“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 16, 2017
by Joellen Lampman Comments Off on Sandbox or Litterbox – You Decide
Raccoons are pretty cute, but you really don’t want them pooping on the property. Photo: Nell McIntosh
We don’t have to go to wild places to find wildlife. A surprisingly wide range of species can be found in our sities and towns, from familiar animals like the raccoon to more exotic ones like the mountain lion. – Roger Tory Peterson
When I was younger, raccoons were my favorite animal. It was hard to resist their clever little hands and cute bandit masks. My stuffed raccoon was named Rickie. Even when I was old enough to learn about rabies, my love didn’t wane. But then, when taking a wildlife rehabilitation workshop, I learned about Baylisascaris procyonis (raccoon roundworm), an intestinal parasite passed in raccoon poo.
The speakers at that workshop recommended using a blowtorch to kill the eggs of this intestinal parasite which, terrifyingly, can enter our eyes and nervous systems. The cuddly raccoon lost its place in my heart.
My love-hate relationship with raccoons came to mind when I saw the CDC has released a fact sheet on raccoon latrines and Baylisascaris procyonis. I do work quite a bit with school and child care facilities with their obligatory playgrounds. The CDC notes that “young children or developmentally disabled persons are at highest risk for infection, as they may be more likely to put contaminated fingers, soil, or objects into their mouths.” But they fail to point out that sandboxes can serve as a raccoon latrine. (It’s listed as a possibility here.) Of course, cats, which carry their own suite of parasites, are more likely to use sandboxes as their own personal litter box. It’s good IPM to prevent all types of animals from accessing your sandboxes.
The idea is good, but the implementation is lacking. Without securing the tarp, animals can easily slip under it. Photo: Joellen Lampman
No need to rid your property of sandboxes — indeed, there are sensory and group play opportunities with sandboxes (just Google “sand play activities”). But you must prevent animals from gaining access. Here’s how:
Keep sanitation a priority to avoid attracting wildlife – ensure that trash is cleaned up and put in a sealed container at the end of each day. (This will also help with other pests such as rats and yellow jackets.)
Have a “no food in the sandbox” rule – there is no need to provide an enticement for local animals to check out the box.
Have a solid box bottom — not only will this help prevent sand loss, but it keeps critters from burrowing in from underneath.
Have a durable cover on your box and make sure it is only uncovered during playtime.
Pest proof your buildings (including outbuildings) to reduce den sites. Raccoons will gladly set up facilities in your attic or garden shed.
Sandbox with cover rolled back. Photo: Gil Garcia
Tarp ties on the sandbox hold the tarp securely in place. Photo: Gil Garcia
If you find a latrine, check out the CDC fact sheet that includes information on cleaning it up while protecting your health. (Spoiler alert: they also recommend using a propane torch, since chemicals will not kill the eggs.)
Just a note that raccoon latrines can be found in other areas, including (yikes!) inside buildings. Be sure to pest proof your buildings to prevent raccoons (and squirrels and bats and birds) from making your building their new den. To keep wildlife out of your buildings and discourage them from your grounds, visit the NYS IPM Program web page: What’s Bugging You: Wayward Wanderers.
September 13, 2017
by Mary M. Woodsen Comments Off on 35,500 western bean cutworms later, it’s a record year for IPM in corn
Got a sweet tooth for sweetcorn? You’re in good company. So should you hear rumors on the wind about wormy sweetcorn — or field corn or dry beans (the kind you put in your soup kettle) and you’re curious about what’s behind them, here’s the scoop:
The western bean cutworm (just call it “WBC”), a recent invasive, is making waves in the midwestern and eastern corn belts. This pest made landfall in New York’s million-plus acres of field corn in 2010, its numbers spiraling ever upward since. This year, though, has been a record-breaker. WBC has become a pest we can count on for a long time to come.
To cope with WBC, the New York State IPM Program coordinates a “pheromone trap network” for WBC in field corn; in dry beans too. A second IPM trap network focuses on sweetcorn, though it also traps for WBC in beans.
But what is a pheromone and how does the network work? Think of pheromones as scents that insects send wafting on the wind to alert others in their tribe that something important is happening — and the time to act is now. In this case, pheromones are the “come hither” perfumes female moths use to advertise for mates.
