Protect Your Health When Cleaning Up After Mice

Worldwide, rodents carry approximately ten diseases, most of which we’ve never heard of. Centuries ago, ‘the Plague’ spread via flea bites from infected rats. Today, most diseases spread by direct contact with a rodent or–more likely–it’s excrement (saliva, urine, or feces).

While you may not plan to touch a mouse or its droppings, you may put yourself at risk by simply inhaling microscopic particles that are released into the air when you:

  • remove a dead mouse or its trap
  • sweep or vacuum to remove nesting materials or droppings.

Deer mouse and white-footed mouse usually live outdoors but enter homes to forage for food.

Hantavirus, when dissipated in the air (microscopic virus clings to particles), stays alive after rodent activity. In fact, it may be viable up to fourteen days, but according the the CDC, it is more likely three to four.

How do you know?

It is difficult to determine just how old these signs of activity are, so always take precautions with your health and those around you.

No one wants to see this work ahead of them, but do you know how to protect your health while cleaning up?

Here’s the quick list of what to do to protect yourself:

  1. We repeat: ALWAYS TAKE PRECAUTIONS!
  2. Use snap traps to monitor current activity.
  3. Wear rubber, latex, or vinyl gloves when cleaning.
  4. SPRAY the urine, droppings, nest materials or carcasses with a disinfectant. The CDC recommends 1 part bleach to 10 parts water (10% solution) or a commercial disinfectant. SPRAY ENOUGH TO COMPLETELY MOISTEN THE ITEMS AND AREA.
  5. Use paper towels, and place everything in the garbage. (Double bagging with grocery bags can be helpful. Always double bag dead rodents.)
  6. After all signs of activity are removed, disinfect the area and any thing that might have been contaminated. MOP floors and DISINFECT counters with commercial disinfectant or 10% bleach solution. Toss out gloves that can’t be disinfected.
  7. Steam clean or shampoo upholstered furniture and hot-water wash any bedding, towels or clothing that may have come in contact with rodents. MOISTENING EVERYTHING IN YOUR CLEAN-UP AREA WILL SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCE THE OPPORTUNITY FOR AIRBORNE VIRUS TO ENTER YOUR LUNGS.
  8. When a significant clean-up job comes along, a cheap dust mask will not do the trick. Invest in a proper filtered safety mask. It’s worth the cost!

Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) and Hemorrhagic Fever with Renal Syndrome (HFRS) are two extremely dangerous conditions you do not want to encounter. These diseases do not affect the rodents that carry (vector) them.

Even without the threat of disease, clean up work often causes breathing problems for those in and around the area. Don’t forget that cockroaches and their excrement and shed skins are also a main cause of childhood asthma.

Make proper clean-up procedures part of your IPM plan.

Vengeful veggies – contributed by Paul Hetzler

I know that vegetables are not really vindictive, but it sounds crazy to talk about them as a burning hazard. There are a number of plants whose sap can cause serious chemical burns, and one of them is a common and widespread invasive species, the wild parsnip.

Wild parsnip provides an opportunity to expand our vocabulary. It is phytophototoxic.

A member of the same family as Queen Anne’s lace, wild parsnip generally reaches a height of between three and seven feet. From late June through mid-July, it is topped by pale greenish-yellow, umbrella-like flower clusters, which form seeds around the end of July. Wild parsnip can be found in vacant lots as well as in yards and gardens, but because it’s so effectively spread by mowing equipment, mile upon mile of it can be seen along northern NY State roadsides.

The root of this weed is in fact edible. It’s genetically identical to the parsnip we might plant in our garden. So what exactly is bad about wild parsnip?

Giant hogweed gets a lot of press due to the fact that, well, it’s giant. A flower that grows 15 to 20 feet in one season is impressive. And hogweed is scary, too, because its sap is phytophototoxic. The tongue-twister word means if its sap gets on your skin, it reacts with sunlight to cause second- and third-degree burns. Such burns often take months to heal and may actually leave a permanent scar. If sap gets in one’s eyes, it can even cause blindness.

