New York State IPM Program

August 16, 2016
by Matt Frye
Comments Off on Ultrasonic Devices? Ultra-Ineffective

Ultrasonic Devices? Ultra-Ineffective

Sometimes I get questions about using ultrasonic devices for coping with pests. “Mrs. Jones uses them and she never sees a mouse!” is often how it goes. I understand the appeal: plug in this thing and my problem is solved. Sure! They also have great marketing campaign: this device will emit a sound you can’t hear that scares or annoys pests — forcing them to leave.

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Cute, but ... wrong place, wrong time.

Cute, but … wrong place, wrong time.

History Lesson
The concept of using sound or vibration to deter pests was invented long before electricity. Ancient civilizations might well have used wind and water-powered devices to create vibration, movement or sound to ward off pests. And the concept of ultrasound as deterrent? Well, that might be based on the observation that some insects such as moths and crickets avoid high frequencies that mimic bat predators; similarly, certain sounds could distress rodents.

The Science
This theoretical frameworks aside, there’s no proof that ultrasonic devices really deter pests. In fact, scientific evaluations of ultrasonic devices have found no effect on target pests: German cockroaches, bed bugs and rodents. (See Literature section below.) In some cases, the frequency and intensity manufacturers claim don’t match up with actual output. Not only that, but some devices exceed limits imposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) for human tolerance of sound exposure.

Can this really repel all of the above? Think twice before you invest.

Can this really repel all of the above? Think twice before you invest.

What Does Work?
So why doesn’t Mrs. Jones have mice? Well, prevention is cardinal to good IPM, and perhaps her house is well constructed and sealed against outdoor pest invasions. Or perhaps she keeps a clean home with no spilled food or water. Again, prevention is numero uno in IPM.

If a pest did invade her home, her best chance at management would involve eliminating access to food, water and shelter, then reducing the pest population by trapping or baiting. Again, core IPM.

Next time you’re dealing with a pest problem, figure out why they’re there and address that issue. Consult our IPM pest fact sheets to guide your way. And put away those ineffective ultrasonic devices.

Selected Literature

  • Bomford, M, & PH O’Brien. 1990. Sonic Deterrents in Animal Damage Control: A Review of the Device Tests and Effectiveness. Wildlife Society Bulletin 18(4): 411-422.
  • Gold, RE, TN Decker, & AD Vance. 1990. Acoustical Characterization and Efficacy Evaluation of Ultrasonic Pest Control Devices Marketed for Control of German Cockroaches (Orthoptera: Blattellidae). Journal of Economic Entomology 77: 1507-1512.
  • Koehler, PG, RS Patterson, & JC Webb. 1986. Efficacy of Ultrasound for German Cockroach (Orthoptera: Blattellidae) and Oriental Rat Flea (Siphonoptera: Pulicidae) Control. Journal of Economic Entomology 79: 1027-1031.
  • Shumake, SA. 1997. Electronic Rodent Repellent Devices: A Review of Efficacy Test Protocols and Regulatory Actions. In (ed.) JR Mason: Repellents in Wildlife Management (August 8-10, 1995, Denver, CO). USDA, National Wildlife Research Center, Fort Collins, CO.
  • Yturralde, KM, & RW Hofstetter. 2012. Efficacy of Commercially Available Ultrasonic Pest Repellent Devices to Affect Behavior of Bed Bugs (Hemiptera: Cimicidae). Journal of Economic Entomology 105(6): 2107-2114.


February 13, 2015
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Check It Out: Our School ABC IPM Blog

Check It Out: Our School ABC IPM Blog

Enjoying our ThinkIPM blog? Truck on over to our School ABCs blog — you’ll find plenty of good stuff there, too. Sure, it’s aimed mainly at school staff — but who doesn’t care about our schools? Seek no further:

The ABCs of School and Childcare Pest Management Brought to you by the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program

And samples of what you’ll find:

Got Geese II

Touchdown! But who wants goose poo on their cleats? Sign up to learn more.

Touchdown! But who wants goose poo on their cleats? Sign up to learn more.

Although beautiful in flight and valued as a symbol of the wild, Canada Geese frequenting school grounds, including athletic fields, are a growing concern. Come and learn about goose biology and behavior, the legal framework for dealing with goose problems, alleviation techniques available to schools, and the long-term management of geese and goose problems.

A second workshop helps school personnel learn to deal with goose problems on school grounds and athletic fields on February 20 (Rochester) or March 13 (Norwich).

Bed Bugs in Schools. You Found One.

Aren't bed bugs supposed to be button-shaped? This one is because it's well fed, but as it digests its meal it’ll become buttonlike again. Courtesy

Aren’t bed bugs supposed to be button-shaped? This one is because it’s well fed, but as it digests its meal it’ll become buttonlike again. Courtesy Gary Alpert.