Trapped — one more male out looking for a date.
But lures imbued with chemical replicates of pheromones can intercept males on their quest, dooming them to a very different fate. IPM scouts strategically place special trap buckets around corn and bean fields. Each contains a “kill strip” treated with an insecticide. Farmers, Extension educators, and crop consultants check the buckets each week to count their take.
And though it’s their larvae — the worms — that give WBC its name, here we’re counting the adults; in this case, moths.
It’s traps — and scouts — like these that do the job.
This year the two networks combined have caught more than 35,500 moths — far more than in any other year. Those in the know, know — this is not good. WBC is a sneaky critter. It even eats its eggshells as soon as it hatches, removing evidence that it’s out and about. Meanwhile, trap network numbers can vary considerably from county to county; even from farm to farm. Regardless, when armed with counts in their area farmers know when it’s time to ramp up scouting their fields. Because once they’ve reached threshold — the IPM “do-something” point — it’s time to act.
Why wait till a field reaches threshold? Because sprays are expensive — both to the farmers’ bottom line and the environment. Because time is money too; spending it needlessly out on a rig does no favors. Because treating only at need is one very good way to keep all these costs as low as can be.
Because — it’s what IPM is here for.
June 28, 2017
by Karen English Comments Off on Pruning berry bushes to minimize destructive pest habitat
Examine your caneberry (raspberries and blackberries) plantings for conditions that promote spotted wing drosophila (SWD) infestation and take steps to eliminate them. Although we cannot change the weather, we can alter conditions in the planting to reduce the cool, dark, humid areas preferred by SWD. Pruning and training systems can help maintain an open canopy to increase sunlight and reduce humidity. This will make plantings less attractive to SWD, will reduce SWD activity, and will improve spray penetration and coverage.
Spotted wing drosophila (SWD), an invasive insect originally from Asia, was first reported in the Northeast in 2011. Since 2012, adult SWD have been causing wide-spread injury to some berry crops in NY where management measures are not being used. Unlike most fruit fly species, SWD attack ripening and ripe fruit.
Bumblebee pollinating pruned and trellised raspberry.
Pruning tactics for caneberries have been developed to achieve excellent fruit yield and open the canopy. Knowing different pruning strategies will help you manage SWD. Added benefits include improved fruit color and flavor promoted by sunlight, easier picking by workers and customers, and easier weed management.
Caneberries (brambles) grown in the Northeast include red and black raspberries and blackberries; all are susceptible to SWD infestation. However, fruiting season differs among cultivars, which influences the risk of infestation.
Summer bearing varieties develop berries on floricanes that grow the prior year and overwinter. Fruit ripens and is harvested in early to mid-summer, prior to SWD population buildup, lowering the risk of infestation.
Fall bearing varieties develop berries on primocanes that grow, flower, and fruit in the same year. Fruit ripens and is harvested in late summer and early fall when SWD populations are high and risk of infestation is extreme.
Plants developing berries on floricanes and primocanes haven’t had floricanes removed after fall fruiting. Fruit ripens and is harvested from early to mid-summer on the floricanes and from late summer to early fall on the primocanes. The risk of SWD infestation will be low early in the harvest season and will increase as the summer progresses and the SWD population builds up.
Pruning suggestions for summer bearing varieties
Summer raspberries – maintain 4-5 healthy floricanes per foot of row.
Blackberries – maintain 3-4 healthy floricanes per foot of row.
Black raspberries – maintain 6-8 floricanes per hill.
Everbearing – maintain 4 primocanes and 4 floricanes per foot of row.
Floricanes should be held upright with a trellis to facilitate spray coverage and air circulation. Holding fruiting canes to the outside on a V-trellis will keep them to the outside of the growing primocanes and facilitate spray coverage and harvest.
Prune out the smallest primocanes beginning when they are 12 to 18 inches high to select and keep the biggest and best canes. Keep a few more than the suggested cane density per foot of row or per hill. Begin removing spent floricanes in July along with any late emerging primocanes. In November, laterals on black raspberry and blackberry primocanes can be cut back to 3 or 4 buds.
