New York State IPM Program

March 29, 2017
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Earth Day IPM for birds and bees — and native plants that nourish them

Earth Day IPM for birds and bees — and native plants that nourish them

We’re starting this post with a detour. But we have little choice. Before you go shopping around for landscape plants, you need to know the backstory.

Invasive plants, trees, shrubs, vines and flowers, many of them brought from afar because yes, they’re lovely in the landscape, have become a bit too much of a good thing. In part it’s because they didn’t evolve here. That could mean the critters — mostly insects or pathogens that co-evolved with them and helped keep them in check — don’t live here. Where that’s the case, there’s little here to naturally keep them in check.

OK, sumac berries aren’t all that tasty. But for migratory songbirds powering their way north, they offer needed nutrients. (Photo credit Mary Holland)

True, not all imported plants are invasive. But it’s all too easy to dig up a seedling or sucker from an invasive when you don’t know the extent of the problem. Which is partly why New York passed the Invasive Species Prevention Act in 2012.

Native plants, on the other hand, are less likely to get out of hand. Plus they can encourage biological control by attracting predatory or parasitoid insects — the good guys that prey on insect pests. And promoting these good guys is key to good IPM.

So with Earth Day in mind and planting season at hand, let’s note this threesome of invasive trees: angelica tree, sycamore maple, and Amur cork tree. These landscape trees are no longer for sale in New York. For a threesome of attractive natives that can fill their place — while helping the birds and bees — consider the merits of (drum roll) staghorn sumac, Juneberry, and white fringetree.

As we speak, migrating birds are stripping last year’s crop of staghorn sumac seeds, now mostly dry and withered but still nourishing, to power their northbound flight. Love birds? Your sumac planting will benefit robins, bluebirds, thrushes, catbirds, cardinals, chickadees, starlings, wild turkey, pileated woodpecker — and that’s just for starters. Soon its tiny yellowish flowers will attract bees and butterflies. Fiery autumn color. Drought resistant, and an excellent soil stabilizer on hillsides.

Juneberry isn’t your traditional hummingbird plant but welcoming even so. And first to flower means first to fruit — nourishment for many nesting songbirds. (Photo credit Hans. Thank you, Pixabay)

Juneberry (Amelanchier spp., with more  common names than you can shake a stick at) is also an early bloomer that draws hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. When its fruits ripen in early summer, robins, waxwings, cardinals, vireos, tanagers, and grosbeaks make a point of stopping by for a meal. You might too — the subtle flavor, shape, and color are reminiscent of blueberries. Grows well in full sun or part shade; adapts to wet or dry soils — but note soil must be acidic.

And then — raise your hand if you’ve seen our native witch hazel. This late bloomer is (metaphorically, that is) the golden chrysanthemum of the woods, daring to blossom when other trees have tucked in for a long winter’s nap. How to describe its flowers? Ribbonlike. Spidery. Kinky. Confetti-like — these all serve for a tree that’s the only show in town. But … if pollinators have tucked in too, how to play the pollination game? Turns out a native moth, the sallows, comes out on chilly nights — shivering its flight muscles and raising its body temperature upward of 50 degrees, then flying off search of food. And during a warm spell, bees will sup here too. Yes, this tree benefits birds and wildlife too, but more on that another time.

Witch hazel makes a lovely understory tree. Prefers part shade and moist but well-drained soil.

Common to all? They fit neatly under power lines.

And now a plug for IPM: it’s easy to talk about the birds and bees. Yet so many critters are on our side. Understandably we shudder when wasps and flies come to mind. But consider the scads of wasp and fly species that are on our side. Hey, plenty of wasps don’t even have stingers; they care only to lay their eggs within pest insects. Flies? Ever heard of flower flies? They do what their names suggests, while their larvae prey on aphids and thrips. And there’s scores more good guys in the family they belong to.

You can find plenty of detailed info here: Finding Alternatives to Invasive Ornamental Plants in New York. And know that we’re hosting a statewide IPM conference on invasive species and what to do about them on July 13. Save the date!

March 16, 2017
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Invasive species New York: save the date for IPM conference

Invasive species New York: save the date for IPM conference

We’re planning a statewide conference covering the A to Z of invasive plants, pathogens and pests that plague our farms, our forests, our homes — us.

