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.
April 6, 2018
by Mary M. Woodsen Comments Off on The Craziest of Worms
They sound kind of cute, right? “Crazy worms” that could actually amuse you? Gyrating in a box of soil, say, sort of like disco dancers? (I’m showing my age here.)
Oh. And trust me; I’m not going off topic here: for many kinds of fish, fishing season started a few days ago. A date that synced, purely by chance, with April Fools Day. (We’ll leave Easter Sunday out of the equation.)
What’s the connection? The economic impact of fresh-water fishing for New York is about $2.26 billion. Watch them in action and crazy worms (aka jumping worms) would seem the ideal bait worm. But don’t even think about it. Illegally sold as bait in some places, this thing has already spread way too far. To have equipped yourself for April First with these critters would have been foolery, pure and simple.
Yet surely—aren’t earthworms good for composting; for your garden and lawn? Won’t they help aerate the soil? Feed the soil?
Alas, these worms make our everyday night crawlers (a mixed blessing in many ecologist’s books) look wondrously benign. Because unlike some other worms that help build soil, crazy worms destroy it, devouring everything that makes soil. Nor do they snub the roots of (for instance) your veggies, your posies, and yes, your lawn—these roots are solid fare for crazy worms. (Farmers aren’t happy campers either.)
And get a load of the crazy worms’ craziest attribute: their remarkable birthing abilities. Most of your standard-issue night crawlers are hermaphrodites—they possess both males and female organs—but at least they must date another of the same kind if they’re going to make babies. Crazy worms? All are female. No need for dates or mates. And their reproduction rate far exceeds that of other worms.
What about our cold winters? They encase their eggs in cocoons. And while crazy worms don’t survive severe northern winters, their cocoons do. All it takes is one to begin an infestation. And if that doesn’t give you pause….
BTW, our forests are as threatened as our fields. Where infestations are high, these worms strip all organic matter from the forest floor, exposing tree roots. Gone is the soil layer that seedlings and wildflowers rely on. When soil is stripped of organics it becomes clumpy, granular, and prone to compaction and erosion. Bad news all around.
Oh—and they’re accomplished hitch-hikers. You might find them in, say, that potted plant you bought from your local big box store. You could also find them in bagged mulch and compost. You might even find their cocoons—small and dark, resembling a clump of soil, on the soles of your boots.
Found some? Your next step: call your county’s Cooperative Extension office or regional NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. They need to know. For heaven’s sake, don’t give seedlings or plants from infested soil to your neighbor down the street or a plant exchange in your town. And if you’re an angler? Take the high road. Don’t buy crazy worms from out-of-state suppliers.
Resources:As you look through these resources, note the crazy worm’s other name: jumping worms.
Unlike for vampires, there are no silver bullets for Harmonia axyridis. But good screens certainly help. Photo: John Flannery
Pest management used to be a lot simpler, and more effective. For those bothersome vampire problems you had your basic wooden stakes, cheap and readily available. The well-to-do could afford silver bullets, an elegant and tidier solution. And of course, garlic was the solution to prevent repeat infestations. These days many people are asking where to find teeny silver bullets for Asian multicolor lady-beetles, because they are a real problem this winter.
On sunny fall days, the Asian multicolored lady-beetle, Harmonia axyridis, often hangs out with its pals on west or south-facing walls. The insect may be beneficial for gardens and harmless to us, but as winter approaches, these insects quit swarming to seek shelter in outbuildings, wall cavities, firewood piles and other nooks and crannies. Eventually, some of them find their way inside our homes. I don’t know what the sanctioned collective noun is for a gathering of Harmonia axyridis, but it should be a drove, since they can be enough to drive you out of the house.
From what I can tell, the orange-and-black ladybug, darling of small children everywhere, first arrived in the U.S. — at our invitation — in about 1916, as a control for aphids on pecan trees and other crops. Adorable lady-beetles didn’t turn into ogres until the mid-1990s. There is evidence to suggest the current population might be a strain accidentally released at the Port of New Orleans in the late 1980s or early 1990s. Whatever their origin, these new lady-beetles are here to stay.
