Author Archives: Joellen Lampman

About Joellen Lampman

As the NYS IPM Program School and Turfgrass IPM Extension Support Specialist located in the Capital District, I spend my days educating about and conducting research on pests.

Ticks and Schoolyard Edges

The time of the falling leaves has come again. Once more in our morning walk we tread upon carpets of gold and crimson, of brown and bronze, woven by the winds or the rains out of these delicate textures while we slept. – John Burroughs, The Falling Leaves

image of a man in long pants and sleeves, a baseball cap, and ear coverings using a leaf blower. In front of himn leaves are being blown towards the camera.

Leaf blowing leaves is a common practice, but does it cause a risk for more ticks?

A recent study, Artificial Accumulation of Leaf Litter in Forest Edges on Residential Properties via Leaf Blowing Is Associated with Increased Numbers of Host-Seeking Ixodes scapularis Nymphs published in the Journal of Medical Entomology, showed that areas where leaves were raked or blown into forest margins tripled the number of blacklegged tick nymphs compared to areas where leaves were not artificially accumulated. (There was no observed impact on lone star ticks.)

chart showing that 14 ticks were found within the woods, 51 along the wood edge, 12 3 meters into the field,1 found 6 m into the field, and 3 on the technician.

Most ticks were found along the woodland edge.

Combine this with the findings of a Cornell study, Active surveillance of pathogens from ticks collected in New York State suburban parks and schoolyards, and it is clear that woodland edges are the areas of highest risk for students to encounter ticks. Fortunately, most students don’t spend much time in these areas. Unfortunately, students will chase stray balls into these areas when ticks are furthest from their minds.

What can you do to protect students from these tick risky areas? Step one would be to monitor your school grounds for ticks. This low tech monitoring technique can easily be accomplished by a coach, playground monitor, or even students. Knowing that ticks are active can allow for some adjustment of play, like putting up cones to let students know areas are off limits.

Is there an area with consistently high tick activity? Installing fences or netting can prevent stray balls from entering wooded edges. Think of it as reverse exclusion – in this case, we’re keeping the students out of the pest areas.

Keep in mind that blacklegged ticks prefer high humidity, so look to reduce shady and damp areas where students spend time. We can modify parts of the school grounds to make them less hospitable to ticks by:

  • Removing leaf litter from wooded edges in high traffic areas
  • Removing trees shading play areas if monitoring shows those areas have tick activity
  • Replacing wood mulch, which can store moisture, if monitoring shows tick activity,  with a different, drier option
  • Widening trails to reduce the risk of students brushing against vegetation
  • Eradicating invasive plants, such as Japanese barberry, honeysuckle, and multiflora rose, that easily establish along wooded edges, and have been associated with higher concentrations of ticks carrying disease-causing pathogens

For more information on ticks and schools, check out our updated fact sheet Understanding and Managing Ticks – A Guide for Schools, Child Care and Camps. Additional information can be found on our website Don’t Get Ticked NY.

Fertilizer and the Law

A deep, extensive root system helps cool-season grasses build up reserves to get through the winter, green up top growth in spring, and minimize vulnerability to insects, diseases and summer drought. Nutrients released from the soil, grass clippings and late season fertilization (feeding) will promote root growth.Lawn Care: The Easiest Steps to an Attractive Environmental Asset

photo of man wearing shite shirt and tan pants pushing a small fertilizer spreader on a soccer fieldWhy we would talk about fertilizer on an integrated pest management blog? Fertilization helps grow healthy turfgrass. Dense stands outcompete weed seeds. Extensive roots can withstand some insect feeding without impacting turf quality. Proper fertilization provides your grass with the proper nutrients for growth and recovery.

And now is one of the best times for fertilizing sports fields, but it has come to my attention that the legality of fertilizer application is in question. There is a rumor that one needs to be a certified pesticide applicator to apply fertilizer to school grounds. We’ll label that as fake news. Addressed in an earlier blog, some wonder if they are restricted under the Child Safe Playing Fields Act. The answer to that question is no.

But that doesn’t mean that there are no fertilizer rules. Here are the caveats:

  • Combined fertilizer and pesticide products (such as weed and feed) are covered under the Child Safe Playing Fields Act and do need to applied by a certified pesticide applicator.
  • Fertilizer use 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
    • Leaving fertilizer on impervious surfaces such as sidewalks, parking lots, or driveways (fertilizer must be swept up, not washed off with water)

So now that we know fertilizer can be applied to school grounds, what is the minimum that should be done now to produce pest resistant turfgrass on fields that are used year round?

illustration of turf growth showing that top growth surges in March through May, declines June through August, and then picks up again in August through September. Roots grow March through May and again September through October.