We’ve got a superb lineup of speakers — along with a wide array of take-home IPM messages from educators at tables in the lobby and two adjacent classrooms.

Join us in Loudonville on July 13 for the lowdown on what you can do to help.

November 29, 2016
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Nature’s Herbicides and Lessons from Black Walnut Trees

Nature’s Herbicides and Lessons from Black Walnut Trees

You’re prepping your garden for winter, muttering about the sapling black walnut trees the squirrels planted on your behalf mere inches away — and the mother tree is in your neighbor’s yard. You know you can’t put off removing them: this might be the last year your loppers can manage the task.

Squirrels are pretty good at finding the walnuts they stashed here and there for winter. But they always miss a few.

Squirrels are pretty good at finding the walnuts they stashed here and there for winter. But they always miss a few.

Black walnuts get a lot of grief from gardeners. For those with small yards and a great love of tomatoes, the black walnut in a neighboring yard is bad news. But for the moment pretend you’ve got couple of acres, mostly meadow. Pretend the mama walnut tree in the hedgerow out back is framed by a couple of invasive ailanthus (aka tree of heaven) and some elderly pines and sugar maples. Pretend also that goldenrod, quackgrass, and garlic mustard are well-established meadow plants that push their way into your garden every chance they get.

And while you’re at it, pretend you planted buckwheat as a cover crop earlier this summer in some beds where weeds have held sway.

Buckwheat contains three allelopathic chemicals. Are they potential herbicides? Could be.

Buckwheat contains three allelopathic chemicals. Plus they grow really fast, out-competing many weeds.

What do all these plants have in common?

They’re alleopathic. That is: they have compounds in their leaves, roots, seeds, or stems that stave off other plants. True, some (think garlic mustard) will only hurt you. But some — buckwheat, for instance — will help. (Hint: click on the fifth bullet point when you open the page.)

NYS IPM’s horticulturalist Brian Eshenaur calls such allelopathic compounds “nature’s herbicides.” If you choose and use them, you might avoid the worrisome traits of conventional herbicides.

What worrisome traits? For starters, the potential for weeds to become herbicide-resistant. If using herbicides is the only way you’ve learned to deal with weeds, you could be in trouble. Could weeds (which, like plant diseases, qualify as pests) also become resistant to nature’s herbicides?

No one is sure. The research has just begun. But by way of example, consider this: insect pests become pesticide-resistant with relative ease. On the other hand, they don’t easily outsmart other bugs that evolved to eat them — which is why biocontrol is a key tenet of IPM.

Worried about walnut trees? Garlic mustard is acquiring a nasty reputation of its own.

Worried about walnut trees? Garlic mustard has a nasty reputation of its own.

Yes, black walnuts freely release their plant-suppressive chemicals. But even they have their soft spot.

Here’s what black walnuts are willing to live with:

lima, snap and soybeans; beets and swiss chard; corn; onions, garlic and leeks; parsnip and carrots; cauliflower; parsley; Jerusalem artichoke; melons, squash and pumpkins.

And here’s what they aren’t:

asparagus; cabbage, broccoli and kale; eggplant, peppers, potatoes and tomatoes; rhubarb; peas.

Where walnuts crowd too close, build raised beds with root barriers in the bottom — concrete or rubber patio blocks are one option. Hefty tubs are another. You could raise those beds even higher: built at waist height, they could keep your back happy too.

Worried about those walnut leaves that blow into your yard each fall? Can you add them to your compost? Have no fear. Exposed to air, water and bacteria, their toxic effect is history in two to four weeks. [1.]

Want to know more about shrubs and flowers that don’t mind walnut trees? Cornell Cooperative Extension is here to help.

Also, take a look at Eshenaur’s Weed-Suppressive Groundcovers. And consider that most of these plants are great when massed in perennial flowerbeds — and could provide welcome food and shelter for pollinators. Multitasking plants? They’re onto IPM.

1

  1. extension.iastate.edu/news/2005/jul/070701; this site also lists some compatible and incompatible plants.

