The invasive swede midge has been slowly but relentlessly making its way into the Northeast. This tiny pest is a baddie, sometimes causing complete loss of entire plantings of cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and their cabbage-family kin.
Blind head, swollen leaf bases, brown scarring — all point to swede midge’s destructiveness in red cabbage.
New York is the top producer for fresh cabbage nationwide — and second in processing cabbage. The market value of cabbage alone in New York is $62 million per year. But other northeastern growers are worried too, as are gardeners who are in the know.
Finding sustainable, IPM pest management strategies before swede midge claims yet more ground is critical. But alternatives to chemical pesticides have yet to be developed. Today, the management recommendation — aside from long (and widely-spaced) crop rotations — is to apply systemic neonicotinoids at planting and weekly thereafter.
At the University of Vermont, Yolanda Chen wants to find plant- and systems-based alternatives. To that end, she and fellow researchers seek grower input via a survey to learn
how much knowledge growers have on current effective pest management practices
determine their willingness to try alternative pest management practices.
This broccoli’s growing tip — infested by swede midge larvae.
Chen anticipates the survey will take 5 – 8 minutes to complete, and every growers’ help will be greatly appreciated.
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.
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
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.
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. 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.
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
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. 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. 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?
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
October 22, 2014
by Mary M. Woodsen Comments Off on IPM for Wildlife — the Hotline Begins Here
Maybe it’s the chipmunk stashing a winter’s-worth of nuts and seeds in the cellar. Or momma raccoon bringing up baby in the attic (the latrine she made is conveniently nearby). Or any of 20-plus critters that set up shop where we want them least.
Nationwide, Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardener volunteers are IPM-trained and equipped to field pest questions of every stripe and hue. Well — nearly. Striped cucumber beetle? No prob. But striped skunk?
Make Prevention Your Mantra: Chipmunks and rats can get through holes the size of a quarter — and mice, a dime. Ask for a roll of galvanized hardware cloth at your local hardware or lumber store, then build a “rat wall” to protect your crawl space or cellar. Illustration by M. S. Heller, from Wildlife Damage Management for Master Gardeners
Wildlife professionals have IPM resources at their fingertips. But none of these resources are geared for nonprofessionals. Now a team of Extension educators based at Cornell and the University of Nebraska have crafted a first-time-ever guide giving master gardeners from coast to coast a wealth of carefully presented, commonsense advice they can share with those who turn to them for help. Please see online the National Wildlife Control Training Program for Master Gardeners.