New York State IPM Program

August 16, 2017
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Of pollinators and postage stamps — forever

Of pollinators and postage stamps — forever

Protect Pollinators. With these new Forever stamps, released on August 2nd, It’s all about the bees and the butterflies. Here, the monarch butterfly and western honey bee symbolize the thousands (yes, thousands) of native bees, hover and flower flies, beetles, wasps, butterflies, and moths at work throughout the Northeast, and across the continent on behalf of — well, there’s us, of course.

Two iconic pollinators. Four iconic wildflowers. Thank you, USPS.

In the U.S. roughly one-third of all food crops depend on pollinators.  And of course, we do love our flowers.

But it’s not just about us. It’s about biodiversity. Consider habitat fragmentation. Example? One house at a time, a forested tract grows houses. Then five at a time; then 10. Then maybe more and wider roads, more and bigger buildings.

Fewer and fewer flowers — and their pollinators.

And habitat loss is a biggie. It makes for less forage, fewer nesting sites. For losses in abundance and diversity. For reduced genetic diversity — and increased risk of extinction. Here in New York, among bees alone two pollinators are endangered and eight more are rare.

Going, going, gone? Image courtesy Emma Mullen.

And monarch butterflies? Starting in late summer, monarchs focus on fattening up to prepare for their epic, multi-generational migration to their overwintering site in Mexico, and it’s nectar they need. But a lawn won’t fatten them — or help other pollinators make it through the cold of a northern winter. Perhaps it’s time to consider making of your lawn an ornament of sorts, beautifully framed with flowers and meadows.

Among core values of IPM: building biodiversity. Why? Biodiversity is at the heart of healthy ecosystems. And healthy ecosystems keep us healthy too. So we thank you, USPS, for reminding us of to the beauty and importance of pollinators. All pollinators, and the biodiversity that supports them.

June 19, 2017
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on It’s Pollinator Week. Read All About It.

It’s Pollinator Week. Read All About It.

It’s summer; the goldenrods will be blooming soon, with bumble bees buzzing around them. Photo courtesy David Cappaert.

When we think about bees, we mostly think about honeybees … a European native brought here by the very first colonists. Now honeybees are struggling, hammered by a constellation of 20-plus diseases and parasites — not to mention a range of insecticides and fungicides.

About 450 species of wild bees also populate our fields and gardens. They have similar problems. And they’re losing habitat.

This is serious business: we depend on pollinators for at least one-third of our food supply. Altogether, these pollinators boost New York’s economy by $1.2 billion.

And consider all those other critters: flower flies and hover flies, wasps, butterflies and moths; even hummingbirds — they are legion, they work hard for their living; they help too.

NYSIPM funds educational projects like this. Photo courtesy Jen Stengle.

What to do? For starters, we can make all these helpers even more at home in our fields and gardens.

Indeed, it’s through bringing together everything IPM knows about host and pest biology and habitat; about pesticides and their EIQs; about habitat protection and biodiversity — these are the things we excel at, and these are what we’re putting into play now to find the answers we need.

Ah … answers. Such as?

Since protecting non-target organisms is core to IPM, we helped advise the governor’s Pollinator Task Force in crafting a Pollinator Protection Plan — itself informed by a national strategy to promote the health of all pollinators. And our flagship IPM Annual Conference highlighted an IPM problem-solution approach for the 100 participants: farmers, consultants, beekeepers (but of course), landscapers, researchers, policy makers, greenhouse growers, and more.

Check it out — not only because you care about your health and your food supply, but because you care about this beautiful world we live in.

March 29, 2017
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Earth Day IPM for birds and bees — and native plants that nourish them

Earth Day IPM for birds and bees — and native plants that nourish them

We’re starting this post with a detour. But we have little choice. Before you go shopping around for landscape plants, you need to know the backstory.