Asian multicolored lady-beetles don’t carry disease, damage structures, suck blood or sting, and they eat harmful agricultural pests. More importantly, they do not breed indoors. However, they stain, give off a foul odor when disturbed and will even pinch one’s skin on occasion. It’s their sheer numbers, though, amassing in corners of garages and porches, coating the insides of picture windows, which unnerves and bugs us.
Managing ladybugs, it turns out, can cut your heating bill. Caulking around windows, vents and where cable or other utilities come through the wall, and between the foundation and sill, will help immensely with lady-beetle control, and somewhat with reducing drafts. Photo: Joellen Lampman
Managing ladybugs, it turns out, can cut your heating bill. They are looking for someplace rent-free and cozy to spend the winter, and as warm air leaks out here and there from your house, they follow it to its source and let themselves in. Caulking around windows, vents and where cable or other utilities come through the wall, and between the foundation and sill, will help immensely with lady-beetle control, and somewhat with reducing drafts. It is also helpful to ensure that door sweeps/thresholds are tight, and check for cracked seals around garage doors. Installing screens on attic vents and inspecting all window screens is in order as well.
It’s best to avoid swatting or crushing them because they will release a smelly, staining yellow defense fluid. For a variety of reasons including the ladybugs’ habit of seeking inaccessible areas, indoor pesticides are practically useless against them. Spraying inside is strongly discouraged. Instead, use a broom and dustpan to knock them down and then suck them up with a vacuum cleaner or shop-vac.
You can use a simple knee high stocking to ensure vacuumed lady-beetles don’t end up in the vacuum bag or canister and can be easily dealt with. Photo: Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann
You can make a reusable “mini-bag” out of a knee-high nylon stocking inserted into the hose of a canister-type vacuum. Secure it on the outside with a rubber band and hang onto it as you clean up the bugs. Just remember to quickly empty it into a pail of soapy water (gas or kero is hazardous and unnecessary).
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to combat multicolored Asian lady-beetles once they are inside — we have to persevere and vacuum and sweep them out for now. Home improvements this summer will help prevent repeat bug visits. I have no doubt that it must be more satisfying to dispatch vampires in one easy step than to fight endless lady-beetles, but I would bet it is a lot more dangerous, too.
Contact Paul Hetzler of Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County at email@example.com.
“He that plants trees loves others besides himself.” – Thomas Fuller
Have you considered planting a tree for pollinators? Eastern redbud is a good early flowering choice currently on sale at many Soil & Water Conservation District tree and shrub sales. Photo Credit: Karen flickr
Pollinators have been big news over the past few years. Whether you are a farmer, golf course superintendent, landscaper, gardener, or just a random person walking down the street, it is likely that you have heard the importance of protecting pollinators and doing your part to increase their habitat. We dedicated an annual conference to the subject back in 2015 and have penned numerous blog posts that cover pollinator topics.
Often the call to create habitat comes in the form of planting pollinator attractive flowers, whether they be plants for your formal garden bed or a swath of wildflower meadow along the edge of your property. For your garden, resources abound on choosing great plants. On the Pollinator Partnership webpage, you can type in your zip code and it will provide you with a guide to your particular Ecoregional Planting Guide. The Xerces Society has numerous guidelines describing how to establish wildflower meadows. And Audubon International has a new program targeting the creation of milkweed and other pollinator friendly wildflowers on golf courses called Monarchs in the Rough.
These resources, and many like them, provide wonderful information, but an opportunity that is often missed is choosing the larger plants – trees and shrubs, for their pollinator benefits. Dr. Dan Potter and Bernadette Mach put together a Woody Ornamentals for Bee-Friendly Landscapes piece for the Ohio Valley Region. The resource includes whether the tree or shrub is native or nonnative, how often the trees are visited by bees, and bloom time.
The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation teamed up to create a searchable database of plants with Special Value to Native Bees.
Why bring this up now? Because many County Soil & Water Conservation Districts are hosting their annual tree and shrub sales. Often these are small, bare root seedlings, but if you are looking for an inexpensive step to up your pollinator game, consider purchasing from them.
If you have the room for multiple species, try to choose trees and shrubs that bloom at different times to provide a food source throughout the year.
