Tag Archives: Best Management Practices

Poison Ivy – Don’t scratch

“Lewis Ziska, one of the lead scientists on the six-year study in a forest at Duke University, found that with increased atmospheric CO2 we get bigger, stronger, leafier poison ivy.” – Mary Woodsen, Poison ivy (like the Rolling Stones said …)

Just what we needed. Bigger, healthier, more toxic poison ivy.

New leaves on an old vine. Note the root-like structures gripping to the tree trunk.

New leaves on an old vine. Note the root-like structures gripping the tree trunk.

Poison ivy has a wide variety of habits – it’s often a climber with thick, woody vines. The vines are covered with rootlike hairs that help it cling to tree trunks or fences, which is a great way to distinguish it from other vines such as Virginia creeper. You will likely see this form most often on school grounds as it climbs fences, trees, and buildings.

It can also be standalone plants with a groundcover quality to them. And it can present in a shrub-like manner – most commonly seen along woodland edges.

The famous saying, “Leaves of three, let it be” is the one feature common to all growth forms. Those leaves, however, can range from ½” on new plants to over 5 inches long on older plants. They are usually smooth, but they can be toothed and sometimes lobed. Young leaves are usually reddish, older leaves can be a deep green, turning red or yellow in the fall. Shinyness is an option, therefore you can’t count on it to confirm your identification.

It's in there, and a quick inspection could have saved me a lot of itching.

Poison ivy is in there, and a quick inspection could have saved me a lot of itching.

And sometimes, it’s just hidden. As I type this blog, my fingers are pink with calamine lotion and I am trying desperately not to rub them against my pants. After a trying day, I vented my frustration on a neglected mulched area under a tree. I noticed the small poison ivy plants tucked into the other weeds only after I had ripped them out with my bare hands. I washed my hands with soap and water to remove the offending urushiol, the toxic oil that causes the dermatitis. But I wasn’t fast enough. A few days later, here come the blisters.

So, the motivation to check the NYS IPM resources on poison ivy management was strong. Here’s what I found on the School IPM Best Practices website:

Give it a trim. Often

Take a closer look. The leaves of three are less obvious when poison ivy gets bushy.

Poison ivy does not like to be trimmed. Mowing or cutting back young growth will deplete the energy in the roots. Plant stems, aerial vines and underground creeping stems are all capable of producing new nodes and leaves, so continue to monitor and trim. For best results, cut back new growth at the base of the plant.

Using a weed whacker is not recommended without full protective gear as plant material can be kicked back and land on exposed skin. Or in your eyes (shudder).

DO NOT BURN! The oils can be distributed through the smoke. It’s bad enough in between your fingers. You do not want to experience that kind of rash in your lungs.

Spot applications of a nonselective herbicide can be helpful for hard to reach locations or if you are extremely sensitive, but you need to follow the regulations laid out in the Child Safe Playing Fields Act and other state regulations. And remember, plants killed by herbicides will still have urushiol and can cause a rash.

In fact, the longlasting oils are present on all parts of the plant whether the plant is actively growing, dormant, or dead. So…

Wash your equipment!

Once on skin, tools, clothes, boots, and gloves, the oils need to be removed with soap and water. If you mowed poison ivy, urushiol may still be present on the mower blades the next time you remove them to sharpen them. If you used goats (yes, goats have been used to remove poison ivy), it could be in their hair. Take precautions.

And, for goodness sake, give a quick visual check before plunging into handweeding.

One last thought – according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, poison ivy “produces just the kind of fat-rich berries that are essential for sustaining migrating birds during fall and year-round residents in the winter”. So if you have poison ivy in an out-of-the-way area, consider leaving it behind for its wildlife value.

Now, if you will excuse me, I need to take another benadryl.

 

 

Managing traffic is IPM

Are you interested in turfgrass management? Especially as it relates to sports fields? Then the ShortCUTT (Cornell University Turfgrass Times) newsletter, written by Associate Professor and Extension Turfgrass Specialist, Dr. Frank Rossi, is for you! Check out a segment of this week’s offerings.
To receive a copy of the weekly newsletter, e-mail program manager, Carl Schimenti at css223@cornell.edu. Prefer your information verbally? Subscribe to the weekly Turf Talk podcast.