Invasive plants, trees, shrubs, vines and flowers, many of them brought from afar because yes, they’re lovely in the landscape, have become a bit too much of a good thing. In part it’s because they didn’t evolve here. That could mean the critters — mostly insects or pathogens that co-evolved with them and helped keep them in check — don’t live here. Where that’s the case, there’s little here to naturally keep them in check.

OK, sumac berries aren’t all that tasty. But for migratory songbirds powering their way north, they offer needed nutrients. (Photo credit Mary Holland)

True, not all imported plants are invasive. But it’s all too easy to dig up a seedling or sucker from an invasive when you don’t know the extent of the problem. Which is partly why New York passed the Invasive Species Prevention Act in 2012.

Native plants, on the other hand, are less likely to get out of hand. Plus they can encourage biological control by attracting predatory or parasitoid insects — the good guys that prey on insect pests. And promoting these good guys is key to good IPM.

So with Earth Day in mind and planting season at hand, let’s note this threesome of invasive trees: angelica tree, sycamore maple, and Amur cork tree. These landscape trees are no longer for sale in New York. For a threesome of attractive natives that can fill their place — while helping the birds and bees — consider the merits of (drum roll) staghorn sumac, Juneberry, and white fringetree.

As we speak, migrating birds are stripping last year’s crop of staghorn sumac seeds, now mostly dry and withered but still nourishing, to power their northbound flight. Love birds? Your sumac planting will benefit robins, bluebirds, thrushes, catbirds, cardinals, chickadees, starlings, wild turkey, pileated woodpecker — and that’s just for starters. Soon its tiny yellowish flowers will attract bees and butterflies. Fiery autumn color. Drought resistant, and an excellent soil stabilizer on hillsides.

Juneberry isn’t your traditional hummingbird plant but welcoming even so. And first to flower means first to fruit — nourishment for many nesting songbirds. (Photo credit Hans. Thank you, Pixabay)

Juneberry (Amelanchier spp., with more  common names than you can shake a stick at) is also an early bloomer that draws hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. When its fruits ripen in early summer, robins, waxwings, cardinals, vireos, tanagers, and grosbeaks make a point of stopping by for a meal. You might too — the subtle flavor, shape, and color are reminiscent of blueberries. Grows well in full sun or part shade; adapts to wet or dry soils — but note soil must be acidic.

And then — raise your hand if you’ve seen our native witch hazel. This late bloomer is (metaphorically, that is) the golden chrysanthemum of the woods, daring to blossom when other trees have tucked in for a long winter’s nap. How to describe its flowers? Ribbonlike. Spidery. Kinky. Confetti-like — these all serve for a tree that’s the only show in town. But … if pollinators have tucked in too, how to play the pollination game? Turns out a native moth, the sallows, comes out on chilly nights — shivering its flight muscles and raising its body temperature upward of 50 degrees, then flying off search of food. And during a warm spell, bees will sup here too. Yes, this tree benefits birds and wildlife too, but more on that another time.

Witch hazel makes a lovely understory tree. Prefers part shade and moist but well-drained soil.

Common to all? They fit neatly under power lines.

And now a plug for IPM: it’s easy to talk about the birds and bees. Yet so many critters are on our side. Understandably we shudder when wasps and flies come to mind. But consider the scads of wasp and fly species that are on our side. Hey, plenty of wasps don’t even have stingers; they care only to lay their eggs within pest insects. Flies? Ever heard of flower flies? They do what their names suggests, while their larvae prey on aphids and thrips. And there’s scores more good guys in the family they belong to.

You can find plenty of detailed info here: Finding Alternatives to Invasive Ornamental Plants in New York. And know that we’re hosting a statewide IPM conference on invasive species and what to do about them on July 13. Save the date!

August 24, 2016
by Matt Frye
Comments Off on Fighting Waterbugs — with Water

Fighting Waterbugs — with Water

Plumbing issues lead to pest problems — there’s little doubt about that. Leaks offer standing water to rodents, and clogged, scummy drains are breeding sites for flies. How curious that one of the most common plumbing-related pest problems I see is drains and pipes without water.

