New York State IPM Program

July 20, 2019
by Joellen Lampman
Comments Off on Revisiting wild parsnip

Revisiting wild parsnip

Wild parsnip sap can cause painful, localized burning and blistering of the skin. – New York State Department of of Environmental Conservation

Wild parsnip going to seed. The sap form this widely spreading invasive plant can cause severe burns.

Wild parsnip going to seed. The sap in this widely spreading invasive plant can cause severe burns.

A few weeks ago we discussed the invasive wild parsnip as a hidden danger for weekend weedwackers. Now it is much more obvious with its bright yellow flowers, but if you are looking to control it now, straight mowing is off the table. Some of the heads are going to seed and mowing will simply distribute those seeds, ensuring a new crop of wild parsnip next year.

Whether you choose to dig out the root, cut the root an inch or two below the soil, or mow, first cut the seed head off with clippers and put it in a plastic bag. The bag can then be left in the sun to rot the seeds before disposal. And don’t forget to wear protective clothing to prevent any sap from reaching exposed skin or eyes.

Use a boot brush to clean mud and seeds off your boots.

Use a boot brush to clean mud and seeds off your boots. Remember to check the tread!

This is also the time of year when seeds of this and other invasive species can be accidentally transported by hikers and dog walkers. Avoid brushing against plants. Check shoes, clothing, and gear after leaving an area. Remove any seeds that are found and seal them in a plastic bag. (This can double as a tick check!)

For more information on preventing the spread of invasive species while hiking, biking, camping, and, well, any outdoor play, a great resource is PlayCleanGo. And consider taking their pledge to Stop Invasive Species in Your Tracks.

Let’s stay safe out there!

April 16, 2019
by Debra E. Marvin
Comments Off on 360° Pollinator Garden Tour

360° Pollinator Garden Tour

Have you ever wondered what pollinator-supporting plants you can add to your property ?

Here’s an excellent and enjoyable way to find out.  Funded by one of our Community IPM Grants, Cooperative Extension of Putnam County created the perfect example. While you can certainly stop in to visit, (Cornell Cooperative Extension of Putnam County,  1 Geneva Road, Brewster NY.), here’s the next best thing. Or maybe it’s better because you can visit any time regardless of weather and distance!

Visit a real pollinator garden with this virtual 360 degree tour. In this curated experience, suitable for youth and adults,  go on a pollinator insect hunt, or learn about the threats to native and non-native pollinators. Master Gardener Volunteers will help you make decisions about plant and landscape choices that support pollinator abundance and diversity.

This is just one of the resources we are pleased to provide to help you help pollinators.

Find these and more on our website:

Congratulations to the crew at CCE Putnam for this unique resource!

April 11, 2019
by Debra E. Marvin
Comments Off on Blogs as Varied as our Program…

Blogs as Varied as our Program…

The THINK IPM Blog tries to cover the breadth of our program but if you know anything about us, it’s that pest management covers much more than cockroaches and dandelions. Here’s the rest of our blogs:

BIOCONTROL BYTES

The goal of this blog is to inform New Yorkers who are trying to control pests – on farms, in backyards, in businesses, or in homes – about the role that biological control plays (or could play) in successful integrated pest management. Additional information and resources can be found here.

The information is posted by Amara Dunn, Biocontrol Specialist with the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program. New content will be posted approximately once a month. Click the “Subscribe” button on the right to make sure you don’t miss anything! Content may include information on the effective use of biocontrol, responses to questions from stakeholders, and updates on new or ongoing biocontrol projects of interest to New Yorkers.

If you have questions about biocontrol, you can contact Amara by email (arc55@cornell.edu), or you can call her office (315-787-2206).


CHRISTMAS TREE IPM

Brian Eshenaur is the lead on this blog and with a new evergreen planting being established at the NYSAES/Cornell Agritech, we expect to see new posts this growing season.

Sr. Extension Associate for Ornamental Crops
Integrated Pest Management Program, 2449 St. Paul Blvd., Rochester, NY 14620
(585) 753-2561

NYSIPM WEEKLY FIELD CROPS PEST REPORT

This is a seasonal scouting report providing information on presence, identification, and management guidelines for significant field crop pests in New York. This report provides timely information to help users learn about, and better anticipate, current and emerging problems and improve their integrated pest management efforts.

