New York State IPM Program

August 16, 2016
by Matt Frye
Comments Off on Ultrasonic Devices? Ultra-Ineffective

Ultrasonic Devices? Ultra-Ineffective

Sometimes I get questions about using ultrasonic devices for coping with pests. “Mrs. Jones uses them and she never sees a mouse!” is often how it goes. I understand the appeal: plug in this thing and my problem is solved. Sure! They also have great marketing campaign: this device will emit a sound you can’t hear that scares or annoys pests — forcing them to leave.

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Cute, but ... wrong place, wrong time.

Cute, but … wrong place, wrong time.

History Lesson
The concept of using sound or vibration to deter pests was invented long before electricity. Ancient civilizations might well have used wind and water-powered devices to create vibration, movement or sound to ward off pests. And the concept of ultrasound as deterrent? Well, that might be based on the observation that some insects such as moths and crickets avoid high frequencies that mimic bat predators; similarly, certain sounds could distress rodents.

The Science
This theoretical frameworks aside, there’s no proof that ultrasonic devices really deter pests. In fact, scientific evaluations of ultrasonic devices have found no effect on target pests: German cockroaches, bed bugs and rodents. (See Literature section below.) In some cases, the frequency and intensity manufacturers claim don’t match up with actual output. Not only that, but some devices exceed limits imposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) for human tolerance of sound exposure.

Can this really repel all of the above? Think twice before you invest.

Can this really repel all of the above? Think twice before you invest.

What Does Work?
So why doesn’t Mrs. Jones have mice? Well, prevention is cardinal to good IPM, and perhaps her house is well constructed and sealed against outdoor pest invasions. Or perhaps she keeps a clean home with no spilled food or water. Again, prevention is numero uno in IPM.

If a pest did invade her home, her best chance at management would involve eliminating access to food, water and shelter, then reducing the pest population by trapping or baiting. Again, core IPM.

Next time you’re dealing with a pest problem, figure out why they’re there and address that issue. Consult our IPM pest fact sheets to guide your way. And put away those ineffective ultrasonic devices.

Selected Literature

  • Bomford, M, & PH O’Brien. 1990. Sonic Deterrents in Animal Damage Control: A Review of the Device Tests and Effectiveness. Wildlife Society Bulletin 18(4): 411-422.
  • Gold, RE, TN Decker, & AD Vance. 1990. Acoustical Characterization and Efficacy Evaluation of Ultrasonic Pest Control Devices Marketed for Control of German Cockroaches (Orthoptera: Blattellidae). Journal of Economic Entomology 77: 1507-1512.
  • Koehler, PG, RS Patterson, & JC Webb. 1986. Efficacy of Ultrasound for German Cockroach (Orthoptera: Blattellidae) and Oriental Rat Flea (Siphonoptera: Pulicidae) Control. Journal of Economic Entomology 79: 1027-1031.
  • Shumake, SA. 1997. Electronic Rodent Repellent Devices: A Review of Efficacy Test Protocols and Regulatory Actions. In (ed.) JR Mason: Repellents in Wildlife Management (August 8-10, 1995, Denver, CO). USDA, National Wildlife Research Center, Fort Collins, CO.
  • Yturralde, KM, & RW Hofstetter. 2012. Efficacy of Commercially Available Ultrasonic Pest Repellent Devices to Affect Behavior of Bed Bugs (Hemiptera: Cimicidae). Journal of Economic Entomology 105(6): 2107-2114.

 

September 1, 2015
by Lynn A. Braband
Comments Off on Everything Wants to Prepare for Winter

Everything Wants to Prepare for Winter

squirrel

A Gray Squirrel checks out a possible winter home.

Although summer heat is predicted for New York State through at least the Labor Day weekend, signs of the inevitable change of seasons are upon us. The daylight hours are becoming shorter, territorial singing by birds has decreased greatly, and many animals, including tree squirrels, begin preparing for the long, cold months of winter. In addition to their well-known behavior of caching nuts during autumn, squirrels look for protective sites for over-wintering. Often, these locations include the attics and walls of houses and other buildings. It is not unusual to have 8, 10, or more squirrels over-wintering in a building. Structural damage caused by the animals’ chewing can be significant. There is also the possibility of infestations of parasites associated with the animals, and at least the potential risk of disease transmission.

As with the management of any pest situation, prevention is preferred over seeking to rectify a well-established problem. For squirrels, this would include an inspection of the building exterior looking for potential entry sites and routes of access. August and early September are optimum times for inspecting. This is ladder work so safety is a very important consideration. Consult ladder safety sites such as the American Ladder Institute.

