Failing branches and needle drop is a sad sign of problems on this once-beautiful blue spruce.
There’s a blue spruce tree right outside my bedroom window. It is one of the first things I look at every morning (along with my husband, of course). I can see if it is sunny, rainy, or snowing. This tree was a very dense, full tree that has harbored several bird nests over the years.
This spring, however, I noticed that I could see right through the tree where I never could before. I think it lost maybe half its needles over the winter. Many branches are completely bare. When I went looking at other blue spruces in my yard, I noticed a similar pattern.
Blue spruce has been widely planted as an ornamental tree far beyond its native range.
It turns out that several issues are known to affect Colorado blue spruce (Picea pungens).
Range and Climate Factors
Blue spruce’s native range spans from northern New Mexico through Colorado, and Utah to Wyoming, and into Alberta and British Columbia–areas with a much cooler and drier climate. However, it has been widely planted as an ornamental tree far beyond that range.
In the wetter, more humid areas of the country, blue spruce is more susceptible to fungal pathogens and insects. The tree also tends to have a much shorter lifespan outside of its native range.
Pests and Pathogens: Signs and Possible Treatments
The symptom you will notice most—as I did—is significant branch die-back starting at the bottom and working its way up the tree. This is exacerbated by environmental stressors such as drought and heat, or our cool, rainy springs here in the Northeast.
One of the fungal diseases that affect spruces is Cytospora canker, which causes the development of small cankers that let sap flow out of the branches or trunk. Another is Rhizosphaera needlecast, which causes yellowing and then browning of needles before the fall-off.
In the wetter, more humid areas of the country, blue spruce is more susceptible to fungal pathogens and insects.
Currently the only chemical treatment for Cytospora canker on blue spruce in the landscape is an injected fungicide that must be applied by a certified applicator. Yearly fungicide treatments can help with needlecast but appropriate timing and good coverage are essential to reduce needle loss. Accurate identification is necessary for any disease to make sure that the correct treatments are used.
Here are a couple good fact sheets on blue spruce:
Amara Dunn was hired for the new BioControl Specialist position just about three years ago.
Since then, she’s gone from focusing on ‘learning the ropes’ and creating goals for the position… to being in high demand by staff (and New Yorkers) on both the agricultural and community sides of our program!
Amara, how does your work here at the IPM Program fit the career you imagined when you entered college?
When I started college I really had no idea what I wanted to do, except that I liked biology but didn’t want to be a medical doctor. You could say that my work at NYSIPM (across a broad range of commodities and settings) is kind of the culmination of exploring and honing my interests through a variety of professional and volunteer experiences during and after college. My eclectic job responsibilities have also reminded me that we learn something from pretty much all of our experiences, even the ones that don’t ultimately lead to a career.
Who do you see as the main audience for your current work?
I am trying very hard to provide materials for a broad range of audiences. For example, I’m doing a lot of work currently on conservation biocontrol (protecting and feeding the “good bugs” you’ve already got) and pollinators like bees and butterflies. All of these beneficial insects need the same things, but taking care of beneficial insects looks different in a back yard than it does on a farm. I’m trying to provide cost and “how-to” information for both groups. I think on some level most people I’ve interacted with – farmers, home gardeners, people who enjoy spending time outdoors – have similar questions and goals. They want to know how to solve pest problems, and they care about protecting people and the environment while they do it.
What is most rewarding about your work in pest management?
Helping people. Hands down. Being able to answer questions or provide needed information that ultimately has a positive impact on peoples’ lives brings me so much joy.
What do you most enjoy doing in your non-work time?
Broadly speaking, I would say that I like creating. I have always loved growing plants, and I’m really enjoying planning and implementing new gardens around the house I just bought. And, yes, these gardens do include plants that support beneficial insects. I’m also using them as “virtual demonstration plots” to show how one might support beneficial insects around their homes (and some of the pitfalls when trying to do this). Over the past few years, I’ve been cultivating (pun intended) an interest in cut flowers. I love having fresh flowers in my home or office, and like being able to share them with others. But I also enjoy cooking and knitting/crocheting. And I like to mix my interests. There are a wealth of patterns out there for people wanting to knit or crochet arthropods. I’ve even tried making my own pattern when I couldn’t find what I was looking for.
