New York State IPM Program

April 2, 2020
by Debra E. Marvin
Comments Off on Timely School IPM #2: Excluding Pests

Timely School IPM #2: Excluding Pests

Last week we promoted SCOUTING for pests.

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.

While you’re at it, visit our School IPM Best Management Practices Website where we’ve gathered plenty of resources for successful school IPM.

Photo shows the gaps entry doors of a school building

(Above) “You might be a pest management champion” if you automatically look for gaps like this in structural doors.

Photo shows a large2-3" gap around a pipe going into a brick wall foundation

(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.

photo shows a gap in a cement wall around a utility pipe.

Before adding ‘exclusion’ in the form of stainless steel wire mesh fiber

photo shows gap around pipe filled with metal mesh fiber

After. Stainless steel mesh resists rusting.

VIDEO: NYSIPM Rodent Management – How to keep them out

VIDEO: NYSIPM: Exclusion – an old concept with new life

VIDEO: TEXAS SCHOOL IPM: Sealants versus Caulking

VIDEO: TEXAS SCHOOL IPM: Patching a rat hold with mesh

ONLINE ARTICLE: PCT’s Annual Pest Exclusion Issue.

ONLINE ARTICLE with VIDEO: Stop Pests in Housing: Developing a Pest Exclusion for Cockroaches and Rodents

March 30, 2020
by Debra E. Marvin
Comments Off on Timely School IPM #1: Scouting for Building Pests

Timely School IPM #1: Scouting for Building Pests

While pests like bedbugs are inactive waiting out school re-openings, the old standards like cockroaches and rodents can use quiet buildings to their advantage if habitat needs are met.  Food, water and shelter are available in areas such as storage rooms, kitchens, boiler rooms and crawlspaces. If your building is currently unoccupied, pest activity can go unnoticed by staff, especially if there is a disruption in pest control operator visits.

OUR NUMBER ONE SUGGESTION NOW IS…SCOUTING. Building maintenance remains (at this time) essential work. Just like in the summer months, buildings without students allow much great opportunity for extensive scouting and cleaning.

LOOK FOR PESTS, PEST ACTIVITY and PEST ENTRY POINTS. The partial inspection list below notes areas that may not be addressed daily during the school year.  Now is the time to move large pieces of kitchen equipment in buildings no longer providing meals.

image shows three samples of pest droppings for comparison, rat, cockrock, mouse

Rat, cockroach, and mouse droppings. Can you identify? (cockroach on the right)

Our Best Management Practices for School IPM website is available to help.  For example: Resources for custodial and building maintenance staff.  We have at least forty links to online or printable resources for IPM Policies and Protocols, General IPM Resources, Indoor IPM Resources and Outdoor IPM Resources

a partial chart of things to do monthly, quarterly or annually to reduce pest problems in buildings.

Here are some videos to help you out:

Signs of rodent infestations in buildings: NYSIPM’s Dr. Matt Frye

Setting snap traps : NYSIPM’s Dr. Matt Frye

Insect monitoring: West Virginia’s IPM Minute: Sticky traps for insects

How to conduct a Pest Assessment in Schools: EPA Webinar

Inspecting a Child Care Facility – Detailed video applicable to all school buildings

photo shows water lines inside a building's utility room. Grease marks are dark and greasy trails showing where rodents travel. This also shows how water condensation provides water for pests.

Dark areas known as grease marks show consistent routes of rodents. Their greasy fur leaves a trail. Why are they here? Pests rely on water sources such as condensation.

 

 

March 20, 2020
by Joellen Lampman
Comments Off on Protect yourself from spring ticks

Protect yourself from spring ticks

“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

table showing blacklegged tick eggs laid in the spring, nymphs active in spring, larvae active in summer, adults active in fall

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.

table showing blacklegged tick eggs laid in the spring, nymphs and adults active in spring, larvae and nymphs active in summer, larvae and adults active in fall, adults active in winter

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

photo of blacklegged tick adult on dried leaf

Both adult and nymphal blacklegged ticks are active in the spring.