Pests and pesticides—both can pose problems to our health, our environment, and our economy. At the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program (NYS IPM), we help New Yorkers address those problems safely and thoughtfully. How? Through innovative biological, cultural, technological, and educational practices. IPM, in a word.
Community IPM takes place in settings as varied as school buildings and grounds; residential and office buildings; gardens, parks and landscapes; and golf courses and right-of-ways. Now we invite grant proposals from qualified New Yorkers who want to develop, evaluate, or demonstrate feasible IPM methods. Budgets must not exceed $8,500. Our deadline: April 6, 2018. Funds must be spent by February 28, 2019.
The German cockroach needs no introduction. If it can get on your fork, it can get in your food. Credit Clemson University, USDA.
All projects must accomplish one or more of the following:
develop, advance, test or refine new IPM strategies;
demonstrate a link between IPM practices and reduced risk to human health or pesticide residues;
measure the positive change or potential impact of IPM practices or adoption, or survey current IPM knowledge;
develop Community IPM resources, such as brochures, websites, fact sheets, manuals, and apps for smartphones and tablets;
develop IPM educational programs, such as workshops or curriculum;
educate others about IPM through outreach and demonstrations.
Audiences could include school administrators, teachers and students; landscape and structural pest management professionals; vector control specialists; municipal employees; nuisance wildlife control operators; golf course personnel; arborists; right-of-way managers; day care operators—just about anyone, in fact. We encourage projects that reach new audiences or develop new partnerships.
Two years. Yup. Ticks know how to make good use of their time.
Our Community IPM priorities include: develop or demonstrate solid strategies for dealing with rodents or cockroaches; develop, confirm or promote methods to lessen the impact of ticks; research, demonstrate or create outreach projects that promote pollinator health and conservation; and research and demonstrate alternatives to imidacloprid on lawns and athletic fields.
Yes, there are plenty more. But for 2018, these four are our greatest needs.
Got Questions? We encourage you to discuss your ideas with NYS IPM community staff, including:
coordinator: Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, Long Island, 631-539-8680, firstname.lastname@example.org (Do you work outside Cornell University and Cornell Cooperative Extension? Get in touch with Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann.)
coordinator: Elizabeth Lamb, Ithaca, 607-254-8800, email@example.com
educator: Brian Eshenaur, Rochester, 585-753-2561, firstname.lastname@example.org
And consider: the most common critiques of past proposals have been that the budget lacked in clarity, explanation or justification—and those seeking grants didn’t discuss projects ahead of time with IPM staff.
March 7, 2018
by Mary M. Woodsen Comments Off on So many acres, so little time: IPM’s answer to where the pests are
It might not look that way from your car window, but farmland covers 23 percent of New York. It’s the foundation of New York’s multi-billion-dollar agricultural economy—one that benefits all of us, no matter where we live.
Zooming out to read the report? How easy it is to forget a severe drought after a year like 2017.
Most of that cropped land? It’s in field crops: corn, soybeans, alfalfa, and the like. (These crops sustain New York’s dairy industry, third in the nation.) Scouting all that land for pests? A job for super-heroes—or lacking that, an efficient, well-designed app.
So IPM researchers built the app. Now Extension educators with their boots on the ground and a smartphone in their pocket can note hotspots for bad little buggers. Each entry helps map trends that matter: where the pests are, when they got there, and where they’re likely to show up next.
The educators’ audience? Why, farmers, of course.
True, right now the app is mainly used by educators tracking data. But the turnaround is quick, keeping farmers in the know and New York’s farm economy healthy. Think of it as scouting on steroids. Scouting is what keeps farmers abreast of what’s happening out in the field and what they can do to prevent or minimize damage (core values of IPM!). Downloading the data farmers need, then visualizing, manipulating, and editing it—that and more, this app does it all.
March 1, 2018
by Mary M. Woodsen Comments Off on Climate, Weather, Data: Change Is the Name of the Game
Nearly two years ago, NYS IPM convened “Climate, Weather, Data,” a statewide conference focused on pests and our changing climate. Because it’s here. It’s real. So … what will a shifting climate mean for our farms and forests, our parks and gardens?