Unused, uncapped drains are an open door for cockroaches and more.

Unused, uncapped drains are an open door for cockroaches and more.

Case Study
At a multi-story office building, workers reported the presence of waterbugs, aka American cockroaches, on unconnected floors. Sanitation at the site was great, and no obvious leak created harborage for cockroaches: both excellent IPM practices. But a thorough inspection uncovered an unused bathroom on one floor where the water had been shut off during renovation. Not only could we smell sewer gasses — this bathroom contained several dead American cockroaches, suggesting this was the source for that floor. On another floor a drainpipe in a mop closet was open, and we could see cockroach frass.

A drain trap — and never mind the large gap at the wall. Exclusion is an entirely different topic.

A drain trap — and never mind the large gap at the wall. Exclusion is a whole different matter.

Plumbing Traps 101
If you’ve ever looked under a  sink, you’re familiar with a plumbing trap: that U-shaped pipe that changes the flow of water from vertical to horizontal. Its job: to create a water seal that prevents odors and harmful sewer gasses from escaping into the living or work space. Each time the drain is used, fresh water replaces standing water in the trap to maintain a permanent seal.

Uncapped and unused.

Uncapped, unused — except as a highway for pests.

As side benefit, this design deters pests from using pipes to move within or between buildings. Sure, cockroaches and rodents (especially rats) can overcome plumbing traps by crawling through a small amount of water (see National Geographic video on rats in toilets). But when drains are regularly used, they’re unlikely to harbor pests.

Drain Fails
Problems with trap seals occur when drains are infrequently used and water evaporates over time, or if drains are clogged with debris. Floor drains are susceptible to drying out if

  • no one wet-mops the floors
  • they’re in production areas with lots of small spilled items or
  • they’re near a deep fryer
Water cannot penetrate drain grates clogged with dirt and debris. This drain should be cleaned (drain brush or shop vacuum) and flushed with water.

Water can’t penetrate clogged drains. Clean (drain brush or shop vacuum) and flush with water.

Inspection Tips and Solutions
Another core IPM practice: owners or facilities maintenance personnel need to check drains often to verify that water is present in the trap. Check them each time floors are cleaned. For traps that have dried out the solution is easy – pour water down the drain until the trap is full. While you’re at it, make sure that drains are clear of debris. If the pipe is cut and no longer used, cap the end for a permanent seal.

June 16, 2016
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Got the Buzz? Pollinator Week Coming Up June 20 – 26

Got the Buzz? Pollinator Week Coming Up June 20 – 26

Pollinator week — coming right up on June 20 — celebrates all pollinators. There’s honey bees, of course, but also native bees. In fact, NYS IPM-funded research has counted 104 known species alone in New York’s orchards. Of course, bees pollinate more than just orchards, and 450 species all told call New York home — including two on New York’s endangered species list. Collectively these bees contribute upward of $9 billion in pollination services to New York’s economy — and we’re not even talking the value of honey itself.

Gotta love bats, even if they don't pollinate flowers in the Northeast, They offer so many other ecosystem services. Mosquito control, for starters.

Gotta love bats, even if they don’t pollinate flowers in the Northeast, They offer so many other ecosystem services. Mosquito control, for starters.

For sure: we can’t leave out butterflies, moths, flies (think flower flies, hover flies, and more), wasps, beetles, and hummingbirds. If we lived in the Southwest, we’d be thanking bats as well.

Now, though, let’s focus on bees, since  entomologists have discovered so many cool things about how flowers attract bees  — and vice versa. Those scientists have found an array of captivating “who’d a thunk it” ways these symbiotic mutualists have evolved to do each other right.

Yet before we go down that track, a little detour — pointing you to info from NYS IPM’s “Protecting Pollinators” conference. Start with the first two: Emma Mullen’s fascinating talk and superb visuals, and Scott McArt’s tour of Cornell’s research, now in full swing.

