New York State IPM Program

June 9, 2016
by Joellen Lampman
Comments Off on For Wasps, Prevention Is Key — and the Time Is Now

For Wasps, Prevention Is Key — and the Time Is Now

Most of the wasps we’re too familiar with (and afraid of) are sociable with their own kind, building large nests in trees or underground. The problem is when they build nests under your eaves, picnic tables, or even (if you’re a farmer) under the seat of that baler  you’re about to rev up as part of your pre-harvest maintenance check.

At a distance these wasps make great neighbors. As predators of flies, caterpillars and other soft-bodied insects, they help keep their numbers in balance. And that balance, that ounce of prevention, is a core tenet of IPM. But wasps are trigger-happy, so to speak — grab that picnic table to move it out of the sun and you’ll wish you looked underneath it first.

We could talk about any wasp you want, but today we’re focusing on bald-faced hornets. Just know that you can also apply IPM’s preventive tactics — we’ll get to that later — to your standard-issue yellow jackets, paper wasps, mud daubers and honey bees.

Big nests for big bruisers: this carton nest is too close to home.

Big nests for big bruisers: this carton nest is too close to home.

Bald-faced hornets house their colonies in large, enclosed carton nests. Like most wasps (and bees) these mostly mild-mannered critters turn nasty when their nest is threatened. They don’t know you had no intention of harm. But when  bald-faced hornets live too close, yes, they represent a public health concern.

Bald-faced hornet, up close and personal. Courtesy Gary Alpert, Harvard U.

Bald-faced hornet, up close and personal. Courtesy Gary Alpert, Harvard U.

Did You Know…?

  • What’s in a name?: White-faced hornets can be easily identified by the large patch of white on their faces.
  • Family relations: This hornet is the largest yellow jacket species in North America.
  • By the numbers: A nest can contain hundreds of hornets, and most will attack to protect their queen.
  • Danger! White-faced hornets have unbarbed stingers, so they sting repeatedly. (Author’s note: Take it from me — disturb a nest and yes, you might get stung way more than you’d like.)
  • Beneficial insect: White-faced hornets are important predators of flies, caterpillars and other soft-bodied insects.
Only one way out of a carton home, but space enough for a battalion of angry moths to exit. courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Only one way out of a carton home, but space enough for a battalion of angry moths to exit. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Since technically it’s still spring and a chilly May slowed them down, you still have time. Inspect (in IPM lingo, “scout”) the aforementioned eaves, picnic tables, and outdoor equipment as well as the undersides of the railing on your porch or deck; that sort of thing. You’re looking for small carton nests that look like these, only way smaller. For other stinging wasps, keep and eye out for what looks like clots of mud (nifty inside, should you get a chance to dissect one) and the clusters of open cells, rather like honeycombs, that comprise a paper-wasp nest. Basically, you want to find a nest under construction, as it were — one with just a few workers ferrying back and forth to care for their queen.

Did You Know…?

  • Last year’s empties: See a scary-big nest? Most likely it’s from last year — and wasps don’t reuse them. On the other hand, a subtle scent left behind tells other wasps that this could be a good place to build a nest of their own. So get rid of empties.

Moving quietly on a warm-enough day, stake out a claim nearby and watch the nest for 15 minutes or so. See any wasps? You’ve got an active one. No wasps? Best to scrape the old nest off so they won’t worry you later.

How to get rid of them? At dusk or dawn (dawn is better — it’s usually cooler) get out there with a tall pole, a SuperSoaker, or a hose with a good nozzle on it (you want a focused, powerful stream of water) and knock them down one at a time. Then stomp on them. Need a light? Don’t shine it right on the nest; better yet, cover your light with red cellophane. (Wasps don’t register red.)

Looking ahead — for larger nests later in summer, ask yourself if the nest is close enough to where you live, work or play to pose a significant threat. If it’s at a distance, best to leave it be.