Given a month to travel or work on something you enjoy, where or what would it be?
Honestly, I’m pretty ambivalent about travel. I could take it or leave it. But when I do travel, I like to visit local gardens, parks, or museums and try delicious local food!
What biocontrol topic or pest problem do you anticipate on your horizon in the next year or so?
Sadly, I suspect it’s inevitable that spotted lanternfly will become established in NY. We’ve done a great job of delaying that inevitability (kudos to everyone – professionals and lay people – for all your hard work!), but it probably is an inevitability. One of the hoped-for benefits of delaying this pest’s establishment is that we’d have more tools (including biological tools) for managing it by the time it got here.
What biocontrol concern has captured your interest for future research?
I’m really interested in learning and documenting the efficacy of biocontrol strategies in the field so that we can give growers specific answers about how to use strategies to reduce risks to people and the environment. For example, how large an area of flowers, which flowers, and how close to the crop do you need to plant them to reduce pest damage? Or, which conventional pesticide sprays can be replaced with biopesticides to maintain good pest control while maintaining profitability. These are really big questions, and I certainly can’t answer them all by myself. There’s a lot of great research already being done on these questions here in NY and elsewhere.
Absolutely. Being part of the NYIPM Program lets us see so much of what’s going on regionally to reduce pest risks and help the environment! Thank you, Amara, for allowing us to share more about you and your role at the NYSIPM Program!
Amara’s office is on the Cornell AgriTech campus but you may have seen her or met her at a variety of conferences and workshops over the last three years. Follow her blog BIOCONTROL BYTES or her Twitter and professional Instagram accounts!
July 10, 2020
by Debra E. Marvin Comments Off on A Farewell to Director Jennifer Grant
We suspect it would take one very long blog post to cover Jennifer Grant’s career at Cornell, so we’ll hit some of the highlights and then focus on some fun. Thanks to some digging by Dr. Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, we’ve managed to gather, then try to squeeze, a few of Jen’s accomplishments into today’s post!
After receiving bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Vermont, Jen took a position as the Ornamentals IPM Specialist at the new NYS IPM Program, 1989-1996. Next came her Ph.D in Entomology at Cornell in 2000.
Jen’s devotion to teaching, promoting, adoption of, and improvement of IPM remained constant through her years with the program, culminating in her role as Director from which she retired in May of 2020. While immersed in active research improving IPM, Jen took sole helm of a nationally respected program regrouping after some tough financial years.
Some of her accomplishments include helping to make NEWA (the Network for Environmental and Weather Applications) a reality in and beyond NY state; the creation of the EIQ evaluation method for pesticide use on golf courses (Environmental Impact Quotient), and co-authoring Reducing Chemical Use on Golf Course Turf: Redefining IPM. Later, she coordinated and cowrote the Best Management Practices for New York State Golf Courses, and organized development of the Cornell Commercial Turfgrass Guidelines. Working with an organic farming specialist, Jen developed comprehensive profiles for the class of products called ‘minimum-risk’ or FIFRA 25b.
Jen worked regionally as part of NEERA (Northeast Region Technical Committee on IPM), and her work garnered an Award for Excellence in IPM from the ESA Eastern (Entomology Society of America) in 2011. Jennifer’s obvious passion for encouraging others to find ways to incorporate IPM into their professions and lives has led to the development of strong relationships with individuals and organizations, to the benefit of the NYSIPM program. She worked with the NYS Departments of Agriculture and Markets; Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation; and Environmental Conservation; state legislators; Cooperative Extension; Cornell and other faculty; and industry members to increase the adoption of IPM throughout NYS.
Throughout her years as a supervisor, coordinator, co-director, and as sole IPM director, Jennifer led IPM staff with a consistent strength and grace that inspired both a strong team cohesiveness and the best individual efforts. By expecting the best from her staff and caring for them as friends, Dr. Grant’s example must be considered as key to the program’s success.
More recently, Jen’s work found her included in a team award for Outstanding Accomplishments in Extension/Outreach Team Award for Protecting Pollinator Health by the Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Numbers, like reductions in pesticide applications, show improvement, but so much of Jen’s passion for IPM changed minds. Her direct, yet congenial, way of providing information and encouragement has to be commended for the increase on IPM awareness statewide and nationally.
And gosh darn, we just really like her!
