New York State IPM Program

October 13, 2020
by Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann
Comments Off on Why does my sweater have holes? It might be clothing moths.

Why does my sweater have holes? It might be clothing moths.

Moths of all species, sizes and shapes are abundant during the warm months in the Northeast. They are attracted to lights. They get indoors. For the most part they don’t want to be there. But there are several species of moths that thrive indoors. While some of these will infest grains and pantry items, others feed on natural fibers like wool. The webbing clothes moth and the casemaking clothes moth  are two types that will destroy wool rugs and clothes and will feed on animal-based fibers like fur, silk, feathers and leather. Museums and taxidermy mounts are notably at risk of damage. Even sweat-stained clothes aren’t safe.

A small tan moth, the webbing clothes moth, with three 5th instar larvae

Webbing clothes moth, Mohammed El Damir, Bugwood.org

Small brown casemaking moth,

The casemaking clothes moth, iNaturalist @bramblejungle


If you see tiny moths flying around your home, especially when you haven’t had the windows and doors open, you might be seeing one of these destructive pests. The key to control? First, know what you’re dealing with. Clothes moths (referring to both types) are ½ inch long, golden or mottled tan and brown in color and have fine fringes on the tips of their wings. Because they are easily confused with grain moths, it is also critical to find the source, which will be their larval food source.

In the case of grain moths, you’ll see adults flying near your pantry and cupboards and the larvae inside food packages. Clothing moths, however, prefer dark places like the back of a closet or under furniture on a wool rug. Adult moths do not feed. Their half inch long white caterpillars (larvae) do all the damage. A telltale sign of webbing clothes moth is the silky webbing spun by larvae on the surface of the material they are eating. The casemaking clothes moth larva creates a silken tube around its body that it drags around while feeding on materials. Larvae tend to hide within folds and creases in fabrics and along the edges of carpets. The result? Holes in fabric and damaged carpets, weak spots in leather and missing fur. But their foods are not limited to the things we own. A dead rodent or bird hidden in a wall or ceiling can provide nutrition for a full infestation of moths.

A piece of wool material with one tan colored moth, one pupal case and a larva of the webbing clothes moth.

Webbing clothes moth, Clemson University – USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series , Bugwood.org

a casemaking clothes moth larva with its head peeking out of the tube-shaped case

A casemaking clothes moth larva with its case, a tube of hair and silk, for protection.


If it is unclear just where the moths are coming from, you might consider using pheromone traps labeled for clothing moths (available online). These combine sex pheromones with a sticky surface to catch flying moths.  Place one in the far corner of each room where an infestation is suspected, including the basement and attic. Traps catching the most moths are usually closest to the food source. Too many pheromone traps can flood the space with pheromones that end up confusing moths, so less is more.

Once you have located the source of the infestation consider a plan focused on cleaning. Wool clothing, pillows, small rugs and the like can be dry cleaned or placed in a hot dryer for 30 minutes as a heat treatment (do not wash first).  Many items can also be frozen to kill eggs and larvae. Large rugs can be cleaned with hot steam or you may have a pest management professional treat the rug with a low-risk product. For the long term, vacuum frequently paying attention to crevices and gaps that serve as hiding spots for larvae.

A triangle-shaped cardboard moth trap with moths caught on the sticky surface inside the folded structure

A moth trap that uses pheromones to capture pest moths.

A red cardigan sweater with holes on one side from moth feeding damage.

Casemaking clothes moth damage on a sweater, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org


Once woolens have been treated, it is important to store them where moths cannot reach. Airtight containers, such as plastic bins or vacuum sealed bags, should be used for storage. Keep household humidity low to discourage pests and store vulnerable items, like furs, in cold storage during the warmer months. Rugs and fabrics made of synthetic materials are not at risk of damage.

If no obvious source can be found and a dead animal in the wall or ceiling is suspected, hire a professional to treat inside the wall and seal openings that allow moths to get into living space.

