New York State IPM Program

June 23, 2020
by Debra E. Marvin
Comments Off on Best Wishes for a Pest-Free Retirement to Lynn Braband, NYSIPM Community IPM Educator!

Best Wishes for a Pest-Free Retirement to Lynn Braband, NYSIPM Community IPM Educator!

Lynn Braband has a favorite story about how he came to be employed by the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program. It occurred back in 1999 when Lynn’s experience with wildlife management brought him in contact with Director Jim Tette.

Our story is that it was a good day for IPM.  Statewide, regionally, nationally, and even internationally, Lynn Braband made things happen through his determination, eagerness to learn and then share, his passion for the environment ,and his reputation as an all-around naturalist and reliable, genial collaborator.  We have  kudos to share–only a portion of the comments provided before and during Lynn’s VIRTUAL retirement party–but you can’t help but notice our photo header above with some typical Lynn shots. Much like other members of the Community IPM team, on-site scouting for pests was a big part of Lynn’s visits to school districts around the state.

Hang on while we run through SOME of Lynn’s organizational ties, collaborations, presentations and publications:

Starting with Lynn’s Masters in Wildlife Biology, Lynn worked in the wildlife control industry–including his own business–before joining the IPM Program. He is a member of The Wildlife Society, Sigma Xi, American Scientific Affiliation, National Pest Management Association, National Wildlife Control Operators Association, NYS Wildlife Management Association, and the NYS Wetlands Forum.  Add to that, his dedicated service on the National School IPM Steering Committee, the International IPM Symposium Program Committee, the IPM Program Work Team, Rochester Healthy Home Coalition, the Statewide School Environmental Health Steering Committee, and foremost, his co-leadership of the Northeast School IPM Working Group.

As you might know, Lynn created and led NY’s Statewide School IPM Committee (above), but his impact on School IPM became much more than statewide. His retirement announcement prompted praise from collaborators across the nation.

Working with school staff around the state led him to applied research on reducing the risk of yellow jacket stings at schools, and keeping geese off playing fields.

Lynn has spoken on bird management, critters on golf courses, reducing bedbugs in childcare centers, and White Nose Syndrome on bats. I counted more than 150 publications, and over 50 public presentations just since 2012!

Two in-depth school surveys across NY were personally guided by Lynn–it was just a part of his deep commitment and relationship-building with building and property managers at individual schools, and with BOCES health and safety officers.

Trust us, or ask one of his colleagues. The incredible impact Lynn had on expanding IPM knowledge and practices was impressive, and we’ll be doing our best to fill in! As for missing Lynn himself, that’s going to take some getting used to. He might even have a story about that!

photo and quote

Brian Eshenaur, NYSIPM: “It was great to see Lynn’s dedication to get IPM principals utilized in school buildings. Though his leadership, he and colleagues throughout the Northeast have created resources to further school IPM goals in the region.”

“In the many years that I have worked with Lynn I’ve always been impressed with his “steadiness” (unlike me) and his work ethic. Lynn you have accomplished much and are an example of a wonderful public servant. I will miss learning from you.” Marc Lame, Indiana University.

Amara Dunn, NYSIPM: “Not only does Lynn do great IPM, but he is a genuinely kind colleague, and his sense of humor has enlivened many meetings.”

“I wish to take this opportunity to recognize Lynn Braband once more for his splendid support of school IPM efforts within his state and nationally. Lynn, you will be missed greatly; you have influenced, encouraged, educated and supported us all over the years.” Dawn Gouge, University of Arizona.

Jennifer Grant, NYSIPM: “Lynn’s steady commitment and patient persistence have been the underpinnings of his success in getting IPM implemented. That approach, along with his vast knowledge of wildlife biology and regulations, as well as his friendly demeanor, all combine to make it easy and enjoyable to cooperate with Lynn. Throughout his career, Lynn has also shown a strong interest in the ethics of science and pest management. He shares his musings with others, causing us all to think. Thanks for everything Lynn!”

“I want others in the IPM network to understand how instrumental Lynn’s work has been, what a legacy he leaves, and how much he will be missed upon retirement.” Lynn Rose, Pollution Prevention and EHS Consultant, Deerfield, Massachusetts.

Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, NYSIPM: “What a pleasure and an honor to have worked with you for the past two decades, Lynn. I’ve learned a lot from you, most importantly to be more thoughtful and more careful with words. I’ll definitely miss your humor and I will never forget that Albany dinner when Rod Ferrentino sketched out his crimes on the paper tablecloth and had us crying with laughter. I wish you all the best in your retirement from IPM and future adventures.”

Kathy Murray, Maine Dept. of Agriculture: “Lynn has made a lot of good things happen over the past many years.”

Debra Marvin, NYSIPM: “Lynn’s knowledge of wildlife, including his expertise on birds, make him a great IPM facilitator. But his methodical way of approaching problems, and his gentle respect of others, his philosophy and humor make Lynn so admired by his peers, and (lucky for me) a great supervisor and co-worker.”

Joellen Lampman, NYSIPM: “I will miss my dinner time conversations with Lynn, many of which caused fellow diners to wish they had eaten somewhere else that night. But mostly I will miss his stories, his dry sense of humor, and his ability to organize different people with different interests around a common goal statewide, regionally, and even nationally.”

NYSIPM’s Matt Frye chose to honor Lynn in another way:

 

May 1, 2020
by Debra E. Marvin
Comments Off on Our 2018-2019 Annual Report: #4 In the Weeds and For the Birds

Our 2018-2019 Annual Report: #4 In the Weeds and For the Birds

In the Weeds

Herbicide resistant weeds. Got ‘em? Worried about ‘em? There are some bad ones out there. Some of the baddest in New York are horseweed, waterhemp, and Palmer amaranth. A result of repeated exposure to the same chemical sprays, these plants have given us all a lesson on the power of selection pressure. The crisis brought about by these super-tough weeds motivated NYSIPM to hire an integrated weed management specialist to help growers find a diverse blend of solutions. So what can be done? Instead of relying on herbicides alone, use the ‘many little hammers’ approach: attack weeds with a variety of tactics such as stacked cultivation—a mechanical method that undercuts, uproots, and then buries weeds. Because precision is key in stacked cultivation, GPS and camera guidance help keep tools in line. That’s the difference between destroying your weeds or your crop. What’s next? We’re providing input on the design of robots able to distinguish between the weeds and the crop—aka autonomous weed control. And we’re helping test an electric WeedZapper that has already demonstrated its effectiveness against horseweed. By integrating the latest technology with the oldest, IPM offers growers the many little hammers they need to create a resilient, robust weed management system for their farm.

Bryan Brown examines a waterhemp plant found in this soybean field.

(Above) Will waterhemp win? Facing a 56% decreased yield in this waterhemp-infested soybean field, NYSIPM’s Integrated Weed Management Specialist, Bryan Brown, leads a project funded by the New York Farm Viability Institute. This herbicide-resistant weed can grow an inch a day, and is an impressive seed producer. Through diversified approaches, the project has provided complete control of waterhemp in some trial sites, prompting 94% of attendees at field events to say they’ll follow the lead of this project and modify their tactics for weed control.

Anthraquinones are for the Birds

What do crows, ravens, blackbirds, starlings, grackles, Canada geese, gulls, and wild turkeys all have in common? They’re recurring pests of corn on New York farms, pulling seedlings out of the soil as soon as they emerge. Stony soils, and shallow and no-till plantings are most at risk.What’s a grower to do? Traditionally they lived with the losses, or replanted if there was time. One New York farmer was ready to quit until trying Avipel Shield, the biopesticide seed treatment containing anthraquinone, an extract found in rhubarb and many other plants. Apparently, birds don’t like it. So after a few nibbles of treated seed, they move on and look elsewhere for food. NYSIPM set out to test whether anthraquinone worked in fields that suffer major bird damage. Along with extension specialists in eight counties, we conducted trials on treated and untreated seeds in fields that typically suffer heavy loss to birds. Three years of data confirmed Avipel leaves a bad taste in birds’ mouths. Further trials will help farmers know whether treated seed is needed everywhere every year, or if random use can deter feeding. Meanwhile, these tasty results have been a hot topic at field meetings, crop congresses, and certified crop advisor trainings throughout the state.

Photo shows a red-wing blackbird in field of newly sprouted corn plants.

