New York State IPM Program

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

Tick Trickery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What diseases do ticks transmit?

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

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

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

Does every tick convey disease-causing pathogens?

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

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

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

Blacklegged nymphs cause the most disease—partly because

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 23, 2018
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on The Invasive of the Month Is … (Drum Roll)

The Invasive of the Month Is … (Drum Roll)

Drum Roll: The Spotted Lanternfly

Southeastern Pennsylvania, the epicenter of spotted lanternfly’s arrival in 2014, might seem far enough away to give us in New York prep time for dealing with this new pest, a weak flyer that usually hops to get around. But with the spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula—and SLF for short), all bets are off. After all, it took over Korea, whose climate is surprisingly like our own, in no time flat. And now it’s in Maryland. Delaware. Virginia. New Jersey.

New York’s first find happened to be dead. Blind dumb luck.

A bit creepy, how cool it looks. (Photo insectimages)

How anything so pretty could be so nasty boggles the mind. But it’s the nature of nature. Since ID’ing SLF correctly is key to good IPM, let’s start with the nymphs—the young-uns. In this case they come in two snazzy colors. The early-stage nymphs are straight-on black or, once they’ve molted, black and white—handsome devils or trendy fashionistas; take your pick. For late-stage nymphs (late-stage means they molted—again—and outgrew the skin they had after they hatched), add blobs of blood-red, and that critter looks ready to conquer the world.

Which it might.

Does that bright, traffic-light red signal toxicity, as it does for many other potential prey? Right now all I know is that birds have been seen throwing up after grabbing one for a snack—and yes, they are toxic to us.

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

Meanwhile, adult SLFs look positively benign. Lovely, in fact. Don’t believe it for a minute. These classy lads and lassies resemble butterflies or moths, but don’t believe that either—they are, you’ll recall, planthoppers; the name refers to its mode of locomotion.

Whatever. Spotted lanternflies have a destiny. Their natural expertise in the pole-vault isn’t their only way to get around. How many roads (think interstates especially) wend their way from southeastern Pennsylvania to points north, south, east and west? Lots.

Consider your car or camper, for starters. Firewood? You’d be slack-jawed at the degree to which firewood fits into the equation. Just the eggs alone—not easy to see with a cursory look—can easily hitch rides to new areas, meaning that New York is a mere hop, skip and a jump away. Trains, tractor trailers, wheel wells, the cargo hold in a jet—this pest doesn’t need to lay its eggs on organic matter.  Planning a long-distance road trip? California, here we come.

“I don’t want to scare people,” says Dr. Surendra Dara, an IPM and crop advisor at the University of California, “but it has the potential to spread, and we do not have a biological-control agent.”

Which is why you, dear reader, are our eyes on the ground.

But wait. Other than toxicity, I haven’t even told you why to be alarmed about this critter. Grapes, apples, hops—these and more high-value crops rank in the billions for New York. Apples alone ring the register at about $317 million.

New York’s forestry crops are vital, too. Here’s what forest crops provide:

  • jobs for 49,200 people with payrolls of over $1.6 billion;
  • manufacturing, recreation and tourism providing over $11.0 billion to our economy;
  • removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, sequestering carbon, and producing oxygen critical for all life on earth;
  • filtering and buffering clean drinking water for millions of New Yorkers.

As our eyes on the ground, here’s what you need to know. Signs that spotted lanternfly are at our collective doorstep include:

  • sap oozing or weeping from tiny open wounds on tree trunks;
  • a yeasty smell (been near a brewery lately? That’s it);
  • inch-long, brownish-gray egg masses—like waxy mud when new, brown and scaly when old
  • heaps of honeydew under trees and vines and covered, often as not, with black sooty mold.

When you see this many SPFs in your orchard (this is Pennsylvania, mind you) — watch out. (Photo Smyers, Penn State)

Besides fruit and hops, what’s at risk? Everything from willows to walnuts—and smooth-barked trees especially. But keep in mind that many a mature tree which, once it has packed on the pounds around its waist and takes on a decidedly rough or furrowed look, looks svelte and clean-cut while still relatively young. Go outside and look at any gently-furrowed tree, and chances are you’re looking at a host. For those areas where tree-of-heaven runs rife, well—you’re looking at what might be its most favorite host of all.

Though it’s hard to wrap your mind around, it sups on some—maybe all—field crops. “We’ve seen it in some of the grain crops that are out there, soybean and what have you,” said Fred R. Strathmeyer Jr., Pennsylvania’s deputy secretary of agriculture. “It’s able to feed on many, many different things.”

Now think about honeydew. Not the drink, not the melon; rather the stuff bugs secrete as they feed. A case of in one end, out the other as they move down the chow line. Although native insects also secrete honeydew, the size of the SLF and staggering numbers that congregate from place to place makes for a remarkable amount of honeydew. Parked your car beneath an infested tree? Time to clean off those sticky windshield wipers.

For sure—this sticky mess and the swarms of insects it attracts gets in the way of outdoor fun. In Pennsylvania, where SLF populations are the densest, people near the heart of the problem can’t go outside without getting honeydew on their hair, clothes, and whatever they’re carrying. At which point “outdoor” and “fun” no longer have all that much in common.