It is possible that the source of clothing moths will not easily be found, leaving residents frustrated. Pheromone traps can help by catching flying moths as they seek mates, thereby reducing the population until the source can be located.

Visit our website for general IPM for the home as well as specifics for fabric moths and pantry pests.

graphic shows photo of Dr. Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann and her contact information

May 5, 2020
by Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann
Comments Off on Asian Giant Hornets – A Concern for New York?

Asian Giant Hornets – A Concern for New York?

A pinned specimen of a large wasp, the Asian giant wasp from a side view.

Asian giant hornet, pinned. Photo by Allan Smith-Pardo, USDA APHIS PPQ, Bugwood.org

By now many Americans reading or watching the news have heard about “murder hornets” from Asia invading the American landscape. It is true that in many parts of East Asia, Japan in particular, a large hornet lives and feasts upon honey bees and other insects. This is the Asian giant hornet (AGH), or Vespa mandarinia, which is a relative of the European hornet (Vespa crabro) that we typically see in North America. The European hornet is an import to America that has naturalized, or become established here as if it was native. The Asian giant hornet has just arrived on North America’s west coast, by unknown means. Residents and beekeepers alike are hoping it doesn’t become naturalized in America.

Pinned specimen of the large black and yellow Asian giant hornet, seen from above.

Asian giant hornet, Photo by Allan Smith-Pardo, USDA APHIS PPQ, Bugwood.org

The Asian giant hornet is the world’s largest, measuring 1.6 to 2 inches long, with a particularly large yellow-orange head. It is a social insect, living in colonies built in soil burrows dug by rodents and other animals. While people may not often see Asian giant hornets, beekeepers will definitely notice their decimated colonies of honey bees. It takes a handful of Asian giant hornets to slaughter an entire honey bee colony, after which hornets feed on the larvae, pupae and honey inside the hive. Japanese honey bees, which are a different species of honey bee than what we raise in North America, can fight back against AGH by surrounding and super-heating the wasp in a ball of bee bodies. Our European honey bees also have this defense behavior, but it is unknown how they would fare with this kind of predation. If AGH becomes established in the US and Canada, the greatest threat will be to beekeepers and their honey bees.

The hazard to humans posed by the stings of AGH is real. The venom is toxic and with their long stingers, AGH can inject more venom into a wound than most other stinging insects. Stings lead to intense pain and swelling, and can induce renal failure and anaphylaxis. Multiple stings can be deadly. But, these hornets do not come after humans and left alone, they mind their own business. The efforts to eradicate AGH from Washington State and Canada will be a priority aimed at avoiding their permanent establishment in the US. Unlike claims in some media outlets, it will likely take many years for this wasp to spread across the country on its own if we fail to eradicate it. Beekeepers will be on the front lines of detection.

*** June 2020 UPDATE – A dead queen Asian giant hornet was discovered this spring on a road near Custer, WA, which is close to the western Canada border. This indicates that queens produced by at least one colony in the Fall of 2019 overwintered and emerged. To date (6/3/20) no other detections have been reported.

*** August 2020 UPDATE

In 2020, both Washington and Canada have had new confirmed sightings of the Asian giant hornet. In addition to earlier reports, one queen, one worker and another unspecified wasp have been reported. This means we are not done with Asian giant hornets yet! Finding a queen wasp in May suggests that they survived winter in the Pacific Northwest. As colonies of these and related wasps grow in size through the end of summer, there may be more findings to report. Stay Tuned!

There are several species of wasps in the US that are very commonly confused with AGH and often killed unnecessarily:

Cicada KillerSphecius speciosus – a large, native, solitary wasp, does not readily sting or act aggressive toward humans, hunts cicadas, exclusively, digs burrows in the soil where eggs are laid upon the body of paralyzed cicadas. Common in suburban areas.

A cicada killer wasp rests on a green leaf.

