New York State IPM Program

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.

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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

September 18, 2014
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Tiny Fruit-Fly Pest Packs Big Wallop — Now on TV

Tiny Fruit-Fly Pest Packs Big Wallop — Now on TV

It’s tiny, but it packs a wallop. That’s SWD — spotted-wing drosophila — a new invasive fruit fly that’s put down roots in nearly every berry-growing region in North America. Losses can range from “lots” to “entire crop wiped out.” In New York alone, that’s millions of dollars down the drain.

CBS2’s Vanessa Murdock reported from the field, interviewing growers and scientists who seek an answer to this menace — along with up-close-and–personal footage of the damage it wreaks.

Your kitchen-variety fruit fly likes overripe or rotting fruit. But SWD zeros in on fresh fruit. And often you can’t see the damage till after you’ve harvested your crop. Which means you can’t market it.

“Growers are losing tens of thousands of dollars on a per-farm basis,” said Cornell scientist Peter Jentsch.

September 16, 2014
by Matt Frye
Comments Off on What Is That Wasp in the Window?

What Is That Wasp in the Window?

Those of us who work in “structural pest management” (think office buildings, schools, or homes) tend to see the same cast of characters each year: cockroaches, ants, termites and bed bugs to name a few. But every now and then an interesting critter will show up that has a neat story to tell. Enter Brachymeria fonscolombei.

The Situation. In the past few weeks, I’ve heard from homeowners who’ve found small, compact (1/8 – 1/4 inch), black and red insects in their windowsills — with no apparent explanation for their presence. Indeed, these are wasps. But unlike your garden-variety wasps, B. fonscolombei won’t sting you or your pets.

B. fonscolombei

B. fonscolombei parasitize fly larvae. Photo: M. Frye

How to ID It. Like other wasps in its family, the Chalcididae, B. fonscolombei has large, toothed, dark-red hind femurs with a white dot. And parasites they are — but not the kind that could ever make us sick.

The Story. Brachymeria fonscolombei lay their eggs in the larvae of flies — especially house, bottle, and flesh flies. Finding them in your home follows a series of rather graphic events. It goes like this: not too long ago, a small animal — a mouse, say — died within your walls. Flies attracted to the scent laid their eggs on its body. When those  eggs hatched into larvae (“maggots” in the common lingo) along came B. fonscolombei — and laid its eggs in them. After three weeks or so (or if overwintering, as much as five or six months) a single adult wasp emerged from each maggot and looked for a way to get outdoors.

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Small animal carcasses are food for flies such as this green bottle fly. Photo: J. Gangloff-Kaufmann.

Larvae

Flies lay eggs on food sources that develop into maggots — fly larvae. Photo: M. Frye.

What to Do. It bears repeating: Brachymeria are wasps, but they can’t sting people. To manage them, you have to find and remove their food source (that would be fly larvae) and the source’s source (some kind of decaying stuff). Examples include pet poop, old food stuck on the bottom of a garbage can — and dead animals. If that’s is a mouse or rat that dined on rat bait, then inconveniently died inside your wall, think about using snap traps instead. With snap traps, you can remove dead rodents quickly — before the flies do it for you.

Did You Know? Cluster flies are a pest in upstate New York that congregate by the scores or hundreds in attics and other protected spaces. Whereas Brachymeria is a parasite of flies, cluster flies are parasites of earthworms!

June 5, 2014
by Matt Frye
Comments Off on The 80/20 Rule of Pest Activity

The 80/20 Rule of Pest Activity

When a pest problem begins in an office or workshop, it might seem like the entire place is overrun. But more often the pests are feeding and breeding in just a few confined areas — making there way from there to other parts of the building. Pest managers call this the 80/20 rule, meaning that 80 percent of pest problems come from 20 percent of the area.

These two cases highlight the 80/20 rule:

Case One. The scene — a small office in a corporate building. What started as a few flies in the waiting room quickly escalated to hordes of flies around computers, lights, equipment — and guests — in every part of the office. These were Phorid flies — small, 1/8 to 1/4 inch long, but annoying nonetheless. How to ID them? For starters, they’re humpbacked and their wings have distinctive veins. They like to breed in rich organic material.

Our inspection took us to a part of the building that had been vacated several months prior — and we quickly found our problem’s source in an empty office, where swarms of flies surrounded a closed trashcan.

Spillage from the can had dried on the floor. And inside? Thousands of fly larvae and pupae — breeding in food discarded from a refrigerator emptied months before. This single trashcan was responsible for flies throughout the building.  The trashcan was bagged and removed, and sticky traps with an attractant captured the flies. Case closed.

Case Two: The scene — a school with an ongoing cockroach problem. Sightings had dropped dramatically over time, but still — building managers wanted to stay ahead of the game with proactive control measures. Our inspection found a few conditions conducive to pests, but none accounted for the large numbers of cockroaches previously seen.

Then — in a tucked-away part of the building, up a ladder and through a closed door, we came to a storage room. The place was littered with piles of frass (insect droppings) — which told us this area had

once hosted a large cockroach population. On the floor was dried sewage from an old leaky pipe, one that had recently been replaced. We had found the breeding and harborage site that attracted cockroaches in the first place.

The takeaway? If you have an abundance of pests, remember — the source is often in those areas that are out of sight, difficult to access, or otherwise hard to clean.

June 11, 2013
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Fireflies and … “Four Firsts” in Field Crops

Fireflies and … “Four Firsts” in Field Crops

Fireflies are out and about, here and there — and when you see them, know that corn rootworms are most likely hatching. If this is year one of a corn rotation, not to worry. Otherwise — scout. Small investment, big returns.

Plant on right: healthy roots. Plant on left: corn rootworm at work.

 

Stable fly adults — ouch — have emerged via slowly growing larvae from overwintering sites near barns and feedlots. They’re hard at work doing what they do best: biting cattle and horses for the blood meals that females need to lay eggs. It’s “pain, no gain” for cows, which give less milk when bugged by flies.

 

Potato leafhoppers are blowing in from points south. Keep an eye on your alfalfa (and your potatoes!) — a bad leafhopper year is bad news for your bank balance. Be quick to scout after a storm — the downdrafts that precede each front will drop adults onto your fields. Plant “hairy alfalfa” varieties that leafhoppers don’t like.

Hopperburn on alfalfa — not good for yields or feed value. Scout for potato leafhoppers; plant resistant varieties.

Armyworms, like potato leafhoppers, are long-distance migrants. Adult moths cruise in on northbound storms, but it’s the larvae that pose problems. Some armyworms we saw were diseased — infected by a fungus. Others were parasitized by tachinid fly larvae; the adults dine mainly on flower nectar. Good work by unsung heroes.

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