Cage trapping is a common tactic of many homeowners and businesses in seeking to rectify a squirrel or other wild animal problem. The animals are then transported off-site. However, this is illegal in New York State, and many other places, without a state-issued permit. Read Dealing With Wildlife and the New York Laws That Protect Them for a synopsis of the legal framework for dealing with nuisance wildlife.

Individuals who operate under such a permit are referred to as Nuisance Wildlife Control Operators or, simply, Wildlife Control Operators. These individuals have passed a comprehensive exam on solving wildlife problems and have the experience and equipment to address nuisance wildlife and wildlife damage situations. For names of permit holders, contact your regional office of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Another source is the NYS Wildlife Management Association, the state trade group for wildlife control operators.

For more information on dealing with squirrel issues, see:

Controlling Squirrel Problems in Buildings

Wildlife Damage Management Fact Sheets: Tree Squirrels

March 17, 2015
by Joellen Lampman
Comments Off on The squirrels are coming, the squirrels are coming!!

The squirrels are coming, the squirrels are coming!!

“Spring work is going on with joyful enthusiasm.” ― John Muir

In other words, birthing season will soon be upon us. And though it’s fun watching animal families grow up in our backyards, it’s best that they don’t give birth within our buildings. Because female squirrels seek safe places to raise their young in late winter and early spring, now is the time to ensure they stay out of your attic.

Photo credit: Carosaurus

Give them an opening and squirrels will happily turn your attic into a nursery. Photo credit: Carosaurus

 

Your first step? Monitoring is key to sound IPM. In this case you want to inspect your building exterior, especially if you’ve had problems in the past. Since squirrels are climbing animals and there’s no way could you see all possible entry sites from the ground, you’ll need a ladder. If you find a likely entry hole, don’t close it without first determining if it’s active. Trapping an animal (or its nest) inside can provoke it to chew its way back out — or in. Monitor an opening by inserting a soft plug (crumpled newspaper works fine) into the hole. If the plug is still there after two days and you see no other signs of activity inside the building, it should be safe to permanently close the hole. What to close it with? Think galvanized sheet metal or galvanized metal mesh, which resist strong teeth.

Do you need to remove squirrels from the building? Trapping is the most common and successful method. By New York law, however, without a state-issued permit squirrels must be released on the property or humanely destroyed. Another method is to install one-way doors (also known as excluders) over entry holes. These devices allow animals to leave — but not re-enter — the structure. To be successful, one-way doors need to be combined with preventive exclusion (such as metal mesh and caulk) on other vulnerable sites on your building, since exclusion and prevention are also key IPM practices.

Photo credit: BillSmith_03303

Openings such as this one provide access for squirrels, raccoons, mice, rats, birds, stinging insects, bats, snakes, … Photo credit: BillSmith_03303

 

No rodenticides or other poisons are legally registered for squirrel control. Although a variety of repellents and devices make marketing claims about driving squirrels from buildings, their efficacy is questionable.

To prevent future problems, reduce squirrel access to the building by keeping trees and tree branches at least 10 feet away from the structure and make sure all vents are made of animal-resistant materials.

For information on IPM for nuisance wildlife, refer to Beasts Begone!: A Practitioner’s Guide to IPM in Buildings  and Best Practices for Nuisance Wildlife Control Operators.

(Adapted from Controlling Squirrel Problems in Buildings by Lynn Braband, NYS Community IPM Program at Cornell University)

February 3, 2015
by Joellen Lampman
Comments Off on The Difference Between Voles and Moles

The Difference Between Voles and Moles

Is it mole? A vole? These small mammals are often confused with each other, probably because they’re both associated with tunnels. But they’re really quite different and, depending on the circumstance, could be a pest — or not. Since the first step in IPM is to identify your problem, let’s shed light on these two critters.

Voles are an example of a non-protected wildlife species. They chew the bark off woody plants and their above ground tunnels can be seen in turfgrass after snow melt. Photo Credit: Tomi Tapio K (Note: Microtus agrestis is related to the two vole species found in NY, Microtus pennsylvanicus and Microtus pinetorum , but is found in Europe.)

We cheated here to give you a good look at a couple of voles. Microtus agrestis is related to the two vole species found in NY, but is found in Europe. Photo Credit: Tomi Tapio K

VOLES

Since voles are seen above-ground much more often than the elusive mole, let’s take a look at them first. You might see them darting through lawns during the day (or your cat might bring them home). They’re active day and night year-round where the ground cover is thick. These small rodents are herbivores, eating almost exclusively plants.

