Monthly Archives: June 2014

Reporting Pesticide Regulations Nationwide

Cover of American Entom summer 2014

The most recent issue of American Entomologist (Volume 60, Number 2) contains an interesting article authored by 11 top professionals concerned with the safety of  pest management practices. One of the authors is our own Lynn Braband who leads  the NYS Integrated Pest Management Program’s SCHOOL IPM group.

The article, Regulating Pesticide Use in United States Schools, is worth a read for its non-political, practical insight into what is going on nationally in schools.

The first law to regulate pesticide use in schools was passed in 1991 in Texas. Since that time, 39 states have enacted legislation and policies to regulate the use of pesticides including changes to how pesticides are applied, record-keeping, pesticide-free zones, pre-notification and posting when pesticides are applied, limitations on active ingredients that can be utilized, and enforcement or penalties for violations.

Capture GRAPH for article Summer 2014 Am. Entomologist

Numbers of states with legislation in key components of pesticide-use safety in 1998 and 2008, as well as the number of states without such legislated compliance.

Why is this important? School pests are not only annoying but they can also affect children’s health. The number one cause of student  medical absences in schools is asthma brought on by allergic reactions to exposure to cockroaches, rodents and dust mites. Simply increasing pesticide use  is not the answer, because exposure to pesticides is also linked to increased incidence of asthma.

As a parent, pesticide applicator, school safety officer, teacher or staff, or concerned citizen, it is wise to understand the larger picture of pesticide use in schools across the nation as we all work to improve pest management in your school district.

Through interviews with state officials, the article’s authors assessed the effectiveness of regulations, compared them, and inquired after officials’ wish-lists as to how to improve them.

There is no federal law addressing pesticides or Integrated Pest Management in schools, so state provisions vary widely. For example, eleven states restrict or require notification of pesticide applications to reduce drift. Nine states have buffer zones, but they vary from 300 feet to two-and-a-half miles. Quite a difference.  Does your state have these restrictions? You should know, or find out.

The New York State Neighbor Notification Law (2000) applies to all public and non-public K-12 schools (not universities) and requires all parents and staff to be notified in writing at the start of each school year that pesticides may be used periodically, and that the school is required to notify them 48 hrs in advance IF REQUESTED.  Those who request notification are placed on a registry and, unless there is an emergency application, receive notification.  In the future we will devote a blog post to the concept of ’emergency applications’,  just one small part of the larger discussion. Another post will address the incidental changes in attitudes this law created. is a link to the Journal and gives you the option to download the full article as pdf.

A lot of work went into this article and should serve as a basis to improve pesticide safety on school grounds. We appreciate their efforts and this important article.

Pollinator Week

Are you concerned about the reduced numbers of pollinating  insects? Pollinators are a necessary part of plant and crop success, which mean we depend on them for food as well.  Even with the valid concern about loss of bee colonies, this is a good time to understand that pollinators also include many insects, birds, butterflies, bats, beetles and other animals.  Some plants even depend on four-legged mammals to move pollen from plant to plant.


The U.S. Senate supported National Pollinator Week years ago, and it has spread internationally. Events are planned around the country to celebrate and educate.

Two simple ways to help pollinators are 1) reduced used of pesticides and 2) protection of habitat.

Protecting habitat can be as simple as adding a few new perennial flowers to your garden and leaving more un-mowed, or un-cultivated natural growth areas along the edges of properties.  This also ties in with the simple basics of IPM. Creating habitat for pollinators also encourages natural predators of insect pests.

220px-Bidens_flwr composite flower A typical Asteraceae flower head (here Bidens torta) showing the individual flowers


Composite flowers, those from the asteraceae family, are favorites of pollinator insects and beneficial insects. The above image  from Wikipedia shows the center of composite flowers are actually groups of small separate flowers surrounded by large attracting petals. Flowers within a flower!

Composite flowers and a variety of plant material in your yard and garden are a helpful and beautiful way to support pollinators.

