New York State IPM Program

March 12, 2019
by Debra E. Marvin
Comments Off on Bug Bombs No Bother to Bugs by Paul Hetzler, Cornell Cooperative Extension

Bug Bombs No Bother to Bugs by Paul Hetzler, Cornell Cooperative Extension

Today we bring you another great post borrowed from Paul:

As days lengthen and temperatures climb, it is common to find a few insects bumbling around the house, looking for a way outdoors. Red-and-black boxelder bugs, orange Asian lady-beetles, and gray, slow-moving western conifer seed bugs are but a few of the critters likely to seek a protected, rent-free shelter in the fall and then forget where the exits are come spring. Fortunately, these are harmless as well as clueless, and do not breed indoors or pose health risks.

Asian ladybeetle.

Warm weather can also bring carpenter ants out of the woodwork. These are a sign that one needs a carpenter, or more likely a roofer, because carpenter ants require wet, damaged wood to begin making a nest. Although they do no harm to structures the way termites do, no one wants them underfoot. Unfortunately some of the least-welcome pests are active year-round, for example cockroaches and bed bugs. Regardless of their identity, household pests can have us crawling the walls in short order.

However, it is essential to size up the problem before reacting. It is natural to want instant results, but the abject failure of the so-called “war on drugs” should serve to warn us that mere hammering on symptoms leaves us tired and broke, and leaves the problem the same as or worse than before. “Shock and awe” tactics will always be impotent unless we change the environment that gave rise to the situation. Some of the most popular pest-control tools, for example the total-release home foggers (TRFs) or “bug bombs,” have been proven utterly worthless, while humble methods such as targeted baits are extremely effective.

The first order of business is to identify the pest. Centipedes, millipedes, cluster flies, and daddy-longlegs are equally unwelcome housemates, but require very different controls. Your local Cornell Cooperative Extension office can help you identify a pest if you email them a few clear photos. The next step is to ask the intruder what it is doing in your house. Part of the ID process is learning what this thing does for a living, why it is in your space, and how it likely got there.

Boxelder bugs, for instance, live on maple sap, and overwinter as adults under tree bark or, unfortunately, vinyl or wood siding. In spring they want nothing more than to leave your premises so they can find a boxelder or other species of maple on which to mate and lay eggs. No amount of home insecticide will provide control for these as they dribble out of their hiding spots over the course of a few weeks. Insecticides are nerve toxins, and even small amounts have been implicated in exacerbating ADHD, depression, and other mood disorders. These products should be used only when it makes sense to do so.

Boxelder bug adult.

The solution to boxelder bugs, Asian lady-beetles, cluster flies and other shelter-seeking bugs is neither flashy nor toxic, and for that reason is often dismissed. Investing in a case of good caulk, a few cans of spray insulation, and maybe some new screen can cure most such infestations for years at a time. Plus, most households will recover that cost the first winter in fuel savings.

Millipedes, carpenter ants and sow bugs enter homes following a moisture gradient. They will return over and over unless water issues are addressed. Treating carpenter ants with a broad-spectrum insecticide may provide the satisfaction of seeing a bunch of dead ants the next day, but the ant factory (i.e. the queen) will crank out babies for the whole season, requiring multiple applications. A nontoxic and dirt-cheap bait made from boric acid powder and sugar-water will wipe out the queen, but takes a couple of weeks. We need to choose between useless shock-and-awe, and quiet effectiveness.  

Carpenter ant.

In an article published on January 28, 2019 in the journal BMC Public Health, North Carolina State University researchers found that the German cockroach population in 30 homes did not change after a month of repeated “bombing” with total-release foggers. But the level of toxic pesticide residue in those residences increased an average of 603 times of baseline. In homes where gel baits were used, though, cockroach populations fell 90%, and pesticide residues in the living space dropped. Lead author Zachary C. DeVries states “The high risks of pesticide exposure associated with TRFs combined with their ineffectiveness in controlling German cockroach infestations call into question their utility in the marketplace.”

Fogging or bombing every insect we see indoors may have some cathartic appeal, but it is a dangerous and expensive exercise which will not fix what is bugging us. For more information on pest control that makes sense, visit the NYS Integrated Pest Management website at https://nysipm.cornell.edu/whats-bugging-you/ or contact your local Cornell Cooperative Extension office.

Today’s post borrowed from Paul Hetzler.

Horticulture & Natural Resources Educator at St. Lawrence County Cooperative Extension

 

February 20, 2019
by Debra E. Marvin
Comments Off on #Ticks. Avoid Them. Remove Them. Here’s How.