(Above) Fully fledged. Field Crops & Livestock IPM Extension Educator Ken Wise believes this project’s secondary success was its considerable collaboration. Funding came from three different sources over the three-year period—NYSIPM, NYS Corn Growers Association, and the NYS Farm Viability Institute. Just as important was the partnership among 11 farmers, nine extension educators, and one faculty member

April 23, 2020
by Debra E. Marvin
Comments Off on Earth Day 2020 – IPMers Consider 50 Years of Caring and Action (part #2)

Earth Day 2020 – IPMers Consider 50 Years of Caring and Action (part #2)

From Integrated Weed Management Specialist BRYAN BROWN:

Spring is my favorite. Rushing streams. Birds singing. Bright green leaves. Earth Day reminds me to appreciate these simple pleasures and think about ways to protect them.
Responsible pest management through IPM offers a way for farmers to keep those leaves bright green, while keeping our streams running clean, and our birds chirping keen.
photo of Bryan Brown standing near a small waterfall in upstate new york

Photo from Bryan’s collection

From Biocontrol Specialist AMARA DUNN:

Earth Day reminds me that the choices I make every day – what I eat, buy, plant…and how I manage pests – matter.

photo of Amara Dunn at the beneficial habitat plots on the Agrictech farm

photo NYSIPM

From Web and Graphic Designer, KAREN ENGLISH

Earth Day to me means being able to enjoy the wilderness, and a reminder that we need to care for it, too.

photo of Karen English in the front of a canoe on a lake in the Adirondack Mountains.

Photo from Karen English collection

From Vegetable IPM Coordinator ABBY SEAMAN:

The only thing I think about Earth Day is that for me, every day is Earth Day, and I hope Earth Day inspires others to make at least one change in their life that will benefit the environment.

photo of cellophane bee exiting a ground nest

Cellophane bee exiting a ground nest

 

December 20, 2018
by Debra E. Marvin
Comments Off on Avipel Shield seed repellent reduces feeding by birds on newly planted corn

Avipel Shield seed repellent reduces feeding by birds on newly planted corn

NYSIPM’s Livestock & Field Crops IPM Extension Area Educator, Ken Wise, has news for field corn growers.

Crows, ravens, black birds, starlings, grackles, Canada geese, sea gulls and wild turkeys have been a pest problem annually for corn growers in New York. Damage to corn stands occurs when planted corn emerges and birds pull the seedling corn out of the soil to eat the seed. This damage dramatically reduces corn plant populations.

Avipel Shield is a seed treatment that is classified as a bio-pesticide designed to deter bird feeding on newly planted corn seed in a nontoxic manner. Avipel’s active ingredient is anthraquinone, an extract from the rhubarb plant.

Over the past two years, we have had field trials at 36 locations across the state to evaluate the Avipel seed treatment. Overall, the results of the trials showed a significant improvement in corn seedling populations in the Avipel treated plots, compared to the non-treated controls. Therefore, Avipel is a viable, and environmentally-sound integrated management option for NY corn growers to manage losses to bird predation in newly planted corn.

Figure 1: Avipel vs Control Plant Populations in 2017

Figure 2: Avipel vs Control Plant Populations in 2018

Avipel Shield is now registered to use on corn seed in New York State

Visit our website for more about NYSIPM’s Livestock and Field Crops team.

Ken’s long service with the NYSIPM program makes him known to many farmers across the state. He provides leadership in innovative educational and applied research programs relative to IPM in Field Crops and Livestock Producers in New York; assists Extension Educators in extension program development, assessing needs, implementation, and evaluation relative to IPM in Field Crops and Livestock Producers in New York; conducts applied research relative to IPM in Field Crops and Livestock in Eastern New York; and he’s the Acting/Interim NYS IPM Livestock and Field Crops Coordinator. Ken is located in the Hudson Valley. Field crop IPM assistance is also supported by Jaime Cummings in Eastern NY, and by vegetable educators Abby Seaman and Marion Zuefle.

October 11, 2018
by Debra E. Marvin
Comments Off on Hummingbirds as Pest Management Partners?

Hummingbirds as Pest Management Partners?

A recent NYS Berry Growers Association newsletter highlighted Dr. Julie Carroll’s work on hummingbird interactions with spotted wing drosophila (SWD). Robin Catalano, author of the article, referenced two posts from Julie’s SWD blog. Today, we’re offering a taste (a one part water, four parts sugar taste), but encourage you to visit each post for more detail.