Here are three ‘fast facts’ from the Pollination Partnership:

About 75% of all flowering plant species need the help of
animals to move their heavy pollen grains from plant to
plant for fertilization.
About 1,000 of all pollinators are vertebrates such as birds,
bats, and small mammals.
Most pollinators (about 200,000 species) are beneficial
insects such as flies, beetles, wasps, ants, butterflies,
moths, and bees.

Learn more at their website: Pollinator Partnership

Happy Summer!



School IPM: Queens Without a Castle

Many of us recently enjoyed Memorial Day weekend’s warm, dry weather.  In particular, buzzing “bees”. While spring turns a young male’s thoughts to romance, in the wasp, bee, and ant world, spring means queens looking for a place to establish new colonies. Should you be concerned?  Only if they settle next to doorways, on or in building walls, or in ground nests where human activity is common such as some walkways, playgrounds, flower and vegetable gardens. Remember – wasps, bees and ants are beneficial while in their role. Problems occur when we try to occupy the same space.

IPM suggestion: Don’t use the generic term BEES. We want to help you learn to identify what buzzes by. It’s not difficult, and knowing the difference between a bald-faced hornet and a carpenter bee may prove very healthy knowledge.

When a paper wasp starts her umbrella nest with a few eggs, it is the perfect time to knock it down with a hard blast from a water hose, or with a broom. Try it while she’s out shopping, or resting on the nest in the late evening. When she is forced to start over a few times, she is likely to move on to another site. If the nest is knocked down on the ground, you may be able to stomp on it and walk quickly away. Return later to discard it.  I swear they like to build near doorways to watch us come and go.

Paper wasp on new nest

Paper wasp on new nest (Bugwood -Whitney Cranshaw)

Large ground bees, bumblebees and carpenter bees are rarely a menace, though painful stings can occur if a bumble bee nest is disturbed. Ground bees and carpenter bees are solitary and care for only a few young. Stings from solitary bees are rare.

Bumble bee (larger) and honeybee forage together. Notice the fuzz? It's another way to differentiate them from wasps which are smooth.

Bumble bee (larger) and honeybee forage together. Notice the fuzz? It’s another way to differentiate them from wasps which are smooth.                                      (Bugwood- Whitney Cranshaw)

Ground nests of yellow jackets are a source of the most significant stinging events.  I wish we all had the time to watch and follow these queens to their chosen site–frequently these are small, abandoned rodent holes, soil areas where a wooden post has rotted out, piles of soft soil or compost, (almost always in areas that are not mowed on a regular basis) or cavities in old trees or gaps under siding. Nobody likes these kinds of surprises!

Although yellow jackets and a common paper wasp are similar in color and striping, their body shape differs significantly. Yellow jackets are 'sturdy'; paper wasps are thin-waisted and look delicate

Yellow Jacket.  Although yellow jackets and  common paper wasps are similar in color and striping, their body shape differs significantly. Yellow jackets are ‘sturdy’; paper wasps are thin-waisted and look delicate  (Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann)

Keep this all in mind over the next few weeks as queens establish their colonies. They are looking for areas they believe will be undisturbed.  Early detection and removal NOW is key, and might prevent a swarm of stingers in August when someone decides to use a weed trimmer in an out-of-the-way area.  Most wasp sting incidents occur when a human accidentally disturbs a nest or comes in contact with a wasp while both are minding their own business. We’ll chat more on this throughout the season.

Be prepared. Know who to contact to remove stinging insect nests, and how to watch for and treat an allergic reaction to their stings. Always consider the possibility of ground nesting wasps in hollows of trees, wall voids and particularly in soft soil near fences and gardens.

IPM Suggestion: This is the time to walk the perimeter of structures on your property. Look up along rooflines, under eaves, and in trees.  Aerial nests of yellow jackets or bald-faced hornets seem to just show up one day in late summer—because you weren’t looking for them!IPM for stinging insects in spring is simply correct ID, monitoring of favored sites, and nest exclusion.  Take note. Next fall you’ll want to caulk entry way holes in buildings and fill in the holes in the soil.

Please consider purchasing our excellent resource on Wasp and Bee Management by NYS IPM’s Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, Wasp and Bee Management: A Common Sense Approach.

Photos by Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann and, where noted, courtesy of Bugwood and Whitney Cranshaw.