And now, some fond farewells!
“What a great leader! You have my vote!”
“Thank you, Jennifer for your legacy in IPM! You’re an amazing role model for so many of us. We will miss you so much.”
“Thank you for all you’ve contributed to NYS IPM. I wish you all the best in retirement. That first day you don’t have to check email: priceless!”
“Your impacts will continue to be felt at NYSIPM and around the state (and probably beyond) well into your retirement.”
“You’ve accomplished so much over your career and I can’t thank you enough for all your dedication to the NYS IPM program, for your guidance, support, and positive attitude.”
“I could not have imagined a more supportive, encouraging and thoughtful ‘boss’ until I came on board at NYSIPM.”
“During my time with the IPM Program, you constantly challenged me to think bigger, outside the box, and in ways that will lead to impacts. You coached me on how to navigate the diverse situations experienced as an IPM educator, and provided useful feedback that I carry with me. Your perspective and thoughtful approach continue to serve as a guide while I develop my own program.”
“Jen, the impact you have had on how and why we all approach IPM and pest management is immeasurable. You will be greatly missed.”
“The changes in technology, practices and perspectives have changed greatly in the 30+ years and in no small part because of the work you’ve done, leaving the world better than you found it (and you may be just getting started)!”
” ‘Thank you’s’ are not enough for all that you have done for each of us and for the NYS IPM Program.”
“It’s been fun working on projects with you—I always felt challenged to do my very best!”
“Congrats, Jennifer, on your retirement! I will miss you at future meetings.”
“I’ve learned so much from you both personally and professionally, and I’m lucky to consider you a mentor. I’m sad to see you go, but I’m reminded of your IPM work every day as it continues to ripple through the turf industry.”
“Congratulations on your retirement!”
“I’m grateful to have you as a friend and colleague. I’m sad to see you go but super excited for what lies ahead for you and the whole family.”
“I hope you have a fantastic retirement! Congratulations!”
“Your passion, knowledge, and leadership with IPM and turfgrass is an inspiration that will carry me through the rest of my career.”
“You sure accomplished a ton with your own bear hands! And you did even more as excellent leader and collaborator. It was a pleasure to work on your team!”
“All the best and will miss you as the director!”
“May you, Keith, and the girls continue to have a fulfilling next phase of life.”
“The dandelions and buttercups gild all the lawn: the drowsy bee stumbles among the clover tops, and summer sweetens all to me.” – James Russell Lowell
Dandelions, clover, and many other lawn weeds can help sustain pollinators.
It’s Pollinator Week, a week dedicated to halting and reversing the decline in pollinator populations and recognizing the valuable service they provide.
There are plenty of resources out there to create pollinator gardens and meadows. NYSIPM biocontrol specialist Amara Dunn has been documented an ongoing project trying to create habitat for pollinators and other beneficial insects to help support agricultural systems in her blog, Biocontrol Bytes. Head over and check out her efforts.
But what about places that can’t allow tall vegetation because of space, inability to weed areas, or aesthetics? Lindsey Christiansen, CCE Albany and I decided to explore the recommendation to create pollinator friendly lawns.
But Lindsey and I were wondering if there was a more formal way to create a pollinator friendly lawn. We searched out and found a number of seed mixes and a project was born.
“The best laid plans of mice and men…” – Robert Burns
While fall is a great time to put down seed, we solidified our plans in October, leaving us with little time. We decided to spend the remainder of autumn prepping the plots and wait until winter to put the seed down through dormant overseeding. We laid out three rows of 100 sq.ft. plots. The first row was scalped by running the CCE lawn tractor over it at its lowest height of cut. The second row was stripped using a sod cutter, and the third row was aerified multiple times using a core aerifier to break up the soil and create open soil.
The demonstration project was established in an unused part of the CCE Albany property which allows for road visibility.
Two rows were prepped using a sod cutter and aerifier rented from a local hardware store.
Removing sod cut with a sod cutter is much easier when you have good turf. The weedy lawn proved a challenge to remove.
And then it was time to wait. Ideally, we would have a stretch of bare ground in March with a few inches of snow in the forecast. So we waited. And waited some more. But it was a winter that wasn’t and as the forecast showed above average temperatures into the future, we decided to scatter the seed on March 6 with hopes that winter would provide a last gasp.