How you managed your leaves in the fall can impact your tick risk this spring. New research shows that piling leaves along woodland edges increased the number of nymphs found by three times or more. Whether they were raked to the edge,  blown there with a leaf blower, or the wind had its way with them, thicker leaf litter creates suitable microhabitats for overwintering ticks.

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.

Protect Yourself

So while you are out raking, hauling, bagging, and tidying, be sure to wear long pants tucked into socks and a long-sleeve shirt tucked into your pants – all treated with permethrin, apply repellents to exposed skin, and conduct a tick check as soon as you come indoors.

For more information on protecting yourself from tick bites, visit www.DontGetTickedNY.org.

March 9, 2020
by Debra E. Marvin
Comments Off on Announcing Updates to the Northeastern IPM Best Management Practices for Schools Website

Announcing Updates to the Northeastern IPM Best Management Practices for Schools Website

northeastipm.org/schools//

photo shows a screen shot of the front page of the school best management practices website

Our New Look!

northeastipm.org/schools//

Back in 2013, the Northeast School IPM Working Group (NESIWG) received a Partnership Grant from the Northeastern IPM Center to develop a Best Management Practices (BMP) website.

logo of the northeastern I P M center

Reducing pest and pesticide exposure is important for children, just as it is for district staff and visitors. But schools are especially challenging to manage because they include such varied and heavily used settings such as classrooms, cafeterias, laboratories, auditoriums, theaters, playing fields, playgrounds and gardens.

photo shows signs of damaged turf on a lacrosse field due to over use

The burden of use on an athletic field. (NYSIPM photo)

With the help of many contributors, the NESIWG both created and collected resources for school IPM. We wanted to help administrators, school boards, parents, teaching and support staff, athletic directors, groundskeepers, kitchen staff and custodians how a designated pest management plan can reduce both pests and the need for pesticides. The website was a success.

By 2018, NESIWG members saw the need to update old links and fill out gaps in the content. Eager to keep the website a useful and comprehensive resource, the working group applied for and received a NEIPM Communications grant. Again using focus groups, the following changes were made:

  • a reorganization of the pest species list,
  • additional information on relevant pesticide use regulations in all Northeastern states,
  • grouping resources by stakeholder roles,
  • the addition of two new pages: Breakfast in the Classroom and Playgrounds

Additionally, the recent grant included an update of the working group’s homepage, a new ranking of regional school IPM priorities, a current membership list and an index of school IPM contacts in the Northeast.

graphic shows front of new brochure announcing the changes in the school best management practices website

Front (Outside) of Brochure

Now, with changes soon to be complete, the NESIWG welcomes your visits and assistance in sharing this helpful site. After all, finding and using the website is key!

Back of new brochure advertising the changes to the Best management practices for schools website

Back (Inside) of Brochure

Visit the page!

PLEASE CONSIDER DOWNLOADING OUR BROCHURE, printing a few and sharing them.  OR SHARE THIS LINK.

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

Blogs as Varied as our Program…

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

BIOCONTROL BYTES

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

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

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


CHRISTMAS TREE IPM

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

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

NYSIPM WEEKLY FIELD CROPS PEST REPORT

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

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


ORNAMENTAL CROPS IPM


SPOTTED WING DROSOPHILA

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

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

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


ABCs of SCHOOL AND CHILDCARE PEST MANAGEMENT

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


TREE IPM

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

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

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


SWEET CORN PHEROMONE TRAP NETWORK

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

Marion Zuefle, Vegetable IPM Extension Area Educator

Marion Zuefle

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


YOU’RE NEWA

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

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

Dan Olmstead

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

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

2018’s Best of NYS IPM

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

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

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

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

 

Are you safe now?

Ticks in February?

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Facebook

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

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

 

Twitter

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

 

 

 

Annual Report

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Happy New Year!

