New York State IPM Program

October 23, 2019
by Joellen Lampman
Comments Off on Help! I found a tick on me!

Help! I found a tick on me!

The time of the falling leaves has come again. Once more in our morning walk we tread upon carpets of gold and crimson, of brown and bronze, woven by the winds or the rains out of these delicate textures while we slept. – John Burroughs
Whether conducting a thorough tick check or just examining the lump behind your knee, this is something no one want to find.

Whether conducting a thorough tick check or just examining the lump behind your knee, this is something no one wants to find.

The time has also come again for blacklegged tick adults to look for their last blood meal to fuel the mating process. (To be specific, it’s time for the adult females to secure that last blood meal. It’s time for the adult males to secure a female.) And it’s time for requests such as this one, “I was wondering if you could ID this tick that I pulled off of myself and give me any tips on what diseases this variety tends to carry and transmit.”

First, let’s be clear that the information we provide about tick-borne diseases is restricted to what pathogens are carried by what tick species and how they are transmitted. It is beyond the scope of our roles as IPM Educators to discuss diagnosis, symptoms, and treatment. (For this information, we refer you to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Tickborne Diseases of the United States page.) We will, however, provide you with information you can give your health care professional to help make an informed decision.

Different tick species host different pathogens. Importantly, ticks can transmit more than one pathogen at a time.

Different tick species host different pathogens. Importantly, ticks can transmit more than one pathogen at a time.

Tick-borne diseases

The easiest part of the request was what disease pathogens are carried by what ticks. The poster to the right shows what disease pathogens can be transmitted by the three ticks of greatest human concern in NY, the blacklegged tick, dog tick, and lone star tick. You can download and print it out and then go to the next step – identification.

Identifying ticks

Each species, life stage, and, for adults, whether it is a male versus female have different color patterns. The length of the mouthparts vary between ticks. They have festively named festoons which can also help with ID. As ticks are freakishly small, and we are looking at even smaller parts of their body, it is handy to have a magnifying lens, a good smartphone camera and a steady hand, or, better yet, a microscope. Don’t have one? There are options for having someone identify the tick for you. They include:

If you want to give identification a go, the TickEncounter Resource Center has an excellent guide highlighting the scutum, festoons, and life history. Life history? Yes! As temperatures drop, so does the activity of lone star, dog, and the newly discovered Asian longhorned tick, increasing the odds that the attached tick will be a blacklegged tick. And the active blacklegged ticks are most likely to be adults. Life history should only be used as a clue, however. Ticks don’t read the books and every life stage of the blacklegged tick has been found throughout the year.

What’s the risk?

A question you will likely be asked when reporting a tick is, “How long was the tick attached?”. In my honest opinion, this is a rather silly question. Ticks are very, very good at not being noticed. They want to stick around for up to a week feeding. To help deter detection, they release antihistamines and painkillers in their saliva. And, perhaps more importantly, none of us want to admit to ourselves that a tick was feeding on our blood for days. It’s a hard psychological pill to swallow. There is also some question in the medical literature about the time required for transmission of the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. Especially if the tick was removed improperly. (We covered safe removal of attached ticks in the blog post It’s tick season. Put away the matches and YouTube video How to remove a tick.) And we know Powassan virus can be transmitted in a matter of minutes. But the question will still likely be asked.

The answer? Take another look at that tick and refer to TickEncounter who has helpfully created charts showing the growth of ticks as they feed.

Courtesy of The TickEncounter Resource Center

Courtesy of The TickEncounter Resource Center

I have found this chart particularly useful when people swear the tick was on them for only a few hours. Having an estimate of the attached time is helpful information for your physician. Take your printed Tick-Borne Diseases and Non-Pathogenic Impacts sheet, circle the identified species, write down the estimated time of attachment, and consult with your health care professional.

Pictures such as this can be helpful, but for an accurate identification, nothing beats the actual tick.

Pictures such as this can be helpful, but for an accurate identification, nothing beats the actual tick.

And now back to the original request: “I was wondering if you could ID this tick that I pulled off of myself and give me any tips on what diseases this variety tends to carry and transmit.”. The submitted picture is included to the right. (You can click on it to make it bigger.) Before reading on, what is your identification?

This looks like an adult blacklegged tick which was attached for 2 to 3 days, which is within the time frame that pathogens carried by the tick could have been transmitted. I recommended bringing in the tick for a more certain identification.

One last question often asked – “Should I get the tick tested?”

We follow the CDC recommendation of not having the tick tested for diagnostic purposes. The reasons include:

  • Positive results showing that the tick contains a disease-causing organism do not necessarily mean that you have been infected.
  • Negative results can lead to false assurance. You may have been unknowingly bitten by a different tick that was infected.
  • If you have been infected, you will probably develop symptoms before results of the tick test are available. If you do become ill, you should not wait for tick testing results before beginning appropriate treatment.