The report is written by Ken Wise Extension Educator with Cornell University’s New York State IPM Program for Livestock and Field Crops in collaboration with other Cornell Cooperative Extension personnel, and Jamie Cummings, Livestock and Field Crops Coordinator.


ORNAMENTAL CROPS IPM


SPOTTED WING DROSOPHILA

This blog is managed by Juliet Carroll, Fruit IPM Coordinator, NYS IPM Program, IPM House, Cornell AgriTech, Geneva, NY 14456, (315) 787-2430

SWD first reports and first finds contain GDD and day length information.

If you have questions contact her at jec3@cornell.edu. For more information on SWD, consult the websites listed in the right hand column, under More SWD Resources.


ABCs of SCHOOL AND CHILDCARE PEST MANAGEMENT

Joellen Lampman, School and Turfgrass IPM Extension Support Specialist housed at CCE Albany County, 24 Martin Road, Voorheesville, NY 12186, (518) 441-1303, Email: jkz6@cornell.edu


TREE IPM

The content of this blog is derived from inquiries of Nurseries and Christmas Tree Farms.

The IPM Program staff fielding the questions are Brian Eshenaur bce1@cornell.edu and Elizabeth Lamb eml38@cornell.edu

The IPM Ornamentals program works with university researchers, extension educators, crop consultants and growers to identify pest management issues and find answers. We deliver the IPM solutions to growers through hands-on workshops, demonstrations, and publications.


SWEET CORN PHEROMONE TRAP NETWORK

The purpose of this site is to provide weekly reports from the NY sweet corn pheromone trap network.  The trap network is a collaboration between the NYS IPM Program, local Cornell Cooperative Extension programs, farmers, and crop consultants.  We also provide scouting and threshold information for fresh market sweet corn and links to resources on the major sweet corn insect and disease pests.  The information on these pages is maintained by Marion Zuefle, Vegetable IPM Extension Area Educator with the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program, with help from Craig Cramer, Communications Specialist with the Department of Horticulture at Cornell University.
To contact Marion: mez4@cornell.edu

Marion Zuefle, Vegetable IPM Extension Area Educator

Marion Zuefle

IPM House, 607 W. North St., Cornell AgriTech, Geneva, NY 14456,  (315) 787-2379,  Email:  mez4@cornell.edu


YOU’RE NEWA

You’re NEWA is managed by Dan Olmstead, NEWA Coordinator, NYS IPM Program.

The Network for Environment and Weather Applications (NEWA) delivers weather data from weather stations primarily located on farms through the Internet at newa.cornell.edu and automatically calculates and displays weather data summaries, crop production tools, and integrated pest management (IPM) forecasts. NEWA tools promote precision IPM and crop production practices.

Dan Olmstead

Dan Olmstead, NEWA Coordinator, housed at IPM House, Cornell AgriTech, Geneva, NY 14456, 315-787-2207, Email: dlo6@cornell.edu

February 20, 2019
by Debra E. Marvin
Comments Off on #Ticks. Avoid Them. Remove Them. Here’s How.

#Ticks. Avoid Them. Remove Them. Here’s How.

Winter weather doesn’t mean time to stop thinking about ticks.  Certainly not for the Don’t Get Ticked New York team here at the NYSIPM program.  Tick are active year round, and are out looking for hosts We’ve continued to provide resources and give talks around the state, and update our own resources. Visit the Don’t Get Ticked New York page.

Watch this video by Joellen Lampman and share this post!

 

and download your own tick posters:

Live in Tick Country? (gardener)

Live in Tick Country? (farmer)

Live in Tick Country? (hunter)

Live in Tick Country? (children)

Prepare for Summer Camp

How to Protect your Pets

Minimize Ticks in School Yards

Minimize Ticks in Your Yard

Clothing Treatments

Recognize Tick Habitats

Proper Use of Repellents

Monitor Ticks in School Yards

Monitor Ticks in Your Backyard

Ticks and tick-borne diseases have become a significant public health issue in New York, with different tick species and diseases currently present and spreading within the state and region.Visit the Don’t Get Ticked New York page.

