New York State IPM Program

October 11, 2018
by Debra E. Marvin
Comments Off on Hummingbirds as Pest Management Partners?

Hummingbirds as Pest Management Partners?

A recent NYS Berry Growers Association newsletter highlighted Dr. Julie Carroll’s work on hummingbird interactions with spotted wing drosophila (SWD). Robin Catalano, author of the article, referenced two posts from Julie’s SWD blog. Today, we’re offering a taste (a one part water, four parts sugar taste), but encourage you to visit each post for more detail.

(CC BY-SA 2.0) Flickr “Mike’s Birds”

It all began when, in her 2014 blog post entitled Hummingbirds, Julie shared an article from Good Produce, Berry Growers Sharing Great Ideas by Charlie O’Dell: “Unusual Way to Control SWD”, one grower’s use of hummingbird feeders to attract these beautiful, pugnacious, and voracious birds. O’Dell wrote, “Robert Hays of Hays Berry Farms at Dumas, MS, installs 25 hummingbird feeders per acre in his six acres of blackberries and fills each with a plain, clear, sugar-water solution. He estimates there are more than 500 hummingbirds flying around his fields on picking days, some even landing briefly on pickers’ arms or hats. Between his beneficial insects and his hummingbirds, he has not had to spray.”

Do you know that hummingbirds will eat up to 2,000 small insects per day when feeding their young?

A hummingbird’s diet consists mostly of flower nectar and insects. Nectar provides sugar for their high metabolic rate, while insects provide protein, amino acids, and necessary vitamins and minerals. Besides fruit flies, hummingbirds consume (in one effective swallow) tiny beetles, flies, gnats and mosquitoes. To bring these beauties near, many people supplement natural nectar sources with a solution they purchase or mix on their own. It’s important to sterilize the feeders often or boil the solution to reduce yeast or bacterial growth. The warmer the temperatures, the more frequently the nectar should be changed. Oh, and skip the red dye.

Before commencing her field trial, Julie consulted The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s FAQ’s . We suggest you do the same!

In short:

Use fairly small feeders at first, and change sugar water at least every couple of days. During hot, dry weather, when hummingbirds risk dehydration, it’s best to dissolve no more than a quarter cup of sugar per cup of water. (Up that to one third cup during cold, rainy weather.)

To reduce ant interference, use hummingbird feeders that have a center “moat”. Another option is coating the hanger rod with petroleum jelly.

Hummingbirds can consume 100 percent of their body’s weight in sugar water or nectar every day, in addition to as many as 2,000 tiny insects! Before migration, it’s not unusual for a hummingbird to double its weight, adding a huge amount of fat to power the long journey.

Because of competition for food, it’s best to set out a few small feeders rather than one large one. Adult males defend their territories during nesting season, so you’ll see fewer in midsummer when nesting females are busy incubating.

Hummingbirds as Pest Management Partners?

Over the last four years, Julie’s research in raspberry plots at Cornell AgriTech has shown promise as an alternative tactic to reduce SWD impact. Her recent post Hummingbirds May Reduce SWD addresses her findings.

Julie saw fewer SWD caught in traps where hummingbird feeders are located, compared to more being caught where there are no hummingbird feeders, in a transect along a raspberry planting.

Intrigued, a blueberry grower and a raspberry grower each gave it a try this past season to see if such an effort was feasible. Both growers cleaned the feeders and changed the sugar solution twice per week to keep the hummingbirds well fed and active within their plantings. Were they successful? We can tell you that, during a workshop held on one site, multiple growers considered adding this ‘tool’ to their pest management toolbox.

At the August, 2018 workshop held in Salem, NY, several of the tiny birds were seen dashing about.

Preliminary data analysis for 2018 shows that when SWD numbers are very low or very high, there is little to no difference in the number of SWD caught in Scentry traps placed in area of the field with hummingbird feeders compared to those in the area of the field without feeders. However, when numbers are moderate, there was a difference. Along a transect down the length of the field, the trend was fewer SWD in the hummingbird feeder area compared to the no-feeder area, as shown in the chart.

While placing and maintaining 25 hummingbird feeders per acre (the number of feeders used in her research) may be a bit arduous for some growers, there are other ways to attract hummingbirds to your berry planting. Allocate space for their preferred flowering plants, such as alternating rows of Monarda (bee balm).

