New York State IPM Program

March 10, 2016
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Spider FAQs One Two Three

Spider FAQs One Two Three

These three things you should know about spiders. But first, know this. They’re not bugs. In fact, insects probably outnumber spiders roughly 10 to one. Too bad so many things get blamed on spiders — insect bites, say, or medical conditions that require intervention.

One. We are not their prey.

In fact, most couldn’t bite us if they wanted to. Their fangs are too small, too weak to break our skin. Only one species that could make us really sick lives in the Northeast: the black widow spider, and it’s rare in New York. Sure, if we accidentally blunder into a spider, it does what we might under similar circumstances. It reciprocates, only with its fangs.

We're about to set this spider free outside. But first, some gentle play.

We’re about to set this spider free outside. But first, some gentle play.

With so many kinds and no real threat, spiders make a wonderful subject for nature walks with kids, says Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, community coordinator with NYS IPM. “What’s cooler than watching a spider eat a fly?”

Two. Spiders help with indoor pests.

Worried about cockroaches, flies, earwigs, clothes moths? Your friendly neighborhood spiders will take them down. In fact, spiders will do in most of your household pests if you but let them — and long-legged cellar spiders will take down black widows in the dark, hidden places they like to call home. Meanwhile a study in Kansas, where brown recluse spiders abound, collected 2,055 from one home over a six-month span. Yet not a single person was bitten. Inside your home, “live and let live” is the ideal IPM solution.

Three. Spiders help with outdoor pests.

Next time you see a webbed funnel in the grass, see if you can find the grass spider hidden within.

Next time you see a webbed funnel in the grass, see if you can find the grass spider hidden within.

Flies, mosquitoes, ants, caterpillars, slugs, that sort of thing — spiders are on the hunt for them. Not for us. And they’re great in the garden. Some leap on their unsuspecting prey; a silken tether helps keep them falling too far if they miss. Some run down their prey. Some build funnel-shaped (but not sticky!) webs in low vegetation, dashing out to snag insects that wander by. Some wear camouflage, taking on the color of whatever blossom they’re waiting in.

Apparently some even narrow their “feeding niche” to concentrate on an abundant prey source — a good thing if that prey is something we’d rather not have in yards, buildings or farms. Want to welcome spiders to your garden? Learn how here.

If you still don’t want spiders in your home, you’re hardly alone. IPM solutions? NYS IPM’s Matt Frye suggests scooping them into a container and escorting them outside. Alternatively, vacuum them up.

August 24, 2015
by Matt Frye
Comments Off on Carpenter Ant Satellite Nest – Elimination!

Carpenter Ant Satellite Nest – Elimination!

Of the ant species that invade homes, carpenter ants cause considerable distress due to their large size. This is particularly true in the spring and early summer, when foraging ants may be found in many rooms within a home. While these foragers are not much more than a nuisance, it is the nearby ant nest that is alarming to homeowners. Especially since carpenter ants can damage wood.

Carpenter ants can be thought of as an indicator species, since they tend to nest in wood that is damaged by moisture. Their presence is suggestive of a roof leak, clogged gutters, poor drainage from the home, or other structural issues that result in water-damaged wood. When nests are found in homes, they are often satellite colonies of the larger nest that is located outdoors in rotting wood such as a tree stump. It should be noted that carpenter ants do not eat wood as food (like termites), but rather use the structure for nesting purposes.

As an urban entomologist, my home is a laboratory of pest management trial and error. This spring and summer I observed carpenter ants in one corner of my garage. On the workbench below, I would occasionally see a dead ant or some frass (the excavated wood and food-stuffs kicked out of the nest). It wasn’t long before common house spiders (Parasteatoda tepidariorum) discovered the ants and started to feed on them, adding to the carnage on my work bench.

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House spider dining on a carpenter ant, with egg-sacs and newly-hatched spiders.

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What’s left after a spider feeds on many ants.