 

February 6, 2019
by Debra E. Marvin
Comments Off on Not Too Early to Start Planning for Pollinator Habitat

Not Too Early to Start Planning for Pollinator Habitat

Some of our beneficial insect habitat plots looked really beautiful this fall! Others are still works in progress.

Today’s post is from our Biocontrol Specialist, Amara Dunn

Have seed and plant catalogs started arriving in your mailbox, yet? This is the time of year I start thinking wistfully about the arrival of spring. If your spring daydreams include planting habitat for pollinators and other beneficial insects, keep reading for the latest on NYS IPM’s beneficial insect habitat establishment project!

Back in October I described the purpose and design of this project. So what have we learned after the first year? First, here’s a reminder of the different treatments we were comparing. Each treatment involved either direct seeding or transplanting habitat plants, in the spring or the fall, utilizing a different method for weed control.

Treatment Fall 2017 Spring 2018 Summer 2018 Fall 2018
A Herbicide Herbicide, transplant  Weed 2x Replace dead plants
B Herbicide Till, transplant, mulch Weed 2x Replace dead plants
C Herbicide Till, direct seed Mow 3x Mow 1x
D Herbicide Till, plant buckwheat Mow 1x, till, plant buckwheat Mow 1x, transplant
E – control Herbicide Herbicide Mow 3x Mow 1x
F Herbicide Till, lay plastic Continue solarization Remove plastic, direct seed
G Herbicide Herbicide/till Herbicide 2x, till 1x Till 1x, direct seed

And here’s how much time and money we spent on each method during our first year. Each treatment was applied to a total area of 460 ft2 (0.01 A).

Treatment Supply costs

Time

(person hrs)

A – Spring transplant $417.12 13.2
B – Spring transplant and mulch $539.29 20.4
C – Spring seeding $17.75 4.4
D – Buckwheat & fall seeding $390.55 10.3
E – Control $2.32 2.6
F – Solarize & fall seeding $148.02 10.2
G – Herbicide/tillage & fall seeding $22.04 6.3

What did we get for the time and money we invested? Well, the only two treatments that looked anything like habitat for beneficial insects by October were the ones we transplanted in the spring (A and B). And of the two, treatment B looked a lot better because of the mulch we spread around the plants after transplanting to help suppress weeds. Even so, we still hand weeded this treatment (and treatment A) twice during the year. But we got much better weed control in treatment B.

Four and a half months after transplanting, the beneficial habitat plants in treatments A (left) and B (right) were mostly growing well. But there was a big difference in weed control, in spite of similar amounts of time spent weeding each treatment

Direct-seeding in the spring resulted in a few blackeyed Susans by October (and a few partridge peas slightly earlier in the year), but did not look very impressive and had a lot of weeds.

After direct-seeding in the spring and mowing four times during the summer and fall, there were a few blackeyed Susans blooming in treatment C plots.

Of the three methods we used to manage weeds during the season, alternating herbicide applications and tillage resulted in the cleanest-looking plot by October.

A few weeds were present a week after the last time the herbicide/tillage treatment (G) was rototilled. We broadcast, raked, and pressed beneficial habitat seed into these plots.

Solarizing the soil was low-maintenance once the plastic was laid in the spring. We did learn that solarization is not a good strategy if you’re trying to control purselane. It grew just fine under our clear plastic, while most other weeds didn’t. In some places, it probably reduced the efficacy of solarization because it pushed the plastic away from the soil and allowed other weeds to germinate and grow.

In some solarized plots, purslane grew happily under the plastic. Purslane was not a common weed anywhere else in the field during the season.

 

The two crops of buckwheat we grew in treatment D not only suppressed weeds, but also attracted lots of pollinators and natural enemies to its blossoms before we mowed the crop down to keep it from going to seed.

The buckwheat established quickly and crowded out many weeds. We mowed the first crop in July and re-planted. We had to mow the second crop about 3 weeks before we transplanted (not ideal).

