While visiting our blog, you have also been checking out older posts. Our second most popular post viewed in 2018 was a 2014 post, Identifying Your Pest – with Poop?. There are a lot of budding scatologists out there.
Other IPM Blogs – Besides ThinkIPM, we have more dedicated blogs, and you don’t need to be a specialist to subscribe to them. Here are some of the more popular posts:
Our new Spotted Lanternfly video, Have YOU Spotted Lanternfly Egg Masses was just posted, but it has already reached the number two spot. This invasive insect is getting a lot of attention and we need your help to keep track of it in New York.
December’s wintery breath is already clouding the pond, frosting the pane, obscuring summer’s memory… ― John Geddes
Winter had an early showing in New York this year. So when the temperature hit 50oF yesterday, I took the opportunity to spend some time outside. And, as I had warned people that follow me and NYS IPM on social media with this great graphic by Matt Frye earlier today, the ticks were out and about. (Side note: follow us at www.facebook.com/NYSIPM and twitter.com/NYSIPM for up-to-date information you can use.)
Now, the ticks weren’t as active as the 70 oF day last February. I had to put in a little more effort to find them. But while tick dragging, I noticed where others regularly go off the beaten track (or, rather, create their own beaten track). We’re going to call this The Dog Zone.
There’s a perfectly good paved path, but the dog print laden path is inches from the woodline.
Let’s face it. Dogs want to stick their noses into interesting places, and there just aren’t that many interesting places on the pavement. So they will take advantage of the length of the leash to get off the pavement and follow the scent trails. And the smells of mice, chipmunks, squirrels, raccoons, deer, rabbits (you get the idea), are more likely to be wafting at the edge of the woods than in the short grass. I watched dog walkers leave the pavement themselves to indulge their furry friends. Unfortunately, ticks are more likely to be in those areas.
Talk to your vet about options to protect your pets from ticks and tick-borne diseases.
But the really important message here is that ticks are active during the winter. And even if the air temperature is less than 37oF, a protected, sun-exposed area next to a woodline can be significantly warmer. Last week a site we were monitoring had an air temperature of 40oF, but the ground temperature was 50.6oF. So I will end by emphasizing the need to protect yourself from ticks year-round and conduct a tick check EVERY DAY.
Many of us have snow or slush on the ground. While this changes tick activity, it doesn’t mean tick and tick-borne disease risk is over. We’re pleased to provide our newest Tick infographic posters for Farmers, Hunters and Children. Members of the community IPM team continue to gather all the latest information on tick activity and tick-borne diseases regardless of the season. All thirteen posters are listed below, with direct links to printable PDFs.
Today, we’ll highlight our recommendations for HUNTERS!
This poster, featuring a hunter, shows how to check yourself for ticks, and safely remove a tick.
Part of that effort involves creating resources to help educate New Yorkers, as well as giving talks around the state and taking part in online webinars.
Don’t Get Ticked New York offers thirteen infographic posters. Along the right side of our webpage https://nysipm.cornell.edu/whats-bugging-you/ticks/, look for TICK INFOGRAPHIC POSTERS which will link you to ECommons and the pdfs for all of our posters. Where? See below!
Here’s the full list as of November 2018, with direct links to the pdfs.
Recently members of the NYS IPM Program met in Albany as part of a joint meeting of the Clean, Green, and Healthy Schools Steering Committee and the Statewide School IPM Committee.
NYS IPM Educator Joellen Lampman demonstrates ‘dragging for ticks’ as a method to determine tick presence on school grounds.
Clean, Green, and Health Schools is coordinated by the NYS Department of Health and helmed by Dr. Michele Herdt. Their purpose is to promote a healthy learning and working environment in our state’s schools, both public and private.
School environmental health is the way the physical environment of school buildings and school grounds influence the overall health and safety of occupants. School environments can impact occupant health, absenteeism, employee/student retention and satisfaction, academic performance, and operation costs for the school. Children are more vulnerable to environmental exposures because they eat and drink more, relative to their body weight, than adults, their body systems are still developing, and their behaviors put them at greater risk, such as hand-to-mouth action and playing on the ground.
Unfortunately, gaps in outside doors are a common problem in public buildings and offers easy access to rodents.