August 26, 2016
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on World-class Golf Comes Home. Thank You, IPM

World-class Golf Comes Home. Thank You, IPM

The Barclays PGA Tournament kicks off the FedEx Cup playoff in professional golf. This year it’s right here, right now — at Bethpage State Park on Long Island in downstate New York. The IPM (integrated pest management) piece of this story? Here’s where we tested, developed, and showcased preventive, threshold-based IPM protocols that can steeply reduce year-in, year-out pesticide use on any golf course, anywhere — all while protecting habitat for pollinators and many other creatures. In fact, we’ve scored environmental impact quotients up to 96 percent lower than conventional practices.

Happening as we speak — at Bethpage State Park, also home to IPM research that informs thoughtful, preventive tactics for golf-course care.

Happening as we speak — at Bethpage State Park, also home to IPM research that informs thoughtful, preventive tactics for golf-course care.

The IPM tactics we honed on Bethpage’s Green Course over 12 years are also used on its Black Course — among the most challenging courses you could find anywhere. Think of it. Putting greens buzz-cut to within an inch of their life. Talk about stress! (Technically, that’s an 1/8th inch of their life.) Fairways mowed to about ½ inch. Roughs to an inch or so — and even that’s a height we don’t recommend trying at home.

Which is why we can’t stress how important long-term, real-world research is. Whether it’s searing heat and no rain or relentless rain and chilly weather — or any combination thereof — well, you just don’t get truly useful results until you’ve tested your work in widely differing seasons and situations. And in dealing with pests on golf courses, it’s all about the season. It gets even more impressive when you consider that Bethpage (along with the other 24 public-park golf courses across New York) is open to all comers, facing heavy traffic and tight budgets.

92-plus: that's an impressive number of pollinators to find in mid-April 2015 after a long, difficult winter.

92-plus: that’s an impressive number of pollinators to find in mid-April 2015 after a long, difficult winter.

We’ve always known how important beneficial insects and other organisms are to ecosystem health. In fact, many of our IPMprotocols are built around using beneficials and biocontrols to keep pests at bay. Equally as important: protecting nontarget organisms — frogs, for example — from exposure to pesticides. Which is why we were happy to find this fine fella hanging out at Bethpage in a marshy verge during an Earth Day trek around Bethpage. And a 2015 survey of pollinators in naturalized areas at Bethpage revealed at least 92 species of bees, wasps, and other pollinators as well as a diversity of plants that attract them.

Good stuff. Thank you, Integrated Pest Management.

A green frog? Bullfrog? From this angle, hard to tell.

A green frog? Bullfrog? From this angle, hard to tell.

July 27, 2016
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Hiring Now: Four New NYS IPM Posts

Hiring Now: Four New NYS IPM Posts

The New York State IPM Program seeks four new staff to amplify our IPM outreach and research for farms and communities around New York. Here are the positions (three of them new) we seek to fill:

  • Biocontrol Specialist (Extension Associate)
  • Alternative Weed Management Specialist (Extension Associate)
  • Coordinator for the Network for Environment and Weather Applications (Extension Associate)
  • Coordinator for Livestock and Field Crops IPM (Senior Extension Associate)

Our mission: to develop sustainable ways to manage disease, insect, weed, and wildlife pests; and to help people use methods that minimize environmental, health, and economic risks. Our agricultural and community programs have overlapping issues and settings. Agricultural IPM programming includes fruits, vegetables, ornamentals, and livestock and field crops. Community IPM promotes insect, weed, plant disease and wildlife management in schools, homes, and workplaces as well as on lawns, playfields, golf courses, parks and landscapes; it also includes invasive species and public health pests. NYSIPM is a national leader in developing and promoting IPM practices.

Hands-on workshops held on neighborhood farms are a tried and true way to get IPM practices to stick.

Hands-on workshops held on neighborhood farms are a tried and true way to get IPM practices to stick.

We foster a collegial and cooperative environment where teamwork is emphasized and appreciated. We also collaborate with Cornell University faculty, staff, and Cornell Cooperative Extension educators, as well as with specialists from other states and universities. These positions will be housed either in Geneva (NYSAES) or Ithaca (Cornell campus).