At a quick glance you might confuse them with mice, but their stocky bodies are more compact and they look like they are missing half their tail. Also, unlike mice, they are adapted for digging; different species have different tunneling behavior, which can help with identification.

Voles often have several litters per year. Their populations can fluctuate a good deal — meaning that sometimes they’re quite abundant while other times it would take a naturalist’s sharp eye to know they’re even around.

That lovely tracery exposed as the snow melts — vole tunnels! Photo credit: Woodsen.

That lovely tracery exposed as the snow melts — vole tunnels! Photo credit: Woodsen.

Meadow Voles (Microtus pennsylvanicus) are the most abundant vole species found throughout New York and are common in grassy areas including lawns. They are dark brown with a grayish belly and can be 5 inches long.

How do you know if you have meadow voles? Besides actually seeing them (or receiving one in a display of cat love), signs include:

  • runways through the turf, most visible after snow melt
  • girdled woody plants
  • chewed-off herbaceous vegetation
  • ground burrow openings

    After the snow melts, vole damage becomes obvious.

    After the snow melts, vole damage becomes obvious. Photo Credit: USDA Forest Service – North Central Research Station Archive, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

Pine Voles (Microtus pinetorum) probably live throughout New York except for parts of the North Country, although actual distribution is uncertain. Their preferred habitat is forests with thick ground cover; they like orchards too. They are auburn colored and can be four inches long.

Pine voles are harder to detect as they don’t use surface runways. Their extensive underground tunnel systems lead them to their favorite food source, the roots of woody plants.

MOLES

Once you’ve seen a mole, you’ll have a hard time confusing it with any other animal. Their broad feet, adapted strictly for digging, give them away. Everything about this animal is a clue that it lives underground. Moles have no external ears that can get caught as they move through their tunnels. Their dark, shiny fur has no grain, allowing them to move forwards and backwards with equal ease. And their eyes? You’d practically have to catch a mole to get close enough to see them — they’re that small.

Moles damage is pretty distinct. It involves quite a bit of soil and no entry holes. Photo credit: Kim F

Moles damage is pretty distinct. It involves quite a bit of soil and no entry holes. Photo credit: Kim F

What are they looking for — feeling for — down there? As insectivores, they’re searching mostly for earthworms. But they’re also happy to eat insect larvae, including grubs, and other underground invertebrates. They don’t eat vegetation, although they will line their nests with grass.

Largely solitary, moles are active year-round, day and night. They create grass-lined nests in burrows 1 ½ to 2 feet below the surface often under something solid such as tree roots, sidewalks, and buildings. Litters of 4 or 5 pups are born in the spring. Maturing quickly, the young are independent at about one month old.

What are indications that you have moles? You will find low ridges or mounds of dirt with no entry holes.

An eastern mole's rare glimpse of daylight.

An eastern mole’s rare glimpse of daylight. Photo credit: Kenneth Catania

It is up for debate whether Eastern Moles (Scalopus aquaticus) are found in New York, although it’s possible they’re in the lower Hudson River Valley, the metro New York area, and Long Island. We do know they prefer moist sandy loam soils.  They can be up to 6 ½ inches long with a naked tail.

Hairy-tailed Moles (Parascalops breweri) are found statewide. They can be up to 5 ½ inches long and have a short, hairy tail.

The star-nosed mole is very aptly named. Those appendages contain over 25,000 sensory receptors designed to help it feel its way around.

The star-nosed mole is very aptly named. Those appendages contain over 25,000 sensory receptors designed to help it feel its way around. Photo credit: US NPS

Star-nosed Moles (Condylura cristata) are found throughout much of New York, often occurring in low, wet ground especially near water.  They can be up to 5 inches long, and their most striking characteristic is the fingerlike, fleshy projections surrounding their noses. More than their noses separate them from other mole species. They are more sociable than other moles. They tend to have larger litters. And Star-nosed moles swim! Who knew that those large feet are also good for paddling?

MANAGEMENT

All mole and vole species in New York are legally classified as “unprotected”. For more information on both these mammals, including IPM strategies should voles chew the bark off your ornamental shrubs or moles turn parts of your lawn upside down, visit Cornell’s Wildlife Damage Management Program website.

