“That is a bracing cold, an invigorating cold. Lord, is it cold!” – Sheldon Cooper
It is inevitable that when the temperatures drop below zero we are asked “Will this extended period of extremely low temps kill off ticks?”
First, the bad news. We do not expect the cold to directly affect black-legged or dog ticks as they are adapted to this climate and will survive just fine under the blankets of leaf litter and snow.
The good news, followed by some bad news, is we are basically looking at a reversal of the large quantities of ticks in 2017 that began in 2015 when oaks in New York underwent a mast seeding event. (In simple terms, there was an enormous amount of acorns on the ground across the state. If you want to delve more deeply into the mast year phenomenon, check out Mechanisms of mast seeding: resources, weather, cues, and selection.) Abundant quantities of food led to a large quantity of small mammals in 2016. Large numbers of small mammals led to a substantial number of ticks in 2017. Researchers at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies have decades of field research to back up the relationship, and lag time, between mast years and Lyme disease risk.
Which brings us to the current frigid weather, and probably even more importantly, the ice under the snow, and how it will impact small mammals. Animals that have a harder time finding food are more likely to (in order of lessening consequences) die of starvation, succumb to other stresses such as disease or predation, fail to mate, give birth to fewer young, and give birth less often. In a nutshell, there should be fewer hosts come spring. And fewer hosts eventually lead to fewer ticks. Good so far.
But there is some bad news, too. During the time of high tick numbers and fewer small mammal hosts, each of us, and our companion animals, are at greater risk of coming into contact with questing ticks. So as soon as the temperatures rise into the mid-30s (and we know you will be out enjoying the veritable heat wave), ticks will be questing and we need to Steer Clear of Ticks and the Diseases They Carry — the IPM Way.
I am afraid the search for a reason to fully embrace the cold continues.
November 1, 2017
by Mary M. Woodsen Comments Off on It’s (still) tick season — and will be evermore
Sorry to bring up a sore subject, but it’s still tick season. And will be all year round. What … during winter? Really? Yes. But for starters here’s your pop quiz:
A tick’s lifespan is
twenty-four months (that is, about two years)
The best way to remove a tick is to
swab it with nail polish
hold a hot match to its behind
pull it straight up with fine-point tweezers
Even 15 million years ago, it was tick season. Trapped in amber, this tick carries Lyme-causing bacteria. (Photo credit Oregon State University.)
But back to our intro. Here’s the scoop: an adult female that hasn’t yet managed to grab hold of a large animal (think deer — or person) to get that all-important blood meal (can’t lay eggs without it) doesn’t want to wait around till a sunshiny summer day next year, because by then its number is up. Besides, the mice, chipmunks or birds it fed on earlier in its life cycle have only so much blood to go around. So that tick stays just below the soil where tall meadow flowers or low shrubs grow. Waiting. Waiting for a thaw barely long enough for it to scramble up one of those stems.
Waiting for the cues that tell it a warm-blooded animal is at close range. An animal that might be you.
And now for a look at our quiz. A tick’s lifespan? Your answer is (drumroll) C: upward of two years. Here’s how it works: Ticks spend a lot of time in dormancy, aka diapause. Eggs are laid in spring, tucked away out of sight. If some critter doesn’t find and eat them, they’ll hatch during summer as larval ticks (seed ticks, they’re sometimes called). Larval ticks are not infected with Lyme when they hatch — indeed, they’re pure as the fallen snow.
Meanwhile if likely hosts — those mice, chipmunks or birds — wander by, the ticks latch on. And if a host is already infected with Lyme disease or any of its nasty co-infections, those larval ticks, pure no more, are infected too.
Look close and you’ll see that spring, summer, fall, winter … every season is tick season. (Image credit Florida Dept. Health)
Larvae that make it this far morph into nymphs, and it’s diapause season again as the nymphs wait it out till the following spring. Assuming these ticks are now carriers —and about 25% will be — spring is the worst time of year for us. Because these ticks are tiny enough (the infamous poppy-seed stage) that they’re easy to overlook. If you get bit, ipso facto — you get Lyme (and quite possibly a co-infection too).
