and other insects. Photo: J. N. Stuart flickr
Big brown bats feed on beetles and other hard-bodies insects. Photo: US Fish and Wildlife Service flickr
Bats are one of those creatures that instill fear in people. (Thanks, Hollywood.) But as all our New York bats eat insects, at a rate of around 700 insects per hour, they can play an important biocontrol role in our IPM programs.
The federally endangered Indiana bat eats beetles, flies, moths, and other insects. Photo: US Fish and Wildlife Service flickr
There are two types of bats in the Northeast. Some species are communal and typically overwinter in caves, mines, and sometimes, to our consternation, our buildings. They include the little brown bat, big brown bat, eastern long-eared bat, eastern pipistrelle, small-footed myotis, and the federally endangered Indiana bat.
(If you find bats lodging in your attic, it is best to call in the professionals. They’ll work with you at the right times of the year to close up crevices and holes that let bats in. Closing up entry holes in the summer could trap baby bats inside. For more information, visit What’s Bugging You – How to deal with bats.)
The hoary bat is our largest bat, migrates to Mexico for the winter, and feeds on beetles, true bugs, moths, flies, wasps, and other insects. Photo: Tom Benson flickr
Bats in the second group live largely solitary lives, roost primarily in tree canopies and cavities, and migrate south for the winter. These include the red bat, hoary bat, and silver-haired bat.
According to the Cornell publication, Bats in the Forest and Beyond, “in a study of a colony of 150 brown bats in an agricultural area, researchers estimated that the colony consumed over 1.25 million insects in a year. This is not surprising, considering that a single bat may eat 3,000 insects on a given summer night. Bats roosting and foraging in New York forests consume forest and eastern tent moths, and a variety of other potential forest pests”.
Whitenose syndrome on little brown bat. Photo: New York US Fish and Wildlife Service
The legal status of bats varies from state to state. In New York, two species, the Indiana bat and the northern long-eared bat, are protected. However, the conservation of all bats is encouraged. This is particularly important since the populations of some bat species, especially the little brown bat, have been decimated by an introduced fungal disease, white-nose syndrome.
So what can we do to help? According to the Cornell Wildlife Health Center, “to minimize spread of the fungus [that causes white-nose syndrome], people should not handle bats, avoid entering caves and mines with bat colonies, and should decontaminate all equipment and clothing between caves and bat roosts”.
Leave or plant trees with deep furrowed bark such as shagbark hickory that provide roosing spots for bats. Allowing dead trees with peeling bark can also provide habitat. If you must take down these trees, avoid cutting from May to early August when bats are raising thier young. We can also install bat boxes, which mimic areas bats would naturally roost.
Looking for something to do with the kids? Alyson Brokaw, a student involved with The Cornell University Naturalist Outreach Program, talks to students about her love of bats and developed a companion education guide.
Alyson talks about why the world’s only true flying mammals are so amazing and why you should learn all about them! Plus, Alyson answers the burning question: “Why do bats hang upside down?”
March 20, 2020
by Joellen Lampman Comments Off on Protect yourself from spring ticks
“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” – Margaret Atwood
The spring of 2020 might have everyone’s yards incredibly tidy, as gardening and yard work are on the short list for things we can all do while social distancing. But COVID-19 isn’t the only disease we need to watch for, and new research shows that protecting yourself from tick-borne pathogens is more important than ever.
They’re active now
This table shows the textbook description of when blacklegged tick lifestages are active.
Blacklegged ticks are most active in the spring and fall, although you can often find them active year round if conditions are right (above 37o in the winter, cool and damp in the summer). Many still consider ticks to be a summer pest, but the poppy-seed sized nymph starts questing in the spring, and there have already been reports of nymphal activity in New York. These ticks are considered to be the most dangerous life stage due to their small size, so be sure to put all your tick prevention strategies into place now.
In reality, different blacklegged lifestages can be active almost anytime of year depending on weather conditions.
Keep it clean
A study looking at the effectiveness of recommended yard management measures against ticks showed the presence of trash could predict an increase in ticks over a clean yard, likely due to an increase in the number of small rodents that find both shelter and food amongst the trash. This was more pronounced in yards without forested areas. Sanitation is an important IPM step, so pick up and pack out that trash!
Check your leaves
Both adult and nymphal blacklegged ticks are active in the spring.
Identify areas in your yard where leaves have accumulated. Are they close to areas you spend a lot of time, like the kids’ swing set or your garden? It’s best to remove them. Are they in the far corner where no one ever goes? You can probably leave them, but be aware that the tick risk will likely be higher. Check for yourself. It’s pretty easy to monitor for ticks.
“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.
When choosing the perfect tree, people usually consider variety, size, and shape. But with the phenomenon of a new invasive planthopper, Spotted Lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) (SLF), the tree’s origin may be something to think about.