More prevention (core IPM!): cover outdoor garbage receptacles and pick up dropped fruit under fruit-bearing trees. Integrated pest management can help to determine if a bald-face hornet nest is a danger and what to do if it should be removed.

For more information visit:

For more information from the New York State IPM Program on other stinging insects, click here.

April 26, 2016
by Joellen Lampman
Comments Off on It’s tick season. Put away the matches.

It’s tick season. Put away the matches.

It’s tick season and social media is blowing up with recommendations for removing ticks. Petroleum jelly, a hot match, twisting tools, and swirling with a cotton swab are a few on the list. They all promise to cause the tick to release with the head intact. People are very concerned about leaving the head behind.

Deer tick embedded in leg.

Deer tick embedded in leg. Photo: Wellcome Images flickr

But when it comes to ticks, the head and mouth parts are the least of your worries. Hot matches, petroleum jelly, etc. — just know that if the tick freaks out (and it will), more saliva or even what’s in its stomach — and both carry pathogens — will get into you. May the thought of a tick throwing up into your blood stream give you pause.

Though a literature review on tick removal techniques put out by the London based Health Protection Agency Centre for Infections shows the lack of research in this area, it concludes that grasping the head as close to the skin as possible using forceps or pointy tweezers and pulling straight up is the best method. This mirrors the current CDC recommendation and is what the NYS IPM Program advises.

Grasp the head as close to the skin as possible using pointy tweezers and pull straight up.

Grasp the head as close to the skin as possible using pointy tweezers and pull straight up. Photo: Fairfax County

And if you accidentally break off the head? Don’t sweat it. Just treat it like you would a splinter.

Want to see a video of the tweezer technique? Here’s a good one from the TickEncounter Resource Center.

After removing the tick, place it in a plastic bag, put the date on it, and stick it in the freezer. If you start to feel poorly in the next few weeks, take the tick with you to the doctor. Different ticks carry different diseases and knowing what species bit you can help the doctor decide on the best course of treatment.

Of course, avoiding being bitten is the best strategy of all. For more information on ticks, visit www.nysipm.cornell.edu/whats_bugging_you/ticks.

July 8, 2015
by Joellen Lampman
Comments Off on Get Rid of Carpenter Bees? Yes, Please!

Get Rid of Carpenter Bees? Yes, Please!

Carpenter bees are common spring and summer insects in the eastern United States. They first come to attention when males “buzz” or “dive bomb” people passing by and females are seen excavating holes in wooden structures. Like carpenter ants, carpenter bees do not eat wood, but rather use the substrate for nesting. They are important pollinators, but can become a nuisance pest of structures.

Carpenter bee females create galleries or tunnels in dry wood during the spring. Bees bore into the wood, then turn 90 degrees to tunnel along the grain.
Carpenter bee females create galleries or tunnels in dry wood during the spring. Bees bore into the wood, then turn 90 degrees to tunnel along the grain.

Did You Know…?

  • By the numbers: Carpenter bees are solitary insects that do not form colonies, but many females may nest in the same area.
  • Mock attack: If males feel their nests are threatened, they will aggressively pursue and harass, but they have no stinger.
  • Look-alikes: Both carpenter and bumble bees are black and yellow, but bumble bees have fuzzy abdomens while carpenter bees are smooth.
  • Galleries: On average, galleries are 4 – 6”, but tunnels can extend up to 10 feet long.
  • Collateral Damage: In addition to the structural damage caused by carpenter bee tunneling, empty galleries can invite secondary pests such as beetles, moths and scavengers, and even fungal rot when moisture enters openings.

Integrated pest management can help to prevent carpenter bees from redecorating your home. See Get Rid of Carpenter Bees? Yes, Please! fact sheet for more information on carpenter bees and how to manage them.

February 17, 2015
by Joellen Lampman
Comments Off on Snow, Frost a Big Help for Head Start on Quality Turf — or Crops

Snow, Frost a Big Help for Head Start on Quality Turf — or Crops

Are you in charge of maintaining athletic fields? If you’re looking for a two or three week head start on getting your fields ready for spring — consider a proven IPM practice: dormant overseeding. (Farmers, this can work for cool-season grains and forage crops. And homeowners — here’s a trick from the pros that you just might be able to use.)