Things slack off in late summer as surviving nymphs enter a diapause that lasts till the following spring. But you can’t let down your guard, since by mid-fall through winter you’ve got those adult ticks to consider. The good thing (if “good thing” there is)? While half of these sesame seed-sized ticks are infected, they’re also easier to spot and remove.
Our second quiz item? If any of these strike you as valuable folk wisdom, strike the valuable part and know it ain’t so. Nail polish? Matches? Don’t even think of it. Those first two items are just likely to tick that tick off — and it’ll vomit its gut contents into you in its hurry to get out. That is, if it can get out quickly; if it’s really drilled in, it has downloaded a cement-like substance to anchor itself. It takes some doing to disengage, however persuasive the nail polish, burnt match, or myriad other folklore remedies. (Twisting it is another no-no that comes to mind, mainly because someone asked me about it mid-way through this post.)
Pointy tweezers, held right against your skin and gripping the mouthparts, are the way to go. (Image credit tickencounter.org)
If you value your health, get yourself some pointy tweezers, sold for needlepoint and other crafts, and carry them with you always in your bag, backpack, or whatever you haul around. Grasp that tick as close as you can get to your skin and pull steadily. Did its mouthparts remain glued within? Not to worry — the tick will feed no more. And before too many days go by, your exfoliating skin (that’s when the top layer of skin cells drift away) will exfoliate them in turn.
With ticks, prevention can include everything from doing routine tick checks to wearing repellent clothing when you’re outdoors — regardless the season. And you can’t do much better than this for advice about dressing right.
Meanwhile here’s your catchphrase: 32, ticks on you. “32” as in 32°F. Stay watchful — and stay safe.
August 24, 2017
by Mary M. Woodsen Comments Off on Getting ticked? Bummed about Lyme disease? You’re not alone
An NYS IPM Your NEWA Blog entry dropped into my inbox a couple of days ago — and since the entire conversation on my bus ride into work today was about ticks, a topic no one seemed to tire of, I just had to borrow from it for this post.
Here’s how it begins:
“Getting ticked? You’re not the only one.” That’s my colleague Dan Olmstead speaking. He continues:
“Every question I answered was about ticks. Ticks are most well-known as carriers of Lyme disease and they are on the rise. Changing weather and climate patterns could be partly to blame. Growing seasons are getting longer and ticks have more time to develop.”
Dan goes on to explain that range expansion is another likely factor coinciding with increasing numbers of mice and deer. These critters do well in fragmented habitat, whether it’s overgrown field, hedgerows — or expanding suburbs.
Mice infected with Lyme transmit it to the young ticks that feed on them. Meanwhile deer (birds too) pick up ticks in one place and ferry them to new, perhaps un-infested locations — making them complicit in transmitting Lyme disease despite the fact that, at least on deer, Lyme-free ticks (and yes, such ticks exist) won’t contract Lyme by feeding on deer.
But the black-legged tick (aka deer tick), host to Lyme disease and several other nasty co-infections, isn’t the only dog in the fight. It has friends — as it were. Here (courtesy the Centers for Disease Control) are the ticks we see and the most common diseases now associated with them:
When Empire Farm Days rolled around in early August, the tiny nymphs — the most dangerous stage for us humans — were still at it, still clambering onto the tall grasses and low brush or meadow plants that they’d perched on most every chance they got since May. They were waiting for the right host to come by. It’s called questing. And yes, these ticks are — metaphorically at least — on a quest that for them means life or death. (Most die but plenty remain.)
True, by now in late August, their populations have peaked. But even so they’re still eight-armed and dangerous.
Eight-armed? OK — make that eight-legged.
And typically by early August, it’s too hot and dry anyway for ticks to quest for hosts. But by early August this year, our colleague Joellen Lampman hadn’t seen the usual summer decline in black-legged tick questing. Ticks like to quest when humidity is greater than 85%, and 2017 assuredly hasn’t been stingy on that account.
Got ticks on your mind? Bummed because you’re stuck inside and feel like you can’t get out in the woods like you used to? Worried because deer have found your neighborhood, regardless how populated your neighborhood? Wondering how best to protect yourself? Seek no further: Tick Encounter is your one-stop shopping for everything you need to know. Check it out.