The New York State Clean, Green, and Healthy Schools Program is designed to help all school employees, volunteers, students, parents, and guardians contribute to improving their school’s environmental health. The program has been developed by a multi-disciplinary Steering Committee to help schools improve their environmental health through voluntary guidelines. Schools that participate in this program gain the opportunity and knowledge to create schools with better environmental health. The program provides information for all school occupants on policies, best practices, tools, knowledge, and resources in nine main areas:
Indoor Air Quality;
Energy and Resource Conservation;
Integrated Pest Management;
Mold and Moisture;
Chemical and Environmental Hazards;
Cleaning and Maintenance;
Last year, they began a free pilot program to create safer and healthier learning and working environments for all students and staff across New York State. We are looking for schools that would like to be a part of this pilot program and improve the environmental health of their school through low or no cost actions.
As of October, 2018 they have ten school buildings involved, and hope to have at least 10% of NY schools enrolled in the program by 2024.
The NYS IPM Program is glad to be part of the efforts.
Later in the morning Vickie A. Smith and David Frank from the NYS Dept. Of Education shared their work with charter schools, engaging the participants in the joint meeting with ideas on how to better reach this growing segment of education in NYS.
While we have sought to find a way to work with non-public schools in NY, charter schools are also another subset with their own particular concerns. Like many non-publics, some charter schools operate in rented buildings (some are indeed buildings owned by a public school), and therefore it is not always clear who is responsible for environmental issues school staff face. Charter schools have multiple authorities to report to depending on their location: The NYS Board of Regents, SUNY trustees, NY City Department of Education and the Buffalo City School District. Many students in charter schools are ‘at-risk’. 80% are considered economically challenged, or have disabilities or language barriers.
Charter schools are considered public schools and must comply with many of the same rules. Our day of discussion proved there are plenty of opportunities to increase the use of IPM in all schools in NY State.
Ticked off about ticks? You are not alone. And knowing the what, where, why, etc. is critical to knowing how to deal with them. So here it is, the first in a series: the low-down on that pest we love to hate.
May you, dear reader, stay tick-free and healthy.
1. What, exactly, is a tick?
Ticks are related to mites and spiders—but not to insects. (Now don’t go worrying about spiders—in the Northeast, virtually all are common victims of common misunderstandings.) Ticks have four life stages: egg, larvae, nymph and adult. All stages (well, not the eggs) feed on blood for energy to grow and later to reproduce. Larval ticks have six legs; nymphs and adults have eight.
Those things that look like antenna? Not—they’re highly adapted legs that process vital information. And that snout in the middle? Blood-sucking mouthparts. (Photo CDC)
Right now, three species are a health concern here in New York: the blacklegged tick, the lone star tick, and the American dog tick.
2. What do ticks look like?
Regardless the species, unfed ticks look like flattened teardrops with eight legs. And depending on their species, life stage and sex (male versus female), they have different color patterns on their bodies. But after they’ve eaten, their abdomens (the females’ especially) can expand so much that it’s really hard to know which is which. You can get positive IDs here.
Just keep in mind that learning a tick’s identity doesn’t mean you know if it’s carrying a disease.
I wrote a sentence on my finger, period and all. And yep, the larvae are that small. (Courtesy Cal Dept Public Health)
As for size? Again, that depends on the species, its life stage, and whether it has fed (and for how long). For blacklegged and lone star ticks, larvae are the size of the period at the end of this sentence. Nymphs? Think poppy seeds. Adults? Sesame seeds. When fully fed, adult females can be as large as a raisin.
American dog ticks, though, are a tad larger than the other two.
3. Are ticks a new problem? Why have we been hearing so much more about them lately?
Turns out ticks are nothing new. In fact, evidence suggests that ticks were carrying Lyme disease pathogens 15 to 20 million years ago (Lyme Disease’s Possible Bacterial Predecessor Found in Ancient Tick). What is new? We’re seeing far more ticks throughout the Northeast and much of North America than during any time in recorded history. And of course the more ticks in the neighborhood, the greater our risk of disease.
Why are ticks on the move? For one, (sub)urban sprawl leaves small patches of wooded areas—great habitat for mice and deer but far less welcoming to their traditional enemies—hawks or foxes, cougars or wolves. (More later on the role of mice and deer in tick-borne diseases.) In addition, a warming climate makes northern areas more hospitable for ticks.
Ah, yes. A place to call home—and nary a wolf in sight. (Photo provided.)