Unfortunately, SWD “season” is much longer than that of our hummingbird helpers. When SWD populations explode in late summer, they remain difficult to control. By now, these lovely flying predators have likely flown South on their journey to the Yucatan peninsula in Central America.

What does this all mean to you? Growers like Robert Hays watched what was going on in his fields and tried something new. This is a key tenet of Integrated Pest Management. Scouting and using innovative methods and multiple approaches can work together to reduce pests and pesticide use.

Dr. Juliet Carroll,  Fruit IPM Coordinator
NYS IPM Program, Cornell University, New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, 630 W. North Street, Geneva, NY 14456

August 22, 2018
by Matt Frye
Comments Off on Pest Exclusion: An Old Concept With New Life

Pest Exclusion: An Old Concept With New Life

The Scientific Coalition on Pest Exclusion, or SCOPE, started as an idea from industry expert and world-renowned rodentologist, Dr. Bobby Corrigan. Well-versed in pest management literature, Bobby’s reading of a particular sentence in Hugo Hartnak’s 1939 text, “202 Common Household Pests,” resonated with a concept he was thinking and teaching about all along, “We should have little trouble with vermin if builders would hear and understand the ‘language’ of vermin and do a better job in eliminating their entrances and hiding place.

Indeed, Hartnak was promoting pest exclusion. But the concept never really took off, in part due to the expansion of available synthetic pesticides around the same time, which revolutionized the industry and ‘protected’ homes by directly killing pests.

Fast forward more than 60 years to the early 2000’s, when federal regulation changes and new restrictions were imposed on rodenticides, pyrethroids, and indoor use of organophosphates. These changes to chemical pest control provoke careful consideration of the long-term solutions that make sites less attractive to pests and keep them out – two essential IPM techniques of sanitation and exclusion. Sanitation removes sources of food and water that sustain pests, but requires cooperation from clients to do their part in maintaining a clean environment. On the other hand, exclusion represents an opportunity for the pest management industry to perform work on a semi-regular basis that seals openings and prevents pests from moving into and within structures.

Dr. Bobby Corrigan identifies an unprotected grate with gaps large enough for Norway rats to enter.

As a rodentologist, Dr. Corrigan understands that human-pest interactions are more than a nuisance – they can represent a real risk to human health. Consider the recent publications that identify house mice in apartment buildings as reservoirs of pathogenic bacteria and hosts to a diversity of viruses.

Traditional pest management techniques that rely on trapping or killing pests will not necessarily prevent these interactions – but exclusion can. Dr. Corrigan’s vision is to advance the pest management industry by increasing adoption of exclusion practices to limit human-pest interactions.

Starting in 2013, Dr. Corrigan and Dr. Steve Kells (University of Minnesota) formed a coalition of experts to not only promote pest exclusion, but to advance the science of this field through research. Subsequently, two Scientific Coalition on Pest Exclusion working groups were funded by Regional IPM Centers. The first, funded by the North Central IPM Center was led by Kells, and focused on pest exclusion in commercial and industrial structures. A group funded by the Northeastern IPM Center was headed by Dr. Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann (NYS IPM Program, Cornell University) and explored exclusion in residential structures.

What building materials, structures, or design features lead to pest entry or harborage? This concrete hollow block was home to mice, as evidenced by the sebum or rub marks, and could be sealed with cement.

Together, the working groups collected data on building design, materials and other factors that might help to predict common pest exclusion issues. With an understanding of what materials fail in which situations, this can help the pest management industry in identifying common entry points, or provide insight to construction professionals for opportunities to reduce indoor pest problems. Core members also contributed to a literature review of pest exclusion (both items are still in progress). In March 2018, SCOPE members participated in a session at the 9th International IPM Symposium in Baltimore, MD to discuss different ways of promoting  exclusion to enhance adoption. “Partnerships to Strengthen the Role of Exclusion in IPM” explored opportunities to include exclusion in efforts such as building renovation, weatherization, fire proofing, asthma reduction, and compliance with regulations such as the Food Safety Modernization Act and SOX compliance.

SCOPE members continue to provide training on pest exclusion techniques as a way to promote this critical and effective IPM strategy. The website includes articles from trade magazines and resources such as inspection forms to help individuals11 or companies develop their exclusion program.