Having said that, the Thangamani Lab in the SUNY Upstate Medical University is investigating the geographic expansion of ticks and tick-borne diseases in New York. They are conducting free tick testing for research purposes. Please consider contributing to this citizen science project and visit the website for directions on how to submit your tick.

Promoting IPM, including monitoring and personal protection, as best management practices for avoiding ticks and tick-borne disease.

Promoting IPM, including monitoring and personal protection, as best management practices for avoiding ticks and tick-borne disease.

And finally…

If you don’t get bitten by a tick, you don’t need to go through this process. Our Don’t Get Ticked NY campaign provides you with the information you need to protect yourself from the risk of tick-borne diseases. Check out How Do I Protect Myself From Ticks? before your next trip outdoors.

Let’s stay safe out there as we enjoy the beautiful fall colors.

April 19, 2016
by Joellen Lampman
Comments Off on iMapInvasives Training

iMapInvasives Training

 Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you. – Frank Lloyd Wright

Do you go outside? Then the NY Natural Heritage Program is looking for you to help map invasive species! And they are providing free training throughout the state for your convenience.

iMapMobile_20150528

iMapInvasives is now available on your smartphone.

iMapInvasives New York is New York State’s on-line all-taxa invasive species database and mapping tool. It’s one stop shopping to provide information on your invasive species observations and surveys in NY and control efforts. You can even use your smartphone to report new findings (a new feature for those that have already received training).

Training is required to enter data, and free sessions are being offered this spring in each of the Partnerships for Regional Invasive Species Management (or PRISM for those in the know). It includes beginner and advanced levels — plus sessions on how to identify invasive at some of the locations.

Citizen scientists, educators, and natural resource professionals are part of New York’s invasive species early detection network. Join them by learning how to use iMapInvasives. Visit www.nyimapinvasives.org for schedule details and registration.Training schedule 2016 spring

Questions? Contact imapinvasives@nynhp.org.

And speaking of invasives, you can ensure your garden and landscape are not contributing to the invasives problem by using choosing native plants. Walk away from the Japanese barberry and Norway maple and discover other beautiful options. Alternatives to Ornamental Invasive Plants: A Sustainable Solution for New York State is available online.

The Invasive Species Database Program is supported by the NYS Environmental Protection Fund through a contract with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.

 

February 3, 2015
by Joellen Lampman
Comments Off on The Difference Between Voles and Moles

The Difference Between Voles and Moles

Is it mole? A vole? These small mammals are often confused with each other, probably because they’re both associated with tunnels. But they’re really quite different and, depending on the circumstance, could be a pest — or not. Since the first step in IPM is to identify your problem, let’s shed light on these two critters.

Voles are an example of a non-protected wildlife species. They chew the bark off woody plants and their above ground tunnels can be seen in turfgrass after snow melt. Photo Credit: Tomi Tapio K (Note: Microtus agrestis is related to the two vole species found in NY, Microtus pennsylvanicus and Microtus pinetorum , but is found in Europe.)

We cheated here to give you a good look at a couple of voles. Microtus agrestis is related to the two vole species found in NY, but is found in Europe. Photo Credit: Tomi Tapio K

VOLES

Since voles are seen above-ground much more often than the elusive mole, let’s take a look at them first. You might see them darting through lawns during the day (or your cat might bring them home). They’re active day and night year-round where the ground cover is thick. These small rodents are herbivores, eating almost exclusively plants.

At a quick glance you might confuse them with mice, but their stocky bodies are more compact and they look like they are missing half their tail. Also, unlike mice, they are adapted for digging; different species have different tunneling behavior, which can help with identification.

Voles often have several litters per year. Their populations can fluctuate a good deal — meaning that sometimes they’re quite abundant while other times it would take a naturalist’s sharp eye to know they’re even around.

That lovely tracery exposed as the snow melts — vole tunnels! Photo credit: Woodsen.

That lovely tracery exposed as the snow melts — vole tunnels! Photo credit: Woodsen.

Meadow Voles (Microtus pennsylvanicus) are the most abundant vole species found throughout New York and are common in grassy areas including lawns. They are dark brown with a grayish belly and can be 5 inches long.

How do you know if you have meadow voles? Besides actually seeing them (or receiving one in a display of cat love), signs include:

  • runways through the turf, most visible after snow melt
  • girdled woody plants
  • chewed-off herbaceous vegetation
  • ground burrow openings

    After the snow melts, vole damage becomes obvious.

    After the snow melts, vole damage becomes obvious. Photo Credit: USDA Forest Service – North Central Research Station Archive, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

Pine Voles (Microtus pinetorum) probably live throughout New York except for parts of the North Country, although actual distribution is uncertain. Their preferred habitat is forests with thick ground cover; they like orchards too. They are auburn colored and can be four inches long.