Frequently Asked Questions:

In the simplest of terms, the more use a field receives, the more preparation it will need prior to the initiation of use, maintenance during the traffic period, and recovery maintenance following the traffic. Photo: Bob Portmess

My fields are showing wear stress already after three weeks of use as a result of rainy and now very warm conditions. I’m trying to speak with coaches and parents about field use under these conditions. They keep asking the same question of me, “how many hours of use CAN the field handle”? Can you help?

First big kudos for recognizing the need to communicate with your clients regarding the conditions and safety of the fields. Effective communication is the consistent characteristic of successful professional sports turf managers. We have provided some useful tools to assist with the general information for players, parents, coaches and athletic directors at http://safesportsfields.cals.cornell.edu/coaches.

Additionally, there will not be any hard fast answer to the question without some qualification and understanding of the root zone, type of use, maintenance inputs, and visual quality expectations.

Our first responsibility is to ensure player safety as measured by field hardness, evenness and traction; other field issues become subjective as to what constitutes an “acceptable playing surface”. Again, there are gray areas when discussing amount of use, as poor weather experienced over the last 30 days has led to significantly more wear stress and field decline than expected under average weather patterns. Finally, larger amounts of managed field area that allows for dispersal of focused traffic and the availability of synthetic surfaces both significantly increase overall amount of natural grass playing field use.

Rootzones:

Soil properties impact traffic tolerance.

Loamy soil root zones with some drainage and some irrigation can withstand more than the average amount of use. Sand-based fields with excellent drainage can withstand significantly more than the average amount of use.

Type of Use:

Any type of field use that results in repetitive focused traffic, i.e., between the hash marks, goal mouths, sidelines, will reduce the amount of field use. Larger male athletes create more traffic stress than lighter female athletes. Youth sports with smaller athletes and smaller field dimensions that can be rotated, allow for much more use than average. Again rotation allows for dispersal of the traffic.

Schools and community parks are able to provide different levels of field maintenance based on their budget and the resources on hand that include labor (knowledge and experience), equipment and products. Other factors play into shifting resources, such as desired quality, type of field and use (practice vs game fields).

Maintenance Inputs:

Reasonable care of fields is expected as outlined in ASTM F2060 for cool season natural grass fields – this will include some amount of field rest and recovery as outlined in these important maintenance schedules. In the simplest of terms, the more use a field receives, the more preparation it will need prior to the initiation of use, maintenance during the traffic period, and recovery maintenance following the traffic. No maintenance program will compensate for overuse that leads to decline in field quality below acceptable levels and will need a routine turf replacement program as seen in most professional sporting venues.

Visual Quality Expectations:

A soft, bright green field with poor traction is less safe than a slightly brown, firm, even surface. Photo: Joellen Lampman

Players, coaches, parents and Athletic Directors have the right expect to safe playing fields. Sports turf managers must have field safety measurements to effectively determine when field use leads to decline in safety. The visual quality of the field often is correlated to field safety but not always, as a soft bright green field with poor traction is less safe than a slightly brown firm even surface.

In the end, general guidelines suggest good field conditions can be maintained with reasonable care at between 400-600 hours of use per year per field. Beyond 600 hours of use expect a loss in field quality and significant thinning and wear areas even under ideal conditions.

 

Many thanks to Frank Rossi for providing permission to share this information. For more information on sports field management, visit the Cornell Turfgrass page on Sports Turf and the New York State Integrated Pest Management page on Landscapes, Parks, and Golf Courses.

Bed bugs in schools aren’t going away

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” –Henry Ford

Bed bugs in schools are an issue that is not going to disappear. We have many resources available to help people deal with the issue, but, as is often the case, these resources are not looked for until there is a crisis.

Finding a bed bug in any situation can be distressing, but should not be a cause for panic.