What can SCOPE do for you? If you have feedback or thoughts on ways that SCOPE can help you build your pest exclusion program – contact Matt at mjf267@cornell.edu.

March 16, 2018
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Pests, Pesticides and Proposals: Funding IPM Community Projects

Pests, Pesticides and Proposals: Funding IPM Community Projects

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, jlg23@cornell.edu (Do you work outside Cornell University and Cornell Cooperative Extension? Get in touch with Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann.)
  • educator: Lynn Braband, Rochester, 585-753-2562, lab45@cornell.edu
  • educator: Amara Dunn, Geneva, 315-787-2206, arc55@cornell.edu
  • educator: Matthew Frye, Westchester, 914-285-4633, mjf267@cornell.edu
  • educator: Joellen Lampman, Albany, 518-441-1303, jkz6@cornell.edu

NYS IPM Ornamentals IPM Staff

  • coordinator: Elizabeth Lamb, Ithaca, 607-254-8800, eml38@cornell.edu
  • educator: Brian Eshenaur, Rochester, 585-753-2561, bce1@cornell.edu

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 1, 2018
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Climate, Weather, Data: Change Is the Name of the Game

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.

 

January 16, 2018
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on We give awards: IPM, excellence, and Julie Suarez

We give awards: IPM, excellence, and Julie Suarez

True — this media release dates back to January 4. But that’s not so long ago, and for someone like Julie Suarez it bears repeating. In short: we presented Julie (whom you’ll meet in a minute) with an Excellence in IPM award for—well, we could name a host of reasons. But we’ll let this speak to some of the best.

Advocacy and accolades earn Excellence in IPM award for Cornell champion Julie Suarez

Four hundred-plus wild
pollinators: this hover fly is
one of many that contribute to New York’s multi-billion-dollar
ag industry — not to
mention flowers in our landscapes. Courtesy Dawn Dailey O’Brien.

GENEVA, NY, January 4, 2018: Julie Suarez’s passion is people. People at work, people at home, people in need. Whether it’s about the farm or urban communities, she’s keenly aware of the pests and the problems. She knows the issues, the legislators, the associations and nonprofits. She’s a natural.

Now Suarez, assistant dean of Governmental and Community Relations at Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), has received an Excellence in IPM award from the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program (NYSIPM) for her unstinting advocacy for the people and programs at Cornell on issues that matter to all New Yorkers.

An accomplished facilitator, Suarez helps people

  • deal with invasive pests that threaten the livelihood of many farmers
  • preserve the pollinators—the honey bees and their kin—that are key to growing fruits and vegetables worth $1.15 billion to New York’s economy
  • cope with the relentless pressure of ticks and tick-borne diseases, which affected an estimated 8,000 New Yorkers in 2017 alone

Accolades for Suarez include:

  • Julie was instrumental in addressing the crisis when a new pest, a tiny fruit fly the size of a pinhead, threatened to put berry farmers out of business. She would answer questions, provide guidance and inform—usually responding to emails within minutes. I don’t know how she did it.
  • Julie reached out to me about research on pollinator health as soon as I arrived at Cornell. I’m impressed with the breadth and depth of her knowledge and her ability to work with scientists, officials and stakeholder groups statewide.
  • Julie is keenly aware of the key issues for state legislators, noting the committees they serve on and the needs of their constituents. That’s how the NYSIPM Program became involved with the Senate Task Force on Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease.

“Julie is proactive, strengthening the bonds between  the  IPM  Program  and the community at large,” says New York Senator Sue Serino, herself a leader in the fight against Lyme disease. “She consistently exceeds the expectations of those around her.”

“Julie brings legislators in Albany to Cornell and Cornell researchers to the legislators. She gets it that programs like ours take science to the people,” says Jennifer Grant, director of NYSIPM. “It’s a privilege working with Julie to serve all New York’s citizens.”

Suarez received her Excellence in IPM award on January 4 at the NYS Agricultural Society’s Annual Forum in Syracuse, NY. Learn more about IPM at nysipm.cornell.edu.