Five seed mixes were chosen for the demonstration project. For dormant overseeding, it is recommended that you double the rate, but we were sometimes restricted by the amount of seed we could purchase within our budget.
Snow cover on the dormant overseeded plots.
Winter finally threw us a bone on March 24th. The theory behind dormant overseeding is the weight of the snow pushes the seed close to the soil and as it melts into the soil, it draws the seed down with it through capillary action. The snow also protects the seed from predation. We can only guess how much seed to we lost to birds over those weeks.
And then it was time to wait again. And we were waiting in our homes due to the shutdown. So it was exciting to visit the site in early June and find baby blue eyes, dwarf California poppy, and sweet alyssum in bloom. The plot we were most worried about due to the small rate of application had the most visual pop.
The sod cut plot seeded with Alternative Lawn Wildflower Seed Mix was the most dramatic despite having the lightest rate of application.
And there were pollinators!
Solarization is an IPM technique using the sun to create high temperatures to kill existing vegetation.
We also started a fourth row, this time using solarization to prep the site. Plastic sheeting heats up the soil, killing existing plants and the seedlings of any weed seeds that germinate over the summer. We will keep the sheeting in place until it’s time to seed in the fall.
The recent hot, dry weather has not helped with establishment and there’s not currently much going on in the plots. So we are back to waiting and seeing.
And crossing our fingers that the forecast holds and we get rain by the weekend.
At the end of June, after a week of heat and humidity but no rain, there is not much flowering except for birdsfoot trefoil. For the record, birdsfoot trefoil was not in any of our seed mixes.
Many thanks to Cornell Cooperative Extension Albany County for use of the site, Lindsey Christiansen for her partnership and strong back (and for checking my math), and Matt Warnken for scalping, hauling, sod cutting, photographing, and basically making himself indispensable.
June 23, 2020
by Debra E. Marvin Comments Off on Best Wishes for a Pest-Free Retirement to Lynn Braband, NYSIPM Community IPM Educator!
Lynn Braband has a favorite story about how he came to be employed by the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program. It occurred back in 1999 when Lynn’s experience with wildlife management brought him in contact with Director Jim Tette.
Our story is that it was a good day for IPM. Statewide, regionally, nationally, and even internationally, Lynn Braband made things happen through his determination, eagerness to learn and then share, his passion for the environment ,and his reputation as an all-around naturalist and reliable, genial collaborator. We have kudos to share–only a portion of the comments provided before and during Lynn’s VIRTUAL retirement party–but you can’t help but notice our photo header above with some typical Lynn shots. Much like other members of the Community IPM team, on-site scouting for pests was a big part of Lynn’s visits to school districts around the state.
Hang on while we run through SOME of Lynn’s organizational ties, collaborations, presentations and publications:
Starting with Lynn’s Masters in Wildlife Biology, Lynn worked in the wildlife control industry–including his own business–before joining the IPM Program. He is a member of The Wildlife Society, Sigma Xi, American Scientific Affiliation, National Pest Management Association, National Wildlife Control Operators Association, NYS Wildlife Management Association, and the NYS Wetlands Forum. Add to that, his dedicated service on the National School IPM Steering Committee, the International IPM Symposium Program Committee, the IPM Program Work Team, Rochester Healthy Home Coalition, the Statewide School Environmental Health Steering Committee, and foremost, his co-leadership of the Northeast School IPM Working Group.
As you might know, Lynn created and led NY’s Statewide School IPM Committee (above), but his impact on School IPM became much more than statewide. His retirement announcement prompted praise from collaborators across the nation.
Working with school staff around the state led him to applied research on reducing the risk of yellow jacket stings at schools, and keeping geese off playing fields.
Lynn has spoken on bird management, critters on golf courses, reducing bedbugs in childcare centers, and White Nose Syndrome on bats. I counted more than 150 publications, and over 50 public presentations just since 2012!
Two in-depth school surveys across NY were personally guided by Lynn–it was just a part of his deep commitment and relationship-building with building and property managers at individual schools, and with BOCES health and safety officers.
Trust us, or ask one of his colleagues. The incredible impact Lynn had on expanding IPM knowledge and practices was impressive, and we’ll be doing our best to fill in! As for missing Lynn himself, that’s going to take some getting used to. He might even have a story about that!