May 4, 2017
by Joellen Lampman Comments Off on Stop Pests in Housing IPM Conference — Bed Bugs, Cockroaches and Mice, Oh My
“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” – Benjamin Franklin
Do you work with public housing? Inevitably, pest issues come up. Knowing how to prevent problems and what to do when an issue arises can help save time and money while reducing human health risks. The May 31st “Stop Pests in Housing Conference” at the Century House in Latham, NY, will provide you with the information you need.
Join speakers renowned for their expertise as they address the big three pests: bed bugs, cockroaches, and mice.
This workshop is a part of the “Stop Pests in Housing Project: Enabling Residents to Live Pest Free and Housing Managers to Implement Integrated Pest Management.” It’s targeted to public housing managers, public works staff, maintenance staff, social workers, resident coordinators, Extension educators, and pest management professionals.
Coffee. Pick up registration materials. Sign up for DEC credits.
Introduction – Susannah Reese, StopPests in Housing, Northeastern IPM Center
IPM for Bed Bugs in Multifamily Housing – Changlu Wang, PhD, Rutgers University
How to Avoid Getting and Spreading Bed Bugs – Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, PhD, NYS IPM Program
Monitoring and Management of German Cockroaches in Multifamily Housing – Changlu Wang, PhD, Rutgers University
Managing Mice in Multifamily Housing – Robert Corrigan, PhD, RMC Consulting, Inc.
One Time Treatments and Pest Exclusion to Reduce Pest Allergens – Gil Bloom, ACE, Standard Pest Management
The People Side of Pest Management – Allie Allen, BCE, National Pest Management Association
Evaluation and wrap up – Matthew Frye, PhD, NYS IPM Program
Adjourn. Safe travels!
DEC Pesticide recertification credits available – 6.0 for categories 7a, 8 and 10.
For Robert Corrigan the moment was pivotal. Enchanted from childhood by the story of iconic oceanographer Jacques-Yves Cousteau, Corrigan enrolled at the State University of New York at Farmingdale with one dream: to be the next Cousteau. That changed the day biology professor Austin Frishman was a substitute teacher. So riveting was that one class that Corrigan immediately switched majors to Frishman’s specialty — pest management.
Pest management on a par with oceanography? Metaphorically, yes — for pests inhabit unseen worlds of their own. Corrigan had stumbled into a vocation that’s earned him accolades wherever pests and people collide.
Grates aren’t so great at keeping rats out if a hole has rusted through.
Now for his unparalleled integrity and expertise, Corrigan has earned an Excellence in IPM award from the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program (NYS IPM) at Cornell University.
NYS IPM’s Matt Frye says Corrigan was pivotal to his own life. “Bobby inspired me to pursue pest management as a passion, not just a livelihood,” Frye says. “I’m not alone. If you’re in roomful of pest management pros when Bobby speaks, and you see light bulbs blinking on all over the place, you get a feel for the impact he has had — not just in New York, but around the world.”
Corrigan is best known for his work with rats, and it’s no wonder. “Bobby’s Rodent Academy is a golden experience, an epiphany of information,” says Gil Bloom, Director of Public Affairs at the New York Pest Management Association. “That he gives out his email to his students is a risky gambit few would take. But this is the man.”
On the surface, Corrigan’s approach is simplicity itself. Keep parks, building foundations, alleyways and streets (not to mention kitchens) clear of all dropped or discarded food scraps, and you’ll put a serious dent in how many rat complaints you get. Daunting, perhaps, but doable.
In his work with the New York City Department of Health, Corrigan took the time to really listen to people, says Caroline Bragdon, director of Neighborhood Interventions. “His greatest achievement was integrating the people management part. He was so graceful in sewing together the layers of our bureaucracy to create a working, science-based program.”
Now Corrigan, a founding member of the Scientific Coalition On Pest Exclusion (SCOPE 2020), brings decades of field experience and data to the cause. “Bobby’s breadth and depth of knowledge are key to crafting promising new ways to prevent pests from taking refuge in buildings and public places,” says Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, chair of SCOPE and coordinator of Community IPM with the NYS IPM Program. “Once these methods are in place, we can say goodbye to chronic pest infestations.”