Left to Right: L-R: Dean Kathryn Boor, CALS; Commissioner Richard Ball, NYS Ag & Markets; Assistant Dean Julie Suarez, Governmental and Community Relations, CALS; Director Jennifer Grant, NYS IPM ; President Beth Claypoole, NYS Ag Society. Photo provided.

December 15, 2017
by Matt Frye
Comments Off on Rats! the latest research comes with surprises

Rats! the latest research comes with surprises

Hidden in plain sight: rats own the night.

Consider the rat — the urban sort. Then consider our health, our food, and the damage rats do to our buildings. Yet despite the considerable impact they have, there’s not much science out there. Until recently, most of the research dates back to the mid-1900’s.

Now, though, rodent researchers worldwide are taking a closer look at rats — at their biology, ecology and evolution. Here are some takeaways:

Genomics shift as cities change.
Consider the evolution of life in large cities — and how understanding these changes can help us cope with rats. For instance, an eight-lane highway or even a really busy street are as dangerous for rats to cross as they are for us. Unlike us, however, rats have few opportunities to date (and hence to mate with) other rats from across, say, Broadway. (A side street poses less of a problem). As we learn what gene flow teaches us, we can see that the areas rats occupy — whether a single building or several city blocks — matters. A lot.

After all, ridding rats from a bagel shop or coffee bar doesn’t really help if rats can quickly re-infest the premises from establishments down the street.

Metro New York’s rats arrived in the 1700’s — then closed the doors.
The Big Apple’s rats are evolutionary kin of — believe it — rats from Great Britain and France. Sure, the colonies traded mainly with Britain and France during the 1700’s. But what’s surprising is the lack of evidence for rat introductions from any other part of the globe. This suggests that the rats that took up shop in what was then a small but fast-growing burg killed or repelled every rat that arrived at the Port of New York since then. Ecologists call this biotic resistance.

Plenty of food and soil for nests can lead to high rat populations.

Rat populations are patchy in urban areas.
Several studies showed that rats mainly occupy urban hot spots where food, water and shelter abound. Might rat genomics lead to habitat preferences? Do some prefer to live in high rises, others in parks and still others in warehouses or office buildings — all in the same cluster of blocks? Indeed, rat colonies nearby could differ genetically while those further away but in similar habitats show similarities.

Regardless — just short of a mile is what it takes to separate one colony from another. The occasional rat that crosses that boundary isn’t enough to keep them genetically related. Your Uptown Rat and your Downtown Rat — forget any romance there.

Reflecting above a water source: a pool of sewage in a building crawlspace.

Rodent-borne disease is patchy in urban areas.
Just as rat populations are patchy in urban environments, rodent-borne disease is also found in hot spots. Consider Bartonella. This group of bacterial pathogens has a number of health consequences for people, but the recent research shows that

  • some populations had high percentages of infected rats
  • rats from those sites were host to a greater diversity of pathogens and ectoparasites
  • human health risks are unknown and can be known only with more complete sampling

Rats are sneaky and diabolically clever, making them hard to study. Rats on the day shift are often weaker members of the colony.

In urban areas, rats are really hard to study.
As people who have conducted rodent research, we can tell you that rats are hard to study. They’re secretive, they nest underground, they’re nocturnal, accessing them is difficult — and they’re likely to croak before we can study them. Radio telemetry and Global Positioning System (GPS) rarely work because of interference from buildings and hard surfaces.

Urban rodents have plagued cities around the world throughout recorded history. But with the tools of modern science we can glimpse their complex and secretive lives, exposing some of their mysteries. With more questions than answers, the field of urban rodentology is an open book.

Recent Rodent Research Articles (November 2017)
Angley, LP, MC Combs, C Firth, MJ Frye, I Lipkin, JL Richardson, & J Munshi-South. Spatial variation in the parasite communities and genomic structure of urban rat vectors in New York City. Zoonoses and Public Health DOI10.1111/zph.12418

Byers, KA, MJ Lee, CM Donovan, DM Patrick, & CG Himsworth. 2017. A Novel Method for Affixing Global Positioning System (GPS) Tags to Urban Norway Rats(Rattus norvegicus): Feasibility, Health Impacts and Potential for Tracking Movement. Journal of Urban Econology 3(1): jux010