Well guess what—wild parsnip sap does the same thing. It’s a small consolation, but you can’t get burned by merely brushing up against wild parsnip—a stem or leaf must be broken to expose the sap. And after the plant dries it is safe to handle, unlike poison ivy, which can cause a severe rash even if you dried it for a couple years (which is unlikely, but if you were considering it, be warned). All the same, it’s probably a good idea to wear gloves and long sleeves when handling wild parsnip.

As everyone knows, when fighting a zombie, you grab a shovel and aim for its head. The same with wild parsnip, except you aim for its feet. It has a taproot That’s tough to pull out, but it is easily cut with a shovel. It’s not necessary to get the whole root—just dig as deep as you can to sever the taproot, pry up until the plant tips over, and it will die. You don’t even have to touch it.

If you’re hopelessly outnumbered by wild parsnips, at least mow them—wearing protective clothing and eyewear of course—to keep them from making seeds. But unless you have a Level-A Hazmat suit, don’t use a string trimmer on it. Mowing will buy you some time to muster shovel-wielding townsfolk (pitchforks and torches are optional) to help you.

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in herbicides like Roundup, is effective against wild parsnip. Herbicide is most effective when used on first-year plants (“rosettes”), ones which have no flower stalk, in late summer or early fall. Spraying early in the season will kill the top but not the root, so the plant may come back if treated in spring or early summer. (EDITORIAL NOTE: New York’s Child Safe Playing Field Act requires that most pesticide applications, including glyphosate, made on the portions of school or childcare facility grounds frequented by children may only be done when approved as an emergency exemption. For more information: https://blogs.cornell.edu/schoolchildcareipm/tag/child-safe-playing-fields-act/page/3/ )

I hope you have a safe and enjoyable summer, and that the only scorching you encounter is that walk across the hot beach sand.

For more information on wild parsnip, giant hogweed or other invasive species, contact your local Cornell Cooperative Extension office.

–Paul Hetzler
Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County

Keeping the Pests Out on a Budget: IPM workshops for safe playing fields

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” –  Benjamin Franklin

Calling all school, parks, and sports turf managers and lawn care providers! You have two chances to join the Cornell Turf Team as we look at the latest information on providing safe playing surfaces on sports fields.

June 27, 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Lakeview Elementary School, Mahopac, NY
Full program | Pre-registration required by June 20
Contact: Jennifer Stengle js95@cornell.edu

August 3, 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Coxsackie-Athens High School, Coxsackie, N.Y.
Full program | Pre-registration required by July 28
Contact: Joellen Lampman jkz6@cornell.edu

Topics will include the basics (fertility, irrigation, mowing); advanced techniques (overseeding, seed selection, and turf repair); pest prevention, identification and management; and more.

Coffee and lunch are included. The workshop is free for schools and parks personnel. All other turf managers, please bring $25.

NYS DEC Pesticide Credits: 4.25 in Categories 3a, 3b, 10; STMA CEUs: .375

For more information and to register, visit http://turf.cals.cornell.edu/news/safe-playing-fields-ipm-workshops/.

What now? Early spring sports field management

 

“Springtime is the land awakening. The March winds are the morning yawn.” – Quoted by Lewis Grizzard in Kathy Sue Loudermilk, I Love You

Spring is slowly unfurling. And in the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of… turf maintenance. Photo: Joellen Lampman

The first athletic field question of the year has arrived – and it has to do with the Child Safe Playing Fields Act. (Since its full implementation in 2011, there are still many questions about the law. We tried to address some of the more common ones in a previous blog post.) This week’s question was in regards to fertilizer and if there were any restriction under the law.

The answer is no, although a combined fertilizer and pesticide product (often referred to as weed and feed) is covered under the Child Safe Playing Fields Act. Fertilizer use, however, does fall under the NYS Nutrient Runoff Law, which prohibits:

  • Applying fertilizer containing nitrogen, phosphorus, or potassium between December 1 and April 1 (Nassau and Suffolk County have their own local laws restricting application dates)
  • Applying fertilizer containing phosphorus unless you are establishing a new lawn or a soil test shows the need for phosphorus
  • Applying fertilizer within 20 feet of a water body (there are some caveats – see DEC website)
  • Leaving fertilizer on impervious surfaces such as sidewalks, parking lots, or driveways (fertilizer must be swept up, not washed off with water)

Thus ends the legal part of the blog.