We always suggest fresh-cut trees from New York’s many great tree farms!
First of all, we’ll say it’s unlikely that SLF will be on your cut tree. Conifers are not a food source for this pest, but egg-laying females are indiscriminate as to where eggs are placed. That’s why we offer a list for travelers making their way through quarantined areas.
Adult spotted lanternfly with covered egg masses on rusty shovel Photo: Kenneth R. Law, USDA APHIS PPQ, Bugwood.org
Egg mass Photo: Kenneth R. Law, USDA APHIS PPQ, Bugwood.org
At this time of year, winter has killed off adults, but their hardy egg masses remain. Although ornamental in appearance, Spotted Lanternfly is one “ornament” you don’t want hatching from their mud-like egg masses and decorating your property this coming spring. SLF causes economic damage to agriculture, forestry and tourism, and is a major nuisance to homeowners. Learn more by visiting our SLF website!
We bring this up because the SLF quarantined areas of Pennsylvania (shown in blue on the map below) happen to be home to many Christmas tree farms (Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia, and Schuylkill).
Distribution map as of November 2019
If you’re buying a pre-cut Christmas tree, ask the seller where their trees came from. If it’s from PA, learn about this pest and inspect the trunk. But don’t stop there. Get into the habit of citizen science! “Scouting” (actively knowing how, why, and where to look) for pests gives you a critical role in stopping the spread.
Eggs, and covered eggs (egg mass) on bark. Photo: Emily Swackhamer, Penn State Extension
What else can you do?
There are plenty of cut-your-own farms in New York with family-friendly atmosphere where you can get a fresh tree. If you don’t have time for a cut-your-own experience, ask your tree sellers if they’re aware of SLF risk on out-of-state trees. Awareness is key!
Here’s some Christmas Tree tips from our own Christmas Tree expert, IPM’s Brian C. Eschenaur:
2019 was an excellent growing season for Christmas Trees. We had more moderate summer temperatures and good rainfall this year. Those suitable growing conditions allowed trees to put on healthy new growth, and the fine weather gave Christmas tree growers good conditions to prune trees so they will be in great shape for harvest. This year’s early-November cold snap was also beneficial in “setting” the needles which is good for longer needle retention in some tree species.
Once in a while we hear from people concerned about the “single use” aspect of real Christmas trees. But considering the alternative of a plastic tree produced, then shipped from overseas, (and eventually ending up in a landfill), real trees have their benefits. They are a renewable resource and by buying locally you are supporting growers that will continue to maintain their fields which are part of the greenspace we all value.
Choose a variety and shape that fits your needs. Many growers are producing a wide variety of firs, spruces and even old-fashioned pines. Each variety tree offers its own shape, color, fragrance, and even branch stiffness which is important to consider for holding ornaments.
Trees always look smaller in the field so don’t forget the tape measure. Measure the floor to ceiling height before you go tree shopping and then while choosing so you end up with a tree that fits nicely into your home.
Don’t be afraid to bend the branches and shoots. Green needles should not come off in your hands. Also, the shoots should be flexible. Avoid a tree if the needles are shed or if the shoots break instead of flexing.
If possible, make a fresh cut on the bottom so the tree’s vascular tissue (pipe work) is not plugged and the tree can easily take up water. Then, if you’re not bringing it into the house right away, get the tree in a bucket of water outside.
Once you move your tree inside the house, don’t locate it next to a radiator, furnace vent or other heat source. And always remember to keep water in the tree stand topped off, so it never goes below the bottom of the trunk.
Whatever you choose to do, enjoy your “Holly Jolly Christmas” and hopefully “it’s the best time of the year.”
Ryan Parker, NYSIPM Program
Cheers from all of the NYSIPM staff.
July 20, 2019
by Joellen Lampman Comments Off on Revisiting wild parsnip
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. (Image does not imply endorsement.)
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.
Have you ever wondered what pollinator-supporting plants you can add to your property ?
Here’s an excellent and enjoyable way to find out. Funded by one of our Community IPM Grants, Cooperative Extension of Putnam County created the perfect example. While you can certainly stop in to visit, (Cornell Cooperative Extension of Putnam County, 1 Geneva Road, Brewster NY.), here’s the next best thing. Or maybe it’s better because you can visit any time regardless of weather and distance!
Visit a real pollinator gardenwith this virtual 360 degree tour. In this curated experience, suitable for youth and adults, go on a pollinator insect hunt, or learn about the threats to native and non-native pollinators. Master Gardener Volunteers will help you make decisions about plant and landscape choices that support pollinator abundance and diversity.
This is just one of the resources we are pleased to provide to help you help pollinators.
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.