Yes, right now those artic blasts might still be leaving us chilled. But winter weather has its advantages: snowmelt and freeze-thaw cycles help both push and pull seeds into the ground, maximizing seed-to-soil contact.

Photo of frost heaving on the spot of brown earth without cover of plants. Note that the effect of frost heaving is reduced on the area covered by grass.
Frost heaving is more extreme on bare soil. Note that the effect of frost heaving is reduced on the area covered by grass. Photo Credit: Michal Maňas

Meanwhile, spring is just around the corner — meaning it’s time to be on the lookout for weather conditions that allow you to apply grass seed.  So secure your seed and calibrate your spreaders.

What conditions are you looking for? Choose a time when:

  • there’s no snow cover
  • nighttime temperatures are predicted to dip below freezing and …
  • days begin to warm.

Ideally the forecast will also call for snow — snow that will push the seed into the ground while also protecting the seed from marauding birds. When that snow melts and is absorbed into the soil, it also helps pull your seed down through the crowns of existing plants, further increasing seed-to-soil contact.

Freeze-thaw cycles can affect soil dramatically, opening crevices and ridges that seed can slip into and will later collapse, maximizing seed-to-soil contact.
Freeze-thaw cycles can affect soil dramatically, opening crevices and ridges that seed can slip into and will later collapse, maximizing seed-to-soil contact. Photo Credit: Joellen Lampman

Choose which seed to apply by your expectations for each field. Will your athletes be on the field in early spring? Then apply the quickly germinating perennial rye at a rate of 6 lbs./1000 ft2. If you have fields that won’t be used until June or July, apply Kentucky bluegrass at a rate of 3 to 4 lbs./1000 ft2. There will be some loss due to seed mortality, so these rates are 50% above conventional rates.

Your IPM benefits? Dormant seeding allows you to avoid cultivating the turf when the soil is too soft and wet to work. It saves fuel and equipment costs, too. And getting this turf management practice out of the way early means you’re better set up for the busy field season. Best of all, the seeds you apply in winter can germinate two to three week earlier than those applied during a conventional spring seeding — and your grass will be better able to face the onslaught of spring weeds and athletic cleats.

Want more info on maintaining athletic fields? Seek no further: Sports Field Management.

December 17, 2014
by Joellen Lampman
Comments Off on Child Safe Playing Fields Act – Frequently Asked Questions

Child Safe Playing Fields Act – Frequently Asked Questions

A New York law essentially banning pesticide use on the grounds of schools and day care centers has been full effect since 2011. The letter of the law states:

No school or day care shall apply pesticide to any playgrounds, turf, athletic or playing fields, except that an emergency application of a pesticide may be made as determined by the county health department or for a county not having a health department such authority as the county legislature shall designate, the commissioner of health or his or her designee, the commissioner of environmental conservation or his or her designee, or, in the case of a public school, the school board.

Questions about the law still abound. Here are the most common questions we receive:

What areas are affected?

The inside of this fenceline falls under the Child Safe Playing Fields Act.

The inside of this child care center’s fenceline falls under the Child Safe Playing Fields Act.

Besides the playgrounds, turf, athletic or playing fields clearly stated in the law, playground equipment and fence lines around athletic fields and tennis courts are included.

The following areas are left to local discretion, but with the understanding that the intent of the law is to reduce children’s exposure to pesticides:

  • Areas around buildings
  • Ornamental plants such as trees, shrubs, and flowers

Pesticides used inside of schools or day care centers, or to protect a structure, are not banned.

Family day care centers are exempted.

What if a fence line is managed by the surrounding landowner (such as childcare center on a college campus)?

The law applies to the interior fence line that encloses the play area (the side that children may contact).  The law would not apply to the exterior fence line.

If a park hosts school athletic events, such as games and practices, must it be managed under the law?

No.