So that’s it in a nutshell and, for spotted lanternfly, all the news that’s fit to print. For now.

Wait … now for the late breaking news:

Lanternflies Eat Everything in Sight. The U.S. Is Looking Delicious …

 

April 27, 2018
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on The New Tick in Town (Part ll.)

The New Tick in Town (Part ll.)

Now for the science-y part of this post. (I suggest you re-read Part l. Can’t hurt. Might help.)

If you’ve read our other posts on the blacklegged tick (aka the deer tick), you might guess—and rightly so—that it’s the tick that’s been on our radar the longest; the one we (still) give most of our time and attention to. And all for good reason.

Sheer numbers (how much Lyme disease we’ve seen; what the co-infections are and how commonplace they are; its reputation as the “great imitator”) keep the blacklegged tick in the spotlight. Meanwhile, with the exception of Long Island, the lone star tick is rarely seen in the metro New York area and points north. But it has colonized some islands off Connecticut and established a toehold on Cape Cod in Massachusetts.

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

Indeed, the lone star tick’s potential for harm could, somewhere down the pike, become a force all northerners face.

And consider this: though deer serve as a great food source and taxi service for ticks, they are immune to Lyme disease. Not so with the lone star tick. Because given the right circumstances, it can kill even deer.

So … what diseases or conditions does this tick carry—and could any be fatal to people? Here’s the short list:

  • Ehrlichiosis is nasty. Upward of two percent of those who get it might die.
  • Tularemia is nasty too, though less so than ehrlichiosis.
  • Heartland virus is rare—and most people who do get it have mild symptoms; perhaps none at all. But yes, some will die.
  • Alpha-gal syndrome? Perhaps—especially if you don’t know it for what it is. While the symptoms can be frighteningly intense, not everyone reacts with that same level of intensity. Plus this syndrome’s transcontinental spread in places lacking lone star ticks leads to yet-unanswered questions.

Ouch! Lone star ticks attach quickly—and some people react quickly. Sometimes it looks like this. (Credit: Copyright © 2015 American Medical Association)

So how about STARI, or southern tick-associated rash illness—can it do you in? My careful search turned up zilch, zip, zero. Doesn’t mean STARI won’t send you to an early grave. But if it could, I can’t find credentialed scientific sources to back up such a claim. You’ll be interested to know, though, that the rash STARI stands for can, on the surface of things, make you think you might have Lyme disease. And more unanswered questions: as of August 2017, the pathogen that causes STARI remains unknown.

 

 

 

Sources:

 

 

 

April 18, 2018
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on The New Tick in Town (Part l.)

The New Tick in Town (Part l.)

The aggressive lone star tick, named for the white spot on the female’s back should scare the willies out of you. Its resume includes ehrlichiosis, tularemia, the heartland virus (luckily, this virus is rare) and alpha-gal syndrome—a frankly scary allergy to red meat. And while this might be new tick in town, it’s indigenous to the southern U.S.

Could it carry Lyme disease? Highly unlikely.

Compared to a dime, this tick is mighty small, but the blacklegged tick is smaller. Courtesy CDC.

This tick is just a tad larger than the blacklegged tick. Like the blacklegged tick, it hangs out in brushy edge habitat and tall grass. It likes woodsy thickets, too. And just like the blacklegged tick, the newly-hatched larval lone star is disease-free—pure as the fallen snow. But as soon as it hatches, it’s out questing—looking for that essential blood meal it can’t live without.

Yet unlike blacklegged tick that, as larvae and nymphs, prefers to take its meals on wild mice and chipmunks, the lone star isn’t picky. Deer, coyotes, raccoons, squirrels, turkeys and, yes, our pets and us—if these hosts are already infected with the diseases the lone star tick carries, then those larvae are infected too. What defines “larvae” on the world of ticks? Note the six legs, unlike eight-legged nymphs and adults.

Yes, the lone star tick is on a roll. But it hasn’t established a strong presence in most of upstate NY. Yet. (Courtesy CDC)

And the lone star has a loose life cycle. In the South, it’s usually a one (year) and done thing. In the North, this tick might not have gotten its requisite blood meal by the time winter blows in. So whatever stage it’s at, it just hunkers down in leaf litter and waits till spring. Also unlike the blacklegged adult, which is up and about anytime it gets into the mid-30s, the lone star tick favor balmy weather. For them, the 50s are more like it. And as always, the IPM mantra—prevention—is the way to go.

Other differences from the blacklegged tick? 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.

Ah… I do so hate to leave you in suspense. But there’s more to come—next week. Same time (more or less), same place, same station.

 

November 7, 2017
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Pollinators, awards — and IPM

Pollinators, awards — and IPM

Just one short week ago, we celebrated the College of Agriculture and Life Science at Cornell University’s Outstanding Accomplishments in Extension and Outreach Award. This award honors a team effort that benefits an important segment of the population or area of the state.