December 4, 2018
by Joellen Lampman
Comments Off on Tick IPM – The Dog Zone

Tick IPM – The Dog Zone

December’s wintery breath is already clouding the pond, frosting the pane, obscuring summer’s memory… ― John Geddes

Winter had an early showing in New York this year. So when the temperature hit 50oF yesterday, I took the opportunity to spend some time outside. And, as I had warned people that follow me and NYS IPM on social media with this great graphic by Matt Frye earlier today, the ticks were out and about. (Side note: follow us at www.facebook.com/NYSIPM and twitter.com/NYSIPM for up-to-date information you can use.)

Now, the ticks weren’t as active as the 70 oF day last February. I had to put in a little more effort to find them. But while tick dragging, I noticed where others regularly go off the beaten track (or, rather, create their own beaten track). We’re going to call this The Dog Zone.

There’s a perfectly good paved path, but the dog print laden path is inches from the woodline.

Let’s face it. Dogs want to stick their noses into interesting places, and there just aren’t that many interesting places on the pavement. So they will take advantage of the length of the leash to get off the pavement and follow the scent trails. And the smells of mice, chipmunks, squirrels, raccoons, deer, rabbits (you get the idea), are more likely to be wafting at the edge of the woods than in the short grass. I watched dog walkers leave the pavement themselves to indulge their furry friends. Unfortunately, ticks are more likely to be in those areas.

Talk to your vet about options to protect your pets from ticks and tick-borne diseases.

Typically the dogs are between their walkers and prime tick habitat, but leaving the pavement still puts you more at risk if you are not taking preventative measures. And let’s not forget to protect your dogs too. There are multiple products out there including different topical and oral products as well as collars. These are described in our Tick FAQ under What should I do to protect my pet from ticks?. (Funny story, numerous people have asked me if they could put tick collars around their ankles. Just… no. You can, however, apply permethrin to your own clothing.)

But the really important message here is that ticks are active during the winter. And even if the air temperature is less than 37oF, a protected, sun-exposed area next to a woodline can be significantly warmer. Last week a site we were monitoring had an air temperature of 40oF, but the ground temperature was 50.6oF. So I will end by emphasizing the need to protect yourself from ticks year-round and conduct a tick check EVERY DAY.

For more information on ticks, visit www.dontgettickedny.org.

for “up to the minute” tick news, follow Joellen Lampman on Twitter
https://twitter.com/jnjlampman

 

November 20, 2018
by Debra E. Marvin
Comments Off on New Posters Available from Don’t Get Ticked New York

New Posters Available from Don’t Get Ticked New York

Many of us have snow or slush on the ground. While this changes tick activity, it doesn’t mean tick and tick-borne disease risk is over.  We’re pleased to provide our newest Tick infographic posters for Farmers, Hunters and Children.  Members of the community IPM team continue to gather all the latest information on tick activity and tick-borne diseases regardless of the season. All thirteen posters are listed below, with direct links to printable PDFs.

Today, we’ll highlight our recommendations for HUNTERS!

This poster, featuring a hunter, shows how to check yourself for ticks, and safely remove a tick.

Part of that effort involves creating resources to help educate New Yorkers, as well as giving talks around the state and taking part in online webinars.

Don’t Get Ticked New York offers thirteen infographic posters.  Along the right side of our webpage https://nysipm.cornell.edu/whats-bugging-you/ticks/, look for TICK INFOGRAPHIC POSTERS which will link you to ECommons and the pdfs for all of our posters. Where? See below!

Here’s the full list as of November 2018, with direct links to the pdfs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 2, 2018
by Debra E. Marvin
Comments Off on Update on IPM in NY Schools

Update on IPM in NY Schools

Recently members of the NYS IPM Program met in Albany as part of a joint meeting of the Clean, Green, and Healthy Schools Steering Committee and the Statewide School IPM Committee.

NYS IPM Educator Joellen Lampman demonstrates ‘dragging for ticks’ as a method to determine tick presence on school grounds.

Clean, Green, and Health Schools is coordinated by the NYS Department of Health and helmed by Dr. Michele Herdt. Their purpose is to promote a healthy learning and working environment in our state’s schools, both public and private.

From their page at health.ny.gov:

 

What is a School Environmental Health Program?