As summer progressed, I decided the experiment was over and wanted to rid myself of what I believed to be a satellite ant colony. I inspected the area around the ant sightings, and in the very corner of the garage, in a recessed void, I found what I was looking for – a large pile of frass and many ants. With my vacuum in hand (the same one I’ve used for eliminating yellowjackets), I vacuumed up as many ants as possible, plugged the end and left the vacuum in the heat of the sun for two days. Problem solved! Now I just need to find the parent colony.

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The spiders showed me exactly where the nest would be – the void in an upper corner of the workshop.

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Carpenter ant frass includes sawdust and pieces of insects.

Learn more in our carpenter ant factsheet!

June 19, 2015
by Matt Frye
Comments Off on Pest-Strips: A Kitchen No-No!

Pest-Strips: A Kitchen No-No!

Beginning in about the year 2000, nearly all organophosphate pesticides became unavailable for use in homes. This was done primarily to limit exposure of children to active ingredients that negatively affect their health and development. Despite this extensive cancellation of organophosphates for structural pest management, one holdover active ingredient from that era remains today: dichlorvos (2,2-dichlorovinyl dimethyl phosphate, or DDVP).

The most common use of this product is as a slow-release vapor from impregnated resin plastic blocks. Pest-strips, as they are called, are used to treat a variety of pests including flies, gnats, mosquitoes, moths, silverfish, cockroaches, spiders, beetles, and earwigs. Like all pesticides, the label instructions are the law, and pest-strips have very strict requirements for use. The guidelines for these products are not intended to make the life of pest professionals difficult, but to reduce human exposure to active ingredients that can cause nausea, headaches, twitching, trembling, excessive salivation and tearing, inability to breathe from a paralyzed diagram, convulsions, and if concentrations are exceedingly high — death.

Legal Uses.

In general, products containing dichlorvos are intended for use in confined spaces where people will not be present for more than four hours at a time. Depending on the size of the product (16 or 65 grams), each pest-strip can treat an area of 100 to 1,200 cubic feet for up to four months (1,200 cubic feet is a room that measures 10 by 15 by 8 feet). Some areas where these products can be used include garages, sheds, attics, crawl spaces, storage units, trash bins, and for the small sizes (16 g): pantries, cupboards, and closets. Many other commercial applications are listed on the label.

Illegal Uses.

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Pest-strips in restaurants are often illegally placed near drains.

Unfortunately, these products are sometimes used in violation of the label directions to treat pests in spaces where people are present for more than four hours, or where food is present. A common example that makes me cringe is the use of pest-strips in food establishments. Especially cringe-worthy is when numerous strips are used in a kitchen where food is prepared and workers are present for a full day. Yes, I’m talking about your average restaurant.

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Do you see the pest-strip? Yes, right next to the Spanish and red onions!

Address the Problem.

It is critical to understand that the use of pest strips for fly control at a drain or cockroach control by a grill line are not treating the problem, only the symptom. The real problem in these scenarios is the presence of food and shelter: accumulated organic debris in drains, food spillage behind and under equipment, and cracks or crevices in structures that provide harborage. If you remove these conditions you treat the problem and eliminate the symptoms.

Remember, for all pesticides and pesticide products, the label is the law. As an applicator, you are responsible and legally obligated to follow the instructions that are intended to reduce health risks for you and your clients.

For more information on pest-strips in structural pest management:

CDC Warning on Misuse of Pest Strips by Gwen Pearson

Careful Use of Nuvan Strips by Mike Merchant

June 11, 2015
by Karen English
Comments Off on Black Widow Spiders – Not Just a Southern Thang!

Black Widow Spiders – Not Just a Southern Thang!

Every so often the local news reports that a dangerous spider was found in supermarket-bought fruits, such as grapes and bananas from South America. Black widow spiders have appeared in the Northern part of the United States where, presumably, these spiders do not belong! And it’s newsworthy.

What many people do not know is that a native species of black widow, the Northern black widow spider, exists as far north as Ontario, Canada. They have been recorded in several Northeastern states. Compared to its cousin, the Southern black widow, the Northern widow is somewhat rare in its native range, but loves the same habitats, including barns, sheds, basements, wood piles, greenhouses and other dark, damp corners of the human environment. The Northern widow can be distinguished from the Southern species by the red hourglass spot on the underside of the abdomen. Northern species have a distinctly separated hourglass, while the Southern spider’s is joined. Northern widows also have white markings and red spots on the top of the abdomen. Both species have a body length of about ½ inch, long legs and a globe-shaped abdomen.