Combs, M, EE Puckett, J Richardson, D Mims, & J Munshi-South. 2017. Spatial Population Genomics of the Brown Rat (Rattus norvegicus) in New York City. Molecular Ecology

MTJ Johnson & J Munshi-South. 2017. Evolution of Life in Urban Environments. Science 358(6363): eaam8327

Peterson, AC, BM Ghersi, F Alda, C Firth, MJ Frye, Y Bai, LM Osikowicz, C Riegel, WI Lipkin, MY Kosoy, & MJ Blum. Rodent-borne Bartonella infection varies according to host species within and among cities. EcoHealth. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10393-017-1291-4

September 28, 2017
by Joellen Lampman
Comments Off on In praise of messiness

In praise of messiness

KEMPTVILLE, ONTARIO. — On my twice-monthly drive on Highway 416 between Prescott and Ottawa, I pass the sign for Kemptville, a town of about 3,500 which lies roughly 40 km north of the St. Lawrence. It has a rich history, and no doubt is a fine place to live, but one of these days I need to stop there to verify that Kemptville is in fact a village of surpassing tidiness. (It’s Exit 34 in case anyone wants to take some field notes and get back to me.)

Most of us would prefer not to live in totally unkempt surroundings, but Western culture may have taken sanitation a bit too far. Claims that cleanliness is next to godliness have yet to be proven by science, but research does indicate a neat, well-coiffed landscape is bad for bees and other pollinators.

Dandelions are an essential early-season flowers for our 416 species of wild bees in New York.

With all due respect to honeybees, they are seldom required to produce fruits and vegetables. Please don’t spread this around, as I do not want to tarnish their public image. But the fact is that wild bees, along with other insects and the odd vertebrate here and there, do a bang-up job pollinating our crops, provided there are enough types of wild plants (i.e., messiness) around to keep them happy for the rest of the season.

As landscapes become neater and less diverse, wild bees cannot find enough natural foods to keep them in the neighborhood for the few weeks of the year we’d like them to wallow around in our apple or cucumber flowers. In sterile, highly manipulated environments like almond groves and suburban tracts, honeybees are critical.

Dr. Scott McArt, a bee specialist at Cornell’s Dyce Laboratory for Bee Research, says there are an estimated 416 species of wild bees in New York State. When I estimate stuff, the numbers tend to be less exact, such as “more than three,” but I’ve met Dr. McArt, and I trust him on this count. Dr. McArt is quick to point out that wild critters take care of things just fine in most places. He has cataloged exactly 110 species of wild bees visiting apple blossoms in commercial orchards, and in the vast majority of NYS orchards studied, honeybees have no bearing on pollination rates. My object is not to malign honeybees, but to point out that if we learn to live with a bit more unkemptness, we will improve the health of wild bees, wildflowers, food crops, and ourselves in the process.

Dr. McArt has cataloged exactly 110 species of wild bees visiting apple blossoms in commercial orchards, and in the vast majority of NYS orchards studied, honeybees have no bearing on pollination rates. There was a presentation about it at the 2015 Pollinator Conference.

Messiness also takes pressure off managed honeybees, an increasingly fragile species, by providing them a rich source of wild, non-sprayed nectar and pollen. Orchardists do not spray insecticides when their crops are flowering because they know it will kill bees. But many fungicides, which are not intended to kill insects, are sprayed during bloom. One of the unexpected findings of research done through the Dyce Lab is that non-lethal sprays like fungicides are directly linked with the decline of both wild bees and honeybees. But banning a particular chemical is not a panacea—the situation is far more complex than that. What is needed to save bees of all stripes is a real change in mindset regarding landscape aesthetics.

This garden at Bethpage State Park Golf Course is an excellent example of entropy. Primarily established with native wildflowers, there are also a significant number of volunteers. NYS IPM staff found over 100 different species of insects, primarily bees and wasps, taking advantage of the bounty.

Increasing the entropy on one’s property is as easy as falling off a log (which of course is a literal example of increased entropy). Pollinators need plants which bloom at all different times, grow at various heights, and have a multitude of flower shapes and structures. For greater abundance and diversity of wild flowering plants, all you need to do is stop. Stop constantly mowing everything. Choose some places to mow once a year in the late fall, and others where you will mow every second third year. Stop using herbicides, both the broadleaf kind and the non-selective type.

