New York State IPM Program

July 3, 2018
by Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann
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The Jumping Spider at Your Service

It’s rare that a creature as small as a spider could be aware of a human in such a charismatic way, but that’s the nature of the jumping spider. With two pairs of forward-facing eyes set on a flat face (along with two other pairs pointing outward) the jumping spider is a predator that relies on its keen vision to find prey—even as it evades predators and keeps an eye on you. No larger than an inch (and mostly much smaller), these spiders are harmless to humans but present in our environment in all but the coldest weather. They seem to thrive in the complex outdoor spaces that we create with our homes, sheds, landscapes, patio furniture and gardens.

Look at that dude’s face! (It’s a male.) credit: Creative Commons

Why? Because there are plenty of spaces for hiding and lots of prey.

Jumping spiders make up the largest group of spiders in the world—about 13 percent of those we’ve named. While most are found in the tropics, over 300 species of jumping spiders inhabit North America. They are mainly carnivorous, meaning they are hunters. Sometimes jumping spiders incorporate nectar into their diets, and one species is known to feed on plant matter—making it unique among all spiders. As hunters, jumping spiders use a variety of strategies, from ambushing prey to sneakily dropping down on their victims from above.

Like most spiders, they extrude silk from silk glands at the rear end of their abdomen, but jumping spiders don’t spin webs. They use their silk as a safety line for rappelling and to remember where they’ve been. Jumping spiders can take prey much larger than themselves. Like all spiders, they subdue their prey with venom from their jaws, aka chelicerae.

One of the truly remarkable things about jumping spiders is their ability to … you guessed it … jump. With those big binocular eyes, they calculate the distance of a leap and the position of prey before leaping. Once airborne, they drop that silk line for safety.

Jumping spiders have also have elaborate mating rituals. These include drumming and vivid dancing by male spiders hoping to attract females. The peacock spider is a great example.

So what does this have to do with IPM? Sometimes just understanding the creatures we see in our everyday lives can have an impact on our feelings about killing them. Many people have negative feelings about spiders. Yet most are completely harmless and never infest homes. They are serious predators of flies, mosquitoes and other pest insects. In fact, the ecological services of spiders are much larger than we can measure.

Jumping spider captures a carpenter ant queen

Consider the ways you manage your home landscape, especially the areas around the perimeter of the house or building. Reducing the use of insecticides can help conserve beneficial arthropods like jumping spiders. Most home landscapes never need insecticides for management. If a shrub or a plant has persistent pest issues, such as aphids or mites, it might not be worth keeping. Just remove that problem plant and replace it with something better adapted and pest-free. After all, choosing the right plant for the right place is core to good IPM.

Meanwhile, keeping mulch away from the foundation (consider a pebble border) can help keep insects such as ants out of your house. Make sure those shrubs and trees around the home are not touching the side of the building to eliminate the bridge from landscape to house and the need for perimeter insecticide use.

Creating a more sustainable landscape encourages beneficial arthropods—the spiders and such—naturally found in your yard. Spiders, mysterious and creepy as they might seem, are top predators of insect pests. As the charismatic ambassadors of the spider world, jumping spiders remind us that it’s OK to live and let live.

April 7, 2016
by Mary M. Woodsen
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Trees and Threes: Prune Now to Keep Trees Healthy

Our gratitude to Paul Hetzler for this lovely piece, adapted for “Think IPM.” Here in one place is most everything you need to know about pruning to keep your trees fit and trim.

As far as trees are concerned, early spring is the best time to prune. (Late summer is second–best.) In the 4 to 6 weeks before bud-break, trees’ internal defense systems are perking up. It’s sort of the best of two worlds: Trees’ growth processes remain offline, but their shields are up against infection. (Like IPM says: give plants every opportunity to deal with pests the way they evolved to.)

A few warm days will fire up these buds. Prune now.

A few warm days will fire up these buds. Prune now.

Plus it’s a lot nicer working outdoors in early April than in January or February. OK, I guess that’s three worlds.

But first, a word about tools. Three kinds of tools. If you had to shovel your driveway with a spatula, you’d soon despair. Proper tools make a job easy. A professional-quality hand saw and bypass-type hand pruners are essential, and a good lopper is a welcome bonus. Good tools will last a lifetime, and you’ll be amazed at the difference they make.

That orange streamer helps you find pruners hiding in the mulch.