The Climate Change Garden plans and plants for the future. Photo credit E. Lamb.
We brought together researchers, crop consultants, farmers, and more from New York and the Northeast for an eye-opening glimpse into the future. One example must speak for the rest: the Climate Change Garden, housed at the Cornell Botanic Gardens, demonstrates how a range of food and nectar crops are like messengers from the future. They speak to the effects of warming oceans, drought, heavy rain, and rising temperatures on food crops, pollinator resources, and superweeds.
As if on cue, the winter of 2015-16 followed by the drought of 2016 (not to mention the rains and temperature swings of 2017) was a messenger from the future in its own right. Drought threw a monkey wrench into IPM-funded research intended to create weed forecasting models in both conventional and organic systems. Conclusions? As the researcher charitably put it, the unusual 2016 weather provided a good opportunity to look at the limiting impact of low soil moisture; with additional years of data collection, this should be a valuable year.
And take IPM research on the brown-marmorated stink bug, aka BMSB. Because of the staggering number of crops on its chow-list, and, come winter, its role as a most unwelcome houseguest in offices and homes, BMSB has plenty of people riled. But dramatic temperature swings in winter and spring (especially spring) tricked BMSB into ditching its cold hardiness too soon and falling prey to that last sudden cold snap.
We could go on, but do we need to? You get the picture. It’s a brave new world out there, and change is the name of the game.
February 21, 2018
by Mary M. Woodsen Comments Off on Planning for pollinators: No time like now
$1.15 billion. That’s what the 450 species of wild pollinators that call New York home contribute to our agricultural economy each year. But we’ve seen alarming declines in pollinators of every stripe and color. Some are bees and wasps. Others are flies and butterflies (and on the night shift, moths). Their loss is worrisome to everyone from rooftop gardeners to farmers with a thousand-plus acres in crops. These people depend on pollinators to grow the foods we eat, foods ranging from pumpkins and pears to blueberries and beans.
In fact, anyone with a garden or even planter boxes on their balcony has reason to care about pollinators. And there’s no time like the present to start planning for this year’s pollinator plantings.
This hover fly is among the hundreds of wild pollinators that contribute to NY’s ag economy—not to mention our parks and yards. (Photo courtesy D. D. O’Brien.)
IPM’s mission covers everything from farms and vineyards to backyards and parks, protecting all kinds of non-target plants and animals (even covert pollinators like tiny bees and flies ). That’s why we were invited to help out in 2015 when Governor Cuomo announced an interagency task force, led by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets and the Department of Environmental Conservation, to develop and promote the New York State Pollinator Protection Plan, or PPP. In fact, New York is among the first 10 states to officially adopt a PPP.
The PPP was released in 2016. And the best thing is, it’s not going to stay on the shelf. This is a living document, a roadmap of sorts to guide IPM researchers and educators, farmers and householders as they plan IPPM—Integrated Pest and Pollinator Management protocols — to keep pollinators healthy for decades to come.
We’re pleased to be aboard.
February 9, 2018
by Joellen Lampman Comments Off on Maple pest saps maple syrup production
Winter is not a season when many people think about tents, except maybe to be glad they do not live in one. I do have some friends who love winter camping, and the fact they have never extended an invitation is evidence of how much they value our friendship.
Forest-tent caterpillars egg masses are much easier to see in winter than they will be come spring. Photo: Steven Katovich, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org
Oddly enough, winter is a crucial time to look for signs of forest-tent caterpillars (FTC). In spite of their name, FTC do not weave a silken tent-like nest like the eastern-tent caterpillar and other species of tent caterpillars. The tent-less lifestyle of forest-tent caterpillars makes it harder to spot outbreaks in spring.
Records indicate the population of this native pest tends to spike at irregular intervals, generally between 8 and 20 years apart, at which time they can cause 100% defoliation within a few weeks in late May and early June. Trees typically grow a new set of leaves by mid-July, but at great cost in terms of lost starch reserves, and afterward they are more vulnerable to other pests and diseases. The problem is compounded by the fact FTC outbreaks tend to last several years. Successive defoliations are more likely to lead to tree mortality.