(CC BY-SA 2.0) Flickr “Mike’s Birds”

It all began when, in her 2014 blog post entitled Hummingbirds, Julie shared an article from Good Produce, Berry Growers Sharing Great Ideas by Charlie O’Dell: “Unusual Way to Control SWD”, one grower’s use of hummingbird feeders to attract these beautiful, pugnacious, and voracious birds. O’Dell wrote, “Robert Hays of Hays Berry Farms at Dumas, MS, installs 25 hummingbird feeders per acre in his six acres of blackberries and fills each with a plain, clear, sugar-water solution. He estimates there are more than 500 hummingbirds flying around his fields on picking days, some even landing briefly on pickers’ arms or hats. Between his beneficial insects and his hummingbirds, he has not had to spray.”

Do you know that hummingbirds will eat up to 2,000 small insects per day when feeding their young?

A hummingbird’s diet consists mostly of flower nectar and insects. Nectar provides sugar for their high metabolic rate, while insects provide protein, amino acids, and necessary vitamins and minerals. Besides fruit flies, hummingbirds consume (in one effective swallow) tiny beetles, flies, gnats and mosquitoes. To bring these beauties near, many people supplement natural nectar sources with a solution they purchase or mix on their own. It’s important to sterilize the feeders often or boil the solution to reduce yeast or bacterial growth. The warmer the temperatures, the more frequently the nectar should be changed. Oh, and skip the red dye.

Before commencing her field trial, Julie consulted The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s FAQ’s . We suggest you do the same!

In short:

Use fairly small feeders at first, and change sugar water at least every couple of days. During hot, dry weather, when hummingbirds risk dehydration, it’s best to dissolve no more than a quarter cup of sugar per cup of water. (Up that to one third cup during cold, rainy weather.)

To reduce ant interference, use hummingbird feeders that have a center “moat”. Another option is coating the hanger rod with petroleum jelly.

Hummingbirds can consume 100 percent of their body’s weight in sugar water or nectar every day, in addition to as many as 2,000 tiny insects! Before migration, it’s not unusual for a hummingbird to double its weight, adding a huge amount of fat to power the long journey.

Because of competition for food, it’s best to set out a few small feeders rather than one large one. Adult males defend their territories during nesting season, so you’ll see fewer in midsummer when nesting females are busy incubating.

Hummingbirds as Pest Management Partners?

Over the last four years, Julie’s research in raspberry plots at Cornell AgriTech has shown promise as an alternative tactic to reduce SWD impact. Her recent post Hummingbirds May Reduce SWD addresses her findings.

Julie saw fewer SWD caught in traps where hummingbird feeders are located, compared to more being caught where there are no hummingbird feeders, in a transect along a raspberry planting.

Intrigued, a blueberry grower and a raspberry grower each gave it a try this past season to see if such an effort was feasible. Both growers cleaned the feeders and changed the sugar solution twice per week to keep the hummingbirds well fed and active within their plantings. Were they successful? We can tell you that, during a workshop held on one site, multiple growers considered adding this ‘tool’ to their pest management toolbox.

At the August, 2018 workshop held in Salem, NY, several of the tiny birds were seen dashing about.

Preliminary data analysis for 2018 shows that when SWD numbers are very low or very high, there is little to no difference in the number of SWD caught in Scentry traps placed in area of the field with hummingbird feeders compared to those in the area of the field without feeders. However, when numbers are moderate, there was a difference. Along a transect down the length of the field, the trend was fewer SWD in the hummingbird feeder area compared to the no-feeder area, as shown in the chart.

While placing and maintaining 25 hummingbird feeders per acre (the number of feeders used in her research) may be a bit arduous for some growers, there are other ways to attract hummingbirds to your berry planting. Allocate space for their preferred flowering plants, such as alternating rows of Monarda (bee balm).

Unfortunately, SWD “season” is much longer than that of our hummingbird helpers. When SWD populations explode in late summer, they remain difficult to control. By now, these lovely flying predators have likely flown South on their journey to the Yucatan peninsula in Central America.

What does this all mean to you? Growers like Robert Hays watched what was going on in his fields and tried something new. This is a key tenet of Integrated Pest Management. Scouting and using innovative methods and multiple approaches can work together to reduce pests and pesticide use.