Education and Experience

All applicants must have an MS (required) or PhD (preferred) degree in entomology, plant pathology, horticulture or other suitable field. A minimum of two years professional experience in extension education and research or demonstration in required for extension associates and eight years for the senior extension associate. We will consider experience as a graduate student.

Additional Information AND HOW TO APPLY

For more information and application instructions, click here. Applications will be accepted until 8/31/2016 or until a suitable candidate is found.

June 29, 2016
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Slugs in Your Garden? Here’s What to Do (or Not)

Slugs in Your Garden? Here’s What to Do (or Not)

Now maybe you’re in the 2016 drought zone in upstate New York. If so, slugs aren’t quite the hassle they were just a year ago. But doubtless you’ve been gardening long enough to know what a bad slug year is like. And should the weather turn drenchingly wet way longer than you need it to be, here’s what to know and what to do.

Good news first. Yes, your posies can be slug-free, mostly; you just have to plant things slugs don’t care for. Look online: you’ll find lists aplenty online with plenty of options, along with warnings about what plants to avoid. Hosta-lovers, you can even grow blue hostas — their waxy, puckered leaves are remarkably slug-resistant. Note we said “resistant.” You’ll still want to keep an eye on them.

Which goes for most posies in the plant lists, actually. Of course, there’s no point posting your lists for slugs. They’d just ignore them. If they do a number on your anemones or ignore your zinnias, chalk it up to their obstinate disregard.

Serious about your veggies? You’ve got a harder row to hoe. Onions, leeks, chives and a few herbs generally get by just fine. But from arugula to zucchini, most everything else is prey.

Slugs get out and about on damp days, but the rest of the time they do their dirty work from dusk to dawn. You could wake up to find all your baby lettuce and carrots gone. Even sturdy, well-grown plants — broccoli, say, or beans — could be shot full of holes or stripped to the bone.

Scouting is a key IPM tactic, and here’s how:

  • dig holes about 4 inches across and 6 inches deep
  • cover with asphalt shingles wrapped in aluminum foil. The reflective surface keeps the hole dark, cool, and moist — an ideal slug hidey-hole
  • if you find more than five slugs in a hole, consider your options

Options? Slugs like to hang out with their buddies — it’s called “homing behavior.” Knowing that, one option could be as simple as placing damp boards in the aisles between rows. Tip those boards up, stomp on that little slug community (you’re wearing your gardening boots, right?) … they’re gone.

How else to cope? Acquaint yourself with your support team; that is, the critters who are on your side. (In IPM we call them biocontrols) These include slug predators like rove or ground beetles, centipedes, harvestmen (aka daddy longlegs, though granted some species are rather stout), firefly larvae (aka glow worms), soldier beetle larvae, birds, and frogs.

In fact, there’s even a critter called the “slug eater.” Hey, you can even watch one eating a slug.

(Photo credits left to right: pixabay 54479_640; Phillip-SITNAM7; Seth Ausubel.)

More biocontrols? Ducks (some people recommend Indian Runner ducks) and chickens can help too. A side benefit to chickens — as they scratch around for those tidbits of protein (aka bugs and slugs), their sharp toenails do a lovely job of tilling beds and exposing seedling weeds. But save poultry for before planting or after harvest. Meanwhile, if you’ve got a well-fenced garden and your birds have free range around the perimeter, they could intercept inward-bound pests.

Homegrown remedies are a dime a dozen. Some work, done right. (Skip the salt.) If you found this post, most likely your search also turned up plenty of others. So we’ll stick with baits based on iron phosphate. Sluggo, Slug Magic, Escar-Go!, Worry Free … these and other brands are on your garden-store shelf. They work — if you work at it.

And bear in mind — you must read the label. (The label is the law, as they say in the trade.) Slugs do the most damage when plants are young. In fact, they’re great pre-emergence seedling killers. So start your baiting early — the “early and often” approach. No way can you put bait down once and consider your problem solved. Sure, you might (if you’re lucky) kill the majority of slugs in your garden. But you have to stay on your game. Those populations will recover as time goes by.