4. Where do ticks live? How do they find me? And where did the deer ticks go?
Blacklegged ticks are usually found in woodlots, forest edges, and groundcovers such as pachysandra or periwinkle—places where leaf litter, shrubs, and tree cover provide the moist environment they need. And how do they find us? Just as we sometimes go on quests, so too do they. Only they’re not seeking adventure or the Holy Grail, but simply a host. A host that provides the food (think blood) they need to thrive, or at least survive.
About deer ticks? Years ago, researchers thought they’d found a new species and gave it the common name “deer tick.” Turned out it was the same old blacklegged tick that’s been here since time immemorial.
No matter that these ticks lack eyes—questing ticks stand on the edge of a twig or leaf, their first pair of legs extended. Evolution endowed them with cleverly designed legs: they’ve got sensors to detect temperature, the carbon dioxide those hosts exhale, and odors or sounds specific to those hosts. When a host brushes past, they grab on tight.
The nymphs typically quest below a person’s knee-height. Because adult ticks feed on larger animals, they might quest higher up to find a host—as high as your waist-height or mine.
The lone star tick is on a roll, with its own suite of diseases and syndromes — some still mysterious. (Photo CDC)
The lone star tick thrives in a wide range of habitats, from shady forests to sunny lawns or roadsides. Unlike the blacklegged tick, the lone star tick hustles toward its prey, even across pavement or dry sand. Other distinguishing features? Well … it’s lots more aggressive. Imagine a tick that travels three times as fast as the blacklegged tick, has excellent vision, and hatches in stinging swarms that can put fire ants to shame.
Last but not least—the American dog tick. Forget the woods: this tick thrives in warm, dry places—roadsides, grassy fields, scrubland and lawns. Larvae and nymphs mostly feed on small mammals, while adults climb grass, brush, or twigs to find medium-sized animals—people included. And sometimes American dog ticks could be even more aggressive. TickEncounter has reported seeing American dog ticks follow a regular source of carbon dioxide that attracted them for upward a few hundred yards to the house. And in one memorable case ticks were crawling up the outside walls toward window screens and doors. Now if that doesn’t give you the willies….
No matter which tick you might collide with—this is one party you don’t want to host.
Stay tuned for another informative post on the biology behind that pest we love to hate.
(Adapted from nysipm.cornell.edu/whats-bugging-you/ticks/tick-faqs#answers)
May 15, 2018
by Mary M. Woodsen Comments Off on Poison ivy (like the Rolling Stones said …)
… and now, more than ever, poison ivy’s gonna make you itch. (The Rolling Stones)
I remember the first time I had poison ivy. The particulars are long lost along memory lane. Even so, it was unforgettable. Most likely I was about five years old and, as a born and bred tomboy, I’d been scrambling around in the woods. From that point forward I knew exactly what poison ivy looked like. Sometimes it’s shrubby or low to the ground. Other times its hairy, ropelike vines, thicker than my wrists, twine their way up trees like ropes on the masts of tall sailing ships of yore—or so I imagine them. And yes, the vines are poisonous too.
“Leaves of three, let it be.” Of course there’s more to ID’ing poison ivy. Read on. (Photo Massachusetts Audubon)
Only once since have I gotten poison ivy—not a bad case, either. I was, after all, dressed for the occasion. I was hunting it down, one tangled root after the next, from the woods behind a friend’s daycare home. Toddlers, as we all can appreciate, are simply too young to learn the perils of poison ivy. I hauled it out of there by the bushelful. Funny that after all these years I’ve no clue what I did with it.
Burn it I did not, that’s for sure. I have the merest sketch of a memory—my mom telling me how she’d breathed the smoke from a burning heap of the stuff. Nasty. Can make you really (really) sick—a serious occupational hazard of forest-firefighters.
But these days poison ivy isn’t just a hassle for woodsy sorts who live well past the edges of nearby villages and towns. It’s getting worse for everyone, though some more than others. Why? Let’s fast-forward to the here and now. To a relative here-and-now; the research I’m citing was published in 2006 in PNAS (the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences). Research that, btw, has yet to lose its gloss. News stories as recent as 2015(The New York Times) cite that study in noting the likely consequences of an inadvertent brush with the stuff—especially if you live in a big city. Sure, urban dwellers always had to cope with this wicked vine too. But now they have lots more to worry about than country folk do.