Cicada killer wasp, photo by Nancy Hinckle, bugwood.org

 

European HornetVespa crabro – an introduced social species, colonies started by a single queen, colony builds and expands a tan paper ball nest typically in hollow trees and abandoned barns and structures. More common in rural areas. Not aggressive unless harassed.

Pinned specimen of European hornet seen from above

European hornet pinned specimen, photo by Allan Smith-Pardo, USDA APHIS PPQ, Bugwood.org

Pinned specimen of European hornet seen from the side

European hornet pinned specimen, photo by Allan Smith-Pardo, USDA APHIS PPQ, Bugwood.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baldfaced hornetDolichovespula maculata – Large black-and-white wasp, not a true hornet, colonies started by a single queen, nest is a grey paper ball usually high in trees or on the side of structures. Not aggressive unless harassed.

A black and white baldfaced hornet on a white background

A baldfaced hornet resting, photo by Johnny N Dell, bugwood.org

Yellowjackets (many species) – Vespula sp. – Small yellow-and-black wasps that nest in large colonies in soil and other man-made cavities. Can be aggressive, especially in early fall.

A yellow and black yellowjacket pinned in a collection.

A “ground hornet” or “widow yellowjacket, photo by J.L. Gangloff-Kaufmann

Paper waspsPolistes sp. – Slightly longer than yellowjackets, various colors, long legs, umbrella comb nest with a few to a few dozen wasps. Not aggressive unless harassed.

A black and yellow European paper wasp sits on a paper nest.

A European paper wasp sits on a paper comb nest. Photo by David Cappaert, bugwood.org

 

The Bottom Line: A few Asian giant hornets were discovered in Washington State in 2019. The greatest threat is to honey bees and beekeepers. Efforts to eradicate this wasp are underway. New York does not have Asian giant wasps and hopefully won’t anytime soon.

Residents of the west coast should keep an eye out for Asian giant hornets and residents of Washington State are strongly encouraged to submit reports of sightings to the Washington State Department of Agriculture. If you live in New York and have questions about wasps or any stinging insects, you can contact NYSIPM or your local Cornell Cooperative Extension office for advice or to submit samples for identification.

 

August 1, 2018
by Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann
Comments Off on An Exotic Tick Could be Very Bad News

An Exotic Tick Could be Very Bad News

Some scientists consider the epidemic of tick-borne disease in the Northeast one of the region’s greatest natural disasters. As if the risks were not bad enough already, there is a newly emerging concern. In the fall of 2017, officials in New Jersey confirmed the discovery of a new species of tick on a sheep farm in Hunterdon County. This tick, known as the longhorned tick or East Asian tick, has now been discovered in New Jersey, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas and, recently, New York. Native to China, Korea, Japan and Pacific islands and nations, the longhorned tick has only been known to science for about nine years and is thought to have been in the United States since at least 2010.

Nymph, male and female life stages of blacklegged ticks at the top, nymph and adult of the longhorned tick below, compared with poppy seeds. Photo: Jim Occi, Rutgers University

So what is the risk? The longhorned tick feeds on a wide range of mammals and birds, including cattle, sheep pigs, chickens as well as bear, deer, fox, rabbits, smaller mammals and wild birds. It also feeds on dogs, cats and humans. This tick spreads quickly through herds of domestic and wild animals. It may have arrived in the US through human travel or the transport of animals, as the USDA has intercepted specimens at inspection points in US ports. Wild migratory birds can carry these ticks, and so can animals that move great distances, such as coyotes. Even though it has been discovered in just a handful of states, the longhorned tick is likely much more widespread.

An interesting aspect of the biology of longhorned ticks is that females can reproduce asexually through a process known as parthenogenesis. Females do not need to seek a mate and can reproduce quickly and spread rapidly into new areas. It is a cold-tolerant species that can overwinter, and therefore it is expected to spread northward.