Brian Eshenaur, NYSIPM: “It was great to see Lynn’s dedication to get IPM principals utilized in school buildings. Though his leadership, he and colleagues throughout the Northeast have created resources to further school IPM goals in the region.”
“In the many years that I have worked with Lynn I’ve always been impressed with his “steadiness” (unlike me) and his work ethic. Lynn you have accomplished much and are an example of a wonderful public servant. I will miss learning from you.” Marc Lame, Indiana University.
Amara Dunn, NYSIPM: “Not only does Lynn do great IPM, but he is a genuinely kind colleague, and his sense of humor has enlivened many meetings.”
“I wish to take this opportunity to recognize Lynn Braband once more for his splendid support of school IPM efforts within his state and nationally. Lynn, you will be missed greatly; you have influenced, encouraged, educated and supported us all over the years.” Dawn Gouge, University of Arizona.
Jennifer Grant, NYSIPM: “Lynn’s steady commitment and patient persistence have been the underpinnings of his success in getting IPM implemented. That approach, along with his vast knowledge of wildlife biology and regulations, as well as his friendly demeanor, all combine to make it easy and enjoyable to cooperate with Lynn. Throughout his career, Lynn has also shown a strong interest in the ethics of science and pest management. He shares his musings with others, causing us all to think. Thanks for everything Lynn!”
“I want others in the IPM network to understand how instrumental Lynn’s work has been, what a legacy he leaves, and how much he will be missed upon retirement.” Lynn Rose, Pollution Prevention and EHS Consultant, Deerfield, Massachusetts.
Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, NYSIPM: “What a pleasure and an honor to have worked with you for the past two decades, Lynn. I’ve learned a lot from you, most importantly to be more thoughtful and more careful with words. I’ll definitely miss your humor and I will never forget that Albany dinner when Rod Ferrentino sketched out his crimes on the paper tablecloth and had us crying with laughter. I wish you all the best in your retirement from IPM and future adventures.”
Kathy Murray, Maine Dept. of Agriculture: “Lynn has made a lot of good things happen over the past many years.”
Debra Marvin, NYSIPM: “Lynn’s knowledge of wildlife, including his expertise on birds, make him a great IPM facilitator. But his methodical way of approaching problems, and his gentle respect of others, his philosophy and humor make Lynn so admired by his peers, and (lucky for me) a great supervisor and co-worker.”
Joellen Lampman, NYSIPM: “I will miss my dinner time conversations with Lynn, many of which caused fellow diners to wish they had eaten somewhere else that night. But mostly I will miss his stories, his dry sense of humor, and his ability to organize different people with different interests around a common goal statewide, regionally, and even nationally.”
NYSIPM’s Matt Frye chose to honor Lynn in another way:
June 6, 2020
by Joellen Lampman Comments Off on NYSIPM partners with The Tick App
The Tick App: Studying human behavior, tick exposure and the risk of Lyme disease using a citizen science approach via a smartphone application.
Concerned about ticks? Download The Tick App for free to join our research efforts and report your tick encounters.
If you have heard any NYS IPM Program staff talk about ticks, you have probably heard us mention that there is a lot we don’t know about ticks. Or exactly how our actions impact our risk of getting a tick-borne disease. So it is with great pleasure that we announce that we have partnered with the Diuk-Wasser lab at Columbia University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison who created The Tick App.
By downloading the app through GooglePlay or the AppStore, you will have access to information about:
ticks biology and identification
tick activity in your area
how to remove a tick
It will also help you identify ticks that you find through the Report a Tick button.
That’s a lot of information at your fingertips. The most important part of the app, however, is the daily log where you share with the team how you spent your time, what steps you took to prevent tick encounters (if any), and if you found a tick on you, a family member, or a pet. Your information is confidential and will only be shared as aggregated data based on zip code.
I have been using the app for two years and have made entering my data a daily routine, along with my daily tick check. It takes only minutes to complete.
The more people entering data, the better the team will be able to connect the dots between what we do and how that brings us in contact with ticks. We will then be able to better create recommendations to keep New Yorkers safe.
And there’s no better time as The Tick App is launching the #BattleOfTheDailyLog this June, pitching NY against other northeast and midwest states. C’mon New York! We can do this!