Keep temperature and moisture in mind when you bait. Too cold and they stay underground. Ditto with too dry. (Researchers at Oregon State suggest 42 degrees as a minimum nighttime temperature for baiting). And remember this: once your plants are well grown, slugs will happily stay in the canopy — meaning they’re less likely to come down to snack on ground-level bait. Once fall rolls around and harvest is done, bait again when temperatures and mornings are damp — helps cut down on egg-laying slugs; bait again, even later, to get the newly-hatched babes.

And now? Out to the garden to scout for slugs.

June 16, 2016
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Got the Buzz? Pollinator Week Coming Up June 20 – 26

Got the Buzz? Pollinator Week Coming Up June 20 – 26

Pollinator week — coming right up on June 20 — celebrates all pollinators. There’s honey bees, of course, but also native bees. In fact, NYS IPM-funded research has counted 104 known species alone in New York’s orchards. Of course, bees pollinate more than just orchards, and 450 species all told call New York home — including two on New York’s endangered species list. Collectively these bees contribute upward of $9 billion in pollination services to New York’s economy — and we’re not even talking the value of honey itself.

Gotta love bats, even if they don't pollinate flowers in the Northeast, They offer so many other ecosystem services. Mosquito control, for starters.

Gotta love bats, even if they don’t pollinate flowers in the Northeast, They offer so many other ecosystem services. Mosquito control, for starters.

For sure: we can’t leave out butterflies, moths, flies (think flower flies, hover flies, and more), wasps, beetles, and hummingbirds. If we lived in the Southwest, we’d be thanking bats as well.

Now, though, let’s focus on bees, since  entomologists have discovered so many cool things about how flowers attract bees  — and vice versa. Those scientists have found an array of captivating “who’d a thunk it” ways these symbiotic mutualists have evolved to do each other right.

Yet before we go down that track, a little detour — pointing you to info from NYS IPM’s “Protecting Pollinators” conference. Start with the first two: Emma Mullen’s fascinating talk and superb visuals, and Scott McArt’s tour of Cornell’s research, now in full swing.

OK, back to our symbiotic mutualists — the blossoms and the bees. Examples? Consider color. Bees don’t see red, but they do see ultraviolet. In fact, many flowers equip themselves with “come hither” ultraviolet landing platforms, landing strips, or both.

OK, bees don't see red. But gaillardia — blanket flower — has a trick up its sleeve.

OK, bees don’t see red. But gaillardia — blanket flower — has a trick up its sleeve.

And how about the electric fields wafting up from flower petals? “Everyone knows that bees buzz around flowers in their quest for nectar,” reports Marc Lallanilla at LiveScience. “But scientists have now learned that flowers are buzzing right back — with electricity.”

Gaillardia again ... with UV guidance to the goods.

Gaillardia again … with UV guidance to the goods.

Why? That electric charge advertises — you guessed it — a nectar source. On the other hand, a blossom just depleted of nectar needs to recharge its nectar reserves. So it emits a different signal, one that alerts the bees to just fly on by. After all, bees can learn. And they don’t have time to waste visiting pretty flowers if the nectar is gone. Bees might learn to ignore a flower with a reputation for false advertising (as it were) — even after the flower had topped off its tank.

And then … there’s also “buzz pollination” where flowers wait till a bee buzzes at the right frequency, then reward it with a cache of pollen. True, these flowers don’t offer free drinks (that would be nectar) as a reward. But the pollen they offer is, for some species of bees, reward enough. After all, it’s what they feed their young. Note that we said “for some species.” Bumble bees are great buzz pollinators, as are many native bees. But honey bees never learned that trick. (The science behind it ? Science Direct and Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society.)

Planting potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers (all relatives in the Solanaceae family) or pumpkins, zucchinis, and blueberries? Know that native bees are your go-to experts in buzz pollination. (If you live, say, in a high-rise with a window gardens and no access to rooftop beekeepers, you could buy a VegiBee pollinator and do it yourself.)

