New York State IPM Program

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

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)

 

 

September 20, 2018
by Debra E. Marvin
Comments Off on Boxwood Blight is Breaking the Bank

Boxwood Blight is Breaking the Bank

Boxwood blight, Cylindrocladium buxicola, was first identified in 2011 when submitted samples were examined at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. This marked the first confirmed cases outside of the UK and New Zealand. Since then, it’s been found on many cultivars of boxwood, Buxus spp., up and down the east coast.

Boxwood Blight, Photo credit Oregon Department of Agriculture

Now, it’s not only showing up in many downstate counties and Long Island, but completely decimating formal gardens and landscape nurseries. With various landscape and cutting uses, Boxwood is a million dollar plus industry, including its use as a major component in holiday wreaths and decorations.

Boxwood Blight, photo credit Margery Daughtery

While boxwood blight might not be a concern in your yard, you’d notice its loss in many landscapes. This is a major concern of landscapers, horticulturalists and growers.

Boxwood blight shows up as dark brown spots on leaves. These lesions enlarge with dark borders until they merge with others. By then an entire leaf—and many nearby—may be covered. These browned out or straw-colored dead leaves drop in record time. “That’s why they call it a blight.”

Stem infection also occurs and shows up as long black lesions. This FUNGAL DISEASE forms sporadochia (fruiting structures), visible with a hand lens. In layman’s terms, sporadochia produce sticky spores—nasty seeds of destruction if you’re a fungal disease! Spores happily spread by wind, rain, splashing water, or by hitchhiking on you, your lawnmower and rake, your dog, even your favorite garden birds.

Why this sudden outbreak? Anyone who suffered through this swampy summer can guess. According to Cornell Alum and New York State Climatologist, Mark Wysocki, “This is more typical for the Gulf Coast states.” Syracuse, for example, sweated through 531 hours when the dew point, a standard measure of humidity, was at least 70 degrees. That’s more than double the number of sticky hours of the next closest year, 2005.

THIS CHART SHOWS # OF HOURS OF DEWPOINT >= 70 at Ithaca Tompkins Airport by year 1996-2018

With relatively new pests, IPM and conventional treatment options aren’t time-tested. Other factors such as soil health, over or under-watering and winter injury increase susceptibility, but this year’s humidity has come at a high cost to boxwood.

For more on boxwood blight, here are two great resources:

Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, Dr. Sharon M. Douglas

 Margery Daughtery, Long Island Horticultural Research and Extension Center for Cornell University.

September 13, 2018
by Karen English
Comments Off on Spotted Lanternfly Enters New York State

Spotted Lanternfly Enters New York State

It’s unfortunate that we must spread the news that living Spotted Lanternflies have been detected in New York State, but to be forewarned is to be forearmed. Here is the text of the press release published by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation and the Department of Agriculture and Markets:

DEC and DAM Announce Confirmed Finding of Spotted Lanternfly in Albany and Yates Counties

State Agencies Encourage Public to Report Findings of Invasive Pest

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

The New York State Departments of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Agriculture and Markets (DAM) today confirmed that spotted lanternfly (SLF), an invasive pest from Asia, has been found in Albany and Yates counties. A single adult insect was discovered in a vehicle in the Capital District. In addition, a single adult insect was reported on a private Keuka Lake property in Penn Yan, Yates County.

“DEC and our partners at the Department of Agriculture and Markets are closely tracking the spotted lanternfly, a destructive invasive pest, as part of our ongoing efforts to prevent its establishment and spread in New York. This pest has the potential to severely impact our state’s agricultural and tourism industries,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “We are encouraging the public to send us information to bolster our efforts—they are our eyes on the ground.”

Following both reported cases, DEC and DAM immediately began extensive surveys throughout the area. At this time, no additional insects have been found. DEC and DAM urge New Yorkers to report potential sightings to spottedlanternfly@dec.ny.gov.

To read more, please follow this link: dec.ny.gov/press/114646.html

August 1, 2018
by Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann
Comments Off on An Exotic Tick Could be Very Bad News

An Exotic Tick Could be Very Bad News

Some scientists consider the epidemic of tick-borne disease in the Northeast one of the region’s greatest natural disasters. As if the risks were not bad enough already, there is a newly emerging concern. In the fall of 2017, officials in New Jersey confirmed the discovery of a new species of tick on a sheep farm in Hunterdon County. This tick, known as the longhorned tick or East Asian tick, has now been discovered in New Jersey, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas and, recently, New York. Native to China, Korea, Japan and Pacific islands and nations, the longhorned tick has only been known to science for about nine years and is thought to have been in the United States since at least 2010.