More CO2 in the air is like putting poison ivy on steroids. (Image Climate Central)
Why? Lewis Ziska, one of the lead scientists on the six-year study in a forest at Duke University, found that with increased atmospheric CO2 we get bigger, stronger, leafier poison ivy. Poison ivy that can be way more potent in large cities. Here’s how it works:
Mega-cities are proxies for the planet. They have as much carbon dioxide in their air as the rest of the planet will have in 50 years or so. And CO2 is plant food. Like so many other plants, especially weeds (more on that some other day), poison ivy responds by piling on the pounds, as it were—and producing more urushiol.
If it’s climbing up your apartment building, what better reason could you have than learning to ID poison ivy? (Photo poison-ivy.org)
Haven’t heard of urushiol? It’s the toxic oil that causes that nasty rash. Ziska confirmed those findings in a follow-up study in growth chambers. His calculations, he told Climate Central, are based on the CO2 levels at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Research Administration (aka NOAA) Mauna Loa research station in Hawaii. What did the research tell him? CO2 concentrations on the ground, where poison ivy actually grows, are usually about 10 percent higher than they were in 1950—not long before my first encounter with poison ivy. And in urban areas they can be up to 30 percent higher.
Thirty percent. Take a moment to absorb that.
Not only that, but from parks to vacant lots, cities mimic the fragmented forests you see wherever a suburb has muscled its way into the landscape. And poison ivy likes fragmented landscapes. It also likes—well, what doesn’t it like? Poison ivy can grow in swampy forest edges and concrete rubble; along fences; in parks or on school grounds; or up and around homes and apartment buildings. So wherever you are, learn to ID poison ivy. “Leaves of three, let it be” is where you start. But some harmless plants also have clusters of three leaves. After all, the numero-uno IPM mantra for any environmental issue is prevention. And prevention is based on having a solid ID.
Curious? Want to check it out? Not! Just walk on by. (Photo TownVibe Wilton)
But surely you’re safe during winter? If only. Unlike many other weeds, which die back when the weather turns cold, the urushiol in poison ivy will get you regardless of the weather. Beware of leafless vines. This is not the time to try and yank them off your trees. If the toxin gets on your gloves or coveralls, it can get on you.
I could say so much more about no end of things related to poison ivy or rising CO2 (or both) … including (for instance) sleek vs. long-haired dogs and cats or the food choices of goats, muskrats and deer. But I have to stop somewhere. And that somewhere? It’s here.
February 7, 2018
by Mary M. Woodsen Comments Off on Pests and pupils don’t mix
Year in and out, outreach to schools has our community IPM staff going back to school. Literally. We work with maintenance staff, nurses, groundskeepers, teachers, and parents. We provide the insight and know-how it takes to keep kids safe from pests and pesticides both. But schools are tricky to manage because—well, think of them as a village. You’ve got your cafeterias, laboratories, auditoriums, theaters, classrooms, athletic fields, playgrounds. Add in vacation and after-hours use for public meetings, community sports teams, summer schools and camps. Plus, New York’s laws restrict when, where and how pesticides can be used at school.
Which means you’ve got work. Because chances are, you’ve got pests.
Worried about ticks? By rights you should be. The hazards can hardly be overstated. We help teachers, school nurses, and entire communities learn how to stay tick-free regardless the season—and warn them that old-time remedies could increase the likelihood of disease.
Two years. Yup. Ticks know how to make good use of their time.
Get yourself some super-pointy tweezers, the type that airport security would probably confiscate. Be firm: steady and straight up until that sucker lets go.
Named for the white dot on the female’s back, this tick has a few tricks up its sleeve. More to come in another post.
Next up—unsafe playing fields. Is there goose poo on athletic fields and playgrounds? It’s not just unsanitary—it makes for slick footing and falls. And take it from us: weedy, compacted soil is a “slick footing and falls” risk too. How to manage turf, pesticide-free? We teach repetitive overseeding as a thoughtful alternative to repetitive herbicides. We’ll get to that in another post.
A tentatively scheduled FREE conference for School Professionals, including teachers, facilities managers, nurses, administrators and others. Learn more about indoor air quality, asthma management, integrated pest management, and national programs to promote environmental health in schools. Breakfast and lunch will be provided.
Location: Saratoga Springs City Center
522 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
Date: October 13, 2015
Time: 8:30-5:00 PM
Speakers from the United States Environmental Protection Agency, New York State Department of Health, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, New York State Education Department, New York State Department of Transportation, Healthy Schools Network, and more.
