This is the third and final post dedicated to tactics of school IPM most appropriate to the current situation of shuttered schools. (If your building is open to provide meals for at-home students, we applaud your efforts!)
Post #1 Scouting, Post #2 Exclusion. Sanitation is a third step in structural pest management, as it reduces pest habitat (food, water, shelter).
Sure to gain your attention, this photo (below) proves there’s been a lack of sanitation (and scouting, and exclusion!) But this scenario might well be the case in buildings left unattended during the Covid-19 closures. This may seem extreme, but sanitation isn’t just removing dead rodents, it’s keeping storage areas, kitchens and classrooms free of crumbs, condensed water, and recyclables.
Below is a (partial) look at our recommended Best Management Practices chart. We left off the Daily practices in favor of what can be done best during shutdown. Sanitation is more than just cleaning greasy stove tops. It’s getting to all those places we’d rather ignore, and reducing clutter and keeping food products in pest-proof containers.
The key factor is sanitation and reduction in habitat. Take care not to bring them in on packaging material (inspect incoming food). Clean up all spilled foods; don’t leave dirty dishes overnight; store all food in pest-resistant packaging; modify areas where pipes and utilities enter walls (caulk and screen all entrances); reduce moisture by improving plumbing and insulating pipes that routinely sweat. Empty garbage every day. Keep floor drains capped or full of water. Increase ventilation in moist areas. Baits are the most efficient and widely used form of control, but prevention is the least toxic method of control.
(Above) Mouse droppings are not just unsightly, they can cause allergic reactions and health issues, and can carry disease. Cockroaches exacerbate conditions like asthma. SANITATION also assists monitoring. If this area was cleaned last week, you can be sure the droppings are new.
(Above) Drain Fly Harborage: Clogged floor drains with decaying organic material provides breeding habitat for drain flies.
(above) This commercial storage area shows good spacing and pest-resistant storage. Keeping cardboard to a minimum, and providing space between items, and space below and behind the shelving makes for easier cleaning. (photo Dr. Matt Frye)
Today, we want to emphasize ways to EXCLUDE pests. Exclusion is a fundamental way to reduce pests in buildings. Unfortunately, it’s not always a quick and easy job.
Some gaps are easy to see. Improperly fitting door sweeps or gaps along utility lines, for instance. Others, like gaps along roof lines are harder to locate, and harder to access.
We’ve included some videos and some links to METHODS and exclusion product resources. NOW is a great time to address pest reduction or prevention needs in quiet school buildings. Trade names used herein are for convenience only; no endorsement of products is intended, nor is criticism of unnamed products implied.
(Above) “You might be a pest management champion” if you automatically look for gaps like this in structural doors.
(Above) This gap is obvious, but so often ignored. A proper job of completely sealing this with cement will keep rodents out. Even so, areas like this should be scouted on a regular basis, as pests will find a way to re-use old pathways.
Before adding ‘exclusion’ in the form of stainless steel wire mesh fiber
“Frugality, I’ve learned, has its own cost, one that sometimes lasts forever.” – Nicholas Sparks
The label is the law and will tell you everything you need to know about using a pesticide correctly and legally. (Image does not imply endorsement.)
Some pesticides containing permethrin can be applied to clothing, footwear and gear to protect against mosquitoes, ticks, and other biting insects. Recent research confirmed that permethrin interferes with blacklegged, American dog, lone star and Asian longhorned ticks’ ability to move and, thus, to bite. EPA-registered products specifically designed for clothing contain 0.5% permethrin. A 22.5 oz. spray bottle claims to treat five outfits and costs $14. However, some people look to save money by buying a permethrin product meant for turfgrass or ornamental applications and diluting it to 0.5%. But what is the actual cost?
3 Reasons Why Making Your Own Permethrin Spray is a Bad Idea:
1) It probably won’t work. A pesticide product contains inert ingredients that help the active ingredient (in this case, permethrin) perform properly for the uses listed on the product label. Products used in clothing and gear sprays are uniquely suited for binding the permethrin to fabric and product labels tell you how long they will be effective (e.g., six weeks or six washes, whichever comes first). If you make a DIY spray with a permethrin product designed for other uses, it won’t bind as well to your clothes; thus, there is no way to know if it will work or for how long, putting you at risk for a tick bite.
