New York State IPM Program

August 16, 2016
by Matt Frye
Comments Off on Ultrasonic Devices? Ultra-Ineffective

Ultrasonic Devices? Ultra-Ineffective

Sometimes I get questions about using ultrasonic devices for coping with pests. “Mrs. Jones uses them and she never sees a mouse!” is often how it goes. I understand the appeal: plug in this thing and my problem is solved. Sure! They also have great marketing campaign: this device will emit a sound you can’t hear that scares or annoys pests — forcing them to leave.

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Cute, but ... wrong place, wrong time.

Cute, but … wrong place, wrong time.

History Lesson
The concept of using sound or vibration to deter pests was invented long before electricity. Ancient civilizations might well have used wind and water-powered devices to create vibration, movement or sound to ward off pests. And the concept of ultrasound as deterrent? Well, that might be based on the observation that some insects such as moths and crickets avoid high frequencies that mimic bat predators; similarly, certain sounds could distress rodents.

The Science
This theoretical frameworks aside, there’s no proof that ultrasonic devices really deter pests. In fact, scientific evaluations of ultrasonic devices have found no effect on target pests: German cockroaches, bed bugs and rodents. (See Literature section below.) In some cases, the frequency and intensity manufacturers claim don’t match up with actual output. Not only that, but some devices exceed limits imposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) for human tolerance of sound exposure.

Can this really repel all of the above? Think twice before you invest.

Can this really repel all of the above? Think twice before you invest.

What Does Work?
So why doesn’t Mrs. Jones have mice? Well, prevention is cardinal to good IPM, and perhaps her house is well constructed and sealed against outdoor pest invasions. Or perhaps she keeps a clean home with no spilled food or water. Again, prevention is numero uno in IPM.

If a pest did invade her home, her best chance at management would involve eliminating access to food, water and shelter, then reducing the pest population by trapping or baiting. Again, core IPM.

Next time you’re dealing with a pest problem, figure out why they’re there and address that issue. Consult our IPM pest fact sheets to guide your way. And put away those ineffective ultrasonic devices.

Selected Literature

  • Bomford, M, & PH O’Brien. 1990. Sonic Deterrents in Animal Damage Control: A Review of the Device Tests and Effectiveness. Wildlife Society Bulletin 18(4): 411-422.
  • Gold, RE, TN Decker, & AD Vance. 1990. Acoustical Characterization and Efficacy Evaluation of Ultrasonic Pest Control Devices Marketed for Control of German Cockroaches (Orthoptera: Blattellidae). Journal of Economic Entomology 77: 1507-1512.
  • Koehler, PG, RS Patterson, & JC Webb. 1986. Efficacy of Ultrasound for German Cockroach (Orthoptera: Blattellidae) and Oriental Rat Flea (Siphonoptera: Pulicidae) Control. Journal of Economic Entomology 79: 1027-1031.
  • Shumake, SA. 1997. Electronic Rodent Repellent Devices: A Review of Efficacy Test Protocols and Regulatory Actions. In (ed.) JR Mason: Repellents in Wildlife Management (August 8-10, 1995, Denver, CO). USDA, National Wildlife Research Center, Fort Collins, CO.
  • Yturralde, KM, & RW Hofstetter. 2012. Efficacy of Commercially Available Ultrasonic Pest Repellent Devices to Affect Behavior of Bed Bugs (Hemiptera: Cimicidae). Journal of Economic Entomology 105(6): 2107-2114.

 

March 10, 2016
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Spider FAQs One Two Three

Spider FAQs One Two Three

These three things you should know about spiders. But first, know this. They’re not bugs. In fact, insects probably outnumber spiders roughly 10 to one. Too bad so many things get blamed on spiders — insect bites, say, or medical conditions that require intervention.

One. We are not their prey.

In fact, most couldn’t bite us if they wanted to. Their fangs are too small, too weak to break our skin. Only one species that could make us really sick lives in the Northeast: the black widow spider, and it’s rare in New York. Sure, if we accidentally blunder into a spider, it does what we might under similar circumstances. It reciprocates, only with its fangs.