School environmental health is the way the physical environment of school buildings and school grounds influence the overall health and safety of occupants. School environments can impact occupant health, absenteeism, employee/student retention and satisfaction, academic performance, and operation costs for the school. Children are more vulnerable to environmental exposures because they eat and drink more, relative to their body weight, than adults, their body systems are still developing, and their behaviors put them at greater risk, such as hand-to-mouth action and playing on the ground.

Unfortunately, gaps in outside doors are a common problem in public buildings and offers easy access to rodents.

The New York State Clean, Green, and Healthy Schools Program is designed to help all school employees, volunteers, students, parents, and guardians contribute to improving their school’s environmental health. The program has been developed by a multi-disciplinary Steering Committee to help schools improve their environmental health through voluntary guidelines. Schools that participate in this program gain the opportunity and knowledge to create schools with better environmental health. The program provides information for all school occupants on policies, best practices, tools, knowledge, and resources in nine main areas:

  1. Indoor Air Quality;
  2. Energy and Resource Conservation;
  3. Integrated Pest Management;
  4. Mold and Moisture;
  5. Chemical and Environmental Hazards;
  6. Cleaning and Maintenance;
  7. Transportation;
  8. Construction/Renovation;
  9. Water Quality.

Last year, they began a free pilot program to create safer and healthier learning and working environments for all students and staff across New York State. We are looking for schools that would like to be a part of this pilot program and improve the environmental health of their school through low or no cost actions.

As of October, 2018 they have ten school buildings involved, and hope to have at least 10% of NY schools enrolled in the program by 2024.

The NYS IPM Program is glad to be part of the efforts.

Later in the morning Vickie A. Smith and David Frank from the NYS Dept. Of Education shared their work with charter schools, engaging the participants in the joint meeting with ideas on how to better reach this growing segment of education in NYS.

While we have sought to find a way to work with non-public schools in NY, charter schools are also another subset with their own particular concerns.  Like many non-publics, some charter schools operate in rented buildings (some are indeed buildings owned by a public school), and therefore it is not always clear who is responsible for environmental issues school staff face. Charter schools have multiple authorities to report to depending on their location: The NYS Board of Regents, SUNY trustees, NY City Department of Education and the Buffalo City School District. Many students in charter schools are ‘at-risk’. 80% are considered economically challenged, or have disabilities or language barriers.

Charter schools are considered public schools and must comply with many of the same rules. Our day of discussion proved there are plenty of opportunities to increase the use of IPM in all schools in NY State.

Best Management Practices website hosted by the Northeast IPM Center

Geese on school grounds has become a growing pest problem as resident geese populations increase.

Staff of the NYS IPM Program finished out the day’s meeting with a look at Don’t Get Ticked NY efforts. This included sharing the Ticks on School Grounds posters.

More information on our work with schools

For more on ticks visit our page Don’t Get Ticked New York.

Download this poster and others on reducing the risk of ticks

June 1, 2018
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on The low-down on ticks. Part 1A, Biology Q&A

The low-down on ticks. Part 1A, Biology Q&A

Ticked off about ticks? You are not alone. And knowing the what, where, why, etc. is critical to knowing how to deal with them. So here it is, the first in a series: the low-down on that pest we love to hate.

May you, dear reader, stay tick-free and healthy.

1. What, exactly, is a tick?

Ticks are related to mites and spiders—but not to insects. (Now don’t go worrying about spiders—in the Northeast, virtually all are common victims of common misunderstandings.) Ticks have four life stages: egg, larvae, nymph and adult. All stages (well, not the eggs) feed on blood for energy to grow and later to reproduce. Larval ticks have six legs; nymphs and adults have eight.

Those things that look like antenna? Not—they’re highly adapted legs that process vital information. And that snout in the middle? Blood-sucking mouthparts. (Photo CDC)

Right now, three species are a health concern here in New York: the blacklegged tick, the lone star tick, and the American dog tick.