This became clear, once again, as a distraught school official called to ensure that the pesticide application they were planning was legal. When asked if the pesticide applicator had found an infestation, the answer was “We know there isn’t one”. The strategy had been to spot treat when a bed bus is found. But the problem has escalated. Parents are pulling their kids from school. The union is involved. Finger pointing is rampant. The pesticide application was planned to show that SOMETHING is being done.

But we know that it isn’t going to help. Eliminate every bed bug in a building and the very next day a student or staff member can bring in another hitchhiker from an infested home.

So what is the solution?

Bed bugs are, simply, a community problem. It is nearly impossible to determine who is at fault and laying blame is pointless. The old saying states that it takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a village to deal with a bed bug problem.

First, know that it is nearly impossible to prevent bed bugs from entering any public facility. They will hitchhike on personal items from infested homes. These introductions are common in schools, office buildings, movie theaters, retail stores, libraries, taxis, buses, trains, diners,…

Bed bug infestations are rare in schools, but introductions from infested homes, usually on personal items that travel from home to school and back again, are quite common.

Second, infestations do not happen unless bed bugs have the opportunity to feed. They hate disturbance, prefer darkness when feeding, and need a body to be still, usually for two hours or more – not conditions typically found in schools.

Third, especially in apartment units, a family might be doing their best to control bedbugs, but a neighbor’s untreated apartment can lead to constant reinfestations. And there are multiple reasons for residents to not report bed bug infestations within their apartments, including:

  • Bed bugs might not have been noticed. Not everybody reacts to bites.
  • Residents are ashamed or embarrassed. Despite the fact that anyone can get bed bugs, there is the false stigma that bed bugs are associated with poverty and unsanitary conditions.
  • There is a risk of being charged for treatment or being evicted, even when the landlord is responsible.
  • Treatment is expensive and the resident might not have the resources to hire a pest management professional.

A national organization called eXtension has developed an IPM Action Plan for Bed Bugs that addresses the responsibilities of the school community and parents (and, in extreme cases, local government). Both lists include education. The NYS IPM Program can help with educational resources (below) and workshop opportunities.

The Action Plan goes on to discuss procedures that should be followed if a suspected bed bug is found and what to do if children repeatedly come in with bed bugs. It even provides recommendations for further intervention when children continue to come in with bed bugs despite interventions. A small sample of listed procedures include:

  • If a confirmed bed bug was found on a child then the school nurse should inform the child’s parents. [A letter and] inspection report should be sent home with the student. (See Bed Bugs: What Schools Need to Know fact sheet for a good sample letter). Educational materials should accompany the letter.
  • In most instances students should not be excluded from school due to bed bugs. Schools should not be closed due to the discovery of bed bugs unless there is a widespread infestation [which is rare].
  • In an infested home, parents should store their child’s freshly laundered clothing in sealed plastic bags until they are put on in the morning. This prevents bed bugs from hiding in the clothing and being carried to school.
  • Backpacks, lunchboxes and other items that travel back and forth to school can also be inspected daily and stored in sealed plastic containers at home to prevent bed bugs from getting into them. [Backpacks can also be treated in a hot dryer.]
  • At school a “hot box” might be used to heat treat belongings possibly infested. A hot box is an insulated container with a heating element that raises the temperature above 115 degrees, killing bedbugs. They can be purchased for a few hundred dollars. Dryers that contains shelves will also serve the same purpose.

Action plans can then be formatted as a flowchart, making decision making simple to understand and follow. The Michigan Bed Bug Working Group put together the Bed Bugs: What Schools Need to Know fact sheet with a sample flowchart.

This flowchart is part of Bed Bugs: What Schools Need to Know. The fact sheet also includes a sample parent letter.

We recommend that every school develop a bed bug policy based on the recommendations within the IPM Action Plan for Bed Bugs and use NYS IPM Program resources to help educate the school community and beyond regarding bed bugs and how to deal with them.