Adapted from Moles and Voles of New York State by Lynn Braband, NYS Community IPM Program at Cornell University

December 5, 2014
by Joellen Lampman
Comments Off on Dealing With Wildlife and the Laws That Protect Them

Dealing With Wildlife and the Laws That Protect Them

When we think about pests, bugs and mice are the first things that typically come to mind. But what if larger critters such as squirrels, bats, woodchucks, deer, or pigeons become troublesome? IPM works for them too. You must, however, be aware of laws that apply to nuisance wildlife and how they might affect  your IPM plan.

Voles are an example of a non-protected wildlife species. They chew the bark off woody plants and their above ground tunnels can be seen in turfgrass after snow melt. Photo © cyric

Voles are an example of a non-protected wildlife species. They chew the bark off woody plants and their above ground tunnels can be seen in turfgrass after snow melt. Photo © cyric

In New York, the regulatory players involved are the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (all species) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (migratory birds and federally endangered and threatened species). Through these agencies, every wildlife species in the state has a legal classification. What is of upmost concern is determining whether your nuisance is classified as “unprotected” or “protected.”

Legal Classification: Unprotected

Unprotected mammals include shrews, moles, bats (except Indiana bats, which are federally protected), chipmunks, woodchucks, red squirrels, flying squirrels, voles, mice, and Norway rats. Unprotected bird species include rock doves (feral pigeons), house sparrows, and European starlings.

An unprotected species can legally be taken by the property owner at any time of year and by any means as long as other laws (i.e., pesticide regulations, firearm discharge ordinances, trespassing laws, etc.) are not violated. The DEC defines taking as pursuing, shooting, hunting, killing, capturing, trapping, snaring or netting wildlife and game, or performing acts that disturb or worry wildlife.

Some might consider it too cruel to take an animal and decide that capturing your nuisance pest with a live trap is best. Before heading to the hardware store, recognize that you cannot release an animal off your property without a permit. An unprotected animal can be released on the same property where it was captured or must be killed and buried or cremated.

Legal Classification: Protected

Canada geese are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, but there are still things you can do to manage them. Harrassing them, such as with dogs or lasers, does not need a permit. Interfering with their nest, such as addling their eggs, does need a permit. Photo: Joellen Lampman

Canada geese are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, but there are still things you can do to manage them. Harassing them (such as with dogs or lasers) does not need a permit. Interfering with their nest — such as addling their eggs — does need a permit. When in doubt, contact the DEC. Photo: Joellen Lampman

For some protected species, if an individual animal is causing damage (not merely being a nuisance), it can be taken by the property owner. Mammals that fall under this category include opossums, raccoons, weasels, and gray squirrels. (Skunks may legally be taken if they are only a nuisance, even if they are not causing damage.) But the animal, dead or alive, cannot be transported off the landowner’s property without a nuisance wildlife control permit obtained from the DEC.

A few mammals (including bear, beaver, deer, mink, and muskrat), most birds, and (currently) all reptiles and amphibians are not only protected but cannot be captured or removed from the property without special case-by-case permits.

Animals with a legal hunting or fur trapping season can be taken as long as the proper hunting or trapping license has been obtained.

Nuisance Wildlife Control Permits

Nuisance wildlife control permits are issued to people who have gone through the prescribed application process. These permits allow protected species to be taken in any number, at any time, and from any location — with permission of the landowner — within the state. Permits must be renewed annually. Private nuisance wildlife control operators, pest control operators dealing with nuisance wildlife, municipal animal control officers, and some wildlife rehabilitators must obtain the proper permits.

Laws change, so if you have a question concerning the legal status of a species or contemplated action, contact the Wildlife section of the regional office of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.

For information on IPM for nuisance wildlife, refer to Beasts Begone!: A Practitioner’s Guide to IPM in Buildings  and Best Practices for Nuisance Wildlife Control Operators.

(Adapted from Legal Framework for Nuisance Wildlife Control in New York State by Lynn Braband, NYS Community IPM Program at Cornell University)

November 25, 2014
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on “No Surprises” Trip Prep? IPM, Prevention Are Key

“No Surprises” Trip Prep? IPM, Prevention Are Key

So you’re thinking of a trip south, camper or boat in tow, or maybe a little winter getaway to your cabin in the North Country.  For “no surprises” trip prep, take advantage of every spell of mild weather to make sure you’ve

  • kept rodents from settling into cozy quarters (or disinvite those that have)
  • removed those enticing extras that make critters do their best to bust through your defenses

Here’s the IPM approach. Put on your overalls, grab a flashlight, and crawl under

Your cabin is more secure with mesh pushed into critter entry points.