Pruning suggestions for fall bearing varieties
Maintain 4-6 primocanes per plant on a trellis.
Encourage early fruiting by placing row covers over the row after mowing in the spring. Remove the row covers when the primocanes are 18 inches tall. This will bring on flowering about two weeks early and help avoid or minimize SWD damage.
“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together … all things connect.” — attributed to Chief Seattle
I’m an environmental educator. Have been one all my life. Among my goals? To erase the line between us and the environment. So often we think of nature as someplace we have to travel to. But this separates us from understanding how we affect our world — for good or for bad.
Amazing creatures like this robber fly can be found in your backyard. These excellent predators catch their prey in the air.
At this time of year we are surrounded by appeals to plant trees. Conserve water. Recycle. Save the polar bears. Want to find examples of IPM as an Earth Day theme? Good luck.
Which is too bad. Because the critters and plants that surround us prove that the environment is right here, right now, all the time. The mice in your kitchen are proof that we coexist with nature even inside.
There is no line.
What’s in a name? Is this a weed or a spontaneous lawn flower? The bee doesn’t care!
Basic ecology tells us that all living things need food, water, shelter, and space. Overwater an indoor plant and you will find fungus gnats. Mow your lawn too short and spontaneous lawn flowers will outcompete the grass. Fail to empty outdoor buckets or refresh the water in your birdbath and there will be no shortage of mosquitoes.
When living things move into our space, we typically label them as pests. But this, my friends, is how nature works. When we provide food by leaving dirty dishes around, don’t seal the garbage right, or plant a favorite flower (tulips, say) in an area with no shortage of deer, we might as well just sit back and watch what comes to partake of our offerings.
Who needs to visit Africa? We can watch the circle of life in our backyards! And no need to get all those shots!
I dream of a world where, along with learning about tigers and redwood trees, children learn about our environment through ants and dandelions. For even in the most urban areas, we find ourselves in nature if we only open our eyes and take the time to recognize it.
My appeal? For Earth Day 2017, let’s each learn about one critter we see often – especially one we consider a pest. Where does it fit in the food web? What helping hand have we given it? And to help your exploration, I recommend starting with the NYS IPM Program’s What’s Bugging You webpage.
Erase the line. And have a very happy Earth Day.
p.s. I would love to hear about what you learned. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your story!
September 28, 2016
by Mary M. Woodsen Comments Off on Move Over, Medusa: Pretty? Poisonous! in the Caterpillar Clan
Our gratitude to Paul Hetzler, CCE St. Lawrence County, for letting us use this post. The IPM connection? ID those fuzzy beasts before you add them to your “warm and fuzzy” petting zoo.
When I was a kid I was fascinated by caterpillars but had trouble with the word. To me, the sweet little woolly-bear traversing my hand was a “calipitter.” It was only years later I learned that a calipitter is an instrument used to measure the diameter of a caterpillar to the nearest micron.
Caterpillars continue to interest me, although I no longer find them universally cute. Imagine the letdown and loss of innocence following the discovery that some of these fuzzy, fascinating, gentle creatures that tickled their way across my hand were venomous. This revelation was akin to finding out Bambi was a dangerous carnivore, which in fact is a fear that haunts me to this day.
Stunning — and striking in a less-than-pleasant sort of way. White-marked tussock moth larvae, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
It seems a further injustice that many of the so-called “stinging-hair caterpillars” are among the cutest and most colorful out there. But at least they are not aggressive the way yellow jackets can be. They are strictly defensive, the defense being hollow hairs connected to poison glands that secrete toxins. The chemical cocktail is species-specific, and often involves serotonin, histamine, formic acid and various amino acids.
The hairs inject their charge only when the critter is roughly handled. Or falls down your shirt, or gets in your sleeping bag, or is pressed against your skin in some other way. Their stings cause a painful rash which could persist a week or more. Some people have more severe reactions requiring medical treatment.
You’d think poisonous caterpillars would be from exotic locales, but to my knowledge all in our region are natives. One large group is the tussock moth clan. These caterpillars look about as terrifying as teddy bears. Two examples are the hickory (Lophocampa caryae) and white-marked (Orgyia leucostigma) tussock moths, common locally. I’ve had many encounters with these and their kin over the years.
