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.
True — this media release dates back to January 4. But that’s not so long ago, and for someone like Julie Suarez it bears repeating. In short: we presented Julie (whom you’ll meet in a minute) with an Excellence in IPM award for—well, we could name a host of reasons. But we’ll let this speak to some of the best.
Advocacy and accolades earn Excellence in IPM award for Cornell champion Julie Suarez
Four hundred-plus wild pollinators: this hover fly is one of many that contribute to New York’s multi-billion-dollar ag industry — not to mention flowers in our landscapes. Courtesy Dawn Dailey O’Brien.
GENEVA, NY, January 4, 2018: Julie Suarez’s passion is people. People at work, people at home, people in need. Whether it’s about the farm or urban communities, she’s keenly aware of the pests and the problems. She knows the issues, the legislators, the associations and nonprofits. She’s a natural.
Now Suarez, assistant dean of Governmental and Community Relations at Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), has received an Excellence in IPM award from the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program (NYSIPM) for her unstinting advocacy for the people and programs at Cornell on issues that matter to all New Yorkers.
An accomplished facilitator, Suarez helps people
deal with invasive pests that threaten the livelihood of many farmers
preserve the pollinators—the honey bees and their kin—that are key to growing fruits and vegetables worth $1.15 billion to New York’s economy
cope with the relentless pressure of ticks and tick-borne diseases, which affected an estimated 8,000 New Yorkers in 2017 alone
Accolades for Suarez include:
Julie was instrumental in addressing the crisis when a new pest, a tiny fruit fly the size of a pinhead, threatened to put berry farmers out of business. She would answer questions, provide guidance and inform—usually responding to emails within minutes. I don’t know how she did it.
Julie reached out to me about research on pollinator health as soon as I arrived at Cornell. I’m impressed with the breadth and depth of her knowledge and her ability to work with scientists, officials and stakeholder groups statewide.
Julie is keenly aware of the key issues for state legislators, noting the committees they serve on and the needs of their constituents. That’s how the NYSIPM Program became involved with the Senate Task Force on Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease.
“Julie is proactive, strengthening the bonds between the IPM Program and the community at large,” says New York Senator Sue Serino, herself a leader in the fight against Lyme disease. “She consistently exceeds the expectations of those around her.”
“Julie brings legislators in Albany to Cornell and Cornell researchers to the legislators. She gets it that programs like ours take science to the people,” says Jennifer Grant, director of NYSIPM. “It’s a privilege working with Julie to serve all New York’s citizens.”
Suarez received her Excellence in IPM award on January 4 at the NYS Agricultural Society’s Annual Forum in Syracuse, NY. Learn more about IPM at nysipm.cornell.edu.
Left to Right: L-R: Dean Kathryn Boor, CALS; Commissioner Richard Ball, NYS Ag & Markets; Assistant Dean Julie Suarez, Governmental and Community Relations, CALS; Director Jennifer Grant, NYS IPM ; President Beth Claypoole, NYS Ag Society. Photo provided.
January 5, 2018
by Joellen Lampman Comments Off on Ticks and the freezing weather
“That is a bracing cold, an invigorating cold. Lord, is it cold!” – Sheldon Cooper
It is inevitable that when the temperatures drop below zero we are asked “Will this extended period of extremely low temps kill off ticks?”
First, the bad news. We do not expect the cold to directly affect blacklegged or dog ticks as they are adapted to this climate and will survive just fine under the blankets of leaf litter and snow.
The good news, followed by some bad news, is we are basically looking at a reversal of the large quantities of ticks in 2017 that began in 2015 when oaks in New York underwent a mast seeding event. (In simple terms, there was an enormous amount of acorns on the ground across the state. If you want to delve more deeply into the mast year phenomenon, check out Mechanisms of mast seeding: resources, weather, cues, and selection.) Abundant quantities of food led to a large quantity of small mammals in 2016. Large numbers of small mammals led to a substantial number of ticks in 2017. Researchers at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies have decades of field research to back up the relationship, and lag time, between mast years and Lyme disease risk.
Which brings us to the current frigid weather, and probably even more importantly, the ice under the snow, and how it will impact small mammals. Animals that have a harder time finding food are more likely to (in order of lessening consequences) die of starvation, succumb to other stresses such as disease or predation, fail to mate, give birth to fewer young, and give birth less often. In a nutshell, there should be fewer hosts come spring. And fewer hosts eventually lead to fewer ticks. Good so far.