Of course, not every flower does any or all of the above. If you want to do right by bees, think before you plant and focus on these four things:

  • Plant for continuous bloom — pollinators don’t get down time; your garden shouldn’t either. Is your yard tiny? Try collaborating with your neighbors and think of it as yet another form of symbiotic mutualism.
  • Is this a bee-friendly flower? Example: if you love roses, plant those old-timey kinds with the simple “single” flowers. Densely clustered petals just get in the way. (While roses provide little in the way of nectar, they’ve got pollen to spare.)
  • Cluster your plants. Groups of long-blooming flowers, rather than single plants scattered here and there, offer bees a better use of their time and energy.
  • Nectar sounds juicy, but pollinators need straight-up water too. Just be sure to empty your bird feeder or plant saucer every few days. Yes, even mosquitoes pollinate flowers. But that’s not reason enough to invite them into your yard. (Float a piece of wood in the water to give bees a safe landing place.)

What to plant? Variety is the spice of life.

Trees and shrubs: oak, cherry, willow, basswood, birch, tulip poplar, crabapple, blueberry, red maple, pine, hawthorn, linden, redbud, arrowwood viburnum, chokecherry, Rhododendron canadense, spicebush, gray dogwood, serviceberry, New Jersey tea, buttonbush, summersweet, Virginia sweetspire, American witchhazel.

Perennials for sun: aster, goldenrod, sunflower, Joe Pye weed, violet (also does well in shade), hardy geranium, black-eyed Susan, iris, milkweed, penstemon, phlox, threadleaf coreopsis, bee balm, cardinal flower, mountain mint, purple coneflower, columbine, liatris.

Perennials for shade: woodland phlox, blue lobelia, jack-in-the-pulpit, indian pink, wood aster, Dutchman’s breeches, violets (also does well in sun).

Weeds: OK, so you don’t need to plant dandelions; they plant themselves. They aren’t native and some people can’t stand them. But they’re here and they provide crucial early-season food for bees.

So there you have it. You too can protect pollinators.

June 9, 2016
by Joellen Lampman
Comments Off on For Wasps, Prevention Is Key — and the Time Is Now

For Wasps, Prevention Is Key — and the Time Is Now

Most of the wasps we’re too familiar with (and afraid of) are sociable with their own kind, building large nests in trees or underground. The problem is when they build nests under your eaves, picnic tables, or even (if you’re a farmer) under the seat of that baler  you’re about to rev up as part of your pre-harvest maintenance check.

At a distance these wasps make great neighbors. As predators of flies, caterpillars and other soft-bodied insects, they help keep their numbers in balance. And that balance, that ounce of prevention, is a core tenet of IPM. But wasps are trigger-happy, so to speak — grab that picnic table to move it out of the sun and you’ll wish you looked underneath it first.

We could talk about any wasp you want, but today we’re focusing on bald-faced hornets. Just know that you can also apply IPM’s preventive tactics — we’ll get to that later — to your standard-issue yellow jackets, paper wasps, mud daubers and honey bees.

Big nests for big bruisers: this carton nest is too close to home.

Big nests for big bruisers: this carton nest is too close to home.

Bald-faced hornets house their colonies in large, enclosed carton nests. Like most wasps (and bees) these mostly mild-mannered critters turn nasty when their nest is threatened. They don’t know you had no intention of harm. But when  bald-faced hornets live too close, yes, they represent a public health concern.

Bald-faced hornet, up close and personal. Courtesy Gary Alpert, Harvard U.

Bald-faced hornet, up close and personal. Courtesy Gary Alpert, Harvard U.

Did You Know…?

  • What’s in a name?: White-faced hornets can be easily identified by the large patch of white on their faces.
  • Family relations: This hornet is the largest yellow jacket species in North America.
  • By the numbers: A nest can contain hundreds of hornets, and most will attack to protect their queen.
  • Danger! White-faced hornets have unbarbed stingers, so they sting repeatedly. (Author’s note: Take it from me — disturb a nest and yes, you might get stung way more than you’d like.)
  • Beneficial insect: White-faced hornets are important predators of flies, caterpillars and other soft-bodied insects.
Only one way out of a carton home, but space enough for a battalion of angry moths to exit. courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Only one way out of a carton home, but space enough for a battalion of angry moths to exit. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Since technically it’s still spring and a chilly May slowed them down, you still have time. Inspect (in IPM lingo, “scout”) the aforementioned eaves, picnic tables, and outdoor equipment as well as the undersides of the railing on your porch or deck; that sort of thing. You’re looking for small carton nests that look like these, only way smaller. For other stinging wasps, keep and eye out for what looks like clots of mud (nifty inside, should you get a chance to dissect one) and the clusters of open cells, rather like honeycombs, that comprise a paper-wasp nest. Basically, you want to find a nest under construction, as it were — one with just a few workers ferrying back and forth to care for their queen.