2. What do ticks look like?

Regardless the species, unfed ticks look like flattened teardrops with eight legs. And depending on their species, life stage and sex (male versus female), they have different color patterns on their bodies. But after they’ve eaten, their abdomens (the females’ especially) can expand so much that it’s really hard to know which is which. You can get positive IDs here.

Just keep in mind that learning a tick’s identity doesn’t mean you know if it’s carrying a disease.

I wrote a sentence on my finger, period and all. And yep, the larvae are that small. (Courtesy Cal Dept Public Health)

As for size? Again, that depends on the species, its life stage, and whether it has fed (and for how long). For blacklegged and lone star ticks, larvae are the size of the period at the end of this sentence. Nymphs? Think poppy seeds. Adults? Sesame seeds. When fully fed, adult females can be as large as a raisin.

American dog ticks, though, are a tad larger than the other two.

3. Are ticks a new problem? Why have we been hearing so much more about them lately?

Turns out ticks are nothing new. In fact, evidence suggests that ticks were carrying Lyme disease pathogens 15 to 20 million years ago (Lyme Disease’s Possible Bacterial Predecessor Found in Ancient Tick). What is new? We’re seeing far more ticks throughout the Northeast and much of North America than during any time in recorded history. And of course the more ticks in the neighborhood, the greater our risk of disease.

Why are ticks on the move? For one, (sub)urban sprawl leaves small patches of wooded areas—great habitat for mice and deer but far less welcoming to their traditional enemies—hawks or foxes, cougars or wolves. (More later on the role of mice and deer in tick-borne diseases.) In addition, a warming climate makes northern areas more hospitable for ticks.

Ah, yes. A place to call home—and nary a wolf in sight. (Photo provided.)

4. Where do ticks live? How do they find me? And where did the deer ticks go?

Blacklegged ticks are usually found in woodlots, forest edges, and groundcovers such as pachysandra or periwinkle—places where leaf litter, shrubs, and tree cover provide the moist environment they need. And how do they find us? Just as we sometimes go on quests, so too do they. Only they’re not seeking adventure or the Holy Grail, but simply a host. A host that provides the food (think blood) they need to thrive, or at least survive.

About deer ticks? Years ago, researchers thought they’d found a new species and gave it the common name “deer tick.” Turned out it was the same old blacklegged tick that’s been here since time immemorial.

No matter that these ticks lack eyes—questing ticks stand on the edge of a twig or leaf, their first pair of legs extended. Evolution endowed them with cleverly designed legs: they’ve got sensors to detect temperature, the carbon dioxide those hosts exhale, and odors or sounds specific to those hosts. When a host brushes past, they grab on tight.

The nymphs typically quest below a person’s knee-height. Because adult ticks feed on larger animals, they might quest higher up to find a host—as high as your waist-height or mine.

The lone star tick is on a roll, with its own suite of diseases and syndromes — some still mysterious. (Photo CDC)

The lone star tick thrives in a wide range of habitats, from shady forests to sunny lawns or roadsides. Unlike the blacklegged tick, the lone star tick hustles toward its prey, even across pavement or dry sand. Other distinguishing features? Well … it’s lots more aggressive. Imagine a tick that travels three times as fast as the blacklegged tick, has excellent vision, and hatches in stinging swarms that can put fire ants to shame.

Last but not least—the American dog tick. Forget the woods: this tick thrives in warm, dry places—roadsides, grassy fields, scrubland and lawns. Larvae and nymphs mostly feed on small mammals, while adults climb grass, brush, or twigs to find medium-sized animals—people included. And sometimes American dog ticks could be even more aggressive. TickEncounter has reported seeing American dog ticks follow a regular source of carbon dioxide that attracted them for upward a few hundred yards to the house. And in one memorable case ticks were crawling up the outside walls toward window screens and doors. Now if that doesn’t give you the willies….

No matter which tick you might collide with—this is one party you don’t want to host.

Stay tuned for another informative post on the biology behind that pest we love to hate.

(Adapted from nysipm.cornell.edu/whats-bugging-you/ticks/tick-faqs#answers)

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