But there is some bad news, too. During the time of high tick numbers and fewer small mammal hosts, each of us, and our companion animals, are at greater risk of coming into contact with questing ticks. So as soon as the temperatures rise into the mid-30s (and we know you will be out enjoying the veritable heat wave), ticks will be questing and we need to Steer Clear of Ticks and the Diseases They Carry — the IPM Way.
I am afraid the search for a reason to fully embrace the cold continues.
November 1, 2017
by Mary M. Woodsen Comments Off on It’s (still) tick season — and will be evermore
Sorry to bring up a sore subject, but it’s still tick season. And will be all year round. What … during winter? Really? Yes. But for starters here’s your pop quiz:
A tick’s lifespan is
twenty-four months (that is, about two years)
The best way to remove a tick is to
swab it with nail polish
hold a hot match to its behind
pull it straight up with fine-point tweezers
Even 15 million years ago, it was tick season. Trapped in amber, this tick carries Lyme-causing bacteria. (Photo credit Oregon State University.)
But back to our intro. Here’s the scoop: an adult female that hasn’t yet managed to grab hold of a large animal (think deer — or person) to get that all-important blood meal (can’t lay eggs without it) doesn’t want to wait around till a sunshiny summer day next year, because by then its number is up. Besides, the mice, chipmunks or birds it fed on earlier in its life cycle have only so much blood to go around. So that tick stays just below the soil where tall meadow flowers or low shrubs grow. Waiting. Waiting for a thaw barely long enough for it to scramble up one of those stems.
Waiting for the cues that tell it a warm-blooded animal is at close range. An animal that might be you.
And now for a look at our quiz. A tick’s lifespan? Your answer is (drumroll) C: upward of two years. Here’s how it works: Ticks spend a lot of time in dormancy, aka diapause. Eggs are laid in spring, tucked away out of sight. If some critter doesn’t find and eat them, they’ll hatch during summer as larval ticks (seed ticks, they’re sometimes called). Larval ticks are not infected with Lyme when they hatch — indeed, they’re pure as the fallen snow.
Meanwhile if likely hosts — those mice, chipmunks or birds — wander by, the ticks latch on. And if a host is already infected with Lyme disease or any of its nasty co-infections, those larval ticks, pure no more, are infected too.
Look close and you’ll see that spring, summer, fall, winter … every season is tick season. (Image credit Florida Dept. Health)
Larvae that make it this far morph into nymphs, and it’s diapause season again as the nymphs wait it out till the following spring. Assuming these ticks are now carriers —and about 25% will be — spring is the worst time of year for us. Because these ticks are tiny enough (the infamous poppy-seed stage) that they’re easy to overlook. If you get bit, ipso facto — you get Lyme (and quite possibly a co-infection too).
Things slack off in late summer as surviving nymphs enter a diapause that lasts till the following spring. But you can’t let down your guard, since by mid-fall through winter you’ve got those adult ticks to consider. The good thing (if “good thing” there is)? While half of these sesame seed-sized ticks are infected, they’re also easier to spot and remove.
Our second quiz item? If any of these strike you as valuable folk wisdom, strike the valuable part and know it ain’t so. Nail polish? Matches? Don’t even think of it. Those first two items are just likely to tick that tick off — and it’ll vomit its gut contents into you in its hurry to get out. That is, if it can get out quickly; if it’s really drilled in, it has downloaded a cement-like substance to anchor itself. It takes some doing to disengage, however persuasive the nail polish, burnt match, or myriad other folklore remedies. (Twisting it is another no-no that comes to mind, mainly because someone asked me about it mid-way through this post.)
Pointy tweezers, held right against your skin and gripping the mouthparts, are the way to go. (Image credit tickencounter.org)
If you value your health, get yourself some pointy tweezers, sold for needlepoint and other crafts, and carry them with you always in your bag, backpack, or whatever you haul around. Grasp that tick as close as you can get to your skin and pull steadily. Did its mouthparts remain glued within? Not to worry — the tick will feed no more. And before too many days go by, your exfoliating skin (that’s when the top layer of skin cells drift away) will exfoliate them in turn.
With ticks, prevention can include everything from doing routine tick checks to wearing repellent clothing when you’re outdoors — regardless the season. And you can’t do much better than this for advice about dressing right.
Meanwhile here’s your catchphrase: 32, ticks on you. “32” as in 32°F. Stay watchful — and stay safe.