Nymph, male and female life stages of blacklegged ticks at the top, nymph and adult of the longhorned tick below, compared with poppy seeds. Photo: Jim Occi, Rutgers University

So what is the risk? The longhorned tick feeds on a wide range of mammals and birds, including cattle, sheep pigs, chickens as well as bear, deer, fox, rabbits, smaller mammals and wild birds. It also feeds on dogs, cats and humans. This tick spreads quickly through herds of domestic and wild animals. It may have arrived in the US through human travel or the transport of animals, as the USDA has intercepted specimens at inspection points in US ports. Wild migratory birds can carry these ticks, and so can animals that move great distances, such as coyotes. Even though it has been discovered in just a handful of states, the longhorned tick is likely much more widespread.

An interesting aspect of the biology of longhorned ticks is that females can reproduce asexually through a process known as parthenogenesis. Females do not need to seek a mate and can reproduce quickly and spread rapidly into new areas. It is a cold-tolerant species that can overwinter, and therefore it is expected to spread northward.

The longhorned tick is capable of transmitting diseases to livestock animals, including horses, sheep and cows. This means a significant risk to the dairy and livestock industry from tick-borne theileriosis, a malaria-like disease that results in anemia and possible death of cattle and sheep.

This exotic tick can also carry a few serious disease organisms that affect humans but we still do not know if it can transmit those pathogens to people. In one recent case, a child in New Jersey found a longhorned tick crawling on her body, but was not bitten. That tick tested negative for known pathogens.  However, a single tick specimen cannot define the disease risk that we might face, so we need more information.

Anyone who encounters a tick is encouraged to have the tick identified by a professional. This is especially true for ticks that seem out of the ordinary. Longhorned ticks are difficult to identify, especially in the younger stages. Adults are plain brown but look similar to brown dog ticks. You can submit ticks for identification to one of the tick ID services listed at the bottom of this webpage: http://www.neregionalvectorcenter.com/ticks.

Prevent tick bites to minimize the risks of becoming infected. Learn more about tick bite prevention and tick management at the NYS IPM Program’s Tick webpage: www.dontgettickedny.org.

For more details about the exotic longhorned tick, see the Northeast Regional Center for Excellence in Vector-Borne Diseases fact sheet: http://neregionalvectorcenter.com/longhorned-tick

 

References:

“Rutgers-Led ‘Tick Blitz’ finds exotic longhorned ticks and aggressive lone star tocks in new locations across New Jersey”. Buccino, Neal. Rutgers Today. 7/30/18 https://news.rutgers.edu/rutgers-led-%E2%80%9Ctick-blitz%E2%80%9D-finds-exotic-longhorned-ticks-and-aggressive-lone-star-ticks-new-locations/20180530#.W19psdVKiCg [Accessed 7/30/18]

“Longhorned” tick found in New York, growing number of states”. Ricks, Delthia, Newsday, 7/18/18 https://www.newsday.com/news/health/longhorn-tick-health-new-york-1.19903464 [Accessed 7/30/18]

July 26, 2018
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Tick Check 1.2.3.

Tick Check 1.2.3.

Just last week we posted a pretty good rundown on what to do about ticks—and how. So if you need a review, just call up “Tick, Tack, Toe the Line: Lyme Disease and What to Do” and carry on from there. Remember, the basic idea is no matter which life stage they’re at, know how to protect yourself. Because you can’t count on feeling them crawling on you.

And speaking of life cycles—OK, so the blacklegged tick’s larvae have finished, the nymphs are mostly dormant right now, and the adults have yet to strut their stuff. But that’s no reason to let down your guard. If you’ve been following our posts, you know that there’s a new tick in town (and if you’re following the news, another waiting in the wings.) Their life-cycles can be different. Be watchful!

So here’s what you do:

Two years. Yup. Ticks know how to make good use of their time.

Steer clear of hitchhikers. Ticks don’t survive long in most homes because of low humidity, but still—you’re safest if you put your clothes in a clothes dryer and run it on high heat for 20 minutes. The tumbling action of the dryer and the high heat kill ticks and similar critters.

Wear tick-killing clothing. Information on proper application of permethrin can be found on our post “Minimize tick risk while minimizing pesticide risk.” Also consider buying pretreated cloths or sending your outdoor socks, pants, and shirts for professional treatments.