#Ticks. Avoid Them. Remove Them. Here’s How.

Winter weather doesn’t mean time to stop thinking about ticks.  Certainly not for the Don’t Get Ticked New York team here at the NYSIPM program.  Tick are active year round, and are out looking for hosts We’ve continued to provide resources and give talks around the state, and update our own resources. Visit the Don’t Get Ticked New York page.

Watch this video by Joellen Lampman and share this post!

 

and download your own tick posters:

Live in Tick Country? (gardener)

Live in Tick Country? (farmer)

Live in Tick Country? (hunter)

Live in Tick Country? (children)

Prepare for Summer Camp

How to Protect your Pets

Minimize Ticks in School Yards

Minimize Ticks in Your Yard

Clothing Treatments

Recognize Tick Habitats

Proper Use of Repellents

Monitor Ticks in School Yards

Monitor Ticks in Your Backyard

Ticks and tick-borne diseases have become a significant public health issue in New York, with different tick species and diseases currently present and spreading within the state and region.Visit the Don’t Get Ticked New York page.

 

December 4, 2018
by Joellen Lampman
Comments Off on Tick IPM – The Dog Zone

Tick IPM – The Dog Zone

December’s wintery breath is already clouding the pond, frosting the pane, obscuring summer’s memory… ― John Geddes

Winter had an early showing in New York this year. So when the temperature hit 50oF yesterday, I took the opportunity to spend some time outside. And, as I had warned people that follow me and NYS IPM on social media with this great graphic by Matt Frye earlier today, the ticks were out and about. (Side note: follow us at www.facebook.com/NYSIPM and twitter.com/NYSIPM for up-to-date information you can use.)

Now, the ticks weren’t as active as the 70 oF day last February. I had to put in a little more effort to find them. But while tick dragging, I noticed where others regularly go off the beaten track (or, rather, create their own beaten track). We’re going to call this The Dog Zone.

There’s a perfectly good paved path, but the dog print laden path is inches from the woodline.

Let’s face it. Dogs want to stick their noses into interesting places, and there just aren’t that many interesting places on the pavement. So they will take advantage of the length of the leash to get off the pavement and follow the scent trails. And the smells of mice, chipmunks, squirrels, raccoons, deer, rabbits (you get the idea), are more likely to be wafting at the edge of the woods than in the short grass. I watched dog walkers leave the pavement themselves to indulge their furry friends. Unfortunately, ticks are more likely to be in those areas.

Talk to your vet about options to protect your pets from ticks and tick-borne diseases.

Typically the dogs are between their walkers and prime tick habitat, but leaving the pavement still puts you more at risk if you are not taking preventative measures. And let’s not forget to protect your dogs too. There are multiple products out there including different topical and oral products as well as collars. These are described in our Tick FAQ under What should I do to protect my pet from ticks?. (Funny story, numerous people have asked me if they could put tick collars around their ankles. Just… no. You can, however, apply permethrin to your own clothing.)

But the really important message here is that ticks are active during the winter. And even if the air temperature is less than 37oF, a protected, sun-exposed area next to a woodline can be significantly warmer. Last week a site we were monitoring had an air temperature of 40oF, but the ground temperature was 50.6oF. So I will end by emphasizing the need to protect yourself from ticks year-round and conduct a tick check EVERY DAY.

For more information on ticks, visit www.dontgettickedny.org.

for “up to the minute” tick news, follow Joellen Lampman on Twitter
https://twitter.com/jnjlampman

 

November 20, 2018
by Debra E. Marvin
Comments Off on New Posters Available from Don’t Get Ticked New York

New Posters Available from Don’t Get Ticked New York

Many of us have snow or slush on the ground. While this changes tick activity, it doesn’t mean tick and tick-borne disease risk is over.  We’re pleased to provide our newest Tick infographic posters for Farmers, Hunters and Children.  Members of the community IPM team continue to gather all the latest information on tick activity and tick-borne diseases regardless of the season. All thirteen posters are listed below, with direct links to printable PDFs.

Today, we’ll highlight our recommendations for HUNTERS!

This poster, featuring a hunter, shows how to check yourself for ticks, and safely remove a tick.

Part of that effort involves creating resources to help educate New Yorkers, as well as giving talks around the state and taking part in online webinars.

Don’t Get Ticked New York offers thirteen infographic posters.  Along the right side of our webpage https://nysipm.cornell.edu/whats-bugging-you/ticks/, look for TICK INFOGRAPHIC POSTERS which will link you to ECommons and the pdfs for all of our posters. Where? See below!