“Bobby is young to be a legend, but it’s true,” says Jennifer Grant, director of the NYS IPM Program. “From rats to roaches, he’s an expert at preventing, excluding and removing urban pests. He knows the community is key to success, so he involves everyone along the way—always the consummate teacher.”
Corrigan received his award at the Food Processing Sanitation and Pest Management Workshop on February 7 in Rochester, New York.
August 24, 2016
by Matt Frye Comments Off on Fighting Waterbugs — with Water
Plumbing issues lead to pest problems — there’s little doubt about that. Leaks offer standing water to rodents, and clogged, scummy drains are breeding sites for flies. How curious that one of the most common plumbing-related pest problems I see is drains and pipes without water.
Unused, uncapped drains are an open door for cockroaches and more.
At a multi-story office building, workers reported the presence of waterbugs, aka American cockroaches, on unconnected floors. Sanitation at the site was great, and no obvious leak created harborage for cockroaches: both excellent IPM practices. But a thorough inspection uncovered an unused bathroom on one floor where the water had been shut off during renovation. Not only could we smell sewer gasses — this bathroom contained several dead American cockroaches, suggesting this was the source for that floor. On another floor a drainpipe in a mop closet was open, and we could see cockroach frass.
A drain trap — and never mind the large gap at the wall. Exclusion is a whole different matter.
Plumbing Traps 101
If you’ve ever looked under a sink, you’re familiar with a plumbing trap: that U-shaped pipe that changes the flow of water from vertical to horizontal. Its job: to create a water seal that prevents odors and harmful sewer gasses from escaping into the living or work space. Each time the drain is used, fresh water replaces standing water in the trap to maintain a permanent seal.
Uncapped, unused — except as a highway for pests.
As side benefit, this design deters pests from using pipes to move within or between buildings. Sure, cockroaches and rodents (especially rats) can overcome plumbing traps by crawling through a small amount of water (see National Geographic video on rats in toilets). But when drains are regularly used, they’re unlikely to harbor pests.
Problems with trap seals occur when drains are infrequently used and water evaporates over time, or if drains are clogged with debris. Floor drains are susceptible to drying out if
no one wet-mops the floors
they’re in production areas with lots of small spilled items or
they’re near a deep fryer
Water can’t penetrate clogged drains. Clean (drain brush or shop vacuum) and flush with water.
Inspection Tips and Solutions
Another core IPM practice: owners or facilities maintenance personnel need to check drains often to verify that water is present in the trap. Check them each time floors are cleaned. For traps that have dried out the solution is easy – pour water down the drain until the trap is full. While you’re at it, make sure that drains are clear of debris. If the pipe is cut and no longer used, cap the end for a permanent seal.
August 16, 2016
by Matt Frye Comments Off on Ultrasonic Devices? Ultra-Ineffective
Sometimes I get questions about using ultrasonic devices for coping with pests. “Mrs. Jones uses them and she never sees a mouse!” is often how it goes. I understand the appeal: plug in this thing and my problem is solved. Sure! They also have great marketing campaign: this device will emit a sound you can’t hear that scares or annoys pests — forcing them to leave.
If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Cute, but … wrong place, wrong time.
The concept of using sound or vibration to deter pests was invented long before electricity. Ancient civilizations might well have used wind and water-powered devices to create vibration, movement or sound to ward off pests. And the concept of ultrasound as deterrent? Well, that might be based on the observation that some insects such as moths and crickets avoid high frequencies that mimic bat predators; similarly, certain sounds could distress rodents.
This theoretical frameworks aside, there’s no proof that ultrasonic devices really deter pests. In fact, scientific evaluations of ultrasonic devices have found no effect on target pests: German cockroaches, bed bugs and rodents. (See Literature section below.) In some cases, the frequency and intensity manufacturers claim don’t match up with actual output. Not only that, but some devices exceed limits imposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) for human tolerance of sound exposure.
Can this really repel all of the above? Think twice before you invest.
What Does Work?
So why doesn’t Mrs. Jones have mice? Well, prevention is cardinal to good IPM, and perhaps her house is well constructed and sealed against outdoor pest invasions. Or perhaps she keeps a clean home with no spilled food or water. Again, prevention is numero uno in IPM.