The longhorned tick is capable of transmitting diseases to livestock animals, including horses, sheep and cows. This means a significant risk to the dairy and livestock industry from tick-borne theileriosis, a malaria-like disease that results in anemia and possible death of cattle and sheep.

This exotic tick can also carry a few serious disease organisms that affect humans but we still do not know if it can transmit those pathogens to people. In one recent case, a child in New Jersey found a longhorned tick crawling on her body, but was not bitten. That tick tested negative for known pathogens.  However, a single tick specimen cannot define the disease risk that we might face, so we need more information.

Anyone who encounters a tick is encouraged to have the tick identified by a professional. This is especially true for ticks that seem out of the ordinary. Longhorned ticks are difficult to identify, especially in the younger stages. Adults are plain brown but look similar to brown dog ticks. You can submit ticks for identification to one of the tick ID services listed at the bottom of this webpage: http://www.neregionalvectorcenter.com/ticks.

Prevent tick bites to minimize the risks of becoming infected. Learn more about tick bite prevention and tick management at the NYS IPM Program’s Tick webpage: www.dontgettickedny.org.

For more details about the exotic longhorned tick, see the Northeast Regional Center for Excellence in Vector-Borne Diseases fact sheet: http://neregionalvectorcenter.com/longhorned-tick

 

References:

“Rutgers-Led ‘Tick Blitz’ finds exotic longhorned ticks and aggressive lone star tocks in new locations across New Jersey”. Buccino, Neal. Rutgers Today. 7/30/18 https://news.rutgers.edu/rutgers-led-%E2%80%9Ctick-blitz%E2%80%9D-finds-exotic-longhorned-ticks-and-aggressive-lone-star-ticks-new-locations/20180530#.W19psdVKiCg [Accessed 7/30/18]

“Longhorned” tick found in New York, growing number of states”. Ricks, Delthia, Newsday, 7/18/18 https://www.newsday.com/news/health/longhorn-tick-health-new-york-1.19903464 [Accessed 7/30/18]

July 3, 2018
by Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann
Comments Off on The Jumping Spider at Your Service

The Jumping Spider at Your Service

It’s rare that a creature as small as a spider could be aware of a human in such a charismatic way, but that’s the nature of the jumping spider. With two pairs of forward-facing eyes set on a flat face (along with two other pairs pointing outward) the jumping spider is a predator that relies on its keen vision to find prey—even as it evades predators and keeps an eye on you. No larger than an inch (and mostly much smaller), these spiders are harmless to humans but present in our environment in all but the coldest weather. They seem to thrive in the complex outdoor spaces that we create with our homes, sheds, landscapes, patio furniture and gardens.

Look at that dude’s face! (It’s a male.) credit: Creative Commons en.wikipedia.org/wiki/

Why? Because there are plenty of spaces for hiding and lots of prey.

Jumping spiders make up the largest group of spiders in the world—about 13 percent of those we’ve named. While most are found in the tropics, over 300 species of jumping spiders inhabit North America. They are mainly carnivorous, meaning they are hunters. Sometimes jumping spiders incorporate nectar into their diets, and one species is known to feed on plant matter—making it unique among all spiders. As hunters, jumping spiders use a variety of strategies, from ambushing prey to sneakily dropping down on their victims from above.

Like most spiders, they extrude silk from silk glands at the rear end of their abdomen, but jumping spiders don’t spin webs. They use their silk as a safety line for rappelling and to remember where they’ve been. Jumping spiders can take prey much larger than themselves. Like all spiders, they subdue their prey with venom from their jaws, aka chelicerae.

One of the truly remarkable things about jumping spiders is their ability to … you guessed it … jump. With those big binocular eyes, they calculate the distance of a leap and the position of prey before leaping. Once airborne, they drop that silk line for safety.

Jumping spiders have also have elaborate mating rituals. These include drumming and vivid dancing by male spiders hoping to attract females. The peacock spider is a great example.