What pesticides are banned and are there any exceptions?

Pesticides are substances intended to prevent, destroy, repel, or mitigate pests. They include insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, rodenticides, and plant growth regulators. All EPA registered pesticides are banned by this law for use on grounds at schools and day care centers, with the following exceptions:

  1. Antimicrobials such as bleach
  2. Aerosol sprays (18 ounce or less) to protect from imminent danger from stinging or biting insects
  3. Insect and rodent baits in non-volatile containers
  4. Products containing boric acid or disodium octaborate tetrahydrate
  5. Horticultural oils and soaps
  6. EPA exempt pesticides, known as minimum risk pesticides and 25(b) products, are not registered by EPA because they find them to pose little or no risk. Cornell has a list of allowable herbicides for schools and day care centers available for your reference.

Note that all of the above exceptions (except bleach) must be applied by a NYS licensed pesticide applicator. Any off label use of a product – such as the use of bleach, road salt, or home remedies to control a pest – is illegal under state law.

Is there a provision within the law to add additional materials to the exempt list?

No. A change would require either the EPA to add to its 25B list or the NYS legislature to pass new legislation.

clover_field

While clover does not provide the traction and stability of turfgrass, it is considered a repetitive pest problem and not an emergency under the law.

Can you tell me more about these emergency exemptions?

Under the law, a public school can seek permission for an emergency application from their school board. Non-public schools and day care centers ask the Department of Health in the case of emergencies that threaten public health, such as ticks, or the DEC for those significantly affecting the environment, such as an invasive species.

While the law does not indicate what might be construed as an “emergency”, the Guidance document states pest issues are NOT emergencies if they are:

  • manageable with allowed products and practices
  • a routine or repetitive pest problem
  • purely an aesthetic issue

We are used to dealing with the DEC on pesticide issues. Besides deciding on emergency exemptions for environmental issues on private school and day care grounds, what is their role in the law?

The Department of Environmental Conservation, in consultation with the State Department of Education, State Department of Health, and the Office of Children and Family Services has written guidance for alternative management of turf, but has no role in enforcement.

Where can I find help in managing my grounds without the use of pesticides?

Cornell University is committed to helping you provide safe, functional school and childcare landscapes. The Cornell Turfgrass Program connects you to numerous resources, most notably the Safe Sports Fields Management website and the Lawn Care: The Easiest Steps to an Attractive Environmental Asset ibook. The NYS IPM Program has a dedicated page for schools and childcare centers, including a new blog, The ABCs of School and Childcare Pest Management. We also encourage you to take advantage of educational opportunities throughout the year.

April 15, 2014
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Athletic-Field Disaster — It’s All About Prevention

Athletic-Field Disaster — It’s All About Prevention

We’ve all heard it: “Lack of planning on your part doesn’t constitute an emergency on my part.” But — but — sometimes it creates an incredible mess.

Two basic steps in Integrated Pest Management — planning and communication —avoid a number of problems. Recently an upstate NY school rented its space to an outside agency — a practice that’s becoming more common in these tough economic times. And what could be more important than preventing the mistakes that cause really expensive problems from happening?

This damage wasn’t caused by insects, diseases, or weeds. But it’s still relevant to a thorough IPM Plan. Any turfgrass manager will confirm — often the most damaging pests are people.

This damage wasn’t caused by insects, diseases, or weeds. But it’s still relevant to a thorough IPM Plan. Any turfgrass manager will confirm — often the most damaging pests are people.

Prevention — it’s core to good IPM. Because clear communication and good planning could have prevented this athletic-field disaster.

In a nutshell, the school was told 1,000 people would be coming to the school for exams. They assumed this meant that 500 would arrive in the morning and 500 in the afternoon — and knew the parking lot could accommodate that number of cars. When 1,000 people showed up for the morning exam someone started directing cars onto athletic fields just thawing from the frozen winter. The result?

“Four acres of mud and ruts,” the local paper said.

Author: Joellen Lampman, NYS IPM

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