2) You could be putting yourself, others, pets, non-target animals, and the environment at unacceptable risk. Permethrin can be harmful if absorbed through the skin and if a product is not designed to bind the permethrin to your clothing, the insecticide will instead move from the clothing onto your skin. For your protection, the EPA will register the use of a pesticide only if rigorous safety testing shows it will “pose no unreasonable risks to people or the environment when used according to label directions.” Only those uses listed on a pesticide label have met this standard, and treating clothing and gear is NOT a use listed on the label of other permethrin products.
3) It is against the law. Because of Reason #2, the first sentence in the Directions for Use section of all permethrin products is “It is a violation of federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling.” Which, by the way, also means it is against your state’s laws.
Commercially available permethrin clothing and gear sprays cost more because it takes time and money to develop the right mix of ingredients and conduct the required safety testing to ensure that the product will control ticks without putting people and the environment at risk. DIY treatments that pose greater risks while providing poorer control of ticks are hardly a bargain; be sure to use the real thing and follow all label directions.
“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” – Margaret Atwood
The spring of 2020 might have everyone’s yards incredibly tidy, as gardening and yard work are on the short list for things we can all do while social distancing. But COVID-19 isn’t the only disease we need to watch for, and new research shows that protecting yourself from tick-borne pathogens is more important than ever.
They’re active now
This table shows the textbook description of when blacklegged tick lifestages are active.
Blacklegged ticks are most active in the spring and fall, although you can often find them active year round if conditions are right (above 37o in the winter, cool and damp in the summer). Many still consider ticks to be a summer pest, but the poppy-seed sized nymph starts questing in the spring, and there have already been reports of nymphal activity in New York. These ticks are considered to be the most dangerous life stage due to their small size, so be sure to put all your tick prevention strategies into place now.
In reality, different blacklegged lifestages can be active almost anytime of year depending on weather conditions.
Keep it clean
A study looking at the effectiveness of recommended yard management measures against ticks showed the presence of trash could predict an increase in ticks over a clean yard, likely due to an increase in the number of small rodents that find both shelter and food amongst the trash. This was more pronounced in yards without forested areas. Sanitation is an important IPM step, so pick up and pack out that trash!
Check your leaves
Both adult and nymphal blacklegged ticks are active in the spring.
Identify areas in your yard where leaves have accumulated. Are they close to areas you spend a lot of time, like the kids’ swing set or your garden? It’s best to remove them. Are they in the far corner where no one ever goes? You can probably leave them, but be aware that the tick risk will likely be higher. Check for yourself. It’s pretty easy to monitor for ticks.
When choosing the perfect tree, people usually consider variety, size, and shape. But with the phenomenon of a new invasive planthopper, Spotted Lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) (SLF), the tree’s origin may be something to think about.
We always suggest fresh-cut trees from New York’s many great tree farms!
First of all, we’ll say it’s unlikely that SLF will be on your cut tree. Conifers are not a food source for this pest, but egg-laying females are indiscriminate as to where eggs are placed. That’s why we offer a list for travelers making their way through quarantined areas.
Adult spotted lanternfly with covered egg masses on rusty shovel Photo: Kenneth R. Law, USDA APHIS PPQ, Bugwood.org
Egg mass Photo: Kenneth R. Law, USDA APHIS PPQ, Bugwood.org
At this time of year, winter has killed off adults, but their hardy egg masses remain. Although ornamental in appearance, Spotted Lanternfly is one “ornament” you don’t want hatching from their mud-like egg masses and decorating your property this coming spring. SLF causes economic damage to agriculture, forestry and tourism, and is a major nuisance to homeowners. Learn more by visiting our SLF website!
We bring this up because the SLF quarantined areas of Pennsylvania (shown in blue on the map below) happen to be home to many Christmas tree farms (Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia, and Schuylkill).
Distribution map as of November 2019
If you’re buying a pre-cut Christmas tree, ask the seller where their trees came from. If it’s from PA, learn about this pest and inspect the trunk. But don’t stop there. Get into the habit of citizen science! “Scouting” (actively knowing how, why, and where to look) for pests gives you a critical role in stopping the spread.
Eggs, and covered eggs (egg mass) on bark. Photo: Emily Swackhamer, Penn State Extension
What else can you do?