OK, back to our symbiotic mutualists — the blossoms and the bees. Examples? Consider color. Bees don’t see red, but they do see ultraviolet. In fact, many flowers equip themselves with “come hither” ultraviolet landing platforms, landing strips, or both.

OK, bees don't see red. But gaillardia — blanket flower — has a trick up its sleeve.

OK, bees don’t see red. But gaillardia — blanket flower — has a trick up its sleeve.

And how about the electric fields wafting up from flower petals? “Everyone knows that bees buzz around flowers in their quest for nectar,” reports Marc Lallanilla at LiveScience. “But scientists have now learned that flowers are buzzing right back — with electricity.”

Gaillardia again ... with UV guidance to the goods.

Gaillardia again … with UV guidance to the goods.

Why? That electric charge advertises — you guessed it — a nectar source. On the other hand, a blossom just depleted of nectar needs to recharge its nectar reserves. So it emits a different signal, one that alerts the bees to just fly on by. After all, bees can learn. And they don’t have time to waste visiting pretty flowers if the nectar is gone. Bees might learn to ignore a flower with a reputation for false advertising (as it were) — even after the flower had topped off its tank.

And then … there’s also “buzz pollination” where flowers wait till a bee buzzes at the right frequency, then reward it with a cache of pollen. True, these flowers don’t offer free drinks (that would be nectar) as a reward. But the pollen they offer is, for some species of bees, reward enough. After all, it’s what they feed their young. Note that we said “for some species.” Bumble bees are great buzz pollinators, as are many native bees. But honey bees never learned that trick. (The science behind it ? Science Direct and Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society.)

Planting potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers (all relatives in the Solanaceae family) or pumpkins, zucchinis, and blueberries? Know that native bees are your go-to experts in buzz pollination. (If you live, say, in a high-rise with a window gardens and no access to rooftop beekeepers, you could buy a VegiBee pollinator and do it yourself.)

Of course, not every flower does any or all of the above. If you want to do right by bees, think before you plant and focus on these four things:

  • Plant for continuous bloom — pollinators don’t get down time; your garden shouldn’t either. Is your yard tiny? Try collaborating with your neighbors and think of it as yet another form of symbiotic mutualism.
  • Is this a bee-friendly flower? Example: if you love roses, plant those old-timey kinds with the simple “single” flowers. Densely clustered petals just get in the way. (While roses provide little in the way of nectar, they’ve got pollen to spare.)
  • Cluster your plants. Groups of long-blooming flowers, rather than single plants scattered here and there, offer bees a better use of their time and energy.
  • Nectar sounds juicy, but pollinators need straight-up water too. Just be sure to empty your bird feeder or plant saucer every few days. Yes, even mosquitoes pollinate flowers. But that’s not reason enough to invite them into your yard. (Float a piece of wood in the water to give bees a safe landing place.)

What to plant? Variety is the spice of life.

Trees and shrubs: oak, cherry, willow, basswood, birch, tulip poplar, crabapple, blueberry, red maple, pine, hawthorn, linden, redbud, arrowwood viburnum, chokecherry, Rhododendron canadense, spicebush, gray dogwood, serviceberry, New Jersey tea, buttonbush, summersweet, Virginia sweetspire, American witchhazel.

Perennials for sun: aster, goldenrod, sunflower, Joe Pye weed, violet (also does well in shade), hardy geranium, black-eyed Susan, iris, milkweed, penstemon, phlox, threadleaf coreopsis, bee balm, cardinal flower, mountain mint, purple coneflower, columbine, liatris.

Perennials for shade: woodland phlox, blue lobelia, jack-in-the-pulpit, indian pink, wood aster, Dutchman’s breeches, violets (also does well in sun).

Weeds: OK, so you don’t need to plant dandelions; they plant themselves. They aren’t native and some people can’t stand them. But they’re here and they provide crucial early-season food for bees.