Here’s the full list as of November 2018, with direct links to the pdfs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 30, 2018
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Bugs in your bed? IPM solution at your fingertips

Bugs in your bed? IPM solution at your fingertips

Bed bugs are a longtime pest all over the world. Lord knows we here in the states have labored under their curse for upward of four centuries now. The respite we got from DDT was short-lived in evolutionary time, since it takes little for a pest of any sort to become resistant to whatever pesticide we throw against it.

It’s 1939. Most of us haven’t been born yet. But bed bugs are here. How they got around? This cartoon tells all.

Hard to see, difficult to deal with, bed bugs are well-nigh impossible to live with. These hitchhikers have one seeming aim—to take a trip from one place to the next without you noticing a thing. And by the time you do, it’s too late to wave good-bye. The only thing bed bugs have going for them? They don’t carry disease—a consolation, yes, though a small one when you’re in the thick of it all.

To help, we offer the ultimate in how-to guides: How to Get Bed Bugs Out of Your Belongings. Here you’ll find the pesticide-free solutions you need for household items—items too easily overlooked by the professionals. And the money to replace your stuff? Our guide saves the day.

Consider the humble hair dryer. Our electronics—TV remote, cell phone, lamps and laptops—the list goes on. And you can bet your bottom dollar: bed bugs can find hidey holes within them all. But just try tossing them in a hot dryer (the solution for many a personal or household item). Here’s a place where the hair dryer, helped by its friend the vacuum cleaner, could save the day.

From our guide: Bed bugs are drawn to heat … Warm electronics, especially, should be inspected. Use the hair dryer to blow hot air into cracks and crevices to flush bed bugs, and use the vacuum cleaner to suck them up. Many electronic devices can withstand heat of up to 160°F. Check the owner’s manual or call the manufacturer to confirm that the unit can withstand heat.

You get the idea. Now get the guide. And while you’re at it—check out a whole slew of other IPM resources for bed bugs, cataloged here.

 

August 3, 2018
by Joellen Lampman
Comments Off on Stop the Bite – Mosquito IPM

Stop the Bite – Mosquito IPM

Lest you think we only care about ticks these days, another bloodsucker is at its prime. The hot, muggy, wet weather has created perfect conditions for buzzy, bitey mosquitoes. Besides itchy welts, they too can transmit pathogens that cause disease. And the first report of mosquitoes testing positive for West Nile Virus in NY this year was recently released.

Seasonal items will fill with water and provide mosquito breeding habitat.

So, with all the rain, it’s time for a quick yard inspection. When I conducted mine, it was too easy to find collected rainwater. The wheelbarrow was left right-side up. A snow rake tucked behind the shed was filled with water. An upside down garbage can collected water in its grooves. For these items, I simply flipped them over and the mosquito problem was solved. This simplest of IPM method is highlighted in the video, Managing Mosquito Breeding Sites, by Dr. Matt Frye.

For less flippable items, such as garden ponds, Amara Dunn, NYS IPM Program biocontrol specialist, just released a new fact sheet on using Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, or Bti for those in the know, to kill mosquito larvae.

These mosquito larvae are thriving in a driveway puddle – at least until the puddle evaporates.

Keeping an eye on the weather can also help with management decisions. Take, for example, the puddles formed in my driveway. Getting into inspection position (head down, butt up), it was easy to see the wriggling larvae. I checked the weather, saw it was going to be dry through the next day, and made the decision to let the puddle dry up. When I checked the driveway the next day, the puddle, and the mosquito larvae, were gone.

Alas, the rainy forecast will cause it to refill with water, again providing a good location for female mosquitoes to lay her eggs. Next step? Fill in the low spots in the driveway with sand to prevent standing water.

This dried puddle is no longer able to support mosquito larvae.

Diligence in monitoring is the key to preventing mosquitoes from breeding on your property. Monitor regularly and take steps to prevent standing water from becoming mosquito breeding sites.

For more information on mosquito IPM, visit https://nysipm.cornell.edu/whats-bugging-you/mosquitoes-and-other-biting-flies/.

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 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:

June 1, 2018
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on The low-down on ticks. Part 1A, Biology Q&A

The low-down on ticks. Part 1A, Biology Q&A

Ticked off about ticks? You are not alone. And knowing the what, where, why, etc. is critical to knowing how to deal with them. So here it is, the first in a series: the low-down on that pest we love to hate.

May you, dear reader, stay tick-free and healthy.