Dr. Juliet Carroll,  Fruit IPM Coordinator
NYS IPM Program, Cornell University, New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, 630 W. North Street, Geneva, NY 14456

September 28, 2017
by Joellen Lampman
Comments Off on In praise of messiness

In praise of messiness

KEMPTVILLE, ONTARIO. — On my twice-monthly drive on Highway 416 between Prescott and Ottawa, I pass the sign for Kemptville, a town of about 3,500 which lies roughly 40 km north of the St. Lawrence. It has a rich history, and no doubt is a fine place to live, but one of these days I need to stop there to verify that Kemptville is in fact a village of surpassing tidiness. (It’s Exit 34 in case anyone wants to take some field notes and get back to me.)

Most of us would prefer not to live in totally unkempt surroundings, but Western culture may have taken sanitation a bit too far. Claims that cleanliness is next to godliness have yet to be proven by science, but research does indicate a neat, well-coiffed landscape is bad for bees and other pollinators.

Dandelions are an essential early-season flowers for our 416 species of wild bees in New York.

With all due respect to honeybees, they are seldom required to produce fruits and vegetables. Please don’t spread this around, as I do not want to tarnish their public image. But the fact is that wild bees, along with other insects and the odd vertebrate here and there, do a bang-up job pollinating our crops, provided there are enough types of wild plants (i.e., messiness) around to keep them happy for the rest of the season.

As landscapes become neater and less diverse, wild bees cannot find enough natural foods to keep them in the neighborhood for the few weeks of the year we’d like them to wallow around in our apple or cucumber flowers. In sterile, highly manipulated environments like almond groves and suburban tracts, honeybees are critical.

Dr. Scott McArt, a bee specialist at Cornell’s Dyce Laboratory for Bee Research, says there are an estimated 416 species of wild bees in New York State. When I estimate stuff, the numbers tend to be less exact, such as “more than three,” but I’ve met Dr. McArt, and I trust him on this count. Dr. McArt is quick to point out that wild critters take care of things just fine in most places. He has cataloged exactly 110 species of wild bees visiting apple blossoms in commercial orchards, and in the vast majority of NYS orchards studied, honeybees have no bearing on pollination rates. My object is not to malign honeybees, but to point out that if we learn to live with a bit more unkemptness, we will improve the health of wild bees, wildflowers, food crops, and ourselves in the process.

Dr. McArt has cataloged exactly 110 species of wild bees visiting apple blossoms in commercial orchards, and in the vast majority of NYS orchards studied, honeybees have no bearing on pollination rates. There was a presentation about it at the 2015 Pollinator Conference.

Messiness also takes pressure off managed honeybees, an increasingly fragile species, by providing them a rich source of wild, non-sprayed nectar and pollen. Orchardists do not spray insecticides when their crops are flowering because they know it will kill bees. But many fungicides, which are not intended to kill insects, are sprayed during bloom. One of the unexpected findings of research done through the Dyce Lab is that non-lethal sprays like fungicides are directly linked with the decline of both wild bees and honeybees. But banning a particular chemical is not a panacea—the situation is far more complex than that. What is needed to save bees of all stripes is a real change in mindset regarding landscape aesthetics.

This garden at Bethpage State Park Golf Course is an excellent example of entropy. Primarily established with native wildflowers, there are also a significant number of volunteers. NYS IPM staff found over 100 different species of insects, primarily bees and wasps, taking advantage of the bounty.

Increasing the entropy on one’s property is as easy as falling off a log (which of course is a literal example of increased entropy). Pollinators need plants which bloom at all different times, grow at various heights, and have a multitude of flower shapes and structures. For greater abundance and diversity of wild flowering plants, all you need to do is stop. Stop constantly mowing everything. Choose some places to mow once a year in the late fall, and others where you will mow every second third year. Stop using herbicides, both the broadleaf kind and the non-selective type.

Before you know it, elderberry and raspberry will spring up. Woody plants like dogwoods and viburnums will start to appear. Coltsfoot and dandelions, essential early-season flowers, will come back. Asters and goldenrod (which by the way do not cause allergies), highly important late-season sources of nectar and pollen, will likewise return.

Despite their unassuming flowers, Virginia creeper attracts a large number of pollinating bees and wasps. Photo: Joellen Lampman

Wild grape, virgin’s bower, Virginia creeper and wild cucumber will ramble around, without any help whatsoever. However, you may choose to help this process along by sowing perennial or self-seeding wildflowers like purple coneflower, foxglove, bee balm, mint, or lupine. Even dandelion is worth planting. You’ll not only get more wild pollinators, you’ll also see more birds. Redstarts, tanagers, orioles, hummingbirds, catbirds, waxwings and more will be attracted to such glorious neglect. No feeders required.