So there you have it. You too can protect pollinators.

March 24, 2016
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on pollination potpourri: wasps, moths, flies, beetles, and oh yes … bees

pollination potpourri: wasps, moths, flies, beetles, and oh yes … bees

Let’s start with a short pre-blog quiz: which of these native insects pollinate plants?

  1. bees
  2. moths
  3. beetles
  4. all of the above — plus flies, wasps, butterflies, moths

The answer? #4. If you left out flies and wasps because they freak you out … well, just know there’s scads of different wasps and flies — not to mention bees, moths, and beetles — that’ll pollinate your posies, not to mention your apples and pears, your melons and cukes.

carpenter bees aren't interested in us — in fact, the males don't even have stingers

Male carpenter bees seem to help protects nests. Get too close and they’ll act aggressive — even though they don’t have stingers. Females could sting but won’t unless you start handling them.

Let’s look at bees first — native bees! Because the natives outnumber honey bees (originally imported from Europe) in apple orchards. A NYS IPM-funded study from 2009 – 2011 found 102 species of native bees busily pollinating apple flowers — and Cornell’s Bryan Danforth, who led that study, estimates that the native bees outperform honeybees by 200 to 300 percent. Yes, honeybees have a value-added bonus: honey rang the registers in New York at over $10 million in 2015. But if apples or pears (or blueberries or strawberries) are your crop of concern, look to the natives.

Think fruit growers are the only ones to benefit? Dairy farmers take note — leaf-cutter bees pollinate your alfalfa, according to Cornell’s Emma Mullen at NYS IPM’s pollinator conference in 2015. And while many vegetable crops are wind- or gravity-pollinated, key crops like melons, squash, pumpkins and cukes need a pollinators’ help.

Syrphid flies? Harmless. This one's looking for a flower to pollinate.

Syrphid flies? Harmless. This one’s looking for a flower to pollinate.

So … what about flies? More than meets the eye. Finding New York-specific info is a struggle, so let’s just note that vast numbers of fly species all over the world make their living off nectar. Spreading pollen around is a sideline for them but critical for us. In fact, ecologist Alison Parker (University of Toronto) modeled how bees and flies visit flowers — and showed that lots of bees might not always benefit the flowers because bees take so much pollen. But in this computer model, pollination increased with each fly visit.

Not only that, but with some (perhaps many), their larvae serve as biocontrols for crop-damaging aphids. Most nectar-guzzling flies resemble bees or wasps — after all, if you’re harmless but you look like something that defends yourself with a stinger, you’re more likely to be left alone.

monarch on milkweedWhat about beetles, moths, butterflies? Beetles were the very first insect pollinators, with ancient evolutionary origins — and according to the US Forest Service, a global pollination rate of 88 percent. The butterflies and moths? Ranking their value is a tough call, but hey — they have a job; they show up. Actually, those second-shift moths way outnumber day-duty butterflies. But you don’t often see them at work, so we don’t know how much good they do, especially  since sometimes their larvae can be troublesome for certain plants.

How about wasps? If you’ve done enough noodling around online to see that wasps do little in the way of pollination because their bodies are hairless, unable to capture and carry much pollen, keep looking. No, they’re not as competent as bees. But many do have hairy bodies, and they do help. Plus they’re great garden predators, tackling all sorts of pests.

Bringing it all together, a NYS IPM-funded project now underway at the State University of New York at Cobleskill will evaluate the efficacy of different native plant combinations in attracting native pollinators of every stripe and color — and invite visitors to view the farm and orchard demonstration plots to learn more.

What to worry about? Well, yes, the big bruisers in the pollination game often have stingers, and we don’t like being stung — but that’s for another post. And of course there’s the issue of bee health and bee declines — again, for another post. No, there’s a couple of somethings that over time could take a toll on any number of critters and plants, and we’re just beginning to wrap our arms around them. One: the impact that changing climates could have on pollinators. Not that we understand the dynamics well. The other: lost and fragmented habitats.