Did You Know…?

  • Last year’s empties: See a scary-big nest? Most likely it’s from last year — and wasps don’t reuse them. On the other hand, a subtle scent left behind tells other wasps that this could be a good place to build a nest of their own. So get rid of empties.

Moving quietly on a warm-enough day, stake out a claim nearby and watch the nest for 15 minutes or so. See any wasps? You’ve got an active one. No wasps? Best to scrape the old nest off so they won’t worry you later.

How to get rid of them? At dusk or dawn (dawn is better — it’s usually cooler) get out there with a tall pole, a SuperSoaker, or a hose with a good nozzle on it (you want a focused, powerful stream of water) and knock them down one at a time. Then stomp on them. Need a light? Don’t shine it right on the nest; better yet, cover your light with red cellophane. (Wasps don’t register red.)

Looking ahead — for larger nests later in summer, ask yourself if the nest is close enough to where you live, work or play to pose a significant threat. If it’s at a distance, best to leave it be.

More prevention (core IPM!): cover outdoor garbage receptacles and pick up dropped fruit under fruit-bearing trees. Integrated pest management can help to determine if a bald-face hornet nest is a danger and what to do if it should be removed.

For more information visit:

For more information from the New York State IPM Program on other stinging insects, click here.

April 13, 2016
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on No Greenhouse, No Grow Light? This Advice Is a Fun Read Anyway

No Greenhouse, No Grow Light? This Advice Is a Fun Read Anyway

Now, I don’t have a greenhouse or even a grow light on my windowsill. But sometimes IPM ornamentals specialist Elizabeth Lamb’s  posts are so much fun to read that I just want to share them with the world.

From now on, it’s Elizabeth’s voice you’re hearing.

I just figured out how to hyperlink in my emails.  I’m quite the dinosaur!  Click on the blue words to get the link if you are a dinosaur like me.

This generalist eats more than just western flower thrips — it'll eat the thrips specialists like Neoseiulus cucumeris too. Photo courtesy natural-insect-control.com.

This generalist rove beetle eats more than just western flower thrips — it’ll eat the thrips specialists like Neoseiulus cucumeris, too. Photo courtesy natural-insect-control.com.

It’s a rove beetle eat predacious mite world out there.  Great information from Sarah Jandricic (OMAFRA) on how to keep your thrips beneficials from eating each other! Also, a little early nursery scouting might be in order – things they are already seeing in Ontario – Bagworms, Viburnum leaf beetle egg masses, and gypsy moth egg masses.

Lots of information from Tina Smith at UMass and Leanne Pundt at UConn
Keeping an eye on those calis. Calibrachoa troubleshooting for diseases and disorders. Or tackling thrips with bios and pesticides  (remember to check for NYS labels on any pesticides)  Lots of other resources linked to this report.

While you’re at it, be nice to your nematodes.   This article makes the point about not storing nematodes in a refrigerator that is opened frequently.  Another temperature shock could be mixing chilled nematodes with too warm water.  Not sure we have the research on this yet, but it makes sense.

What are those strange lumps?  It could be crown gall – found on some lobelias this spring. It is caused by a bacterium and can be spread by water splashing, although it needs an entry point to get into the plant.  No good control so add it to your scouting list.

Do you have a pH or EC (electrical conductivity) meter stashed in your greenhouse that you last used last season?  It probably needs to be recalibrated.  Have you ever done that?  Here’s how! And to keep Margery happy – lovely photos of Thielaviopsis – and how to avoid having your own.

Where have all the archived updates gone?  Well, NYS IPM is in the process of getting a new website and we consolidated all the updates into one blog to archive them  Coming soon.

’Tis the season for greenhouse information — from my email to yours.  Have a good week!

Grow greenhouse crops — or for that matter, Christmas trees? Want to learn more? Give Elizabeth Lamb a shout at Elizabeth M. Lamb <eml38@cornell.edu> and she’ll subscribe you. You can, of course, opt out anytime you want.