(Permethrin is an insecticide in the pyrethroid family. Pyrethroids are synthetic chemicals that act like natural extracts from the chrysanthemum flower. BTW, plants can’t run—that’s why many have evolved chemical means of protection. So say I went the DIY route, soaked some mums in oil, put the oil in a spray bottle, and spritzed my pants. But it failed to repel or kill ticks the ticks I bumped up against. Why? Mums come with a cocktail of natural chemicals inside those lovely flowers. And for permethrin and thus for repelling and killing ticks, I’d need to have the right chemicals in my brew—not to mention the know-how for making the stuff.)

Here’s your full-on tick check. Did we say to be thorough? Well, we’re saying it now.

Check for ticks. It bears repeating. Do a tick check at least once a day. Get to know the spots and bumps on your skin so you can recognize new ones. New ones that just happen to have legs.

Protect your pets. Just like people, pets can encounter ticks and acquire tick-borne disease. They can also bring ticks inside with them, which might expose you to ticks. So if your pet goes outdoors, it should have some protection against ticks. Ask your vet. And give it a tick check too—every day.

Remove ticks safely. Only one method has been officially evaluated for its ability to safely remove ticks — using sharp tweezers, grab a tick as close to the skin as possible and gently pull up. Other methods could increase the risk of acquiring a tick-borne disease. To learn more, see our post “It’s tick season. Put away the matches.

Swimming or bathing won’t kill ticks, whether attached or not.

Ticks have a different system of breathing than humans. You can immerse them in water for hours and they won’t croak. Besides, swimming or bathing might not be enough to remove an unattached tick crawling on your body. The best way to kill a tick? Remove it safely with pointy tweezers, then place in a jar of rubbing alcohol.

And there you have it. If we don’t see you at our statewide conference Breaking the Cycle: Integrated Management of Ticks and Mosquitoes on August 7 (9 AM at the Westchester County Center, 198 Central Ave, White Plains, New York), we’ll have a video of the conference uploaded on our website soon after.

It’s not too late to register. Open to the public!

And, as always, we have more Tick Information on our DON’T GET TICKED NEW YORK homepage

 

 

 

 

 

July 18, 2018
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Tick, Tack, Toe the Line: Lyme Disease and What to Do

Tick, Tack, Toe the Line: Lyme Disease and What to Do

You’ve all heard about them, right? Yeah, the little buggers sneak up on you, bite you, and—maybe—make you sick. Sometimes really sick.

They’re not really bugs, of course, but tiny eight-legged critters remotely related to spiders but without the benefits spiders provide. (Note that adult females plump up like small grapes once they’ve satisfied their appetite.)

Just for fun, I wrote a sentence on my finger — period and all. And yep, the larvae are that small. (Courtesy Cal Dept Public Health)

For today, we’re considering blacklegged ticks, aka the deer tick—the name it was christened with years ago, before entomologists realized that tick is already here; has been for thousands of years—and it already has a name. Yes, we’ve got a couple of other ticks we can’t ignore. But that’s for another day.

So … the best reason for ditching the name “deer tick”? It suggests deer are the problem. OK, blacklegged ticks do infest deer and deer can travel widely, so yes, they carry them around in the literal sense and ticks will drop off here, there, most anywhere. But no, deer don’t vector (aka “carry”) Lyme disease. Look to mice, chipmunks, and shrews for that.

So. Back to the topic at hand. The youngest ticks are six-legged larvae, the size of the period at the end of this sentence—and with one exception, they don’t vector disease. (More on that in another post.) After they feed on, say, a mouse or robin, they morph into nymphs and grow as large as poppy seeds. Since poppy seeds with legs are still darn small, they’re the ones that most often nail us.

And the adults? They’re more likely to vector Lyme and the co-infections that too often accompany it or act in its stead. After all, ticks have adapted to be secretive; to keep from being detected. But since by now they’re the size of sesame seeds—still small, yes, but easier to see—you’re more likely to get shed of them before they do damage.

No matter which life stage they’re at, know how to protect yourself. Because you can’t count on feeling them crawling on you. Here’s the countdown:

Tick habitat—it’s everywhere.

Recognize and avoid tick habitat. Tick species differ in where they prefer to hang out, but it’s possible to come too close for comfort to a tick anytime you leave the pavement. Sure, some parts of the state are home to orders of magnitude more ticks than others are, but that’s no reason to think you’re immune to those nasty little critters catching you unawares. And it’s so easy to be unaware.

Daily Tick Check! Regardless how careful you are, you won’t manage to steer clear of ticks 100 percent of the time. Perform daily tick checks even if you haven’t been outdoors in a day or so. Get to know the spots and bumps on your skin so you can recognize new ones. New ones that just happen to have legs.