If you go back to Emma Mullen’s slides, you’ll see that bumble bees, for one, are unable to track climate change. And they are not alone. You’ll also find references for habitat loss and fragmentation and if you’re so inclined, you can watch the video of her talk.

More than enough info for now, no? Stay tuned — this is a perennial topic.

Are you ready for fall invaders?

September 10, 2015 by Matt Frye

Insects exhibit a variety of behaviors or adaptations that help them to survive the harsh conditions of winter. One that can be quite frustrating to homeowners belongs to the the group of insects we call “overwintering pests.” These organisms survive winter by taking refuge in South or West facing cracks and crevices, which maximizes exposure to the warm sun and buffers them from wind and freezing cold. While trees and rocky hillsides provide overwintering sites in nature, man-made structures that now dominate the landscape are perfectly acceptable to these insects.

The Culprits. Multicolored Asian ladybird beetles, boxelder bugs, western conifer seed bugs, cluster flies, and the brown marmorated stink bug are common fall invaders in the Northeast. Some of these insects are exotic invasive species that were accidentally introduced to the US, such as the stink bug, which was first identified from samples collected in Allentown, Pennsylvania in the 1990’s. A new insect, the kudzu bug, was introduced to Georgia in the early 2000’s and may soon invade homes in the Northeast.

Note the light and dark bands along the edge of the body.

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug [note the light and dark bands along the edge of the body]

Boxelder

Boxelder Bug [center of 3 stripes partially covered by pin]

IMG_0899

Western Conifer Seed Bug

IMG_1970

Multicolored Asian Lady-Bird Beetle [note “M” pattern on white thorax]

Can they be Stopped? If overwintering pests gain access to buildings through cracks and crevices, it seems reasonable that sealing these openings will keep pests out. While no formal research has tested this hypothesis, a recent grant awarded by the Pest Management Foundation will evaluate the effectiveness of exclusion as a technique to keep stink bugs and other overwintering pests out of homes (Note: the Pest Management Foundation is the education, research and training arm of the National Pest Management Association). In the mean time, below are some common recommendations to dealing with overwintering pests:

  • Using an appropriate sealant labeled for doors and windows, seal exterior gaps that could allow entry into the home. Remember to inspect locations where wires, pipes, and other utility lines enter the structure, especially on the South and West facing side of buildings.
Screen Shot 2015-09-09 at 4.03.58 PM

Look for and seal gaps around window and door frames.

Repair torn screens

  • Make sure that screens are tight fitting in the window frame, and they do not have any tears.
  • Keep attic doors and fold-down stairs closed during winter months. Insects can enter attic spaces through soffits, later entering the livable space when they are attracted to lights and heat.
  • Flues should be closed in the fireplace when it is not in use.

Trapping Pests. On warm winter days, stink bugs and other overwintering pests may become active. During the day, they can be found at windows, while at night they may fly towards artificial lights from the television, computer or lamps. One indoor trap type that is easy to make and effective is a pan trap. Read more about this device here: Stink bugs beware! Homemade stink bug traps squash store-bought models, Virginia Tech researchers find.

Additional Resources:

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Factsheet

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Prezi

This gallery contains 5 photos

July 2, 2015
by Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann
Comments Off on The Wannabe Bees

The Wannabe Bees

Who wants to be a bee? I don’t claim to know the deepest desires of insects that visit our gardens and farms, except that they want to survive, eat and reproduce. So why do so many mimic other insects that are dangerous, such as yellowjackets? The black and yellow stripes of a typical yellowjacket are easily recognizable to birds, humans and other mammals and signal “Danger! I sting!”. That’s a pretty powerful message that ensures yellowjackets and other wasps and bees are avoided by hungry predators looking to raid the colony for tasty larvae or honey. It’s called aposematic coloration and serves as a warning to other animals not to mess around. From skunks to poison arrow frogs to snakes, aposematic coloration protects both predator and prey from unfortunate interactions.