In summary, if one of your 2019 resolutions is to plant habitat for beneficial insects, I have two pieces of advice:

  1. Spend 2019 controlling weeds. Even where we transplanted, weed pressure was a challenge, and investing in weed control before you plant is worth it!
  2. If you have sufficient funds and need or want to establish habitat quickly, transplants are the way to go. Mulch will help you with your battle against weeds.

In 2019, we’re planning to keep monitoring these plots. Check back to see how the fall-planted and direct-seeded treatments look in their second year. Most of these methods are expected to take several years to reach their full potential. We will also start counting the insects (and insect-like creatures, like spiders) we find in these plots. During 2018, we already started seeing some beneficial insects showing up in these plots, so I’m looking forward to counting them once spring finally gets here!

Here are just a few of the beneficial insects we spotted in these plots during 2018. Soldier beetles, many  hover flies, and lacewing larvae are all natural enemies of pests. We also saw lots of lady beetles and several other types of bees.

Thanks to Betsy Lamb and Brian Eshenaur who are working on this project with me, and to Bryan Brown for doing a weed assessment for us. You can read more about this project and see more pictures from 2018 at Biocontrol Bytes. Subscribe to make sure you don’t miss future updates!

For more about biocontrol and Amara’s work, follow her blog, Biocontrol Bytes, and the NYSIPM Facebook page where we try to keep up with all of her activities around the state!

January 31, 2019
by Debra E. Marvin
Comments Off on Have You Spotted Our New SLF Webpage?

Have You Spotted Our New SLF Webpage?

Here’s the latest on Spotted Lanternfly from Ryan Parker, Extension Aide at NYSIPM.

Adult Spotted Lanternfly, Photo Tim Weigle, NYSIPM

Concern over the invasive and destructive spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) (SLF) generated many online resources by states researching new and active populations. Thought to have arrived in Berks County, PA, in 2012, this showy planthopper attacks more than seventy species of plants in the United States. New York State’s primary concern is outreach, monitoring, and proactively approving 2ee pesticide labels for control. Because live adults and nymphs (and egg masses) hitchhike from states with known populations, New York State has an external quarantine.

An external quarantine is a restriction of specific items that facilitate ‘hitchhiking’. In other words, if you’re traveling back from a state with an established population consider that your utility trailer, bicycle, tent canopy, or that swing set you bought in a yard sale might have SLF adults, nymphs, and egg masses tagging along. Any item that has been outside for a while needs to be checked before it crosses the border. Here’s the full list, downloadable, printable. 

Download, print and share to reduce the spread of Spotted Lanternfly

In an attempt to educate the public and limit the spread of this pest, New York State Integrated Pest Management (NYSIPM) has teamed up with New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS), and New York State Agriculture and Markets (NYSDAM) to create the New York State Spotted Lanternfly Incident Command System (NYS SLF ICS).

Currently, NYSIPM’s primary SLF focus is outreach. We’ve created materials that help identify, monitor, and manage this pest. Along with the public departments listed above, we continue to remind NY residents how to report findings (spottedlanternfly@dec.ny.gov) and we provide educational materials LIKE OUR NEW WEBPAGE.  Besides our many resources (Powerpoint presentations, Spark videos, posters, photos and much more), and links to other state or government agency information, you’ll find a regularly updated incidence map showing county-by-county news of SLF sightings and populations across the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions.

Coming soon, two Moodle courses from NYSIPM and our Cornell CALS collaborators. One course provides general knowledge about SLF, while the other focuses on Tree of Heaven (Alianthus altissima), one of SLF’s preferred hosts. Both offer pesticide applicator credits.

Please use your social media to share the website https://nysipm.cornell.edu/environment/invasive-species-exotic-pests/spotted-lanternfly/ with family, co-workers, acquaintances, and friends. YOU can be an important factor in reducing the spread of this destructive insect pest.

If you have any comments, or concerns, feel free to email me at rkp56@cornell.edu.

January 2, 2019
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on IPM Celebrates the New Year With News for You

IPM Celebrates the New Year With News for You

We decided on a new look for our IPM Year in Review—our first-ever calendar. Who doesn’t put calendars to good use? I’ve already noted a couple of dentist appointments in mine.