Hickory tussock caterpillars are mostly white, peppered with a smattering of longer black “whiskers.” White-marked tussock moth larvae look like they’re fresh out of clown school, with a yellow-and-black striped pattern, bright red head, a pair of super-long black appendages as a headdress, a row of lateral white hairs on each side, and four bright yellow (sometimes white) tufts behind their heads like a row of smoke stacks.
The stubby brown hag moth caterpillar (Phobetron pithecium) definitely does not look like a caterpillar. It could easily be mistaken for a dust-bunny or bit of lint. Sometimes known as the monkey slug, this oddity has eight furry, arm-like appendages and should get a prize for its resemblance to a plush toy. If you come across the monkey slug, do resist the impulse to cuddle it.
Much like the way poison-arrow frogs dress flamboyantly to advertise they’re a poor choice as prey, some toxic caterpillars have paint jobs even brighter than those of the tussock moths. For example, the brilliantly attired stinging rose (Parasa indetermina) and saddleback (Acharia stimulea) caterpillars might make you think some practical joker has set out miniature party piñatas. Eye-catching and bristling with barbs, no one is going to mistake them for a plush toy.
Fortunately, many poisonous caterpillars look the part. The Io moth (Automeris io), a huge moth bearing a striking eye-spot shape on each wing, starts out as a neon-green (red until its first molt) caterpillar crowded with serious-looking barbs. Going further afield, the giant silkworm moth caterpillar (Lonomia oblique) of southern South America has been responsible for as many as 500 human deaths — and it looks terrifying, too.
Keep in mind that just about every fuzzy caterpillar, venomous or not, can induce asthma. Those hairs are fragile and readily become airborne. Pests such as the eastern and forest tent caterpillars — and gypsy moths too — sometimes occur in numbers so great enough to trigger asthma, especially in children. Even the beloved woolly bears (many species of the family Arctiinae) trigger attacks in some people.
What to do for a sting? Use Scotch or packing tape on your skin to pull out embedded caterpillar hairs (along with a few of your own). Wash the area and isolate clothing you think might harbor stray hairs. Monitor for several hours for signs of a serious reaction and otherwise treat the rash the way you would any sting with calamine lotion, antihistamines, or hydrocortisone lotion as directed by your doctor.
Let’s hope that having a few bad apples around will not keep you from appreciating caterpillars. Even the ugliest ones grow up to be moths and butterflies, many of which are beautiful. And they’re all important pollinators. Stay away from the ones described here but feel free to investigate all others.
Just be sure to take along your callipitter.
July 13, 2016
by Joellen Lampman Comments Off on Invasive Species Are on the Move — Help Stop Them
It’s the 3rd Invasive Species Awareness Week (ISAW) in New York. Groups statewide have sponsored activities July 10 – 16. We invite you to join in and learn how to protect your favorite natural areas.
What’s at stake? Some of the greatest harm both to our environment and agriculture is caused by invasive plants and animals — organisms that have been introduced to new areas, whether accidentally or intentionally, then spread uncontrollably.
Last year, PRISM organized more than 100 invasive species activities were held statewide. This year, the regional New York PRISMs (Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management) are poised and ready with a lineup of even more great activities and events to mark the occasion. Invasive Species Awareness Week offers many opportunities to learn more about invasives — including how prevent and manage their spread.
Japanese barberry is one example of a common landscape plant that has escaped cultivation and invaded natural areas.
What makes a species invasive? Most reproduce in high numbers, lack predators and are highly adapted to their new environment. They can be costly, affect your health or vastly change ecosystems. Examples? Emerald ash borer, giant hogweed, and Japanese stiltgrass — to name but a few.
Invasive species removal events are scheduled throughout the state this week. Photo: Joellen Lampman
Invasive species are often spread unknowingly. A gardeners’ plant swap, dumping a bait bucket, moving firewood to a campsite miles away — it can be as simple as that.