Dress the part. If you’ll be in tick habitat (meaning you step off the pavement), take precautions by wearing light-colored, long pants tucked into your socks and a light-colored shirt tucked into pants. It’ll be easier to see ticks crawling on you and more difficult for ticks to get to your skin.

Get yourself some super-pointy tweezers, the type that airport security would probably confiscate. Be firm: steady and straight up until that sucker lets go.

Use repellents. Here’s more on choosing the right repellent.  and this guide from Consumer Reports.

Remove ticks safely. Only one method has been officially evaluated for its ability to safely remove ticks — using sharp tweezers, grab a tick as close to the skin as possible and gently pull up. Other methods could increase the risk of acquiring a tick-borne disease. To learn more, see “It’s tick season. Put away the matches.

Which is all we’ll say for now, other than on August 7 we’re hosting a statewide conference on—you guessed it—ticks. Oh … and skeeters, too:

  • Breaking the Cycle: Integrated Management of Ticks and Mosquitoes
  • Tuesday, August 7, 2018, 9 AM
  • Westchester County Center, 198 Central Ave, White Plains, New York

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 3, 2018
by Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann
Comments Off on The Jumping Spider at Your Service

The Jumping Spider at Your Service

It’s rare that a creature as small as a spider could be aware of a human in such a charismatic way, but that’s the nature of the jumping spider. With two pairs of forward-facing eyes set on a flat face (along with two other pairs pointing outward) the jumping spider is a predator that relies on its keen vision to find prey—even as it evades predators and keeps an eye on you. No larger than an inch (and mostly much smaller), these spiders are harmless to humans but present in our environment in all but the coldest weather. They seem to thrive in the complex outdoor spaces that we create with our homes, sheds, landscapes, patio furniture and gardens.

Look at that dude’s face! (It’s a male.) credit: Creative Commons en.wikipedia.org/wiki/

Why? Because there are plenty of spaces for hiding and lots of prey.

Jumping spiders make up the largest group of spiders in the world—about 13 percent of those we’ve named. While most are found in the tropics, over 300 species of jumping spiders inhabit North America. They are mainly carnivorous, meaning they are hunters. Sometimes jumping spiders incorporate nectar into their diets, and one species is known to feed on plant matter—making it unique among all spiders. As hunters, jumping spiders use a variety of strategies, from ambushing prey to sneakily dropping down on their victims from above.

Like most spiders, they extrude silk from silk glands at the rear end of their abdomen, but jumping spiders don’t spin webs. They use their silk as a safety line for rappelling and to remember where they’ve been. Jumping spiders can take prey much larger than themselves. Like all spiders, they subdue their prey with venom from their jaws, aka chelicerae.

One of the truly remarkable things about jumping spiders is their ability to … you guessed it … jump. With those big binocular eyes, they calculate the distance of a leap and the position of prey before leaping. Once airborne, they drop that silk line for safety.

Jumping spiders have also have elaborate mating rituals. These include drumming and vivid dancing by male spiders hoping to attract females. The peacock spider is a great example.

So what does this have to do with IPM? Sometimes just understanding the creatures we see in our everyday lives can have an impact on our feelings about killing them. Many people have negative feelings about spiders. Yet most are completely harmless and never infest homes. They are serious predators of flies, mosquitoes and other pest insects. In fact, the ecological services of spiders are much larger than we can measure.

Jumping spider captures a carpenter ant queen

Consider the ways you manage your home landscape, especially the areas around the perimeter of the house or building. Reducing the use of insecticides can help conserve beneficial arthropods like jumping spiders. Most home landscapes never need insecticides for management. If a shrub or a plant has persistent pest issues, such as aphids or mites, it might not be worth keeping. Just remove that problem plant and replace it with something better adapted and pest-free. After all, choosing the right plant for the right place is core to good IPM.

Meanwhile, keeping mulch away from the foundation (consider a pebble border) can help keep insects such as ants out of your house. Make sure those shrubs and trees around the home are not touching the side of the building to eliminate the bridge from landscape to house and the need for perimeter insecticide use.

Creating a more sustainable landscape encourages beneficial arthropods—the spiders and such—naturally found in your yard. Spiders, mysterious and creepy as they might seem, are top predators of insect pests. As the charismatic ambassadors of the spider world, jumping spiders remind us that it’s OK to live and let live.

June 19, 2018
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Tick Trickery

Tick Trickery

Got ticks on your mind? Your questions. Our answers:

How common are tick-borne diseases — and who is at risk?

Lyme disease is the second most common infectious disease in the entire U.S. But over 96% of all cases come from only 14 states. Now that’s scary, because New York and the Northeast are at dead center for tick trickery.