There are plenty of cut-your-own farms in New York with family-friendly atmosphere where you can get a fresh tree. If you don’t have time for a cut-your-own experience, ask your tree sellers if they’re aware of SLF risk on out-of-state trees. Awareness is key!
Here’s some Christmas Tree tips from our own Christmas Tree expert, IPM’s Brian C. Eschenaur:
2019 was an excellent growing season for Christmas Trees. We had more moderate summer temperatures and good rainfall this year. Those suitable growing conditions allowed trees to put on healthy new growth, and the fine weather gave Christmas tree growers good conditions to prune trees so they will be in great shape for harvest. This year’s early-November cold snap was also beneficial in “setting” the needles which is good for longer needle retention in some tree species.
Once in a while we hear from people concerned about the “single use” aspect of real Christmas trees. But considering the alternative of a plastic tree produced, then shipped from overseas, (and eventually ending up in a landfill), real trees have their benefits. They are a renewable resource and by buying locally you are supporting growers that will continue to maintain their fields which are part of the greenspace we all value.
Choose a variety and shape that fits your needs. Many growers are producing a wide variety of firs, spruces and even old-fashioned pines. Each variety tree offers its own shape, color, fragrance, and even branch stiffness which is important to consider for holding ornaments.
Trees always look smaller in the field so don’t forget the tape measure. Measure the floor to ceiling height before you go tree shopping and then while choosing so you end up with a tree that fits nicely into your home.
Don’t be afraid to bend the branches and shoots. Green needles should not come off in your hands. Also, the shoots should be flexible. Avoid a tree if the needles are shed or if the shoots break instead of flexing.
If possible, make a fresh cut on the bottom so the tree’s vascular tissue (pipe work) is not plugged and the tree can easily take up water. Then, if you’re not bringing it into the house right away, get the tree in a bucket of water outside.
Once you move your tree inside the house, don’t locate it next to a radiator, furnace vent or other heat source. And always remember to keep water in the tree stand topped off, so it never goes below the bottom of the trunk.
Whatever you choose to do, enjoy your “Holly Jolly Christmas” and hopefully “it’s the best time of the year.”
Ryan Parker, NYSIPM Program
Cheers from all of the NYSIPM staff.
October 23, 2019
by Joellen Lampman Comments Off on Help! I found a tick on me!
The time of the falling leaves has come again. Once more in our morning walk we tread upon carpets of gold and crimson, of brown and bronze, woven by the winds or the rains out of these delicate textures while we slept. – John Burroughs
Whether conducting a thorough tick check or just examining the lump behind your knee, this is something no one wants to find.
The time has also come again for blacklegged tick adults to look for their last blood meal to fuel the mating process. (To be specific, it’s time for the adult females to secure that last blood meal. It’s time for the adult males to secure a female.) And it’s time for requests such as this one, “I was wondering if you could ID this tick that I pulled off of myself and give me any tips on what diseases this variety tends to carry and transmit.”
First, let’s be clear that the information we provide about tick-borne diseases is restricted to what pathogens are carried by what tick species and how they are transmitted. It is beyond the scope of our roles as IPM Educators to discuss diagnosis, symptoms, and treatment. (For this information, we refer you to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Tickborne Diseases of the United States page.) We will, however, provide you with information you can give your health care professional to help make an informed decision.
Different tick species host different pathogens. Importantly, ticks can transmit more than one pathogen at a time.
The easiest part of the request was what disease pathogens are carried by what ticks. The poster to the right shows what disease pathogens can be transmitted by the three ticks of greatest human concern in NY, the blacklegged tick, dog tick, and lone star tick. You can download and print it out and then go to the next step – identification.
Each species, life stage, and, for adults, whether it is a male versus female have different color patterns. The length of the mouthparts vary between ticks. They have festively named festoons which can also help with ID. As ticks are freakishly small, and we are looking at even smaller parts of their body, it is handy to have a magnifying lens, a good smartphone camera and a steady hand, or, better yet, a microscope. Don’t have one? There are options for having someone identify the tick for you. They include:
The Tick App – a citizen science project with a free smartphone app collecting information on how and where people are becoming exposed to ticks
Courtesy of The TickEncounter Resource Center
If you want to give identification a go, the TickEncounter Resource Center has an excellent guide highlighting the scutum, festoons, and life history. Life history? Yes! As temperatures drop, so does the activity of lone star, dog, and the newly discovered Asian longhorned tick, increasing the odds that the attached tick will be a blacklegged tick. And the active blacklegged ticks are most likely to be adults. Life history should only be used as a clue, however. Ticks don’t read the books and every life stage of the blacklegged tick has been found throughout the year.