Pine voles are harder to detect as they don’t use surface runways. Their extensive underground tunnel systems lead them to their favorite food source, the roots of woody plants.

MOLES

Once you’ve seen a mole, you’ll have a hard time confusing it with any other animal. Their broad feet, adapted strictly for digging, give them away. Everything about this animal is a clue that it lives underground. Moles have no external ears that can get caught as they move through their tunnels. Their dark, shiny fur has no grain, allowing them to move forwards and backwards with equal ease. And their eyes? You’d practically have to catch a mole to get close enough to see them — they’re that small.

Moles damage is pretty distinct. It involves quite a bit of soil and no entry holes. Photo credit: Kim F

Moles damage is pretty distinct. It involves quite a bit of soil and no entry holes. Photo credit: Kim F

What are they looking for — feeling for — down there? As insectivores, they’re searching mostly for earthworms. But they’re also happy to eat insect larvae, including grubs, and other underground invertebrates. They don’t eat vegetation, although they will line their nests with grass.

Largely solitary, moles are active year-round, day and night. They create grass-lined nests in burrows 1 ½ to 2 feet below the surface often under something solid such as tree roots, sidewalks, and buildings. Litters of 4 or 5 pups are born in the spring. Maturing quickly, the young are independent at about one month old.

What are indications that you have moles? You will find low ridges or mounds of dirt with no entry holes.

An eastern mole's rare glimpse of daylight.

An eastern mole’s rare glimpse of daylight. Photo credit: Kenneth Catania

It is up for debate whether Eastern Moles (Scalopus aquaticus) are found in New York, although it’s possible they’re in the lower Hudson River Valley, the metro New York area, and Long Island. We do know they prefer moist sandy loam soils.  They can be up to 6 ½ inches long with a naked tail.

Hairy-tailed Moles (Parascalops breweri) are found statewide. They can be up to 5 ½ inches long and have a short, hairy tail.

The star-nosed mole is very aptly named. Those appendages contain over 25,000 sensory receptors designed to help it feel its way around.

The star-nosed mole is very aptly named. Those appendages contain over 25,000 sensory receptors designed to help it feel its way around. Photo credit: US NPS

Star-nosed Moles (Condylura cristata) are found throughout much of New York, often occurring in low, wet ground especially near water.  They can be up to 5 inches long, and their most striking characteristic is the fingerlike, fleshy projections surrounding their noses. More than their noses separate them from other mole species. They are more sociable than other moles. They tend to have larger litters. And Star-nosed moles swim! Who knew that those large feet are also good for paddling?

MANAGEMENT

All mole and vole species in New York are legally classified as “unprotected”. For more information on both these mammals, including IPM strategies should voles chew the bark off your ornamental shrubs or moles turn parts of your lawn upside down, visit Cornell’s Wildlife Damage Management Program website.

Adapted from Moles and Voles of New York State by Lynn Braband, NYS Community IPM Program at Cornell University

May 28, 2014
by Matt Frye
Comments Off on Identifying Your Pest – with Poop?

Identifying Your Pest – with Poop?

Whether you are dealing with a pest problem, having car trouble, or trying to figure out who stole the cookie from the cookie jar, your job starts with an investigation — the information-gathering step where you search for clues. In pest management, inspection is the first and most important step toward addressing an issue, helping you discover what pest species are present — and why.

Here’s the scene: you’re inspecting a dark basement and happen upon some droppings. If from a rodent, your next step might be to look for more droppings, sebum trails (oily marks) that show where rodents have traveled, or chew marks. These clues help you determine how rodents are entering the building and where they are finding food, water and shelter. But fi the droppings are from cockroaches, your inspection will shift to looking for wet, decaying organic material and harborage areas.

For pest ID at work or at home, your eyes are your best tools — helped, perhaps, by a magnifying lens.

For pest ID at work or at home, your eyes are your best tools — helped, perhaps, by a magnifying lens.

But how do you tell the difference between the droppings?

Rodents dropping are relatively smooth and often pointed or tapered at one end Mice are smaller critters, so their droppings are typically less than ¼ inch long, whereas rat droppings are larger than 1/3 inch. Rodent droppings might also contain hair — rodents swallow it as they groom themselves.

Like other insects, cockroaches have structures called rectal pads that are used to absorb water and nutrients before their poop leaves their bodies. The orientation and shape of these pads gives insect droppings unique shapes. In the case of cockroaches, droppings appear to have ridges. For more information, see this pictorial key to rodents.

By conducting a thorough inspection and correctly identifying pests, you can develop an action plan to reduce their populations and prevent them from coming back.

 

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