Don’t worry. We’ll still continue to provide tick information through the Don’t Get Ticked NY Campaign via our website, blog posts, and presentations.
June 5, 2020
by Joellen Lampman Comments Off on It’s New York Invasive Species Awareness Week
The mission of the New York Invasive Species Awareness Week (ISAW) is to promote knowledge and understanding of invasive species and the harm they can cause by engaging citizens in a wide range of activities across the state, and empowering them to take action to help stop the spread.
While we won’t be able to gather for invasive species identification walks, removal projects, or in-person presentations, there are plenty of online opportunities to increase awareness. And the good news is that you will have access to statewide opportunities. Presentation topics run from learning how to identify plants information and enter it into iMapInvasives to the more specific info on beech leaf disease, crayfish, “murder hornets”, how climate change, and deer, impact native plants and pave the way for invasives, and more. For a full list of virtual events, visit https://nyisaw.org/events/.
And there are numerous challenges offered this year. Be sure to use the hashtag #NYISAW! ISAW Social Media Challenges, many suited for the kids, include:
Sunday – learn about your local invasive species and share a selfie
Monday – create some Invasive Species Art!
Tuesday – use the Agents of Discovery app to learn about invasive species
Wednesday – increase others’ awareness by creating a banner and hanging it in your window
Thursday – help track invasive species in NYS through iMapInvasives. New to iMap? There will be an online training at 1:00
So download the Seek app, head to the backyard and identify some invasive species. Upload the information to iMapInvasives. And then feel free to remove them. This weekend I’ll be CAREFULLY digging up wild parsnip along my roadside. How about you?
April 25, 2020
by Joellen Lampman Comments Off on The Pesticide Management Education Program Warns of Unregistered or Off-label Claims for Disinfectant Use
Our friends over at Cornell’s Pesticide Management Education Program (psep.cce.cornell.edu) have asked us to help spread information on disinfectants and sanitizers. During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increase in adverse health effects from the misuse of these products. There have also been several fraudulent products produced during this time that potential applicators should be made aware of. Please read and share the following:
Beware of fraudulent pesticide claims related to SARS-CoV-2 (the COVID-19 coronavirus):
It has come to our attention that unregistered disinfectants claiming to protect against the virus are being marketed in the US. The efficacy and safety of these products is unsubstantiated and their use is illegal.
Regulators are taking steps to prevent such products from reaching the market, but it is your responsibility to use only those products designated by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for use against SARS-CoV-2, listed at https://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/materials_minerals_pdf/covid19.pdf. Please check this list frequently, as content is subject to change.
Be safe disinfecting your home:
Disinfectants are pesticides and you can only use them as directed by the label. Therefore:
Never mix different disinfectant products together because doing so is dangerous. For example, mixing bleach with acids (such as vinegar) or ammonia releases life-threatening toxic fumes.
Never use disinfectants or disinfectant wipes on your skin. Instead, wash with soap and water; you can also use hand sanitizer on your hands.
Never wash fruits and vegetables with soap, sanitizers, or disinfectants as this could also result in poisoning. Wash produce only in clean water.
Happy Earth Day, Earth Week and Earth Year to you all! The 50th anniversary… incredible! IPM and Earth Day came from the same roots, the environmental movement that was burgeoning over a half century ago. The concept of IPM has come of age, and has permeated people’s approach to growing our food, managing schools, and protecting themselves from pests. Fifty years. Do you look back and get energized by what’s been accomplished, or are you daunted by all the work that lies ahead?
To me, one of the bright lights is that millennials are environmentally conscious, and demand environmental consideration from those providing them with food, employment, cars and other products. Today most people know and care about Climate Change, and want to curb it and its dreadful effects. People around the world are aware of threats to the environment, and are banding together to protect it.
“…sitting in Geneva it’s hard to complain about being home when you look out over Seneca Lake”
Now that most of us are home, it’s a perfect time to look at our normal lives and see what we miss, and what are we’re doing better. We’re driving our cars and flying in planes a lot less. We’re getting out to walk and ride our bikes because there’s nothing else to do. We’re cooking and baking a lot of foods from scratch. Some have “gone back to the land” and are planting vegetable gardens for the first time in years, or ever. Can we incorporate some of these good habits into our new normal as the corona crisis subsides? Why not strive for those goals? The current situation is teaching many about the power of working together. What if your whole neighborhood designates a community garden and produce share? What if your office designates a day a week for working from home, and carpools on the other days? What if your kids grow up to set policies that don’t allow pollution?