What’s the risk?
A question you will likely be asked when reporting a tick is, “How long was the tick attached?”. In my honest opinion, this is a rather silly question. Ticks are very, very good at not being noticed. They want to stick around for up to a week feeding. To help deter detection, they release antihistamines and painkillers in their saliva. And, perhaps more importantly, none of us want to admit to ourselves that a tick was feeding on our blood for days. It’s a hard psychological pill to swallow. There is also some question in the medical literature about the time required for transmission of the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. Especially if the tick was removed improperly. (We covered safe removal of attached ticks in the blog post It’s tick season. Put away the matches and YouTube video How to remove a tick.) And we know Powassan virus can be transmitted in a matter of minutes. But the question will still likely be asked.
The answer? Take another look at that tick and refer to TickEncounter who has helpfully created charts showing the growth of ticks as they feed.
Courtesy of The TickEncounter Resource Center
I have found this chart particularly useful when people swear the tick was on them for only a few hours. Having an estimate of the attached time is helpful information for your physician. Take your printed Tick-Borne Diseases and Non-Pathogenic Impacts sheet, circle the identified species, write down the estimated time of attachment, and consult with your health care professional.
Pictures such as this can be helpful, but for an accurate identification, nothing beats the actual tick.
And now back to the original request: “I was wondering if you could ID this tick that I pulled off of myself and give me any tips on what diseases this variety tends to carry and transmit.”. The submitted picture is included to the right. (You can click on it to make it bigger.) Before reading on, what is your identification?
This looks like an adult blacklegged tick which was attached for 2 to 3 days, which is within the time frame that pathogens carried by the tick could have been transmitted. I recommended bringing in the tick for a more certain identification.
One last question often asked – “Should I get the tick tested?”
We follow the CDC recommendation of nothaving the tick tested for diagnostic purposes. The reasons include:
Positive results showing that the tick contains a disease-causing organism do not necessarily mean that you have been infected.
Negative results can lead to false assurance. You may have been unknowingly bitten by a different tick that was infected.
If you have been infected, you will probably develop symptoms before results of the tick test are available. If you do become ill, you should not wait for tick testing results before beginning appropriate treatment.
Having said that, the Thangamani Lab in the SUNY Upstate Medical University is investigating the geographic expansion of ticks and tick-borne diseases in New York. They are conducting free tick testing for research purposes. Please consider contributing to this citizen science project and visit the website for directions on how to submit your tick.
Promoting IPM, including monitoring and personal protection, as best management practices for avoiding ticks and tick-borne disease.
Looking for information on that tick that recently killed 5 cows in North Carolina? The Asian Longhorned Tick is also in NY and may threaten our dairy and livestock industries. Thanks to NYSIPM’s Field Crops and Livestock team, we welcome you to visit our new page to learn more about this serious pest and learn where you can get livestock ticks identified.
As much as we enjoy doing what we do at the NYS Integrated Pest Management Program, there are already plenty of pests to go around. Unfortunately, here’s our newest one found on our INVASIVES page: ASIAN LONGHORNED TICK. Haemaphysalis longicornis; ALT.
**Look for the NYS IPM booth at Empire Farm Days for more information or conversation about this tick and how it may affect your farm.
ALT is a special concern to livestock farmers!
Mouthparts of Asian longhorned tick collected in Hudson Valley, NY by drag cloth. Ventral view. Photo Credit: Matt Frye, NYS IPM Program
Note: If you’re looking for long horns on this tick’s head, you’ll be disappointed. The common name is thought to come from either the spiky points on the tick’s scutum (aka shoulders), or from the points on the side of the head.
Acronyms abound in all parts of our lives. In our ‘business’, common names can be strikingly similar (Spotted Wing Drosophila, SWD, or Spotted Lanternfly, SLF) (Asian Longhorned Tick, Asian Longhorned Beetle) (Black-legged Tick, BLT, Longhorned Tick, ALT, Lone Star Tick, LST). Hopefully by now you know IPM as Integrated Pest Management.
