New York State IPM Program

August 16, 2016
by Matt Frye
Comments Off on Ultrasonic Devices? Ultra-Ineffective

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.

Cute, but … wrong place, wrong time.

History Lesson
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.

The Science
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.

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.

Selected Literature

  • 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.

 

July 19, 2016
by Matt Frye
Comments Off on Early Detection – Rapid Response

Early Detection – Rapid Response

I’m an urban entomologist with expertise in pest management, so you might think my house is free from pests. Not true. My recent adventure confirmed the importance of addressing an issue at the onset. Otherwise, things can get pretty ugly.

The Situation
A small portion of my basement is a dirt floor crawl space. When I moved in (August 2014) it was clear that this was not only a raccoon latrine, but mice had been nesting in the insulation above, so the dirt floor was covered in droppings and old cached food items. I sealed the exterior foundation from future intrusion and installed 5-mil thick plastic over the soil to reduce moisture and provide a good surface to crawl on for other projects that needed my attention.

My Mistake

A meal moth, Pyralis farinalis.

—A meal moth, Pyralis farinalis.

In the fall of 2015 I noticed a few meal moths (Pyralis farinalis) fluttering around the basement, which seemed pretty odd. Something made me look under the plastic and I saw that where there had been organic matter was now mold. Caterpillars were feeding in this area on the organic debris, leaving behind their pellet-shaped frass and head capsules. (Frass is caterpillar poop.)

And head capsule? Remember that caterpillar skin doesn’t grow along with the caterpillar. It needs to molt as it grows. The first thing it sheds is the skin around its head — the head capsule.

But back to my story. I decided that the mold was probably a bigger concern than the moths, so I kept the plastic down and decided I’d tackle the issue later.

Pellet-shaped frass and orange head capsules from caterpillars feeding.

—Pellet-shaped frass and orange head capsules from caterpillars feeding.

Beginning this spring, the number of moths in the basement rose steadily. When it warmed up, I decided to open the windows, pull up the plastic, and dry out the soil. Big mistake. For every moth flying around, there were a dozen more under the plastic. I had unleashed a blizzard of insects. Entomologist dream come true? Nope, not really.

IMG_2791

—Mold and pellet-shaped frass.

What I Did
I removed moths from the walls with a handheld vacuum. Meanwhile I noticed two things about them:

  • they aggregate in certain areas, likely due to the presence of a female emitting pheromones
  • they’re negatively phototactic; they avoid light

This meant I could crawl in my dimly lit space to suck up dozens of meal moths at a time, reducing mating opportunities. Wearing the right gear — a HEPA mask, goggles and gloves — I turned the soil, opened the windows and used a box fan to keep the space dry. Even if more adults emerged (which they did), the larval food source was eliminated, preventing more breeding.

What I Should Have Done
As soon as I saw the first moth and found the source, I should have addressed the issue – the breeding material. The ideal solution was (and is) to remove the contaminated soil that holds frass and other organic material, then take it outdoors where it will degrade over time. Covering up a problem doesn’t make it go away but makes it worse.

The Lesson
If you come across a pest problem, attend to it right away. Identify and remove sources of food, especially breeding sites. It is much easier to deal with a small, confined population than a large dispersed one.

October 1, 2015
by Matt Frye
Comments Off on If you’re not monitoring, you’re not performing IPM.

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).

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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?

2011.2.23 (2)

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.

Image 1 copy

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.

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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.

June 19, 2015
by Matt Frye
Comments Off on Pest-Strips: A Kitchen No-No!

Pest-Strips: A Kitchen No-No!

Beginning in about the year 2000, nearly all organophosphate pesticides became unavailable for use in homes. This was done primarily to limit exposure of children to active ingredients that negatively affect their health and development. Despite this extensive cancellation of organophosphates for structural pest management, one holdover active ingredient from that era remains today: dichlorvos (2,2-dichlorovinyl dimethyl phosphate, or DDVP).

The most common use of this product is as a slow-release vapor from impregnated resin plastic blocks. Pest-strips, as they are called, are used to treat a variety of pests including flies, gnats, mosquitoes, moths, silverfish, cockroaches, spiders, beetles, and earwigs. Like all pesticides, the label instructions are the law, and pest-strips have very strict requirements for use. The guidelines for these products are not intended to make the life of pest professionals difficult, but to reduce human exposure to active ingredients that can cause nausea, headaches, twitching, trembling, excessive salivation and tearing, inability to breathe from a paralyzed diagram, convulsions, and if concentrations are exceedingly high — death.

Legal Uses.