Before you know it, elderberry and raspberry will spring up. Woody plants like dogwoods and viburnums will start to appear. Coltsfoot and dandelions, essential early-season flowers, will come back. Asters and goldenrod (which by the way do not cause allergies), highly important late-season sources of nectar and pollen, will likewise return.

Despite their unassuming flowers, Virginia creeper attracts a large number of pollinating bees and wasps. Photo: Joellen Lampman

Wild grape, virgin’s bower, Virginia creeper and wild cucumber will ramble around, without any help whatsoever. However, you may choose to help this process along by sowing perennial or self-seeding wildflowers like purple coneflower, foxglove, bee balm, mint, or lupine. Even dandelion is worth planting. You’ll not only get more wild pollinators, you’ll also see more birds. Redstarts, tanagers, orioles, hummingbirds, catbirds, waxwings and more will be attracted to such glorious neglect. No feeders required.

I strongly advocate for more chaos in the plant department, even if the local Chamber of Commerce or Tourism Board frowns upon it. Remember, just because you’re an unkempt community doesn’t mean you have to change the name of your town.

Many thanks to Paul for letting us share his piece! For more information on protecting pollinators and enhancing their habitat, visit the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program’s pollinators webpage.

July 11, 2017
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on It’s Invasive Species Awareness Week all over the U.S.

It’s Invasive Species Awareness Week all over the U.S.

It’s Invasive Species Awareness Week — now. Pay it heed. Invasive species, it turns out, are a huge deal in the US, in New York. Everywhere, in fact.

Coping with invasive insects, pathogens and the like have cost, in the US as a whole, upward of … OK, I’m hedging already. Is it $40 billion a year? $120 billion, maybe? The estimates vary widely.

What about global losses?  Ahhhhh. Nailing those, especially vital ecosystem-regulating services, is where “difficult” morphs into “impossible,” for now and perhaps forever. It’s tricky, measuring something when it’s gone.

So what about the price here in New York? Unknown, though not for lack of trying.

Example: My admittedly quick-and-dirty search uncovered a 2005 report which  noted that costs for  eradicating Asian Long-horned beetle from New York City and Long Island had ranged between $13 and $40 million.

Killer beetle has distinctive markings. See something? Say something. Photo credit Kyle Ramirez.

Likewise in of 2005, New York spent about a half million dollars to control sea lampreys in lakes Ontario and Erie — with no end in sight.

More recently, in 2016, I learned that oak wilt — first discovered In New York in 2008 — has cost $500 grand to control. Some midwestern states spend over $1 million a year to control it. Pretty pricey if you ask me.

What helped here? Partly it’s the luck of the draw — oak wilt arrived decades ago, making inroads throughout the Midwest slowly but relentlessly. It can take time to recognize the true nature of  a pathogen — or most any invasive pest. Then it’s a catch-up game to stay on top of it. If you can.

On the loose all over the Midwest — and now here. Photo courtesy Iowa State Plant Disease Clinic.

New York saw what had happened elsewhere and has aggressively surveyed (good IPM!) and eradicated infestations quickly while still small. But that $500 grand price tag? Yow.

Still, the economic costs of losing every (yes, every) oak would far greater.

Yet to come — what to if you find Asian long-horned beetle, oak wilt, and the like.

July 6, 2017
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Biocontrols for Invasive Pest Help Save Mountain Forests

Biocontrols for Invasive Pest Help Save Mountain Forests

Biocontrols — organisms that help keep serious pests in check — are a key component of IPM. And sometimes they’re the only hope. Consider the lovely, lacy-needled hemlock tree, a member of the pine family.

“The hemlock is a foundation species in our forests,” says Mark Whitmore, a forest entomologist at Cornell University and a founder of the New York State Hemlock Initiative. “It occupies the base of the food web and is a critical species in the habitat it helps create.” But the hemlock is under threat by a killer pest so tiny it verges on microscopic.

“Take no prisoners” describes the woolly adelgid’s modus operandi.