One parthenogenic female (reproduces without males) can produce hundreds or thousands of offspring
Cold temperature tolerance creates potential for establishment in the northeast
Broad host range – but prefers cattle
Attaching to birds and wildlife allow ALT to spread quickly over an increasing area
Preferred habitat: pastures, meadows
Native to Eastern Asia, invasive ALT became the highly problematic ‘cattle tick’ on Australia and New Zealand livestock
Since the 2017 discovery in New Jersey, it’s now in New York and many Northeastern states
Impact: ALT damages livestock health and impairs milk production
Severe infestation causes anemia or death from blood loss
ALT feeding can transmit bovine theileriosis and parasites that cause babesiosis
Theileriosis can significantly reduce milk production and kill calves
Monitor livestock regularly for ticks – collect and submit suspicious ticks for identification
Typical tick insecticide treatments—ear tags, sprays, dips, pour-ons and powders—are effective against ALT
IPM for livestock ticks
Inspect animals regularly for ticks
When indicated, use timely application of insecticides
Minimize tick habitat in pasture and feedlots by keeping grasses and weeds trimmed
Deer exclusion limits re-introduction of ticks from wildlife
Chickens and guinea fowl in pastures eat adult ticks, but typically not nymphs
IPM is as broad as our selection of photos. On farms, vineyards, orchards; in schools, nursing homes, playgrounds; in your own home, lawn, or garden—IPM is foundational to sound, careful, economical ways of dealing with pests.
Our Mission: The New York State Integrated Pest Management Program develops sustainable ways to manage pests and helps people to use methods that minimize environmental, health, and economic risks.
June 28, 2019
by Joellen Lampman Comments Off on Don’t Make Your Own Tick Tubes
“Frugality, I’ve learned, has its own cost, one that sometimes lasts forever.” – Nicholas Sparks
Commercially available “tick tubes” are tubes filled with permethrin-infused cotton. Mice take the cotton to line their nests and are treated for ticks every time they return home. It’s estimated that a typical ¼ acre yard needs six tubes twice a year, with a 12 pack costing ~$45 . Although this cost isn’t excessive, there are many videos and articles on making DIY tick tubes to help people save money. But what is the actual cost?
A dozen tubes covers about a 1/4 acre for $45. (Image does not imply endorsement.)
3 Reasons Why Making Your Own Tick Tubes is a Bad Idea:
1) They probably won’t work.
A pesticide product contains inert ingredients that help the active ingredient (in this case, permethrin) perform properly for the uses listed on the product label. The formulation used in commercially available tick tubes is uniquely suited for controlling ticks on mice. Other permethrin formulations are designed for other uses which are specifically listed on the label.
2) You could be putting yourself, others, pets, nontarget animals, and the environment at unacceptable risk.
Tick tubes target ticks attached to field mice. When spending time in the nest, mice expose themselves to the tick-killing products.
The EPA will register the use of a pesticide only if rigorous safety testing shows it will “pose no unreasonable risks to people or the environment when used according to label directions.” Only those uses listed on a pesticide label have met this standard, and making your own tick tubes is NOT a use listed on the label of any permethrin product. One potential risk: Permethrin is highly toxic to bees. Bumble bees often nest in abandoned mouse burrows, so making your own tick tubes could harm these important wild pollinators.
3) It is against the law.
Because of Reason #2, the first sentence in the Directions for Use section of all permethrin products is “It is a violation of federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling.” Which, by the way, also means it is against your state’s laws.
Commercially available tick tubes cost more because it takes time and money to develop the right mix of ingredients and conduct the required safety testing to ensure that the product will control ticks without putting people, pollinators, and the environment at risk. DIY tick tubes that pose greater risks while providing poorer control of ticks are hardly a bargain; be sure to use the real thing.
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:
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org), or you can call her office (315-787-2206).
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 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.