And for you, dear reader, we offer our calendar sampler—four months, four topics, four new things to learn.

February:

It’s February and shivery cold—and time to pay careful attention to the nooks and crannies so inviting to the critters that call your home theirs. Do you hear varmints scurrying in the basement, the walls, the ceiling? Mice and kin (OK, rats) have taken up lodgings and are way overdue on the rent.

Block their access. Start with a look in the basement. For mice, the entryway need be no larger than a dime; for rats, a quarter. Take it from us: if their heads can fit through, their fat little tummies can squeeze through too. Found a hole? Found several? Get some sealant and fill ’em up.    https://conservesenecacounty.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/mouse.jpg

March:

Ah, March—when winter marches into spring. School kids are antsy to get outside. And us? We’ve got ticks on our mind. Here’s your blacklegged tick, up close and personal. Soon these ticks will be out and about; the health hazards can hardly be overstated.

So practice the drill—how to ID them, dress for the occasion, do tick checks. Planning a hike? Wear light-colored duds (the better to see you with, my dear), pull your socks over your cuffs—and as soon as you’re home, do tick checks. Got pets? Check them too.

Btw, though their common name is “deer tick,” many scientists prefer “blacklegged tick.” We’re speculating here—but could that be because otherwise people will get the mistaken notion they can catch Lyme from deer, which they cannot? Yes, deer are among the movers and shakers in the world of Lyme. But by the time they’ve donated their blood to the cause, mama tick will have dropped off and called it a day.

Regardless: these ticks have a lineage that goes way back. In fact, a fossilized tick was found in a chunk of amber where it dined on mammalian blood some 20 million years ago. It carried babesia—a disease that’s still in action today.

May:

It’s May now; summer is nearly here and the weeds are growing like—well, like weeds. Unperturbed by spray, horseweed and waterhemp are gaining ground, dramatically reducing crop yields. Regaining control over these herbicide-resistant weeds is a major issue for New York’s farmers.

Here’s one approach. With nearly 20 rubbery fingers on each hand and 20-plus hands, this cultivator earns its keep by dislodging, uprooting, and burying weeds while they’re still small. The boxy white contraption with two dark “eyes” and mounted at head height with a cable running toward the cab? That’s a camera, designed to move the cultivator left or right. It’s job? Keeping the cultivator aligned with the crop.

November:

Bed bugs are back, the scourge of small and big towns alike. No, they don’t spread disease. Yes, on some of us they leave itchy red welts—while others have no symptoms at all. But you don’t need to throw all your belongings away, we promise. IPM now offers to ultimate in How To guides: How to Get Bed Bugs Out of Your Belongings.

Your hair dryer and vacuum cleaner will be your steadfast companions in your battle to regain control over your mattresses, shoes, clothes, and electronics. The hair dryer’s gentle heat will flush the little buggers out of hiding; the vacuum cleaner sucks them up. The guide also provides instructions on how to quarantine your belongings long enough to starve them into oblivion. Bed bugs, even during the holidays, are manageable.

Let IPM help you!

Resources:

December 26, 2018
by Joellen Lampman
Comments Off on 2018’s Best of NYS IPM

2018’s Best of NYS IPM

“None of us is as smart as all of us.” –Ken Blanchard

2018 has been quite the year and we have been busy blogging, tweeting, videoing, and Facebooking about it. Here’s a recap of some of our more popular 2018 offerings:

ThinkIPM – our catchall blog and a great way to keep a pulse on what’s happening in New York State IPM.

Our most popular blog post was actually a guest blog by Paul Hetzler, CCE St. Lawrence County, Move Over, Medusa: Pretty? Poisonous! in the Caterpillar Clan. We’re big fans of his writing and this post on a venomous caterpillar caught a lot of your attention as well. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

 

Are you safe now?

Ticks in February?

Ticks in the cold was also a popular topic. And relevant to now! Check out these two blog posts, Ticks don’t care what month it is and Ticks and the freezing weather. Hopefully they both convince you to keep up your daily tick checks.

While visiting our blog, you have also been checking out older posts. Our second most popular post viewed in 2018 was a 2014 post, Identifying Your Pest – with Poop?. There are a lot of budding scatologists out there.