I strongly advocate for more chaos in the plant department, even if the local Chamber of Commerce or Tourism Board frowns upon it. Remember, just because you’re an unkempt community doesn’t mean you have to change the name of your town.

Many thanks to Paul for letting us share his piece! For more information on protecting pollinators and enhancing their habitat, visit the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program’s pollinators webpage.

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!

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.

April 20, 2016
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on BioBlitz! Earth Day Helps Teach Appreciation of Wild Things on Golf Courses

BioBlitz! Earth Day Helps Teach Appreciation of Wild Things on Golf Courses

BioBlitzLogo 2016It’s BioBlitz time. Beginning on Earth Day (Friday, April 22) and running through Migratory Bird Day (Saturday, May 24), hundreds of Audubon International-certified golf courses are hosting events for golfers, their families, their friends (kids too) — to see who can find and ID as many plants and critters (bugs and mushrooms count too) as they possibly can.

Fluffy owlets have a home at Bethpage State Park's golf course. Photo courtesy Audubon International.

Fluffy owlets have a home at Bethpage State Park’s golf course. Photo courtesy Audubon International.

In fact, any golf course in the world is welcome to participate. Most will have skilled group leaders on hand to help with ID or offer a pair of sharp eyes and ears to help people distinguish among the range of plants and animals whose homes border on fairways and roughs — especially those rare or endangered species.

And prizes? There’ll be prizes — but the biggest prize of all is engaging local interest, understanding, and support of the environmental advantages golf courses can provide to their towns.

Staghorn sumac at Bethpage provide great food reserves for migrating birds. Photo courtesy Audubon International.

Staghorn sumac at Bethpage State Park provide great winter food reserves for songbirds. Photo courtesy Audubon International.

 

 

 

March 17, 2015
by Joellen Lampman
Comments Off on The squirrels are coming, the squirrels are coming!!

The squirrels are coming, the squirrels are coming!!

“Spring work is going on with joyful enthusiasm.” ― John Muir

In other words, birthing season will soon be upon us. And though it’s fun watching animal families grow up in our backyards, it’s best that they don’t give birth within our buildings. Because female squirrels seek safe places to raise their young in late winter and early spring, now is the time to ensure they stay out of your attic.

Photo credit: Carosaurus

Give them an opening and squirrels will happily turn your attic into a nursery. Photo credit: Carosaurus

 

Your first step? Monitoring is key to sound IPM. In this case you want to inspect your building exterior, especially if you’ve had problems in the past. Since squirrels are climbing animals and there’s no way could you see all possible entry sites from the ground, you’ll need a ladder. If you find a likely entry hole, don’t close it without first determining if it’s active. Trapping an animal (or its nest) inside can provoke it to chew its way back out — or in. Monitor an opening by inserting a soft plug (crumpled newspaper works fine) into the hole. If the plug is still there after two days and you see no other signs of activity inside the building, it should be safe to permanently close the hole. What to close it with? Think galvanized sheet metal or galvanized metal mesh, which resist strong teeth.

Do you need to remove squirrels from the building? Trapping is the most common and successful method. By New York law, however, without a state-issued permit squirrels must be released on the property or humanely destroyed. Another method is to install one-way doors (also known as excluders) over entry holes. These devices allow animals to leave — but not re-enter — the structure. To be successful, one-way doors need to be combined with preventive exclusion (such as metal mesh and caulk) on other vulnerable sites on your building, since exclusion and prevention are also key IPM practices.

Photo credit: BillSmith_03303

Openings such as this one provide access for squirrels, raccoons, mice, rats, birds, stinging insects, bats, snakes, … Photo credit: BillSmith_03303

 

No rodenticides or other poisons are legally registered for squirrel control. Although a variety of repellents and devices make marketing claims about driving squirrels from buildings, their efficacy is questionable.

To prevent future problems, reduce squirrel access to the building by keeping trees and tree branches at least 10 feet away from the structure and make sure all vents are made of animal-resistant materials.

For information on IPM for nuisance wildlife, refer to Beasts Begone!: A Practitioner’s Guide to IPM in Buildings  and Best Practices for Nuisance Wildlife Control Operators.

(Adapted from Controlling Squirrel Problems in Buildings by Lynn Braband, NYS Community IPM Program at Cornell University)

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