Foresters and woodlot owners may want to learn more about tents this winter, but maple producers should pay special attention to the situation, as sugar maples are the preferred food for the FTC. And since the female FTC moth lays eggs exclusively in maples, outbreaks begin in maple stands. This past year in parts of northern NY from the Vermont border west to Jefferson and Lewis Counties, severe but localized outbreaks of forest-tent caterpillars stripped more than 200,000 acres, primarily sugar maples. Early indications are that the infestation will be more widespread in 2018.
In 2017, larvae efficiently defoliating more than 200,000 acres, primarily sugar maples across northern NY. Photo: Ronald S. Kelley, Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, Bugwood.org
One of the most troubling things about the 2017 FTC defoliation is that the vast majority of defoliated maples did not grow a new set of leaves, although in a few cases they refoliated to a very small degree. There does not appear to be any recorded precedent for this. Most foresters agree that the phenomenon is a result of the 2016 drought, which stressed trees to such an extent that they were not strong enough to push out a new set of leaves. In an even more bizarre twist, some maples on south-facing slopes did refoliate, but in mid- to late October. As soon as the new flush of leaves appeared, they froze and were killed.
Maple producers in FTC-affected areas should expect sap-sugar concentrations to be a fraction of a percent, in contrast to normal concentrations between 2 and 3 percent. According to Cornell Extension Forester Peter Smallidge, operators with reverse-osmosis capability may still get a substantial crop in 2018. Many small producers with FTC damage, however, are opting not to harvest sap this season, partly for financial reasons, but also to spare their maples further stress.
Maria MoskaLee, Forest Health Specialist & Field Crew Supervisor with NYSDEC’s Forest Health Unit, spot-checked throughout northern NY this fall for FTC egg masses, which is the way to tell how far the pest may have spread, and how severe an outbreak is likely to be. Maria told me that in general, the FTC outbreak will probably be severe again, and that it has spread significantly beyond 2017 boundaries.
Weather is the FTC’s biggest enemy. Their eggs survive extreme cold, but winter thaws are bad for them. Foresters have their fingers crossed that this winter’s freeze-thaw trend continues. Cool springs are even more deadly for tent-cats. At 55F and below, their digestive tract shuts down. They are able to feed, but if it remains cool, they will starve to death with full bellies.
Whether or not a woodlot owner or maple producer had any forest-tent caterpillars in 2017, Cornell Cooperative Extension and the NYSDEC want to encourage landowners to look for FTC this winter. Naja Kraus of the NYSDEC has written clear and detailed instructions on surveying for FTC entitled Forest Tent Caterpillar Egg Mass Sampling.
Year in and out, outreach to schools has our community IPM staff going back to school. Literally. We work with maintenance staff, nurses, groundskeepers, teachers, and parents. We provide the insight and know-how it takes to keep kids safe from pests and pesticides both. But schools are tricky to manage because—well, think of them as a village. You’ve got your cafeterias, laboratories, auditoriums, theaters, classrooms, athletic fields, playgrounds. Add in vacation and after-hours use for public meetings, community sports teams, summer schools and camps. Plus, New York’s laws restrict when, where and how pesticides can be used at school.
Which means you’ve got work. Because chances are, you’ve got pests.
Worried about ticks? By rights you should be. The hazards can hardly be overstated. We help teachers, school nurses, and entire communities learn how to stay tick-free regardless the season—and warn them that old-time remedies could increase the likelihood of disease.
Two years. Yup. Ticks know how to make good use of their time.
Get yourself some super-pointy tweezers, the type that airport security would probably confiscate. Be firm: steady and straight up until that sucker lets go.
Named for the white dot on the female’s back, this tick has a few tricks up its sleeve. More to come in another post.
Next up—unsafe playing fields. Is there goose poo on athletic fields and playgrounds? It’s not just unsanitary—it makes for slick footing and falls. And take it from us: weedy, compacted soil is a “slick footing and falls” risk too. How to manage turf, pesticide-free? We teach repetitive overseeding as a thoughtful alternative to repetitive herbicides. We’ll get to that in another post.