We're about to set this spider free outside. But first, some gentle play.

We’re about to set this spider free outside. But first, some gentle play.

With so many kinds and no real threat, spiders make a wonderful subject for nature walks with kids, says Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, community coordinator with NYS IPM. “What’s cooler than watching a spider eat a fly?”

Two. Spiders help with indoor pests.

Worried about cockroaches, flies, earwigs, clothes moths? Your friendly neighborhood spiders will take them down. In fact, spiders will do in most of your household pests if you but let them — and long-legged cellar spiders will take down black widows in the dark, hidden places they like to call home. Meanwhile a study in Kansas, where brown recluse spiders abound, collected 2,055 from one home over a six-month span. Yet not a single person was bitten. Inside your home, “live and let live” is the ideal IPM solution.

Three. Spiders help with outdoor pests.

Next time you see a webbed funnel in the grass, see if you can find the grass spider hidden within.

Next time you see a webbed funnel in the grass, see if you can find the grass spider hidden within.

Flies, mosquitoes, ants, caterpillars, slugs, that sort of thing — spiders are on the hunt for them. Not for us. And they’re great in the garden. Some leap on their unsuspecting prey; a silken tether helps keep them falling too far if they miss. Some run down their prey. Some build funnel-shaped (but not sticky!) webs in low vegetation, dashing out to snag insects that wander by. Some wear camouflage, taking on the color of whatever blossom they’re waiting in.

Apparently some even narrow their “feeding niche” to concentrate on an abundant prey source — a good thing if that prey is something we’d rather not have in yards, buildings or farms. Want to welcome spiders to your garden? Learn how here.

If you still don’t want spiders in your home, you’re hardly alone. IPM solutions? NYS IPM’s Matt Frye suggests scooping them into a container and escorting them outside. Alternatively, vacuum them up.

August 19, 2014
by Matt Frye
Comments Off on Have No Fear: Pests Are Smaller than They Appear

Have No Fear: Pests Are Smaller than They Appear

Are subway rats really the size of house cats? Are there American cockroaches or “waterbugs” as big as your hand? Fortunately, neither is true. But a 2012 study offers insight as to why those beliefs exist.

First, some background. Whenever I give a presentation about structural pests, I like to bring some specimens along for show and tell. Invariably, as I open up a box of pinned insect specimens someone says, “I’ve seen cockroaches twice that big!” Outwardly I might act surprised, but that’s because I’m thinking, “Hmm. I’ve been in some sketchy places and seen some nasty things, but the American cockroach is usually about 1.5 inches long, and the average Norway rat is about 16 inches from nose to tail and weighs about 12 ounces.”

Real-world American cockroaches — note their reddish-brown color — measure about 1.5 inches.

Real-world American cockroaches — note their reddish-brown color — measure about 1.5 inches.

Sure, there are exceptions — some can be smaller, others larger, but a three-inch-long cockroach? Surely there’s an explanation.

Then one day I stumbled on a post by ABC News: “Spiders Appear Bigger When You Fear Them” — and it all started to make sense. According to an Ohio State study, being scared can cause an individual to exaggerate the size of the object they fear. A rat racing past you on the subway is sure to induce fear, as is a cockroach in your bathroom. But looking at a dead cockroach, pinned in some entomologist’s specimen box? That’s not so scary.

A challenge: next time you see a critter that would normally make you afraid, take a closer look. You might find that your perception of their size more accurately represents their true size — which in all cases is large enough!

Snout to tail, your average Norway rat is 16 inches long and weighs in at about 12 ounces. Cats? A healthy weight for a small breeds is around 5 pounds; the very largest, 18 pounds.

Snout to tail, your average Norway rat is 16 inches long and weighs in at about 12 ounces. Cats? A healthy weight for a small breeds is around 5 pounds; the very largest, 18 pounds.

 

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