Your cabin is more secure with mesh pushed into critter entry points.

your camper or into the crawl space under your cabin — or climb up a ladder to take a closer look at your eaves and loose siding as well as cable entry points. Plug every likely entry point and with something like copper stuff-it — a fine wire mesh that helps keep critters out — or by caulking those places where propane pipes, internet cables, or phone or electric lines come in.

Be careful. If need be, hire an electrician. Even turning off the breaker box doesn’t mean dangerously high voltage won’t zap you.

This can be tricky work, because rodents can squeeze through what look like impossibly small spaces. Sometimes they’ll pull out your wire mesh, but caulk worked into the mesh — or a spray foam that expands into it — will help keep the mesh in place. So look again. And know that foam alone won’t do the trick — even if the can says it deters mice, chipmunks, and the like.

Besides critter-deterrent foam, here’s what else won’t provide long-term control: ultrasonic devices and boom boxes blasting rap music (yes, it’s been tried!). Sure, you might get short-term control — but critters acclimate to predictable or constant sounds. And forget that persistent rumor that mothballs (or dryer sheets) will deter them. For one, it’s illegal to use mothballs this way. And any seeming deterrence is probably illusory.

If rodents haven’t made your camper or cabin home yet — if you don’t see mouse poop, for instance — count your blessings and roll up your shirtsleeves. Besides the obvious (boxes of crackers, say, or plastic jars of peanut butter), remember that crumbs beneath the couch cushions or inside drawers and hard-to-reach corners attract critters with sensitive noses.

Because rodents appreciate a cozy place to curl up as much as you do (and because prevention is key to good IPM), stash everything from paper napkins to blankets and pillows in tightly sealed containers. If you can, empty the drawers; leaving them open makes the space less of a hidey-hole — and less appealing.

Occasionally you might do such a good job on the outside, you actually trap a critter that was already inside your walls when you began. Though it seems harsh, the best thing is to place snap-traps at those key exit points you discovered during your inspection — and check them as often as you can. (Animals caught in live traps and released elsewhere often end up in some other critter’s territory, and the consequences aren’t all that pretty.)

Traps come in two sizes: mouse and rat; rat traps work also for squirrels and chipmunks. What size to put out? If you hear noise at night it’s probably a mouse or rat. If during the day, it’s probably a chipmunk or squirrel.

October 22, 2014
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on IPM for Wildlife — the Hotline Begins Here

IPM for Wildlife — the Hotline Begins Here

Maybe it’s the chipmunk stashing a winter’s-worth of nuts and seeds in the cellar. Or momma raccoon bringing up baby in the attic (the latrine she made is conveniently nearby). Or any of 20-plus critters that set up shop where we want them least.

Nationwide, Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardener volunteers are IPM-trained and equipped to field pest questions of every stripe and hue. Well — nearly. Striped cucumber beetle? No prob. But striped skunk?

rat wall

Make Prevention Your Mantra: Chipmunks and rats can get through holes the size of a quarter — and mice, a dime. Ask for a roll of galvanized hardware cloth at your local hardware or lumber store, then build a “rat wall” to protect your crawl space or cellar. Illustration by M. S. Heller, from Wildlife Damage Management for Master Gardeners

Wildlife professionals have IPM resources at their fingertips. But none of these resources are geared for nonprofessionals. Now a team of Extension educators based at Cornell and the University of Nebraska have crafted a first-time-ever guide giving master gardeners from coast to coast a wealth of carefully presented, commonsense advice they can share with those who turn to them for help. Please see online the National Wildlife Control Training Program for Master Gardeners.

January 8, 2013
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on The Giving Tree

The Giving Tree

Your spent Christmas tree can still bring joy. Deck it out with strings of cranberries and popcorn. Or smear chunks of stale bread with peanut butter and roll them in birdseed, then nest them in the branches. You’ll be investing in one of nature’s best pest patrols: birds that survive winter in fine fettle will, come spring, be scouring your yard for bugs to feed baby. And on stormy days your tree serves a dual purpose: birds and other wildlife—rabbits and squirrels—will find shelter under and among your tree’s branches.

Just be sure you’ve attached the tree firmly to a support so the wind won’t carry it away. You could rope it to a small tree or shrub, a fence railing, or even a stake.

Birds and bunnies aren’t the only critters your Christmas tree could help. The dictionary definition for “creature” includes plants too. If you haven’t had the chance to protect some of your favorite perennials from winter cold, just lop the branches off that tree and layer them over the bed. It’ll help even out the highs and lows as air temps inevitably dip and soar. Helping your perennials stay healthy has a side benefit—beneficial insects overwintering in the neighborhood survive better when protected by a blanket of boughs.

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