So what does this have to do with IPM? Sometimes just understanding the creatures we see in our everyday lives can have an impact on our feelings about killing them. Many people have negative feelings about spiders. Yet most are completely harmless and never infest homes. They are serious predators of flies, mosquitoes and other pest insects. In fact, the ecological services of spiders are much larger than we can measure.

Jumping spider captures a carpenter ant queen

Consider the ways you manage your home landscape, especially the areas around the perimeter of the house or building. Reducing the use of insecticides can help conserve beneficial arthropods like jumping spiders. Most home landscapes never need insecticides for management. If a shrub or a plant has persistent pest issues, such as aphids or mites, it might not be worth keeping. Just remove that problem plant and replace it with something better adapted and pest-free. After all, choosing the right plant for the right place is core to good IPM.

Meanwhile, keeping mulch away from the foundation (consider a pebble border) can help keep insects such as ants out of your house. Make sure those shrubs and trees around the home are not touching the side of the building to eliminate the bridge from landscape to house and the need for perimeter insecticide use.

Creating a more sustainable landscape encourages beneficial arthropods—the spiders and such—naturally found in your yard. Spiders, mysterious and creepy as they might seem, are top predators of insect pests. As the charismatic ambassadors of the spider world, jumping spiders remind us that it’s OK to live and let live.

July 27, 2017
by Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann
Comments Off on Ants in your house? Throw them a party!

Ants in your house? Throw them a party!

Not fond of ants in the kitchen? You are not alone. And even after you’ve cleaned them up, washed the countertop, swept away the crumbs and taken out the garbage — they just keep coming, looking for more.

It’s this time of year when ants invade homes looking for food, water and shelter. Where are they coming from — and how are they getting there?

At 1/16 to 1/8 inch long, this is one tiny ant. Photo credit Joseph Berger.

A number of ant species seem to specialize in homes. Among the most tenacious: the odorous house ant, Tapinoma sessile. You can tell it by its smell.  Just crush it in your fingers and give it a sniff.

What’s that smell? Some say it’s the smell of rotting coconut, but how many of us know the pleasure of a rotting coconut? Just call it pungent.

Odorous house ants are well adapted to the urban environment. In fact, being around man-made structures allows them to become the dominant ant species with enormous interconnected colonies. They invade homes and apartments through the smallest cracks and gaps, foraging for sweets. So keeping them out may be near impossible.

Pesticides and insecticidal ant baits are the most common forms of ant control. In IPM we almost never recommend spraying over other sound tactics. In the case of odorous house ants, spraying the foundation and soil around a structure can help. But it can also kill non-target insects.

Plus — it rarely kills the queen (an urban supercolony may have scores; even hundreds) and the colony might well live on.

Baiting for odorous house ants with sweet gel baits is an effective way to reduce the whole colony. Adult ants carried them back to the nest and fed to the larvae and queens — the beating heart of the colony.

You might choose to hire a professional who will identify the ant species (very important for baiting correctly) and place bait where ants are active. Or you might decide to use sweet boric acid bait from the hardware store. Either way there’s a critical step here.

…..  LET THE ANTS PARTY!  ….

Whatever the source — spilled food or bait station — ants do like to party. Invite yours with a sweet ant bait. Photo credit M. Potter, UKY.

If the odorous house ants accept the bait, more and more ants will show up for the feast. The more ants, the more bait they will transfer back to the larvae and queens. Let the party rage on! You could see dozens of ants, maybe hundreds.

Ignore them until at least the following day — and never spray an insecticide or cleanser on or near the bait. With professional-use baits, the disappearance of ants is quite dramatic. Boric acid baits will take a bit longer but are no less effective.

As always, before you use a pesticide, read the label and follow instructions. Once the party is over, clean up the remains with soap and water.

And remember, ants are like a sanitation department. They forage on what we leave behind, so keep those counters (and the sink, garbage can, compost bucket, microwave…) clean and free of food spills and crumbs. We best coexist with ants when we don’t invite them inside.