It takes teamwork — whether you’re a bee or a researcher. (Photo Sasha Israel)

New York, like the rest of the world, is highly dependent on the hundreds of species of crop pollinators that collectively contribute roughly $170 billion a year to the global economy. Many are in decline and under threat in New York and elsewhere.

That’s why Dean Kathryn J. Boor ’80 recognized the Cornell Pollinator Health Team for their outstanding outreach accomplishments in a ceremony that celebrated research, extension and staff excellence.

Pollinator Team at the 2017 CALS Award Ceremony

On hand to accept from Dean Kathryn Boor (L) were (L-R) Jennifer Grant, Bryan Danforth, Dan Wixted and Scott McArt.

The seven-member team includes entomologists, extension  outreach specialists and pest management experts  — one being NYS IPM‘s director Jennifer Grant.

The team provides critical extension and outreach on pollinator declines, including information on

  • optimal habitats for honey bees, native bees, and other pollinators
  • diseases that afflict bees
  • how pesticides affect bees — other pollinators too
  • what to do when your honey bees are in decline

Hi. I’m a hover fly and I pollinate lots of plants too. Plus my larvae eat aphids for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And no, I won’t sting you. (Photo credit Susan Ellis.)

With its focus on extension and outreach, the team has given more than 70 extension talks over the past three years in New York and elsewhere on pollinator health, bee diversity, integrated pest management practices and pesticide recommendations that minimize risks to bees — to all pollinators, in fact. Their audiences have included beekeepers, farmers, and lawmakers — as well as state and national organizations such as the New York Farm Bureau, the Audubon Society and Future Farmers of America.

“In three short years, the work of this team has made a notable impact both in scope and relevance to beekeepers,” Boor said at the ceremony. “The pollinator health team represents a model for how collaboration among different units at Cornell can lead to highly integrative and creative extension and outreach.”

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.

April 12, 2017
by Mary M. Woodsen
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Earth Day. It’s Every Day. Especially for Farmers.

For farmers everywhere, but perhaps most of all for organic farmers, every day has to be Earth Day. And since what matters for farmers matters for us all, every day is Earth Day for you, me, everyone.

Take farmer Lou Lego. He earned an Excellence in IPM award earlier this year for his inspired, inventive work putting IPM into action at 100-acre Elderberry Farm and Restaurant, midway between Owasco and Skaneateles lakes in New York’s Finger Lakes Region.

Pigs on pasture cycle carbon by eating and fertilizing grasses which take up carbon dioxide and return it to the ground. Watch the video at Elderberry Farm’s Facebook page.

According to Lou, Earth Day means thinking about the future — think of it as the “every day is Earth Day” approach. One day he’s thinking about cover crops or providing for beneficial insects. On another, tillage practices — about rebuilding and nourishing the soil. Yet another, slowing or reversing wind erosion. All good IPM.

And always about slowing or reversing climate change.

Every year, Lou says (and he’s been at this a while), his soil is richer, better, healthier. Healthier soil means healthier crops. And while healthy crops can’t ensure freedom from every disease and insect pest, still — healthier soils and crops are among the IPM tactics Lou relies on, the better to cope with pests that seem bent on destruction.

For Lou, though, dealing with greenhouse gases such as atmospheric carbon — that’s the biggie.

Granted, on Elderberry Farm it’s the “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” approach. And it takes a village — no, it takes pretty much all of us — to pull off climate change. What about on Lou’s scale?  Sure, healthier soils can help. Tilling right can help. The research is coming in and yes, sustainable agricultural practices (think IPM) have a role to play.

Tall cover crops and sunflowers bordered by trees provide habitat for beneficial insects and wild bees.

And growing trees helps. Elderberry Farm’s  fields are bounded by hedgerows or orchards, trees whose leaves pull carbon out of the atmosphere. Much stays in twigs and branches, but even more gets stashed in their roots — and they keep it there for the life of the tree and beyond.

For Lou Lego — and for IPM too — short term, long term: every day is Earth Day.

Photos courtesy Lou Lego.

January 8, 2013
by Mary M. Woodsen
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The Giving Tree

Your spent Christmas tree can still bring joy. Deck it out with strings of cranberries and popcorn. Or smear chunks of stale bread with peanut butter and roll them in birdseed, then nest them in the branches. You’ll be investing in one of nature’s best pest patrols: birds that survive winter in fine fettle will, come spring, be scouring your yard for bugs to feed baby. And on stormy days your tree serves a dual purpose: birds and other wildlife—rabbits and squirrels—will find shelter under and among your tree’s branches.

Just be sure you’ve attached the tree firmly to a support so the wind won’t carry it away. You could rope it to a small tree or shrub, a fence railing, or even a stake.

Birds and bunnies aren’t the only critters your Christmas tree could help. The dictionary definition for “creature” includes plants too. If you haven’t had the chance to protect some of your favorite perennials from winter cold, just lop the branches off that tree and layer them over the bed. It’ll help even out the highs and lows as air temps inevitably dip and soar. Helping your perennials stay healthy has a side benefit—beneficial insects overwintering in the neighborhood survive better when protected by a blanket of boughs.

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