October 10, 2017
by Matt Frye Comments Off on Steer Clear of Ticks and the Diseases They Carry — the IPM Way
These days if you live near anything green — a suburban development, however humble or high-class; a neighborhood park where shrubs and meadow flowers grow — best you’d read up on ticks, be they black-legged ticks (aka deer ticks) or lone-star ticks (so named for the silvery white dot on the female’s back). While you’re at it, read up on Lyme disease and its suite of co-infections, some nastier even than Lyme.
And know this: no magic spray or treatment will eliminate ticks.
Wear tick-killing clothing. Buy over-the-counter permethrin spray and spray it on your clothing and gear. Used according to the label, permethrin binds to the material and can kill ticks, mosquitoes and other pests following a lethal exposure. Do-it-yourself treatments can remain effective for up to seven washes. Also consider buying pretreated cloths or sending your outdoor socks, pants, and shirts for professional treatments. These can be protected for up to 70 washes.
Follow label instructions for do-it-yourself clothing treatments.
Ticks wait for a passing host on vegetation or in leaf litter. Staying on trails can reduce your exposure to ticks.
Recognize and avoid tick habitat.Tick species differ in where they prefer to hang out. The blacklegged tick (transmits Lyme disease) is found at adult knee-height and below in wooded or brushy areas. When hiking, stay on the trail and away from these areas. If you’ll be in tick habitat, take precautions by wearing long pants tucked into your socks and a light-colored shirt tucked into pants. These steps make it more difficult for ticks to get to your skin. If you’ve treated your clothing with permethrin, this can also increase the exposure of the ticks to the acaracide — the tick-killing substance.
Steer clear of hitchhikers.
Isolate exposed items in large, zippered plastic bags to avoid bringing ticks indoors.
Ticks can be carried on clothing or gear that you used outdoors — gear that you haven’t used permethrin or a repellent on. True, ticks don’t survive long in most homes because of low humidity, but still — you’re safest if you change your clothes and place exposed items in a large, zippered plastic bag in an entryway. Put them in a clothes dryer and run on high heat for 20 minutes. The tumbling action of the dryer and the high heat kill ticks and similar critters. [Note: don’t wash clothes first. Even the hottest cycle might not kill ticks, and it increases the drying time needed.]
Check for ticks. Taking all these steps doesn’t mean you will avoid ticks 100% of the time. Perform daily tick checks even if you haven’t been outdoors in a day or so. Get to know the marks on your skin and recognize new ones. New marks that, if you touch them, just happen to have legs.
Remove ticks safely. Only one method has been officially evaluated for its ability to safely remove ticks — using sharp tweezers, grab a tick as close to the skin as possible and gently pull up. Other methods could increase the risk of acquiring a tick-borne disease. To learn more, see our post “It’s tick season. Put away the matches.”
Protect your pets.
Grooming after outdoor activity with a fine-toothed brush can remove ticks in pet fur.
Just like people, pets can encounter ticks and acquire tick-borne disease. If your pet goes outdoors, it should have some protection against ticks. TickEncounter describes some of the options available for your pets, including oral and spot-on medications as well as collars. Speak to your veterinarian about the best option for protecting your pet against tick bites. Regular grooming with a fine-tooth comb after being outdoors can help to remove ticks that have not attached to your pet’s skin.
By now, you’ve heard of Lyme disease. If you’re reading this in the Northeast, chances are you’ve had Lyme disease or know someone that does. And perhaps you know that Lyme disease is a topic entrenched in scientific and political controversy in terms of accurate diagnosis, effective treatment, and access to insurance. Putting these larger issues aside for the moment, the intent of this post is to present data on Lyme disease and help people to better understand the risks.
What: Lyme disease is a series of symptoms that occur when our body is infected with a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi. In the Northeast, the only way that people and animals become infected with Lyme is when they are bitten by a blacklegged tick – sometimes called the deer tick. The complex lifecycle of the tick and how they obtain and transmit pathogens is described by TickEncounter.
Boys aged 5-9 years old have the highest confirmed number of Lyme Disease cases (Source: CDC)
Who: Each year, approximately 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported to the CDC, making it the most commonly reported vector-borne disease in the US [a vector-borne disease is one transmitted through the bite of an organism such as a tick, mosquito, flea, etc.]. However, studies suggest that this number is only a fraction (about 10%) of the actual cases of Lyme disease in the US, putting the estimated number of cases between 300,000 and 400,000 each year. Based on this value, Lyme disease is the second most common infectious disease in the US, falling between two sexually transmitted diseases: Chlamydia (#1) and Gonorrhea (#3). Who is at the greatest risk of Lyme disease? Children! Especially boys aged 5 to 9 years old. Parents – check your children daily for ticks!!