 

July 2, 2015
by Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann
Comments Off on The Wannabe Bees

The Wannabe Bees

Who wants to be a bee? I don’t claim to know the deepest desires of insects that visit our gardens and farms, except that they want to survive, eat and reproduce. So why do so many mimic other insects that are dangerous, such as yellowjackets? The black and yellow stripes of a typical yellowjacket are easily recognizable to birds, humans and other mammals and signal “Danger! I sting!”. That’s a pretty powerful message that ensures yellowjackets and other wasps and bees are avoided by hungry predators looking to raid the colony for tasty larvae or honey. It’s called aposematic coloration and serves as a warning to other animals not to mess around. From skunks to poison arrow frogs to snakes, aposematic coloration protects both predator and prey from unfortunate interactions.

But what about the harmless insects that are similarly colored? In landscapes and gardens throughout the U.S. you can look closely and find small black and yellow-striped insects

Hover fly on daisy fleabane.

Hover fly on daisy fleabane.

hovering above flowers. Harmless hover flies (a type of fly in the Syrphid family) display a mimicry of yellowjacket coloration, as you can see in the picture. Adults hover flies feed on nectar and pollen, thereby serving as minor pollinators of many flowering plants. The larvae, or maggots, of some hover flies are saprotrophs (feeding on decaying

matter) and some are predatory on smaller insects, like aphids and thrips. Aphids, alone, cause tens of millions of dollars in crop damage each year. Hover flies are considered among the many important natural enemies of aphids and other plant-feeding pests. A gardener’s friend, indeed!

Also in the Order Diptera (which includes all flies and mosquitoes) are the amazing robber flies. The one pictured is called a bee-mimic robber fly. It closely resembles a bumble bee

Bumble bee robber fly

Bumble bee robber fly

and enjoys the protection that such mimicry provides. How could you tell it apart from a bumble bee? All flies, including these, have only one pair of wings. Look closely at the image and you can see a round dot at the base of the wing. That is called a haltere, which is a wing reduced into a flight stabilizer. You can also see very enlarged eyes, relative to the head, small V-shaped antennae and a thick straw-like mouth. Yes, robber flies can bite! But they are voracious predators of other insects – whatever they can catch. Although robber flies are indiscriminate about what other insects they eat, if you have a garden with pests and you see robber flies, they are probably doing good deeds for you.

By looking closely at the many insects that visit your yard and garden, you might be surprised at how many beneficial insects you see. Maintaining your green space using fewer pesticides and incorporating IPM strategies to manage plant feeders will help protect these amazing natural enemies.

October 15, 2014
by Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann
Comments Off on What’s the Buzz — About Citronella Ants

What’s the Buzz — About Citronella Ants

In late September and early October, on warm days, you may notice a buzz in the air. This is the time of year when citronella ants swarm, and they can overwhelm a backyard with winged queens and kings looking for a mate and a new home. Citronella ants are a bit larger than pavement ants and are yellow to amber in color. Winged swarmers are larger and darker in color with smoky tinted wings. When crushed, they smell just like a citronella candle.

Citronella ants care for, or tend, root aphids.

Citronella ants care for, or tend, root aphids.

The life and habits of citronella ants aren’t well-studied, but they do have one fascinating trait. They tend herds of underground aphids, known as root aphids as if they were cattle, and harvesting sweet honeydew excreted by the sap-loving aphids. Root aphids feed on the roots of shrubs and plants, in my case flowering dogwoods. Root aphids may contribute to poor health of some plants, but they are extremely common and remain mostly undetectable beneath the soil.

Citronella ants care for, or tend, root aphids.

Citronella ants are not a home-invading species of ant, although they may accidentally fly indoors during a mating flight. Swarmers may also end up indoors if the roots of shrubs have reached a structure foundation that, due to gaps or cracks, provides an exit into the building. Either way, these ants are not household pests, preferring to remain in their own habitat, tending their herds and minding their own business.

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