And now on to why we would talk about fertilizer on a pest management blog. Healthy turfgrass is the best preventive against turf pests. Dense stands leave little room for weed seeds to germinate. Extensive roots can withstand some insect feeding without impacting turf quality. Proper fertilization provides your grass with the proper nutrients for growth and recovery.

 So what is the minimum that should be done now to produce pest resistant turfgrass on fields that are used year round?

Heavy spring fertilizer applications lead to excessive shoot and leaf growth and poor root growth. This leaves turf less likely to handle harsh summer conditions.

  • Fertilizing – After the turf greens up and ensuring that you are able to apply fertilizer legally (April 1st for most of NY), apply ½ pound of 50% water soluble nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft. in April and ½ pound of 50% water soluble nitrogen or 100% organic nitrogen source in mid to late May. Note that spring applications are lighter than late summer and fall fertilization rates.
  • Mowing – If you haven’t already, sharpen those blades. Sharp blades reduces both injury to the turf blades as they are being cut and fuel usage. Once the grass is growing, mow as frequently as your schedule allows and as high as the sport allows. Mowing increases shoot density by increasing tillering (stems that develop from the crown of the parent plant). Dense turf leaves less room for weeds to propagate.
  • Overseeding -Seed perennial rye at 2 pounds per 1,000 sq. ft. weekly in high-use areas. With snow in the forecast, you may want to consider dormant overseeding now.

What if I can do more than the minimum?

  • Watering – According to the Northeast Drought Update, “27% of the Northeast in a drought and 20% of the region is abnormally dry”. Once it starts growing, turf needs about 1” of water per week. You can help determine irrigation need by referring to ForeCast: Weather for the Turf Industry Irrigation Information.
  • Fertilizing – Conduct a soil test to see if other nutrients are needed in addition to the nitrogen.
  • Cultivating – Concentrating on high-use areas, solid tine cultivate in multiple directions to maintain infiltration of air and water.

    The official Cornell Turfgrass twitter account will provide you with timely turf care information.

For more information on maintaining safe, functional athletic fields, visit http://safesportsfields.cals.cornell.edu. You will find different maintenance schedules based on number of seasons used and resources available, detailed information on different management practices, and information on “Duty of Care”, a legal obligation to a standard of reasonable care. For the most up-to-date information, follow the Cornell Turfgrass twitter account.


Managing Nuisance Geese Webinar – March 30th

Canada geese are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, but there are still things you can do to manage them. Harassing them (such as with dogs or lasers) does not need a permit. Interfering with their nest — such as addling their eggs — does. Photo: Joellen Lampman

Although beautiful in flight and valued as a symbol of the wild, Canada Geese frequenting school grounds, including athletic fields, are a growing concern. Please join us for a discussion about goose biology and behavior, the legal framework for dealing with goose problems, alleviation techniques available to schools, and the long-term management of geese and goose problems. For more information and to register for this New York State School Facilities Association event, visit http://nyssfa.com/sfmi-trainingevents/webinars.

Speakers:
♦ Lynn Braband, Sr. Extension Associate, NYS IPM Program
♦ Joellen Lampman, School and Turfgrass IPM Extension Support Specialist, NYS IPM Program

Upcoming Trainings and Webinars

Learning never exhausts the mind. -Leonardo da Vinci

One of the key tenants of IPM is knowing your pests, or potential pests, and risks. Learning opportunities become a valuable tool in helping to prepare for and prevent pest issues from arising. Happily, we live in a time when School IPM training events are easily accessible.

The EPA Center of Expertise for School IPM hosts a webinar series featuring national experts from across the country. Upcoming webinars include:

Previous events covered a variety of topics including IPM 101, IPM resources, bed bugs, head lice, turf grass, cockroaches, ants, ticks, mosquitoes, stinging insects, rodents, and birds. Webinar PDFs are available for all presentations and the recorded webinar is available for many.

The NYS IPM Program partners with local organizations such as BOCES, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and the New York State Turfgrass Association to provide training.

For more events, visit the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program Facebook events page.