Most cases of Lyme disease occur in the summer after being bitten by a spring-time nymph tick (Source: CDC)
When: Ticks can be active any day of the year when temperatures are above freezing. However, based on their lifecycle, the greatest risk of acquiring Lyme disease occurs during the spring months when nymph ticks are present, resulting in summer-time symptoms and doctor visits. Nymph ticks are about the size of a poppy seed, which makes them difficult to see. Check yourself daily for ticks, using your fingers to feel raised bumps and your eyes to notice new black marks.
An NYS IPM Your NEWA Blog entry dropped into my inbox a couple of days ago — and since the entire conversation on my bus ride into work today was about ticks, a topic no one seemed to tire of, I just had to borrow from it for this post.
Here’s how it begins:
“Getting ticked? You’re not the only one.” That’s my colleague Dan Olmstead speaking. He continues:
“Every question I answered was about ticks. Ticks are most well-known as carriers of Lyme disease and they are on the rise. Changing weather and climate patterns could be partly to blame. Growing seasons are getting longer and ticks have more time to develop.”
Dan goes on to explain that range expansion is another likely factor coinciding with increasing numbers of mice and deer. These critters do well in fragmented habitat, whether it’s overgrown field, hedgerows — or expanding suburbs.
Mice infected with Lyme transmit it to the young ticks that feed on them. Meanwhile deer (birds too) pick up ticks in one place and ferry them to new, perhaps un-infested locations — making them complicit in transmitting Lyme disease despite the fact that, at least on deer, Lyme-free ticks (and yes, such ticks exist) won’t contract Lyme by feeding on deer.
But the black-legged tick (aka deer tick), host to Lyme disease and several other nasty co-infections, isn’t the only dog in the fight. It has friends — as it were. Here (courtesy the Centers for Disease Control) are the ticks we see and the most common diseases now associated with them:
When Empire Farm Days rolled around in early August, the tiny nymphs — the most dangerous stage for us humans — were still at it, still clambering onto the tall grasses and low brush or meadow plants that they’d perched on most every chance they got since May. They were waiting for the right host to come by. It’s called questing. And yes, these ticks are — metaphorically at least — on a quest that for them means life or death. (Most die but plenty remain.)
True, by now in late August, their populations have peaked. But even so they’re still eight-armed and dangerous.
Eight-armed? OK — make that eight-legged.
And typically by early August, it’s too hot and dry anyway for ticks to quest for hosts. But by early August this year, our colleague Joellen Lampman hadn’t seen the usual summer decline in black-legged tick questing. Ticks like to quest when humidity is greater than 85%, and 2017 assuredly hasn’t been stingy on that account.
Got ticks on your mind? Bummed because you’re stuck inside and feel like you can’t get out in the woods like you used to? Worried because deer have found your neighborhood, regardless how populated your neighborhood? Wondering how best to protect yourself? Seek no further: Tick Encounter is your one-stop shopping for everything you need to know. Check it out.
September 1, 2016
by Mary M. Woodsen Comments Off on Tick Talk, Tick Checks, Tick Folklore — and More to Come
I needed some quick advice on ticks. So I went to NYS IPM’s tick webpage and saw — oops. This page is due for a makeover. Now.
Why? Conventional wisdom has it that a (so-called) deer tick needs to be attached to its host for at least 24 hours before it can transmit Lyme disease. (We’ll acknowledge the co-infections later.) Only … conventional wisdom is wrong. Now the best we can say is … no one knows. It varies. The main thing is to get the tick off asap. Just keep in mind that a rush job isn’t necessarily in your best interests. Better to remove it carefully than to remove it too quickly.
The other little problem? Back in the day, biologists thought there were two related tick species: the blacklegged tick and the recently discovered deer tick. But turns out they’re one and the same, so biologists reverted to the old name. Folks: we proudly bring you the (drum roll) blacklegged tick.
Back to removal. Some people swear by “tick tornados.” (Look them up.) And yes — if you need to get a tick off a furry animal, by all means. But for us hairless humans, at IPM (short for “integrated pest management) we still recommend pointy, fine-tipped tweezers as the best way to remove ticks without ticking them off. Enlist help if you can’t reach the tick. Your helper, after all, might need someone to return the favor down the line.
That folklore about gooping them up with petroleum jelly or snubbing out a lit match on their buts? It’s not only folklore — it’s dangerous. Because next thing you know they’ve vomited everything that was in their stomach into your bloodstream.