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: email@example.com
Marion Zuefle, Vegetable IPM Extension Area Educator
IPM House, 607 W. North St., Cornell AgriTech, Geneva, NY 14456, (315) 787-2379, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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, NEWA Coordinator, housed at IPM House, Cornell AgriTech, Geneva, NY 14456, 315-787-2207, Email: email@example.com
March 12, 2019
by Debra E. Marvin Comments Off on Bug Bombs No Bother to Bugs by Paul Hetzler, Cornell Cooperative Extension
Today we bring you another great post borrowed from Paul:
As days lengthen and temperatures climb, it is common to find a few insects bumbling around the house, looking for a way outdoors. Red-and-black boxelder bugs, orange Asian lady-beetles, and gray, slow-moving western conifer seed bugs are but a few of the critters likely to seek a protected, rent-free shelter in the fall and then forget where the exits are come spring. Fortunately, these are harmless as well as clueless, and do not breed indoors or pose health risks.
Warm weather can also bring carpenter ants out of the woodwork. These are a sign that one needs a carpenter, or more likely a roofer, because carpenter ants require wet, damaged wood to begin making a nest. Although they do no harm to structures the way termites do, no one wants them underfoot. Unfortunately some of the least-welcome pests are active year-round, for example cockroaches and bed bugs. Regardless of their identity, household pests can have us crawling the walls in short order.
However, it is essential to size up the problem before reacting. It is natural to want instant results, but the abject failure of the so-called “war on drugs” should serve to warn us that mere hammering on symptoms leaves us tired and broke, and leaves the problem the same as or worse than before. “Shock and awe” tactics will always be impotent unless we change the environment that gave rise to the situation. Some of the most popular pest-control tools, for example the total-release home foggers (TRFs) or “bug bombs,” have been proven utterly worthless, while humble methods such as targeted baits are extremely effective.
The first order of business is to identify the pest. Centipedes, millipedes, cluster flies, and daddy-longlegs are equally unwelcome housemates, but require very different controls. Your local Cornell Cooperative Extension office can help you identify a pest if you email them a few clear photos. The next step is to ask the intruder what it is doing in your house. Part of the ID process is learning what this thing does for a living, why it is in your space, and how it likely got there.
Boxelder bugs, for instance, live on maple sap, and overwinter as adults under tree bark or, unfortunately, vinyl or wood siding. In spring they want nothing more than to leave your premises so they can find a boxelder or other species of maple on which to mate and lay eggs. No amount of home insecticide will provide control for these as they dribble out of their hiding spots over the course of a few weeks. Insecticides are nerve toxins, and even small amounts have been implicated in exacerbating ADHD, depression, and other mood disorders. These products should be used only when it makes sense to do so.
Boxelder bug adult.
The solution to boxelder bugs, Asian lady-beetles, cluster flies and other shelter-seeking bugs is neither flashy nor toxic, and for that reason is often dismissed. Investing in a case of good caulk, a few cans of spray insulation, and maybe some new screen can cure most such infestations for years at a time. Plus, most households will recover that cost the first winter in fuel savings.
Millipedes, carpenter ants and sow bugs enter homes following a moisture gradient. They will return over and over unless water issues are addressed. Treating carpenter ants with a broad-spectrum insecticide may provide the satisfaction of seeing a bunch of dead ants the next day, but the ant factory (i.e. the queen) will crank out babies for the whole season, requiring multiple applications. A nontoxic and dirt-cheap bait made from boric acid powder and sugar-water will wipe out the queen, but takes a couple of weeks. We need to choose between useless shock-and-awe, and quiet effectiveness.
In an article published on January 28, 2019 in the journal BMC Public Health, North Carolina State University researchers found that the German cockroach population in 30 homes did not change after a month of repeated “bombing” with total-release foggers. But the level of toxic pesticide residue in those residences increased an average of 603 times of baseline. In homes where gel baits were used, though, cockroach populations fell 90%, and pesticide residues in the living space dropped. Lead author Zachary C. DeVries states “The high risks of pesticide exposure associated with TRFs combined with their ineffectiveness in controlling German cockroach infestations call into question their utility in the marketplace.”
Fogging or bombing every insect we see indoors may have some cathartic appeal, but it is a dangerous and expensive exercise which will not fix what is bugging us. For more information on pest control that makes sense, visit the NYS Integrated Pest Management website at https://nysipm.cornell.edu/whats-bugging-you/ or contact your local Cornell Cooperative Extension office.
Today’s post borrowed from Paul Hetzler.
Horticulture & Natural Resources Educator at St. Lawrence County Cooperative Extension