But what about the harmless insects that are similarly colored? In landscapes and gardens throughout the U.S. you can look closely and find small black and yellow-striped insects

Hover fly on daisy fleabane.

Hover fly on daisy fleabane.

hovering above flowers. Harmless hover flies (a type of fly in the Syrphid family) display a mimicry of yellowjacket coloration, as you can see in the picture. Adults hover flies feed on nectar and pollen, thereby serving as minor pollinators of many flowering plants. The larvae, or maggots, of some hover flies are saprotrophs (feeding on decaying

matter) and some are predatory on smaller insects, like aphids and thrips. Aphids, alone, cause tens of millions of dollars in crop damage each year. Hover flies are considered among the many important natural enemies of aphids and other plant-feeding pests. A gardener’s friend, indeed!

Also in the Order Diptera (which includes all flies and mosquitoes) are the amazing robber flies. The one pictured is called a bee-mimic robber fly. It closely resembles a bumble bee

Bumble bee robber fly

Bumble bee robber fly

and enjoys the protection that such mimicry provides. How could you tell it apart from a bumble bee? All flies, including these, have only one pair of wings. Look closely at the image and you can see a round dot at the base of the wing. That is called a haltere, which is a wing reduced into a flight stabilizer. You can also see very enlarged eyes, relative to the head, small V-shaped antennae and a thick straw-like mouth. Yes, robber flies can bite! But they are voracious predators of other insects – whatever they can catch. Although robber flies are indiscriminate about what other insects they eat, if you have a garden with pests and you see robber flies, they are probably doing good deeds for you.

By looking closely at the many insects that visit your yard and garden, you might be surprised at how many beneficial insects you see. Maintaining your green space using fewer pesticides and incorporating IPM strategies to manage plant feeders will help protect these amazing natural enemies.

June 30, 2015
by Matt Frye
Comments Off on Fruit Flies of a Different (eye) Color

Fruit Flies of a Different (eye) Color

A common pest in homes is the red-eyed fruit fly: Drosophila melanogaster. Famous for use in genetic studies, and infamous for emerging from store-bought bananas, management of this fly rarely requires more than discarding infested items outside of the home.

IMG_0995

A dark-eyed fruit fly adult

Management of this fly’s cousin, the dark-eyed fruit fly (Drosophila repleta), also requires elimination of breeding habitat. However, finding and addressing that habitat can be more difficult. This is because dark-eyed fruit flies develop in wet, decaying organic material that may be out of sight. They are common pests in bars, restaurants, and some coffee shops where they breed under equipment, near drains, sinks, and beverage taps. In these accounts, customers may observe flies near food, drinks or when they rest on walls. Flies may defecate (poop) on walls and leave black fecal spots on otherwise light-colored surfaces, affecting your client’s brand.

Identify the Problem.

When dealing with dark-eyed fruit flies, the first and most important step is a thorough inspection to identify breeding locations. Focus your inspection on places that remain wet, and where food spillage might be present. In addition to sinks and drains, consider moisture from condensation on refrigerators, ice machines and pipes.

Gaps around sinks and drains allow food and moisture to accumulate, providing breeding habitat for fly larvae or maggots.

Over time, tile grout can break down or be removed, especially in commercial kitchens that are wet cleaned nightly. These spaces can accumulate food and hold moisture to create fly breeding habitat.

Address the Problem.

Whether structural or sanitation issues contribute to fly problems, the solution is to remove breeding habitat. Keeping areas dry and free of food spillage will avoid future problems with fly breeding. Some questions to consider: Is there tile grout missing, allowing water and crumbs to accumulate? Is the floor angled or are depressions present that collect water? Does food fall behind or under equipment and is not regularly cleaned? Are floors power-washed at night, lodging food and water in areas that are out of sight or stay wet throughout the day? Are there cracks and crevices near the sink that do not have a sealant?