What looks like spilled ink? That’s where most ticks hang out. (CDC)

Indeed, Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease in the entire United States — and the second disease most commonly reported to the Centers of Disease Control, aka the CDC. (It comes right after chlamydia and before gonorrhea—both sexually transmitted diseases that could strike most anywhere.)

Each year, the CDC gets reports of about 30,000 cases of Lyme disease. But most likely that’s just a fraction of the number of cases. The CDC estimates that each year between 300,000 and 400,000 people are infected with the bacteria causing Lyme — and children ages 5 to 9 have the greatest risk. Parents, check your kids for ticks every day. Make it as mandatory as brushing teeth. “Oh, they were outside for only 10 minutes” or “Oh, but we live in a big city. How could there ticks possibly be here?” — trust us, these aren’t reasons to skip.

Those numbers on the left-hand side? It’s 5-9 year-old boys who most often run into the wrong side of a tick. (CDC)

No, you don’t have to be an outdoor adventurer to be exposed to disease. People can chance upon ticks in all sorts of places. Pushing a friend on the swings, gardening, picnicking at the park, taking a shortcut through a vacant lot, raking leaves—any perfectly normal activity could put you or your kids on the wrong side of a tick.

What diseases do ticks transmit?

Lyme disease is hardly the only pathogen ticks carry. They can also carry anaplasmosis, babesiosis, erhrlichiosis, Powassan virus, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, and Borrelia miyamotoi—a bacteria related to the agent of Lyme disease. (More info: Lyme Disease by the Numbers.)

Naturally, different kinds of ticks transmit different disease-causing pathogens — and the list of tick-borne pathogens continues to grow. Plus ticks can transmit more than one pathogen at a time. Example? The blacklegged tick  (aka the deer tick) can transmit Lyme disease, anaplasmosis and babesiosis all at once. Here’s the short list:

  • Blacklegged tick: Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, Powassan virus
  • Lone star tick: ehrlichiosis, southern tick associated rash illness (STARI), tularemia
  • American dog tick: Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia

Does every tick convey disease-causing pathogens?

No. Ticks don’t share a common destiny. Not every tick carries the pathogens that make us sick. Here in the Northeast, three ticks transmit pathogens—the blacklegged, lone star and American dog ticks.

Larval ticks, the stage that hatches from eggs with only six legs (nymphs and adults have eight legs), aren’t thought to play a major role in disease. But if larval ticks take their first blood meal from an infected animal, well—they’re infected too. Once they morph into nymphs, they can transmit whatever pathogens they took on.

Note: it’s possible that Powassan virus, carried by the blacklegged tick, can be transmitted from a female to her offspring — and that larval blacklegged ticks can transmit Borrelia miyamotoi, a type of relapsing disease. And what’s a relapsing disease? It’s when signs and symptoms of disease return after it seemed the disease was gone.

Blacklegged nymphs cause the most disease—partly because

  • they’re roughly the size of a poppy seed—not easy to see, and …
  • they’re active in spring when people aren’t thinking about ticks — though it’ll be summer before symptoms show.

Some nymphs and adults never acquire pathogens. Not every tick is infected. The rate of infection differs throughout the region. No common destiny there.

If I find a tick crawling on me, am I at risk for disease? And … how do they transmit disease?

Ticks transmit pathogens only while they’re attached and feeding. So no, a tick can’t infect you while it’s still looking for a place to feed. Once it’s fed, it’ll drop right off. That said:

  • if you find a tick crawling on you, don’t squish it
  • brushing ticks off your clothing is no guarantee they’ll stay off.

But if you keep a small vial of rubbing alcohol in your backpack or bag, you can quickly kill ticks by dropping them in. And that’s one less tick in your neck of the woods.

How do they make you sick? Ticks pick up pathogens from one organism (make that the mouse rummaging around under the shrubbery) and transmit them to another (make this one your kid). Here, not for the faint of heart, is how it works:

Larval ticks slide their mouthparts into the mouse — their soon-to-be host — and begin sucking blood. (Those mouthparts might seem a poor excuse for a head, but they get the job done.) At the same time, their saliva enters that mouse’s bloodstream — and yes, the saliva might be carrying pathogens. The time required for pathogens to pass from tick to host is variable. While viruses such as Powassan virus can be transferred within minutes, bacteria appear to take longer. (Just how long is open to debate, so we won’t get involved in that one.)

Need to remove a tick? Learn how here: Its tick season. Put away the matches.

We’ve got a couple of other posts in the pipeline, so we won’t return to this riveting topic until early or mid-July. But do stay tuned.

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