That orange streamer helps you find pruners hiding in the mulch.

Actually, many “threes” are involved in good pruning. For example, no more than a third of a tree’s live branches should be removed in any pruning cycle. (For older or stressed trees, however, 20% is maximum). But don’t remove a third of the leaf-bearing material each year. A typical pruning cycle for a shade tree is (surprise) three years.

Another guideline is that two-thirds of a tree’s leaf area should be in the lower half of the crown. In other words, don’t clean out interior foliage or remove lower branches unless there is a compelling reason to do so, such as safety or disease management. (It’s basic IPM — reach for the loppers before you reach for the spray.) Lower and interior branches are essential on hot sunny days when leaves in the upper canopy get above 85 degrees, which is too hot to photosynthesize. (IPM again: foster healthy plants that better resist pests.)

Get started with the three Ds: dead, damaged and diseased branches. (“Diseased” rings those IPM bells. Prevention!) They get the ax first. With those out of the way it’s easier to see what else needs attention. For crossing or rubbing branches, take the less desirable of the two. Whenever possible, favor wide branch-to-trunk attachments over narrow ones, which are more prone to breakage. (Broken branch-to-trunk? IPM again: prevent pathogens from finding an easy way in.)

In most cases, a branch is pruned back to the main trunk. But sometimes pruning back a large limb to a side branch is aesthetically preferable. Just be sure that side branch is at least one-third the diameter of the branch you remove.

Prune the branch, not the trunk. At the base of most branches you’ll see a swollen area — the branch collar. It produces fungicides. (Classic IPM biocontrol, only the tree takes charge) Branch collars also close wounds more rapidly than ordinary tissue. This is part of the trunk and should never be cut. To put it simply, flush cuts are bad.

For branches over an inch thick, use a 3-stage cut to eliminate or reduce tearing the bark. First, cut the underside of the branch about one-third of the way through, a foot from the trunk. Make cut #2 directly above the first to sever the limb. Holding the stub, make the third cut just outside the branch collar.

Prune away those water sprouts, and root suckers if you see some too. Image courtesy CCE.

Prune away those water sprouts, and root suckers if you see some too. Image courtesy CCE.

Obviously, maples bleed if cut in March or April. While research tells us the loss of sugars is not significant, you could prune maples in the 3rd week in July, which is the other good pruning window. For fruit trees that water-sprout excessively, late-summer pruning reduces this problem. Park your saw, though, during spring leaf-out and again in the fall before leaf drop—wounds made then can lead to serious long-term problems.

In the past, pruning cuts were painted with wound-dressing compounds, but research shows this can actually accelerate decay (an IPM no-no). As far as I know, people-wounds can still be covered up with Band-Aids. Good pruning tools are really sharp, so keep one on hand. Maybe you should bring three, just in case.

Find more of Paul Hetzler’s posts here:

March 19, 2015
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Beauty and the Battle Against Invasive Plants: IPM Can Help

Beauty and the Battle Against Invasive Plants: IPM Can Help

In New York and around the world, invasive plants rank among the top reasons that the stability of native ecosystems are under threat. Consider the prickly barberries that swallow woodland understories whole. The Norway maples that outcompete sugar maples and out-shade wildflowers. The — well, let’s just stop. Because it doesn’t get better.

Trying to hack through acres of barberry gone feral is no fun.

Trying to hack through acres of barberry gone feral is no fun.

Sure, those plants might look good in your backyard or hedging the sidewalk, but their seeds have sneaky ways of getting around. Maintaining the value and beauty of woodlands, parks, and farms where invasives abound gets expensive fast. Which is why New York law now regulates and prohibits the sale of these and other invasive plants.

The good news? At NYS IPM we’ve got a great list of plants that’ll do the job you want just as well. Here you’ll find plants similar in appearance and cultural requirements to the invasives they replace — while bringing their own subtle brand of shade, grace, or fragrance to the places you want.

Plant native ninebark, not barberry — and ninebark has lovely flowers, too.

Plant native ninebark, not barberry — and ninebark has lovely flowers, too.

Many are native to the Northeast; among those that aren’t, none are considered invasive. And many of these alternatives are readily available at local nurseries. While most are hardy in much of New York and the Northeast, follow core IPM practices by checking your hardiness zone — and your site’s soil, air and water drainage, microclimate, and other cultural factors.

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