If a pest did invade her home, her best chance at management would involve eliminating access to food, water and shelter, then reducing the pest population by trapping or baiting. Again, core IPM.
Next time you’re dealing with a pest problem, figure out why they’re there and address that issue. Consult our IPM pest fact sheets to guide your way. And put away those ineffective ultrasonic devices.
Bomford, M, & PH O’Brien. 1990. Sonic Deterrents in Animal Damage Control: A Review of the Device Tests and Effectiveness. Wildlife Society Bulletin 18(4): 411-422.
Gold, RE, TN Decker, & AD Vance. 1990. Acoustical Characterization and Efficacy Evaluation of Ultrasonic Pest Control Devices Marketed for Control of German Cockroaches (Orthoptera: Blattellidae). Journal of Economic Entomology 77: 1507-1512.
Koehler, PG, RS Patterson, & JC Webb. 1986. Efficacy of Ultrasound for German Cockroach (Orthoptera: Blattellidae) and Oriental Rat Flea (Siphonoptera: Pulicidae) Control. Journal of Economic Entomology 79: 1027-1031.
Shumake, SA. 1997. Electronic Rodent Repellent Devices: A Review of Efficacy Test Protocols and Regulatory Actions. In (ed.) JR Mason: Repellents in Wildlife Management (August 8-10, 1995, Denver, CO). USDA, National Wildlife Research Center, Fort Collins, CO.
Yturralde, KM, & RW Hofstetter. 2012. Efficacy of Commercially Available Ultrasonic Pest Repellent Devices to Affect Behavior of Bed Bugs (Hemiptera: Cimicidae). Journal of Economic Entomology 105(6): 2107-2114.
October 1, 2015
by Matt Frye Comments Off on If you’re not monitoring, you’re not performing IPM.
Why? To start, let’s consider the distinction between an inspection and monitoring. An inspection is a view of pest activity at that moment in time. But what if pests are only active at night? Or on weekends when the building is quiet? Thus, monitoring is a record of pest activity in the times that you are not present.
Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, is a decision making process that uses information about pest populations to decide how to manage them. Monitoring is a critical step in IPM programs that offers valuable insights:
1. Species Identification: insect monitors intercept pests, allowing a trained professional to identify them. In turn, identification provides information about preferred harborage, food and water sources.
2. Early Detection: monitors can intercept pests that are present at low levels, and can help identify a problem before it gets out of hand.
3. Directionality: monitors can provide information about pest directionality: where are they coming from [harborage] and where they are going [food locations]. Monitors might also provide clues about non-obvious pathways, such as overhead areas (Figure 1).
Fig. 1. This firebrat likely fell onto the monitor from above.
4. Age of Population: rodent bait stations can contain informative evidence (Figure 2). Are droppings all one size, or are they mixed sizes, suggesting the presence of different age groups? Are droppings black, meaning that they are visiting the station for the first time, or are some droppings the color of the bait, suggesting multiple feedings?
Fig. 2. Mixed large and small droppings suggest adult and juvenile feeding; mostly black droppings suggest this is the rodents first feeding.
Parasitoids, predators and secondary pests can also tell you about the age of the infestation (Figure 3). Ensign wasps are egg-case parasitoids of American cockroaches. Their presence suggests that the cockroaches are actively reproducing nearby, whereas secondary pests may indicate the presence of old bait or pest carcasses.
Fig. 3. An Ensign wasp (egg-case parasitoid, 1), adult and juvenile (2) American cockroaches, and a spider beetle.
5. Proximity to Harborage: juvenile pests, including rodents and cockroaches, stay close the harborage. Intercepting them on monitors can narrow your search to nearby areas for identifying the harborage (Figure 4).
6. Management Efforts: some monitors might contain evidence about recent control efforts (Figure 4). Finding German cockroaches with crinkled wings is a sign that they have been treated with an insect growth regulator. But what if you didn’t apply this kind of product? Perhaps the cockroaches are coming from a neighboring area.
Fig. 4. Nymph (1) and adult (2) German cockroaches on an insect monitor. The arrow indicates the location of crinkled wings from treatment with an insect growth regulator.