Whitmore’s checklist? Hemlocks

  • moderate stream water temperatures for trout and many other animals
  • provide a buffer for nutrient inputs to maintain water quality
  • stabilize shallow soils, especially in steep gorges
  • shelter plants and animals — especially important in winter, when they help moderate temperature swings
  • offer critical habitat for migrating neo-tropical birds
  • provide large-scale watershed quality and biodiversity protection

Hemlocks also help ring the registers when fishing season opens. How can that be? Well, trout fishers’ contribution to New York’s economy is nothing to sneeze at. And research in the Delaware Water Gap showed that streams draining hemlock forests support an average of 37 percent more aquatic insect taxa — including many that provide food for trout — than do streams flowing through deciduous forests.

About that pest — it’s the hemlock woolly adelgid, native to Asia. This tiny pest has already done a staggering amount of damage to hemlock stands in the southern Appalachian Mountains, leaving scarred remnants of once-lovely ravines and mountainsides in its wake.

Now it has gained a foothold — in some cases, a stranglehold — in forests throughout the Northeast.

Losing those hemlocks? “Catastrophic” could be the right word to sum up the consequences. “The hemlock is the only tree in eastern North America that can do its job so well,” said Kathleen Shields, project leader for biological control with the U.S. Forest Service in a 2002 article in Forests Magazine. “If we lose the hemlocks, there’s no other tree to fully take its place.”

The waxy white balls that cover every twig mark this tree as a goner. (Photo Forestry Images)

But if you’ve even heard of the hemlock woolly adelgid you’re way ahead of the game, because the hemlock woolly adelgid isn’t much to look at. In fact, you’d have to scrape off the waxy white ball it hides in, then squint into a 10-power loupe — a special type of magnifier — just see it.

And because it rarely travels fast or far (for most of its life cycle, it doesn’t even move), the adelgid might not strike you as a particularly menacing pest. Until, that is, thousands of them suddenly set up shop on every hemlock tree in your neck of the woods.

How can this be? Well, there’s the adelgids’ prodigious reproductive capacity. In fact, a single adelgid’s offspring can, by the season’s end, potentially contribute upward of 5,000 adelgids — and every last one is female — to the hemlock’s pest burden.

Then there’s the adelgid’s life cycle: it breeds during the winter. Most insect predators don’t. And factor in that those predators aren’t looking for a bug that resembles little more than a ball of wax.

Sure, it took 50-plus years for the woolly adelgid to reach upstate New York — but it’s here now. Meanwhile, Whitmore has been working against this day for many years.

The only good thing you could say about the adelgids implacable pace is that it’s given Whitmore time to test and release predators which help provide the backbone of a suite of predators that could soon keep the adelgid at bay in New York.

The first predator out of the box was Laricobius nigrinus, a type of tooth-necked fungus beetle, released in 2009. In 2015, Whitmore released two species of silver fly, both from the genus Leucopis. Altogether, these predators should flank the adelgids for a more complete biocontrol.

This larval silver fly slides into that waxy ball, where it feeds on adelgids — and nothing else.

Of course, work like this has to be a team effort, and Whitmore has worked in concert with colleagues at the U.S. Forest Service and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst on one project; the U.S. Forest Service, University of Vermont, and Oregon State University on a second.

And of course — each new biocontrol must feed on its host prey and nothing else. It takes long, patient vetting over many years to be sure a biocontrol won’t itself become a pest.

Whitmore’s work is built around classic IPM techniques, especially monitoring (are they in your neck of the woods yet?) and biological controls. The countless hours Whitmore has put into this earned Whitmore an “Excellence in IPM” award in 2015.

“Mark’s meticulous research brings together all the strengths of IPM; of truly integrated pest management,” says Jennifer Grant, director of NYS IPM “But it’s his passion for his work that really makes the difference. Whether it’s volunteer citizen-science groups or the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, people look to Mark for the information and expertise they need.”

“He speaks for the trees.”

June 7, 2017
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Invasives are pests! Learn more at our July IPM conference.

Invasives are pests! Learn more at our July IPM conference.

We tend to default to bugs — to insects — when we think about pests. But plant diseases and weeds are pests too. And all threaten our fields and farms, our forests and streams, our homes and workplaces.

Pests provide no end of challenges — especially pests that come from afar. Among IPM’s strengths? Researching and crafting powerful ways to cope with them.

Coming up soon, our “Invasive Species in New York: Where We Are and What We Can Do” conference, held just north of Albany at Siena College. The date? July 13, 2017. Join us!

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