In a panic? Scraping at them with your fingernail and decapitating them … same result.
Fine-tipped tweezers. Check. (Straight tweezers are fine.) Grasp right behind head. Check. Pull gently but firmly straight up. Check. Photo courtesy HealthHub.
So here’s what you do. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Try not to twist or jerk the bugger; it’s tricky enough getting the head and mouth-parts out as it is.
But if they break off? Not to worry. After all, you got the all-important abdomen off; that’s where the toxins are. So see if you can tug the head out with your tweezers. Can’t? Swab the site with rubbing alcohol (which you’d do in any case) and leave it be. Eventually they’ll come out as your skin regenerates itself from below.
Actually, the main thing is to prevent the tick getting on you in the first place. (Prevention is key to good IPM, right? Right.) Use repellents and permethrin-infused clothing. While outside, check your legs and arms periodically to see if any critters are climbing up. Shower after you come in.
Most important? The daily tick check. Make it check part of your evening routine — floss, brush teeth, tick check.
I promised to acknowledge those co-infections. Right now it’s just this simple list: anaplasmosis, babesia, bartonella. (Can ticks actually transmit bartonella? Unclear. Also: you might find ehrlichiosis listed in online site. It’s actually a complex of several different bacterial diseases. One is anaplasmosis. This stuff gets complicated fast. Which is why I’ll get to the details in another post.)
And yes, there’s lots more tick-borne diseases, but to our knowledge here at IPM, blacklegged ticks don’t carry them. That promised post, btw, will note not just characteristics of these diseases, but list diseases carried by other types of ticks.
Closing remarks: Best reason for ditching the name “deer tick”? It suggests that deer are the problem. Well, yes, ticks do infest deer, and deer can travel widely, so yes, they carry them around in the literal sense and ticks will drop off here and there. But no, deer don’t vector (aka “carry”) Lyme disease. Look to mice, chipmunks, and shrews for that.
April 26, 2016
by Joellen Lampman Comments Off on 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. 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. Photo: Fairfax County
And if you accidentally break off the head? Don’t sweat it. Just treat it like you would a splinter.
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.
Summer is the season that brings us outdoors to enjoy picnics, barbecues and campfires. Unfortunately, blood-feeding arthropods such as mosquitoes and ticks can ruin our outdoor experiences by making us itch or by spreading disease. Over-the-counter sprays are one way that people avoid a forced retreat to the indoors. Choosing the right product and understanding how it works is important to keep you and your family safe. Here are a few considerations.
Repellant vs. Pesticide. There are two classes of products that you might see on the shelf. Products that contain DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus and IR3535 are repellants. These products interfere with the host-finding abilities of biting insects, making you hard to find. On the other hand, products that contain permethrin are pesticides that kill these organisms on contact. Permethrin is used to treat clothing, hats, shoes, and gear (backpacks, tents, etc.), and should never be applied to the skin for safety reasons.
Repellant Formulation. Repellants differ in their effectiveness at keeping pests away. On the bottle is a “percent active ingredient” listing, which is a measure of how long the product will remain effective. The higher the percentages, the longer it lasts. In general, products with less than 10% active ingredient provide only limited protection (1-2 hours at most). Here are some specifics about two of the common active ingredients.
DEET comes in concentrations from 4 to 100%. Despite this broad range, studies have shown that concentrations over 50% do not provide any additional protection. Therefore, products with 20 to 30% DEET are recommended for outdoor exposure of four to five hours.
Picaridin concentrations range from 7 to 20%, with a 20% concentration providing four to five hours of protection (equivalent to DEET at the same concentration).
How to Apply. For repellents, use just enough product to cover exposed skin and clothing – do not over-apply. Never directly spray your face, but rather spray your hands and apply to areas as needed. Follow label instructions carefully for applications, especially for children.
Treatments using permethrin to protect clothing should be done outdoors in an area with limited wind. Treat materials according to the label, paying particular attention to the amount of time needed for the product to dry. In most cases, once the material is dry, it is safe to wear. Additional information can be found on the TickEncounter website, including information about having your clothing professionally treated.
Clean Up. After outdoor exposure, a shower is recommended to remove repellants applied to skin. This should be followed by a tick check. See TickEncounter’s Shower Cards for more information.
Other Options. Screenhouses and appropriate clothing, such a long pants, long-sleeved shirts and a hat can be utilized to reduce problems with biting insects. Visit the following links for information on managing mosquitoes and ticks in your yard.