Other IPM Blogs – Besides ThinkIPM, we have more dedicated blogs, and you don’t need to be a specialist to subscribe to them. Here are some of the more popular posts:

The Spotted Wing Drosophila blog has an obvious focus, but the post Spotted lanternfly found in two counties in NY captured the most views.

 

Biocontrol Bytes was begun at the end of 2018 and many of you have been enjoying the updates on the Creating habitat for beneficial insects project.

 

We saw a number of news reports about bed bugs in schools, so we wrote Bed bugs in schools aren’t going away in The ABCs of School and Childcare Pest Management blog. And you read it. We just wish the news reporters and commenters did too.

 

The 2017 NEWA Survey: IPM impact includes such gems as “93% agreed or strongly agreed that NEWA pest forecast information enhances IPM decision-making for their crops”.

 

Gypsy moths on Christmas trees? Check out the Tree Integrated Pest Management blog and see how it’s now a thing in the Gypsy Moth Caterpillars -Scout for them now post.

 

Facebook

When it comes to Facebook, video rules. Our most popular Facebook post was our claymation video, Life Cycle of the Blacklegged Tick (and Lyme Disease Prevention!). And, by the way, this claymation was part of a large Don’t Get Ticked NY campaign launched in 2018!

Our new Spotted Lanternfly video, Have YOU Spotted Lanternfly Egg Masses was just posted, but it has already reached the number two spot. This invasive insect is getting a lot of attention and we need your help to keep track of it in New York.

 

Twitter

We’re not surprised that our most popular Tweet of 2018 was about spotted lanternfly. Follow us on Twitter to keep up with the latest information.

 

 

 

Annual Report

This might be cheating, because it was just released and we have no data to show its popularity, but our 2017-2018 annual report is a 2019 calendar and everyone we have shown it to has been pretty excited.

Here’s a picture of the spotted lanternfly you have been hearing about.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, as we raise our glasses to 2018 and look forward to 2019, include keeping up with NYS IPM Program amongst your resolutions.

Happy New Year!

December 17, 2018
by Debra E. Marvin
Comments Off on Unwanted Holiday Guests

Unwanted Holiday Guests

So far, the few New York state sightings of SPOTTED LANTERNFLY, a highly invasive and potentially devastating invasive insect, have been linked to their propensity to hitchhike from the quarantined areas in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and Virginia.

Our SPOTTED LANTERNFLY Fact Sheet

These discoveries have been adults thought to have traveled on vehicles or shipping materials and resulted in a quick and thorough survey of the area to locate and destroy any chance of additional insects.

This time of year, gravid adult females have probably finished laying eggs and covering them. They aren’t that fussy–they will lay eggs on any inflexible object (preferably tree bark) but it could be your vehicle, utility trailer, firewood, and more.

The responsibility to reduce the chance of infestation in New York state also lies with travelers and shippers. While the DEC does do periodic spot checking along major federal roadways, short of placing a guard station at every entry point, this means a lot of potential influx of this pest. Share the information, learn to recognize these pests and, yes, check for hitchhikers in the form of adults, nymphs and egg masses.

Once the egg mass covering has dried down from white to dull gray or grayish brown, it becomes highly camouflaged on certain surfaces like bark where its cracking mimics the surface.

Ask your friends and relatives coming in for the holidays if they are aware of this pest and refer to the many online sources:

STOP THE SPREAD of SPOTTED LANTERNFLY by using this checklist

New Quarantine Will Restrict Movement of Goods Brought into New York State from Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia

New York State Implements New Actions to Prevent Spread of Spotted Lanternfly in New York State

IF YOU FIND SPOTTED LANTERNFLY in New York, here’s what to do!

We’re all in this together –  Visit Pennsylvania’s information on management techniques.

 

Thank you to NYSIPM’s Tim Weigle, Ryan Parker and Juliet Carroll for the resources.

 

December 10, 2018
by Debra E. Marvin
Comments Off on Dreaming of a Local Christmas–post courtesy of Paul Hetzler

Dreaming of a Local Christmas–post courtesy of Paul Hetzler

We at the NYSIPM program are always informed and entertained by the writings of CCE St. Lawrence’s Paul Hetzler. We couldn’t pass this one up!