April 7, 2016
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Trees and Threes: Prune Now to Keep Trees Healthy

Trees and Threes: Prune Now to Keep Trees Healthy

Our gratitude to Paul Hetzler for this lovely piece, adapted for “Think IPM.” Here in one place is most everything you need to know about pruning to keep your trees fit and trim.

As far as trees are concerned, early spring is the best time to prune. (Late summer is second–best.) In the 4 to 6 weeks before bud-break, trees’ internal defense systems are perking up. It’s sort of the best of two worlds: Trees’ growth processes remain offline, but their shields are up against infection. (Like IPM says: give plants every opportunity to deal with pests the way they evolved to.)

A few warm days will fire up these buds. Prune now.

A few warm days will fire up these buds. Prune now.

Plus it’s a lot nicer working outdoors in early April than in January or February. OK, I guess that’s three worlds.

But first, a word about tools. Three kinds of tools. If you had to shovel your driveway with a spatula, you’d soon despair. Proper tools make a job easy. A professional-quality hand saw and bypass-type hand pruners are essential, and a good lopper is a welcome bonus. Good tools will last a lifetime, and you’ll be amazed at the difference they make.

That orange streamer helps you find pruners hiding in the mulch.

That orange streamer helps you find pruners hiding in the mulch.

Actually, many “threes” are involved in good pruning. For example, no more than a third of a tree’s live branches should be removed in any pruning cycle. (For older or stressed trees, however, 20% is maximum). But don’t remove a third of the leaf-bearing material each year. A typical pruning cycle for a shade tree is (surprise) three years.

Another guideline is that two-thirds of a tree’s leaf area should be in the lower half of the crown. In other words, don’t clean out interior foliage or remove lower branches unless there is a compelling reason to do so, such as safety or disease management. (It’s basic IPM — reach for the loppers before you reach for the spray.) Lower and interior branches are essential on hot sunny days when leaves in the upper canopy get above 85 degrees, which is too hot to photosynthesize. (IPM again: foster healthy plants that better resist pests.)

Get started with the three Ds: dead, damaged and diseased branches. (“Diseased” rings those IPM bells. Prevention!) They get the ax first. With those out of the way it’s easier to see what else needs attention. For crossing or rubbing branches, take the less desirable of the two. Whenever possible, favor wide branch-to-trunk attachments over narrow ones, which are more prone to breakage. (Broken branch-to-trunk? IPM again: prevent pathogens from finding an easy way in.)

In most cases, a branch is pruned back to the main trunk. But sometimes pruning back a large limb to a side branch is aesthetically preferable. Just be sure that side branch is at least one-third the diameter of the branch you remove.

Prune the branch, not the trunk. At the base of most branches you’ll see a swollen area — the branch collar. It produces fungicides. (Classic IPM biocontrol, only the tree takes charge) Branch collars also close wounds more rapidly than ordinary tissue. This is part of the trunk and should never be cut. To put it simply, flush cuts are bad.

For branches over an inch thick, use a 3-stage cut to eliminate or reduce tearing the bark. First, cut the underside of the branch about one-third of the way through, a foot from the trunk. Make cut #2 directly above the first to sever the limb. Holding the stub, make the third cut just outside the branch collar.

Prune away those water sprouts, and root suckers if you see some too. Image courtesy CCE.

Prune away those water sprouts, and root suckers if you see some too. Image courtesy CCE.

Obviously, maples bleed if cut in March or April. While research tells us the loss of sugars is not significant, you could prune maples in the 3rd week in July, which is the other good pruning window. For fruit trees that water-sprout excessively, late-summer pruning reduces this problem. Park your saw, though, during spring leaf-out and again in the fall before leaf drop—wounds made then can lead to serious long-term problems.

In the past, pruning cuts were painted with wound-dressing compounds, but research shows this can actually accelerate decay (an IPM no-no). As far as I know, people-wounds can still be covered up with Band-Aids. Good pruning tools are really sharp, so keep one on hand. Maybe you should bring three, just in case.

Find more of Paul Hetzler’s posts here: blogs.northcountrypublicradio.org/allin/author/paulhetzler/.

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