NYS IPM Bed Bug Resources

And be sure to check out a potential grant opportunity to help the school community purchase the airtight containers and heating units needed to help prevent bed bug transportation. The Walmart Foundation Community Grant Program offers grants ranging from a minimum of $250 to the maximum grant of $5,000. We do not know if they have ever funded this type of project, but let us know if you are successful!

Protect Your Health When Cleaning Up After Mice

Worldwide, rodents carry approximately ten diseases, most of which we’ve never heard of. Centuries ago, ‘the Plague’ spread via flea bites from infected rats. Today, most diseases spread by direct contact with a rodent or–more likely–it’s excrement (saliva, urine, or feces).

While you may not plan to touch a mouse or its droppings, you may put yourself at risk by simply inhaling microscopic particles that are released into the air when you:

  • remove a dead mouse or its trap
  • sweep or vacuum to remove nesting materials or droppings.

Deer mouse and white-footed mouse usually live outdoors but enter homes to forage for food.

Hantavirus, when dissipated in the air (microscopic virus clings to particles), stays alive after rodent activity. In fact, it may be viable up to fourteen days, but according the the CDC, it is more likely three to four.

How do you know?

It is difficult to determine just how old these signs of activity are, so always take precautions with your health and those around you.

No one wants to see this work ahead of them, but do you know how to protect your health while cleaning up?

Here’s the quick list of what to do to protect yourself:

  1. We repeat: ALWAYS TAKE PRECAUTIONS!
  2. Use snap traps to monitor current activity.
  3. Wear rubber, latex, or vinyl gloves when cleaning.
  4. SPRAY the urine, droppings, nest materials or carcasses with a disinfectant. The CDC recommends 1 part bleach to 10 parts water (10% solution) or a commercial disinfectant. SPRAY ENOUGH TO COMPLETELY MOISTEN THE ITEMS AND AREA.
  5. Use paper towels, and place everything in the garbage. (Double bagging with grocery bags can be helpful. Always double bag dead rodents.)
  6. After all signs of activity are removed, disinfect the area and any thing that might have been contaminated. MOP floors and DISINFECT counters with commercial disinfectant or 10% bleach solution. Toss out gloves that can’t be disinfected.
  7. Steam clean or shampoo upholstered furniture and hot-water wash any bedding, towels or clothing that may have come in contact with rodents. MOISTENING EVERYTHING IN YOUR CLEAN-UP AREA WILL SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCE THE OPPORTUNITY FOR AIRBORNE VIRUS TO ENTER YOUR LUNGS.
  8. When a significant clean-up job comes along, a cheap dust mask will not do the trick. Invest in a proper filtered safety mask. It’s worth the cost!

Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) and Hemorrhagic Fever with Renal Syndrome (HFRS) are two extremely dangerous conditions you do not want to encounter. These diseases do not affect the rodents that carry (vector) them.

Even without the threat of disease, clean up work often causes breathing problems for those in and around the area. Don’t forget that cockroaches and their excrement and shed skins are also a main cause of childhood asthma.

Make proper clean-up procedures part of your IPM plan.

Keeping the Pests Out on a Budget: IPM workshops for safe playing fields

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” –  Benjamin Franklin

Calling all school, parks, and sports turf managers and lawn care providers! You have two chances to join the Cornell Turf Team as we look at the latest information on providing safe playing surfaces on sports fields.

June 27, 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Lakeview Elementary School, Mahopac, NY
Full program | Pre-registration required by June 20
Contact: Jennifer Stengle js95@cornell.edu

August 3, 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Coxsackie-Athens High School, Coxsackie, N.Y.
Full program | Pre-registration required by July 28
Contact: Joellen Lampman jkz6@cornell.edu

Topics will include the basics (fertility, irrigation, mowing); advanced techniques (overseeding, seed selection, and turf repair); pest prevention, identification and management; and more.

Coffee and lunch are included. The workshop is free for schools and parks personnel. All other turf managers, please bring $25.

NYS DEC Pesticide Credits: 4.25 in Categories 3a, 3b, 10; STMA CEUs: .375

For more information and to register, visit http://turf.cals.cornell.edu/news/safe-playing-fields-ipm-workshops/.