Don’t panic, and don’t assume the insect’s source, but discreetly remove the student from the classroom. If you’re not the person responsible for pest management, contact them immediately. Someone must attempt to collect the insect for proper ID! Examine the student’s belongings, in keeping with your district’s personal property policy. If the insect is a bed bug, contact the student’s parents by phone, explaining the facts without targeting fault. Offer to send educational bed bug information home with the student at the end of the day. There should be no reason to send the student home early. If your district is completely unprepared for this type of event, it’s time to determine a policy.

Child Safe Playing Fields Act – Frequently Asked Questions

A New York law essentially banning pesticide use on the grounds of schools and day care centers has been full effect since 2011. … Besides the playgrounds, turf, athletic or playing fields clearly stated in the law, playground equipment and fence lines around athletic fields and tennis courts are included.

The following areas are left to local discretion, but with the understanding that the intent of the law is to reduce children’s exposure to pesticides:

  • Areas around buildings
  • Ornamental plants such as trees, shrubs, and flowers

Bed Bugs in Schools – Is it or isn’t it?

The person responsible for pest management decisions in your school or child care facility should be able to identify bed bugs, as well as understand their life cycle, habitat needs and how to prevent or remove them. But all of us should do ourselves a favor and learn about this pest.  With ever-increasing incidences of bed bug infestations, knowledge is your number one key to prevention.

Updated EPA Website: Healthier Schools for Healthier Kids

Children are not little adults – they are still growing and developing. We need to take special precautions to keep them safe

…a great reminder from the EPA’s newly updated Healthy Schools website.  They hope to provide a more user-friendly site and have added a “School Bulletin Board” where you’ll find all the news regarding healthy school environments.

Here’s the link:

January 27, 2015
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on IPM: Pests, Best Practices, and the Passage of Time

IPM: Pests, Best Practices, and the Passage of Time

January — that’s when the long process of combing through this year’s crop of NYS IPM research reports begins. We’re looking for great stories to feature in our annual report. As usual, we’ve got lots of contenders. And would that we had room for them all.

Beneficials are a big deal now in IPM. This hover fly pollinates crops — but it’s the larvae that do the dirty work on aphids and more. Photo provided.

Beneficials are a big deal now in IPM. This hover fly pollinates crops — but it’s the larvae that do the dirty work. Photo provided.

Our theme this year? Well, it is our 30th anniversary. So we’re taking a “then and now” approach that highlights the changes we’ve seen in IPM practices — and predicaments — over time. The “IPM practices” part? Let’s call them best practices. They’re generally the result of years of focused diligence; of continually fine-tuning tactics, incorporating technology breakthroughs, and building partnerships around the state, the Northeast, and the nation.

As for those “IPM predicaments” — well, just think “bed bug.” Who knew, 30 years ago, that bed bugs were waiting in the wings for their place in the spotlight? Consider them a symbol of sorts — a critter that stands for the ever-increasing numbers of invasive species now infiltrating our homes, our gardens, our farms and forests.

If anything proves the value of IPM not just to farmers, not just to practitioners, but to all of us, it’s our response to a sweeping range of pest problems new and old. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, for closer look at our recent IPM research, check out our previous annual reports.

September 23, 2014
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Test Your Bed-Bug IQ

Test Your Bed-Bug IQ

Test your bed-bug knowledge — and no peeking at the answer key.

A. Which diseases do bed bugs spread?

  1. A. Hepatitis
  2. B. AIDs
  3. C. Malaria
  4. D. None
  5. E. Meningitis

B. How long might I need to leave my house for, so bed bugs will starve?

  1. A. A week

    From egg to adult, well-fed bed bugs (top) and hungry bed bugs (bottom)

    From egg to adult, well-fed bed bugs (top) and hungry bed bugs (bottom) Photo credit Allison Taisey

  2. B. Two weeks
  3. C. A month
  4. D. Two months
  5. E. As long as five months

C. What do bites from bed bugs look (and feel) like?

  1. A. Big red welts; painfully itchy
  2. B. So tiny you hardly see them; not painful
  3. C. Always in rows on the skin; itchy
  4. D. Mosquito bites; itchy
  5. E. It depends

D. What besides blood do bed bugs feed on?

  1. A. Sawdust left by carpenter ants and other wood-feeing insects
  2. B. Nothing else
  3. C. Fibers in mattresses, sheets, and pajamas
  4. D. Skin cells cast off as we sleep
  5. E. Pet food left out overnight

Answers: A: 4. (none, though some people are allergic, developing painful, sleep-depriving skin rashes and — rarely —anaphylaxis) B: 5. (some old reports say “a year or more,” but that’s outdated info)  C: 5. (it depends; some people don’t react at all) D. 2 (nothing else — regardless what you find on some websites)

NYSIPM Bed bug Resources:

What’s Bugging You? Bed bug page

How to get bed bugs out of your belongings

Bed Bugs Illustrated (Versions in Spanish and English)

for Cooperative Extension- How to talk to callers about bed bugs

Bed Bug Frequently Asked Questions



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