1. What, exactly, is a tick?

Ticks are related to mites and spiders—but not to insects. (Now don’t go worrying about spiders—in the Northeast, virtually all are common victims of common misunderstandings.) Ticks have four life stages: egg, larvae, nymph and adult. All stages (well, not the eggs) feed on blood for energy to grow and later to reproduce. Larval ticks have six legs; nymphs and adults have eight.

Those things that look like antenna? Not—they’re highly adapted legs that process vital information. And that snout in the middle? Blood-sucking mouthparts. (Photo CDC)

Right now, three species are a health concern here in New York: the blacklegged tick, the lone star tick, and the American dog tick.

2. What do ticks look like?

Regardless the species, unfed ticks look like flattened teardrops with eight legs. And depending on their species, life stage and sex (male versus female), they have different color patterns on their bodies. But after they’ve eaten, their abdomens (the females’ especially) can expand so much that it’s really hard to know which is which. You can get positive IDs here.

Just keep in mind that learning a tick’s identity doesn’t mean you know if it’s carrying a disease.

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

As for size? Again, that depends on the species, its life stage, and whether it has fed (and for how long). For blacklegged and lone star ticks, larvae are the size of the period at the end of this sentence. Nymphs? Think poppy seeds. Adults? Sesame seeds. When fully fed, adult females can be as large as a raisin.

American dog ticks, though, are a tad larger than the other two.

3. Are ticks a new problem? Why have we been hearing so much more about them lately?

Turns out ticks are nothing new. In fact, evidence suggests that ticks were carrying Lyme disease pathogens 15 to 20 million years ago (Lyme Disease’s Possible Bacterial Predecessor Found in Ancient Tick). What is new? We’re seeing far more ticks throughout the Northeast and much of North America than during any time in recorded history. And of course the more ticks in the neighborhood, the greater our risk of disease.

Why are ticks on the move? For one, (sub)urban sprawl leaves small patches of wooded areas—great habitat for mice and deer but far less welcoming to their traditional enemies—hawks or foxes, cougars or wolves. (More later on the role of mice and deer in tick-borne diseases.) In addition, a warming climate makes northern areas more hospitable for ticks.

Ah, yes. A place to call home—and nary a wolf in sight. (Photo provided.)

4. Where do ticks live? How do they find me? And where did the deer ticks go?

Blacklegged ticks are usually found in woodlots, forest edges, and groundcovers such as pachysandra or periwinkle—places where leaf litter, shrubs, and tree cover provide the moist environment they need. And how do they find us? Just as we sometimes go on quests, so too do they. Only they’re not seeking adventure or the Holy Grail, but simply a host. A host that provides the food (think blood) they need to thrive, or at least survive.

About deer ticks? Years ago, researchers thought they’d found a new species and gave it the common name “deer tick.” Turned out it was the same old blacklegged tick that’s been here since time immemorial.

No matter that these ticks lack eyes—questing ticks stand on the edge of a twig or leaf, their first pair of legs extended. Evolution endowed them with cleverly designed legs: they’ve got sensors to detect temperature, the carbon dioxide those hosts exhale, and odors or sounds specific to those hosts. When a host brushes past, they grab on tight.

The nymphs typically quest below a person’s knee-height. Because adult ticks feed on larger animals, they might quest higher up to find a host—as high as your waist-height or mine.

The lone star tick is on a roll, with its own suite of diseases and syndromes — some still mysterious. (Photo CDC)

The lone star tick thrives in a wide range of habitats, from shady forests to sunny lawns or roadsides. Unlike the blacklegged tick, the lone star tick hustles toward its prey, even across pavement or dry sand. Other distinguishing features? Well … it’s lots more aggressive. Imagine a tick that travels three times as fast as the blacklegged tick, has excellent vision, and hatches in stinging swarms that can put fire ants to shame.

Last but not least—the American dog tick. Forget the woods: this tick thrives in warm, dry places—roadsides, grassy fields, scrubland and lawns. Larvae and nymphs mostly feed on small mammals, while adults climb grass, brush, or twigs to find medium-sized animals—people included. And sometimes American dog ticks could be even more aggressive. TickEncounter has reported seeing American dog ticks follow a regular source of carbon dioxide that attracted them for upward a few hundred yards to the house. And in one memorable case ticks were crawling up the outside walls toward window screens and doors. Now if that doesn’t give you the willies….

No matter which tick you might collide with—this is one party you don’t want to host.

Stay tuned for another informative post on the biology behind that pest we love to hate.