Even Santa Claus himself cannot grant a wish for a white Christmas—it is a coin toss whether the holiday will be snow-covered or green this year. A verdant landscape is not our Christmas ideal, but we can keep more greenbacks in the hands of local people, and keep our Christmas trees and other accents fresh and green for longer, when we buy local trees and wreaths.

Not only are Christmas trees a renewable resource, they boost the regional economy. Even if you don’t have the time to cut your own at a tree farm, do yourself a favor this year and purchase a natural tree from a local vendor. She or he can help you choose the best kind for your preference, and also let you know how fresh they are. Some trees at large retail outlets are cut weeks, if not months, before they show up at stores.

There is an additional reason to buy local in 2018: The NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets has announced a quarantine on out-of-state Christmas trees to prevent the spread of a devastating new insect pest. The spotted lanternfly (SLF) is a major pest of many tree species, as well as grapes and various other crops, but it is especially fond of sugar maples. First discovered in Pennsylvania in 2014, this tree-killing Asian bug has since spread into New Jersey, Delaware, and Virginia. SLF females lay their camouflaged eggs on almost anything, and in 2017, egg masses were found on Christmas trees grown in New Jersey, prompting the quarantine.

Of all the memorable aromas of the holiday season, nothing evokes its spirit quite like the smell of a fresh-cut pine, spruce or fir tree, wreath or garland. Although the majority of American households where Christmas is observed have switched to artificial trees, about ten million families still bring home a real tree.

Every type of conifer has its own blend of sweet-smelling terpenols and esters that account for their “piney woods” perfume. Some people prefer the fragrance of a particular tree species, possibly one they had as a child. A natural Christmas tree is, among other things, a giant holiday potpourri. No chemistry lab can make a plastic tree smell like fresh pine, fir or spruce.

Photo by Brian Eshenaur

 

The origins of the Christmas tree are unclear, but evergreen trees, wreaths, and boughs were used by a number of ancient peoples, including the Egyptians, to symbolize eternal life. In sixteenth-century Germany, Martin Luther apparently helped kindle (so to speak) the custom of the indoor Christmas tree by bringing an evergreen into his house and decorating it with candles. For centuries afterward, Christmas trees were always brought into homes on 24 December, and not removed until after the Christian feast of Epiphany on 6 January.

In terms of crowd favorites, the firs—Douglas, balsam, and Fraser—are very popular, very aromatic evergreens. Grand and concolor fir smell great too. When kept in water, firs all have excellent needle retention. Pines also keep their needles well. While our native white pine is more fragrant than Scots (not Scotch; that’s for Santa) pine, the latter far outsells the former, possibly because the sturdy Scots can bear quite a load of decorations without its branches drooping. Not only do spruces have stout branches, they tend to have a strongly pyramidal shape. Spruces may not be quite as fragrant as firs or pines, but they’re great options for those who like short-needle trees.

The annual pilgrimage to choose a real tree together has been for many families, mine included, a cherished holiday tradition, a time to bond. You know, the customary thermos of hot chocolate; the ritual of the kids losing at least one mitten, and the time-honored squabble—I mean discussion—about which tree to cut. Good smells, and good memories.

For the best fragrance and needle retention, cut a one- to 2-inch “cookie” from the base before placing your tree in the stand, and fill the reservoir every two days. Research indicates products claiming to extend needle life don’t really work, so save your money. LED lights don’t dry out  needles as much as the old style did, and are easier on your electric bill too.

The NYSIPM Program thinks about Christmas Trees all year long. Here’s Betsy Lamb at Field Days. Photo by Brian Eshenaur

Visit www.christmastreesny.org/SearchFarm.php to find a nearby tree farm, and quarantine details can be found at www.agriculture.ny.gov/AD/release.asp?ReleaseID=3821 Information on the spotted lanternfly is posted at https://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/113303.html

Whatever your traditions, may your family, friends, and evergreens all be well-hydrated, sweet-scented and a source of long-lasting memories this holiday season.

Skip to toolbar