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Northern Black Widow Spider (Latrodectus variolus) underside view, displaying red hourglass marking. Photo from Michigan State University Diagnostic Service

The venom of each widow species is similar and can cause reactions ranging from pain in the abdomen, sweating and nausea to serious systemic reactions like weakness, tremors, muscle spasms, and in extremely rare cases, death. Basically, you want to avoid being bitten. But widow spiders are reclusive and usually retreat when provoked. People are bitten when widow spiders are cornered (in a shoe or glove) or handled. Many times, people don’t even know that they have been bitten until the pain begins.

On a recent IPM visit to a plant nursery in Staten Island, we identified a healthy population of Northern black widow spiders living in the corners of greenhouses, underneath benches and in folds of cloth lining planting beds. Workers reported seeing these spiders for years, yet nobody has ever been bitten. Our IPM recommendations were to:

  1. Clean out spider webs, spiders and the egg sacs (perfectly round, tan balls hanging in webbing) with a broom or power-washer on a regular basis.
  2. Increase light and decrease moisture whenever possible and especially where people are working.
  3. Raise awareness among workers to look for spider habitat and recognize spiders and egg sacs. It was also advised that employees wear gloves when working with plants and soil.
  4. As a last resort, a pyrethrum or pyrethrin spray can be used to knock down spider numbers and the insects they dine on in greenhouses.

Ordinarily we don’t see a need for controlling or killing spiders because they are beneficial and generally harmless to people. In this case, no worker has ever been bitten by a black widow, despite their long-term presence in this nursery. Precautions, such as live spider and egg sac removal and spider awareness among workers, may be all that is needed to protect people from spiders and pesticides that may otherwise be used for black widow spider control.

Authored by Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, NYS Community IPM Coordinator

August 19, 2014
by Matt Frye
Comments Off on Have No Fear: Pests Are Smaller than They Appear

Have No Fear: Pests Are Smaller than They Appear

Are subway rats really the size of house cats? Are there American cockroaches or “waterbugs” as big as your hand? Fortunately, neither is true. But a 2012 study offers insight as to why those beliefs exist.

First, some background. Whenever I give a presentation about structural pests, I like to bring some specimens along for show and tell. Invariably, as I open up a box of pinned insect specimens someone says, “I’ve seen cockroaches twice that big!” Outwardly I might act surprised, but that’s because I’m thinking, “Hmm. I’ve been in some sketchy places and seen some nasty things, but the American cockroach is usually about 1.5 inches long, and the average Norway rat is about 16 inches from nose to tail and weighs about 12 ounces.”

Real-world American cockroaches — note their reddish-brown color — measure about 1.5 inches.

Real-world American cockroaches — note their reddish-brown color — measure about 1.5 inches.

Sure, there are exceptions — some can be smaller, others larger, but a three-inch-long cockroach? Surely there’s an explanation.

Then one day I stumbled on a post by ABC News: “Spiders Appear Bigger When You Fear Them” — and it all started to make sense. According to an Ohio State study, being scared can cause an individual to exaggerate the size of the object they fear. A rat racing past you on the subway is sure to induce fear, as is a cockroach in your bathroom. But looking at a dead cockroach, pinned in some entomologist’s specimen box? That’s not so scary.

A challenge: next time you see a critter that would normally make you afraid, take a closer look. You might find that your perception of their size more accurately represents their true size — which in all cases is large enough!

Snout to tail, your average Norway rat is 16 inches long and weighs in at about 12 ounces. Cats? A healthy weight for a small breeds is around 5 pounds; the very largest, 18 pounds.

Snout to tail, your average Norway rat is 16 inches long and weighs in at about 12 ounces. Cats? A healthy weight for a small breeds is around 5 pounds; the very largest, 18 pounds.

 

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