You can help manage and control invasive species; in fact, people like you are often the first line of defense in reporting new infestations. How? By:
keeping a sharp eye out for unwanted hitchhikers in the plant and animal kingdoms
learning about which invasive species are of local concern by visiting your local PRISM website
Stop the invasion. Protect New York from invasive species: that’s our state’s slogan. The line-up of events across New York includes an array of activities such as removing invasive species, screenings of “The Hemlock Woolly Adelgid” documentary, and invasive species workshops. The full schedule of events is online at http://www.nyis.info/blog/events/. Events are free, but preregistration for some events may be requested.
August 12, 2015
by Joellen Lampman Comments Off on The German Cockroach: America’s #1 Cockroach Pest
German cockroaches are one of the most common insect pests found in urban areas throughout the world, and are the number one cockroach pest species worldwide. They are well-adapted to human environments, even enjoying similar humidity and temperature levels as we do. IPM can be used to exclude and eliminate this pest from our homes, schools, restaurants, ships, and greenhouses.
German cockroach Photo: Gary Alpert
Did you know…?
By the Numbers: Roughly 3,500 species of cockroach are identified worldwide, with 70 of those species reported from the United States.
What’s in a Name? Despite its name, the German cockroach, Blattella germanica, probably originated in Africa. In the 375 years since its original description as a species, it has had 23 different scientific names.
Codependents: German cockroaches depend on humans for their survival. There are no known populations of this species that exist in the wild!
Ancient Animals: Scientists have found cockroach fossils that date as far back as 300 million years, making cockroaches about 300 times older than humans. The largest fossil, from Ohio, measures nearly 3.5 inches long!
Sticky traps can help you identify both what species of cockroach you have and where their populations are highest.
Integrated pest management of cockroaches not only relies on the proper identification of German cockroaches, but also identifying their hiding areas, which tend to be in areas with high moisture and easy access to food (think: under the kitchen sink or refrigerator). Baiting and trapping can then be used most efficiently. And, as usual, good housekeeping and sanitation will go a long way to reduce both food and areas where cockroaches hide. For more information, see The German Cockroach: America’s #1 Cockroach Pest. For information on other species of cockroaches, click here.
June 23, 2015
by Joellen Lampman Comments Off on Don’t Let Carpenter Ants Renovate Your Home!
Carpenter ants are the most common ant pest found in the Northeastern United States. They cause structural damage when they excavate wood for nest sites. Unlike termites, carpenter ants do not eat wood, but rather scavenge on dead insects and collect sugary secretions (“honeydew”) produced by other insects such as aphids. Carpenter ants are a nuisance pest when workers are spotted inside foraging for food and when winged swarmers are found inside.
Carpenter Ant Damage
Did You Know … ?
Wood is Not-So-Tasty: Carpenter ants tunnel through moisture-damaged wood and spit out wood shavings. The resulting waste piles look like sawdust and often include ant body parts.
A Numbers Game: There are approximately 24 species of carpenter ants that are pests in North America; nine of these species are present in the northeast.
Hanging Out: Carpenter ant larvae are clumped together by J-shaped hairs, and cling like Velcro to the roof of their galleries.
In late September and early October, on warm days, you may notice a buzz in the air. This is the time of year when citronella ants swarm, and they can overwhelm a backyard with winged queens and kings looking for a mate and a new home. Citronella ants are a bit larger than pavement ants and are yellow to amber in color. Winged swarmers are larger and darker in color with smoky tinted wings. When crushed, they smell just like a citronella candle.
Citronella ants care for, or tend, root aphids.
The life and habits of citronella ants aren’t well-studied, but they do have one fascinating trait. They tend herds of underground aphids, known as root aphids as if they were cattle, and harvesting sweet honeydew excreted by the sap-loving aphids. Root aphids feed on the roots of shrubs and plants, in my case flowering dogwoods. Root aphids may contribute to poor health of some plants, but they are extremely common and remain mostly undetectable beneath the soil.
Citronella ants are not a home-invading species of ant, although they may accidentally fly indoors during a mating flight. Swarmers may also end up indoors if the roots of shrubs have reached a structure foundation that, due to gaps or cracks, provides an exit into the building. Either way, these ants are not household pests, preferring to remain in their own habitat, tending their herds and minding their own business.