In general, products containing dichlorvos are intended for use in confined spaces where people will not be present for more than four hours at a time. Depending on the size of the product (16 or 65 grams), each pest-strip can treat an area of 100 to 1,200 cubic feet for up to four months (1,200 cubic feet is a room that measures 10 by 15 by 8 feet). Some areas where these products can be used include garages, sheds, attics, crawl spaces, storage units, trash bins, and for the small sizes (16 g): pantries, cupboards, and closets. Many other commercial applications are listed on the label.

Illegal Uses.

DSCN1196

Pest-strips in restaurants are often illegally placed near drains.

Unfortunately, these products are sometimes used in violation of the label directions to treat pests in spaces where people are present for more than four hours, or where food is present. A common example that makes me cringe is the use of pest-strips in food establishments. Especially cringe-worthy is when numerous strips are used in a kitchen where food is prepared and workers are present for a full day. Yes, I’m talking about your average restaurant.

DSCN0618

Do you see the pest-strip? Yes, right next to the Spanish and red onions!

Address the Problem.

It is critical to understand that the use of pest strips for fly control at a drain or cockroach control by a grill line are not treating the problem, only the symptom. The real problem in these scenarios is the presence of food and shelter: accumulated organic debris in drains, food spillage behind and under equipment, and cracks or crevices in structures that provide harborage. If you remove these conditions you treat the problem and eliminate the symptoms.

Remember, for all pesticides and pesticide products, the label is the law. As an applicator, you are responsible and legally obligated to follow the instructions that are intended to reduce health risks for you and your clients.

For more information on pest-strips in structural pest management:

CDC Warning on Misuse of Pest Strips by Gwen Pearson

Careful Use of Nuvan Strips by Mike Merchant

November 25, 2014
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on “No Surprises” Trip Prep? IPM, Prevention Are Key

“No Surprises” Trip Prep? IPM, Prevention Are Key

So you’re thinking of a trip south, camper or boat in tow, or maybe a little winter getaway to your cabin in the North Country.  For “no surprises” trip prep, take advantage of every spell of mild weather to make sure you’ve

  • kept rodents from settling into cozy quarters (or disinvite those that have)
  • removed those enticing extras that make critters do their best to bust through your defenses

Here’s the IPM approach. Put on your overalls, grab a flashlight, and crawl under

Your cabin is more secure with mesh pushed into critter entry points.

Your cabin is more secure with mesh pushed into critter entry points.

your camper or into the crawl space under your cabin — or climb up a ladder to take a closer look at your eaves and loose siding as well as cable entry points. Plug every likely entry point and with something like copper stuff-it — a fine wire mesh that helps keep critters out — or by caulking those places where propane pipes, internet cables, or phone or electric lines come in.

Be careful. If need be, hire an electrician. Even turning off the breaker box doesn’t mean dangerously high voltage won’t zap you.

This can be tricky work, because rodents can squeeze through what look like impossibly small spaces. Sometimes they’ll pull out your wire mesh, but caulk worked into the mesh — or a spray foam that expands into it — will help keep the mesh in place. So look again. And know that foam alone won’t do the trick — even if the can says it deters mice, chipmunks, and the like.

Besides critter-deterrent foam, here’s what else won’t provide long-term control: ultrasonic devices and boom boxes blasting rap music (yes, it’s been tried!). Sure, you might get short-term control — but critters acclimate to predictable or constant sounds. And forget that persistent rumor that mothballs (or dryer sheets) will deter them. For one, it’s illegal to use mothballs this way. And any seeming deterrence is probably illusory.

If rodents haven’t made your camper or cabin home yet — if you don’t see mouse poop, for instance — count your blessings and roll up your shirtsleeves. Besides the obvious (boxes of crackers, say, or plastic jars of peanut butter), remember that crumbs beneath the couch cushions or inside drawers and hard-to-reach corners attract critters with sensitive noses.

Because rodents appreciate a cozy place to curl up as much as you do (and because prevention is key to good IPM), stash everything from paper napkins to blankets and pillows in tightly sealed containers. If you can, empty the drawers; leaving them open makes the space less of a hidey-hole — and less appealing.

Occasionally you might do such a good job on the outside, you actually trap a critter that was already inside your walls when you began. Though it seems harsh, the best thing is to place snap-traps at those key exit points you discovered during your inspection — and check them as often as you can. (Animals caught in live traps and released elsewhere often end up in some other critter’s territory, and the consequences aren’t all that pretty.)

Traps come in two sizes: mouse and rat; rat traps work also for squirrels and chipmunks. What size to put out? If you hear noise at night it’s probably a mouse or rat. If during the day, it’s probably a chipmunk or squirrel.

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