Looking within our own NYS IPM program, I am always impressed with the creative ways our staff is working with others to reduce the need for pesticides in agriculture and in our communities. This is not just their profession, for most it’s their passion. As we’ve explored what Earth Day means to each of us, I’ve loved learning that our own Lynn Braband was out marching for the first Earth Day, and that Amanda is teaching her very young sons about Earth Day and has them planting trees.
Please go hug a tree—physically or virtually—and make a plan to save the world, because every day is Earth Day!
“NYSIPM Director Jennifer Grant says she is considering ditching her car and selling cold beers off the back of her bike in retirement”
(Thank you Jennifer, for the great post. A special and bittersweet post as we near the end of Jen’s time as our Director!)
April 10, 2020
by Joellen Lampman Comments Off on It’s Bat Appreciation Week
The sun was set; the night came on apace, And falling dews bewet around the place; The bat takes airy rounds on leathern wings, And the hoarse owl his woeful dirges sings. – John Gay
Little brown bats capture beetles, true bugs, moths, flies, wasps, and other insects. Photo: J. N. Stuart flickr
Big brown bats feed on beetles and other hard-bodies insects. Photo: US Fish and Wildlife Service flickr
Bats are one of those creatures that instill fear in people. (Thanks, Hollywood.) But as all our New York bats eat insects, at a rate of around 700 insects per hour, they can play an important biocontrol role in our IPM programs.
The federally endangered Indiana bat eats beetles, flies, moths, and other insects. Photo: US Fish and Wildlife Service flickr
There are two types of bats in the Northeast. Some species are communal and typically overwinter in caves, mines, and sometimes, to our consternation, our buildings. They include the little brown bat, big brown bat, eastern long-eared bat, eastern pipistrelle, small-footed myotis, and the federally endangered Indiana bat.
(If you find bats lodging in your attic, it is best to call in the professionals. They’ll work with you at the right times of the year to close up crevices and holes that let bats in. Closing up entry holes in the summer could trap baby bats inside. For more information, visit What’s Bugging You – How to deal with bats.)
The hoary bat is our largest bat, migrates to Mexico for the winter, and feeds on beetles, true bugs, moths, flies, wasps, and other insects. Photo: Tom Benson flickr
Bats in the second group live largely solitary lives, roost primarily in tree canopies and cavities, and migrate south for the winter. These include the red bat, hoary bat, and silver-haired bat.
According to the Cornell publication, Bats in the Forest and Beyond, “in a study of a colony of 150 brown bats in an agricultural area, researchers estimated that the colony consumed over 1.25 million insects in a year. This is not surprising, considering that a single bat may eat 3,000 insects on a given summer night. Bats roosting and foraging in New York forests consume forest and eastern tent moths, and a variety of other potential forest pests”.
Whitenose syndrome on little brown bat. Photo: New York US Fish and Wildlife Service
The legal status of bats varies from state to state. In New York, two species, the Indiana bat and the northern long-eared bat, are protected. However, the conservation of all bats is encouraged. This is particularly important since the populations of some bat species, especially the little brown bat, have been decimated by an introduced fungal disease, white-nose syndrome.
So what can we do to help? According to the Cornell Wildlife Health Center, “to minimize spread of the fungus [that causes white-nose syndrome], people should not handle bats, avoid entering caves and mines with bat colonies, and should decontaminate all equipment and clothing between caves and bat roosts”.
Leave or plant trees with deep furrowed bark such as shagbark hickory that provide roosing spots for bats. Allowing dead trees with peeling bark can also provide habitat. If you must take down these trees, avoid cutting from May to early August when bats are raising thier young. We can also install bat boxes, which mimic areas bats would naturally roost.
Looking for something to do with the kids? Alyson Brokaw, a student involved with The Cornell University Naturalist Outreach Program, talks to students about her love of bats and developed a companion education guide.
Alyson talks about why the world’s only true flying mammals are so amazing and why you should learn all about them! Plus, Alyson answers the burning question: “Why do bats hang upside down?”