New York State IPM Program

October 11, 2018
by Debra E. Marvin
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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

June 28, 2017
by Karen English
Comments Off on Pruning berry bushes to minimize destructive pest habitat

Pruning berry bushes to minimize destructive pest habitat

Examine your caneberry (raspberries and blackberries) plantings for conditions that promote spotted wing drosophila (SWD) infestation and take steps to eliminate them. Although we cannot change the weather, we can alter conditions in the planting to reduce the cool, dark, humid areas preferred by SWD. Pruning and training systems can help maintain an open canopy to increase sunlight and reduce humidity. This will make plantings less attractive to SWD, will reduce SWD activity, and will improve spray penetration and coverage.

Spotted wing drosophila (SWD), an invasive insect originally from Asia, was first reported in the Northeast in 2011. Since 2012, adult SWD have been causing wide-spread injury to some berry crops in NY where management measures are not being used. Unlike most fruit fly species, SWD attack ripening and ripe fruit.

Bumblebee on raspberry

Bumblebee pollinating pruned and trellised raspberry.

Pruning tactics for caneberries have been developed to achieve excellent fruit yield and open the canopy. Knowing different pruning strategies will help you manage SWD. Added benefits include improved fruit color and flavor promoted by sunlight, easier picking by workers and customers, and easier weed management.

Caneberries (brambles) grown in the Northeast include red and black raspberries and blackberries; all are susceptible to SWD infestation. However, fruiting season differs among cultivars, which influences the risk of infestation.

  • Summer bearing varieties develop berries on floricanes that grow the prior year and overwinter. Fruit ripens and is harvested in early to mid-summer, prior to SWD population buildup, lowering the risk of infestation.
  • Fall bearing varieties develop berries on primocanes that grow, flower, and fruit in the same year. Fruit ripens and is harvested in late summer and early fall when SWD populations are high and risk of infestation is extreme.
  • Plants developing berries on floricanes and primocanes haven’t had floricanes removed after fall fruiting. Fruit ripens and is harvested from early to mid-summer on the floricanes and from late summer to early fall on the primocanes. The risk of SWD infestation will be low early in the harvest season and will increase as the summer progresses and the SWD population builds up.

Pruning suggestions for summer bearing varieties

Summer raspberries – maintain 4-5 healthy floricanes per foot of row.

Blackberries – maintain 3-4 healthy floricanes per foot of row.

Black raspberries – maintain 6-8 floricanes per hill.

Everbearing – maintain 4 primocanes and 4 floricanes per foot of row.

Floricanes should be held upright with a trellis to facilitate spray coverage and air circulation. Holding fruiting canes to the outside on a V-trellis will keep them to the outside of the growing primocanes and facilitate spray coverage and harvest.

Prune out the smallest primocanes beginning when they are 12 to 18 inches high to select and keep the biggest and best canes. Keep a few more than the suggested cane density per foot of row or per hill. Begin removing spent floricanes in July along with any late emerging primocanes. In November, laterals on black raspberry and blackberry primocanes can be cut back to 3 or 4 buds.

Pruning suggestions for fall bearing varieties

Maintain 4-6 primocanes per plant on a trellis.

Encourage early fruiting by placing row covers over the row after mowing in the spring. Remove the row covers when the primocanes are 18 inches tall. This will bring on flowering about two weeks early and help avoid or minimize SWD damage.

References

Nourse, N. 2015. Raspberry pruning timeline. Nourse News. Spring:2-3. http://noursefarms.com/resources/newsletters/spring_2015.pdf

Pritts, M. 2013. Horticultural strategies for living with SWD. New York Berry News 12(10):1-2. http://www.hort.cornell.edu/fruit/nybn/newslettpdfs/2013/nybn1210.pdf

Acknowledgement

This blog post, written by Juliet Carroll (NYS IPM), was originally posted as Pruning caneberries to minimize SWD habitat within the planting here on June 27, 2017.

March 2, 2016
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Excellence in the Berry Patch

Excellence in the Berry Patch

Dale-Ila Riggs, president of the New York State Berry Growers Association, has amassed a lifetime of expertise in IPM and berry farming. Combine that with inventiveness, insatiable curiosity, and determination — tackling head-on what could be the berry growers’ worst pest ever — and it’s no surprise she earned a recent Excellence in IPM award.

Those iconic wing-tip spots are a giveaway — if you can get close enough to see them.

Those iconic wing-tip spots are a dead giveaway — if you can get close enough to see them.

That worst pest ever? That would be SWD: shorthand for “spotted wing drosophila.” This new, barely visible pest blew into New York in 2012. If you remember your biology, you know drosophila are fruit flies — useful experimental subjects in the lab. In nature most are harmless; after all, it’s fruit well past its prime that they go for.

But not SWD.

SWD, hardly bigger than this comma, sneaks in just as berries ripen. By the time you notice the damage, your crop is unsalable. Riggs wants to reverse that trend.

Late-bearing raspberries are especially hard-hit by SWD, but growing them in a fine-mesh high-tunnel — as Riggs does here — helps keep this pest out.

Late-bearing raspberries are especially hard-hit by SWD. Thanks to research conducted in high tunnels at Riggs farm, she demoed that growers using IPM methods can harvest tasty fruit into November.

So while many berry growers dug out entire plantings, Riggs dug in — aggressively seeking Cornell research collaborations and the money to support them. After all, berries are worth $15 million; the market is growing. Per capita consumption of blueberries alone is up 411 percent since 2000. Results? IPM solutions already benefiting berry growers across New York and the Northeast.

 

September 18, 2014
by Mary M. Woodsen
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Tiny Fruit-Fly Pest Packs Big Wallop — Now on TV

It’s tiny, but it packs a wallop. That’s SWD — spotted-wing drosophila — a new invasive fruit fly that’s put down roots in nearly every berry-growing region in North America. Losses can range from “lots” to “entire crop wiped out.” In New York alone, that’s millions of dollars down the drain.

CBS2’s Vanessa Murdock reported from the field, interviewing growers and scientists who seek an answer to this menace — along with up-close-and–personal footage of the damage it wreaks.

Your kitchen-variety fruit fly likes overripe or rotting fruit. But SWD zeros in on fresh fruit. And often you can’t see the damage till after you’ve harvested your crop. Which means you can’t market it.

“Growers are losing tens of thousands of dollars on a per-farm basis,” said Cornell scientist Peter Jentsch.

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