(Adapted from nysipm.cornell.edu/whats-bugging-you/ticks/tick-faqs#answers)

May 24, 2018
by Joellen Lampman
Comments Off on Minimize tick risk while minimizing pesticide risk

Minimize tick risk while minimizing pesticide risk

“I already found a tick on me!” – many people across NY

Many New Yorkers still equate tick activity with summertime, but blacklegged ticks, the ones that carry Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, Powassan virus, and Borrelia miamyoti, are most active in the spring and fall. (They can actually be active year round if the temperature and humidity levels are just right. Thus the heavy activity on the warm days in February.)

The goal is to prevent ticks from becoming embedded in the first place. But if you do find an embedded tick, remove it properly!

And in the springtime the blacklegged tick nymph turns to thoughts of questing. And nymphs are small. Poppy seed-sized small. If you are not intentionally conducting a daily tick check, you could easily miss one. And even if you are intentionally looking, one can occasionally get through your visual defenses. Which is why I was able to take this tick removal video after finding this tiny nymph on my leg when using my fingertips to search by feel. Since Powassan virus can be transmitted after 15 minutes of the tick being embedded, the incentive for not being bitten has risen dramatically.

Which brings us to the use of clothing treatments to protect ourselves. Permethrin is a pesticide that can be applied to clothing, footwear and gear before exposure. Researchers for the Center for Disease Control recently conducted a study showing how permethrin interferes with blacklegged, American dog, and lone star ticks’ ability to move and, thus, to bite. Read about it here.

Now the easiest option is to buy pretreated clothing or have your clothes professionally treated. The TickEncounter Resource Center has an excellent section of their website about tick repellent clothes, including where to get them.

For DIYers, permethrin can be purchased at many sporting goods and big box stores as a liquid or aerosol spray. But it must be applied safely and correctly. I try not to react in horror as people tell me they will spray the clothes they are wearing just prior to walking out the door. This product must NOT be applied to clothing while it is being worn. Or when one’s husband announces that he left his newly treated clothing in the basement. (And, yes, he sprayed the clothes down there too.) Permethrin must be applied outdoors. Don’t take my word for it. This information, and more, is found on the label. Let’s take a close look at the label from a commonly found product. (Does not imply endorsement.)

The label is the law and will tell you everything you need to know about using a pesticide correctly and legally.

The label, which is vetted through the EPA and, in NY, the DEC, provides information on the following topics (with a few examples thrown in):

  • Signal Word – this is your clue to how dangerous the pesticide is. To put it simply, categories include Caution (slightly toxic), Warning (moderately toxic), and Danger (highly toxic). This formulation of permethrin is labeled Caution.
  • DIRECTIONS FOR USE – includes, but is not limited to:
    • SHAKE WELL BEFORE USING. (Emphasis theirs. It must be important!)
    • This product must not be applied to clothing while it is being worn. Under no circumstances should bare skin or clothing on the body be treated. (Emphasis also theirs.)
    • Make all applications outside.
  • STORAGE & DISPOSAL
    • Store in a cool, dry place inaccessible to children.
    • Never place unused product down any indoor or outdoor drain
  • PRECAUTIONARY STATEMENTS – includes “Do not use on humans.”
  • FIRST AID – in case you didn’t follow the precautionary statements.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS
    • This product is extremely toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms.

We hit just some of the highlights, but it is all important. The label not only provides suggestions for using the product safely – the label is the law. That too is on the label: “Buyer assumes all risks of use, storage or handling of this product not in strict accordance with directions given herewith.”

So what is one to do? Why, follow the label of course. Decide which clothes you might wear into tick infested places and “select an outdoor area protected from the wind, spray outer surfaces of clothing (while not being worn) with a slow sweeping motion to lightly moisten the surface of the fabric, holding pump at a distance of 6 to 8 inches. Treat outer surfaces of each outfit, front and back, for 30 seconds on each side and allow to dry for at least 2 hours (4 hours under humid conditions). Pay particular attention to socks, trouser cuffs, and shirt cuffs.”

Then plan for the next application. “Clothing should be retreated after six weeks or after the sixth laundering to maintain adequate protection” I both mark the day I sprayed in my calendar and schedule an appointment for six weeks later.

By the way, professionally treated clothing also has a label, often found on the hang tag when purchased. Be sure to follow those instructions carefully as well.

For more information about permethrin, visit the National Pesticide Information Center and EPA. And for more information on ticks, tick-borne diseases, why there are so many of them, and how to protect yourself, check out our new improved tick page – www.dontgettickedny.org.

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