Quick Fix.

Once a maggot has completely developed, it will crawl out of its moist breeding habitat and find a dry place to pupate. This fly developed in the moist gap below, and is seen here in a corner of the sink.

Addressing structural or sanitation issues are a long-term solution that will prevent fly breeding. But what can be done in the immediate future to address customer concerns? Dark-eyed fruit flies are attracted to insect light traps, which can be installed in kitchen areas. Traps may also be placed out at night when all other lights are off to harvest active flies. In addition, fans can be used to dry out breeding areas or to keep flies out of customer spaces.

What NOT To Do.

Bug bombs and general pesticide applications do nothing to address the breeding fly population, and therefore do nothing to prevent future problems. Similarly, pest-strips containing dichlorvos are sometimes used illegally for management of fruit flies in restaurants. According to the label, these products are intended for use in confined spaces where people are present for no more than four hours at a time. They are not to be used in areas where food is prepared, stored or consumed. For more information on pest-strips, see our previous post, Pest-Strips: A Kitchen No-No!

June 19, 2015
by Matt Frye
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Pest-Strips: A Kitchen No-No!

Beginning in about the year 2000, nearly all organophosphate pesticides became unavailable for use in homes. This was done primarily to limit exposure of children to active ingredients that negatively affect their health and development. Despite this extensive cancellation of organophosphates for structural pest management, one holdover active ingredient from that era remains today: dichlorvos (2,2-dichlorovinyl dimethyl phosphate, or DDVP).

The most common use of this product is as a slow-release vapor from impregnated resin plastic blocks. Pest-strips, as they are called, are used to treat a variety of pests including flies, gnats, mosquitoes, moths, silverfish, cockroaches, spiders, beetles, and earwigs. Like all pesticides, the label instructions are the law, and pest-strips have very strict requirements for use. The guidelines for these products are not intended to make the life of pest professionals difficult, but to reduce human exposure to active ingredients that can cause nausea, headaches, twitching, trembling, excessive salivation and tearing, inability to breathe from a paralyzed diagram, convulsions, and if concentrations are exceedingly high — death.

Legal Uses.

In general, products containing dichlorvos are intended for use in confined spaces where people will not be present for more than four hours at a time. Depending on the size of the product (16 or 65 grams), each pest-strip can treat an area of 100 to 1,200 cubic feet for up to four months (1,200 cubic feet is a room that measures 10 by 15 by 8 feet). Some areas where these products can be used include garages, sheds, attics, crawl spaces, storage units, trash bins, and for the small sizes (16 g): pantries, cupboards, and closets. Many other commercial applications are listed on the label.

Illegal Uses.

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Pest-strips in restaurants are often illegally placed near drains.

Unfortunately, these products are sometimes used in violation of the label directions to treat pests in spaces where people are present for more than four hours, or where food is present. A common example that makes me cringe is the use of pest-strips in food establishments. Especially cringe-worthy is when numerous strips are used in a kitchen where food is prepared and workers are present for a full day. Yes, I’m talking about your average restaurant.

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Do you see the pest-strip? Yes, right next to the Spanish and red onions!

Address the Problem.

It is critical to understand that the use of pest strips for fly control at a drain or cockroach control by a grill line are not treating the problem, only the symptom. The real problem in these scenarios is the presence of food and shelter: accumulated organic debris in drains, food spillage behind and under equipment, and cracks or crevices in structures that provide harborage. If you remove these conditions you treat the problem and eliminate the symptoms.

Remember, for all pesticides and pesticide products, the label is the law. As an applicator, you are responsible and legally obligated to follow the instructions that are intended to reduce health risks for you and your clients.

For more information on pest-strips in structural pest management:

CDC Warning on Misuse of Pest Strips by Gwen Pearson

Careful Use of Nuvan Strips by Mike Merchant

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