Effective monitoring programs provide good coverage of pest vulnerable areas. The location of monitoring devices are recorded on a facility map, and a pest catch log records the number of pests caught on each monitor. These specifications allow the pest professional to collect enough information to determine if a treatment is needed, where to focus efforts and what treatment should be applied.
August 18, 2015
by Matt Frye Comments Off on Trap Failure or Human Failure?
When preparing for any job, my dad will remind me to choose the right tool for the task. In a way, this is an extension of another one of his gems: work smarter, not harder. Selecting the right tool can increase your efficiency and help you to get the job done correctly. Time and again I have reaped the benefits of this wisdom.
On a recent inspection of a food service establishment, management informed me that they had seen a small rat in the service hallway. Traps had been placed by the pest professional, but as of yet, the stealthy rat had not been caught. My interest was piqued.
Tripped trap with piece of rodent tail
In the hallway I found that several rat snap traps had been baited and placed along the wall where the rat had been observed. One trap had been tripped, and actually had a small piece of the rodent’s tail attached, which seemed rather odd. How would a rat trigger the trap and get only its tail caught? That is when the real detective work started.
Teeth marks in bait on snap trap: pairs of teeth 1-2 mm wide suggest feeding by mice.
No droppings were present along this runway to help with identification, but the now short-tailed rodent had fed on the bait, leaving behind impressions of its teeth. I pulled out my ruler and found that the pair of teeth were less than 2mm wide, which is suggestive of mice. Indeed, mice tend to leave impressions that are 1 to 2mm wide, while a pair of teeth for rats tends to be 3.5 to 4mm wide. Now the pieces of this mystery were adding up. A small rat was not the culprit, but rather a mouse. The traps had not been effective (except for taking off a piece of tail) because mice are unlikely to exert enough force on the trigger to engage a rat trap. So, what is the right tool for this task? You guessed it, a mouse trap!
Did you know…
The term rodent (the group that includes mice, rats and their relatives) is a derivative of the Latin word rodere, which means “to gnaw.” Rodents gnaw on objects to obtain resources, in the process wearing down their teeth. In fact, rat teeth grow approximately 5 inches per year, and are kept short by their gnawing behavior or by grinding their teeth.
“Spring work is going on with joyful enthusiasm.” ― John Muir
In other words, birthing season will soon be upon us. And though it’s fun watching animal families grow up in our backyards, it’s best that they don’t give birth within our buildings. Because female squirrels seek safe places to raise their young in late winter and early spring, now is the time to ensure they stay out of your attic.
Give them an opening and squirrels will happily turn your attic into a nursery. Photo credit: Carosaurus
Your first step? Monitoring is key to sound IPM. In this case you want to inspect your building exterior, especially if you’ve had problems in the past. Since squirrels are climbing animals and there’s no way could you see all possible entry sites from the ground, you’ll need a ladder. If you find a likely entry hole, don’t close it without first determining if it’s active. Trapping an animal (or its nest) inside can provoke it to chew its way back out — or in. Monitor an opening by inserting a soft plug (crumpled newspaper works fine) into the hole. If the plug is still there after two days and you see no other signs of activity inside the building, it should be safe to permanently close the hole. What to close it with? Think galvanized sheet metal or galvanized metal mesh, which resist strong teeth.
Do you need to remove squirrels from the building? Trapping is the most common and successful method. By New York law, however, without a state-issued permit squirrels must be released on the property or humanely destroyed. Another method is to install one-way doors (also known as excluders) over entry holes. These devices allow animals to leave — but not re-enter — the structure. To be successful, one-way doors need to be combined with preventive exclusion (such as metal mesh and caulk) on other vulnerable sites on your building, since exclusion and prevention are also key IPM practices.
Openings such as this one provide access for squirrels, raccoons, mice, rats, birds, stinging insects, bats, snakes, … Photo credit: BillSmith_03303
No rodenticides or other poisons are legally registered for squirrel control. Although a variety of repellents and devices make marketing claims about driving squirrels from buildings, their efficacy is questionable.
To prevent future problems, reduce squirrel access to the building by keeping trees and tree branches at least 10 feet away from the structure and make sure all vents are made of animal-resistant materials.