Registration will open soon. For more information, please see the event website.
June 26, 2015
by Lynn A. Braband Comments Off on NYS IPM Program Participates in Forthcoming Launch of a Statewide School Environmental Health Program
On June 18, NYS IPM Program staff met with a diverse group of people and organizations to develop a comprehensive effort to ensure that every child and school employee in the state have safe and healthy learning and working environments. The last of four meetings over a two-year period, the interaction was organized by the NYS Department of Health under an EPA grant. Partners came from several state agencies, the US EPA, schools, BOCES districts, and school stakeholder NGO’s.
Photo: NYS DOH
Photo: NYS DOH
According to the draft New York State Clean, Green, and Healthy Schools program plan, the goals will include:
Eliminate or reduce health risks from environmental hazards to occupants of all school environments;
Eliminate school environmental health and safety disparities;
Improve attendance among students and staff; and
Improve academic achievement and other educational outcomes for all students.
These goals will be addressed by four action priorities.
Priority Area A: Promote policies and best practices to manage environmental issues in all school environments. Included in this priority is the prevention of pests and reduction of pesticide use and exposure through Integrated Pest Management.
Priority Area B: Create, maintain and disseminate educational materials appropriate for the school community.
Priority Area C: Develop and sustain partnerships among all stakeholders.
Priority Area D: Strengthen organizational infrastructure and resources to promote and support environmental health.
This program will be a collaborative effort among all the partners involved. The kick-off event for the program will be a statewide school environmental health meeting to be held in the Albany area in October, which is Children’s Health Month.
May 8, 2015
by Lynn A. Braband Comments Off on Survey Provides Insights into IPM within NYS Schools
A 2013 survey of the pest management policies and practices of New York State public schools was recently published on-line: Pest Management Practices: A Survey of Public School Districts in New York State. A partnership of the NYS IPM Program, the NYS Department of Health, the NYS Education Department, and the NYS School Facilities Association, the goals of the survey were to evaluate the status of IPM in public elementary and secondary schools, provide guidance on assisting schools in improving pest management, gauge changes since a 2001 survey, and ascertain the impacts of the state’s Neighbor Notification Law and the Child Safe Playing Field Act.
Highlights include a large increase in the number of school districts with written pest management policies, a low rate of issues associated with pesticide applications, and reductions in pesticide use. Prominent needs that exist concerning pest management in schools include the pervasive issue of food in classrooms and other non-cafeteria locations and the challenges associated with maintaining quality athletic fields in light of the Child Safe Playing Fields Act. The implications of the drop in certified pesticide applicators employed by schools needs to be assessed. Also, geese are increasing as a troublesome pest on school grounds.
Approximately 73% of the districts responding to the 2013 survey indicated that they had a written pest management policy, up from 45% in 2001. Official written policies provide a consistent framework for implementing safe and effective pest management. However, most school districts did not have a policy concerning food outside of cafeterias. This is a frequent attractant for pests such as ants and mice.
The percentage of school districts that employed staff certified as pesticide applicators dropped from 50% in 2001 to 34% in 2013. Most districts did not have regularly scheduled pesticide applications. However, the rate of those that did, around 23%, changed little from 2001 to 2013.
The most frequent and troublesome pests in NYS schools in both surveys were ants, stinging insects, mice, and weeds. The only pest situation that significantly increased was geese, from 14% of the districts in 2001 to 25% in 2013.
In 2013, we asked schools about their use of minimum risk pesticides, as products with boric acid or plant essential oils. Fourteen percent of the districts indicated that they used these products routinely, while 62% stated that minimum risk pesticides are used infrequently. Future trends in the use of such products by schools would be informative.
Most NYS school districts received complaints about pests within three years prior to 2013. Not over two per cent had received complaints about pesticide applications during the same period.
Almost 90% of the survey respondents indicated that they had not experienced any problems implementing the Neighbor Notification Law, and almost 50% stated that the law resulted in a significant reduction in pesticide use by their school districts. Almost 60% indicated little impact of the Child Safe Playing Field Act since they had already implemented pesticide alternatives. About 22% stated a major impact and anticipated difficulty in maintaining quality of the grounds. Another 20% indicated moderate changes to their practices and that they were looking into pesticide alternatives. Over 60% of the survey respondents indicated that the Child Safe Playing Field Act had caused a reduction in pesticide use by their school districts.