Fertilizing in the fall encourages more root growth.

  • Fertilizing -Apply 1 pound of 50% water soluble nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft. in September and ½ pound of 100% water soluble nitrogen in mid-October. Note – if you do not have irrigation, it is worth waiting until the day before rain is predicted to ensure the fertilizer is watered in.
  • Mowing -If the grass is growing, mowing should be conducted at least twice a week. Mowing increases shoot density by increasing tillering (stems that develop from the crown of the parent plant). More tillers means more traction and cushioning.
  • Overseeding -Seed perennial rye at 2 pounds per 1,000 sq. ft. weekly in high-use areas. The athletes’ cleats will make the necessary seed to soil contact. This year’s drought makes this practice tricky. If you can borrow irrigation equipment, do so.

What if I can do more than the minimum?

a bucket filled with mix of soil and turf seed being poured into a bare area on a lawn

A divot mix of seed and soil can help fill in bare spots on the field. Click on the image to view a video on patching weak or bare spots.

  • 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.
  • Overseeding -Have a mixture of one part seed to ten parts soil available so coaches and players can repair divots left after heavy use.
  • Watering -Maintain adequate soil moisture but keep surfaces dry to maximize traffic tolerance. Irrigate if you can see your foot prints after walking on the turf.

    photo of twitter handle, @Cornell_Turf, Cornel Turf website, turf.cals.cornell.edu, the motto "Stay connected to the source for turfgrass information in the Northeast US

    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.

School IPM 2020 Conference

When it comes to student learning and achievement, the physical environment is a full partner.” – Dr. Lorraine Maxwell, Cornell University A picture of a school with a banner that says "School is Open Humans Only" with a bedbug, cockroach, tick looking at the sign. The tick is holding a mouse pull toy and the cockroach is holding a coronavirus shaped balloon. Includes the logos for NYSIPM, Cornell AgriTech, and USDA: NIFA

Another annual NYSIPM Conference is in the books and it was certainly different from what we imagined when we started planning last year. Covid-19 caused us to move the in-person gathering from April to a virtual conference in August. (Silver lining: it turns out virtual conferences are easier to get online than those we record with a video camera. You can now view the conference presentations from our YouTube channel.)  The virus also both supported and distracted from our main goal of discussing school pest issues that need community interventions to address.

As I discussed in my July post, Back to School – Humans Only!, Covid-19 is an excellent example of an issue that cannot be handled by school personnel alone. We have all been called to support the openings of schools through practicing social distancing, wearing masks, and handwashing whenever we leave our homes. As we looked at pest issues with similar community connections, examples included pests like bed bugs coming into schools on backpacks, but also wheelchairs and cockroaches coming in supplies and food packaging. Increasing communication and engaging collaborators that can help address these issues in the community preventing the introduction of pests into schools were brought up repeatedly. You can view that discussion here. Drs. Dina Fonseca and Paul Curtis also provided us with excellent examples of community members working together to manage mosquitoes and deer.

Besides influencing our conference, how else will Covid-19 impact schools from an IPM perspective? A few virus mitigation practices have direct impact on pests.

Reduced clutter

Photo of slide from conference: "Summary – NYC study Students’ perception of the school’s social learning environment is, in part, shaped by the physical quality of the school building. The social learning environment affects student attendance and subsequently academic achievement. Demographic factors play a role but school building quality remains an important contributing factor to the learning environment."

School building conditions matter in learning outcomes.

To decrease items that need to be regularly cleaned and sanitized, only required items are being kept in classrooms. The elimination of furniture and cushions, fewer books, less arts and crafts materials (or materials stored in easy to clean containers) will provide less space for pests to hide. We touched on this in the blog post, Bed Bugs in Schools – Prevention. And, as we learned in our keynote address, Healthy Environments for Learning by Dr. Lorraine Maxwell,  too much clutter can also lead to cognitive fatigue. While there is much influencing learning outcomes this year, we can hope that simplifying classrooms will help reduce pests and support learning.

Food in the classroom

There will be expanded food in classrooms as student travel within building is curtailed. Breakfast in the classroom has already proven to be challenging. This year lunch in the classroom, as well as teacher breaks, will increase the volume of food and food waste, the number of spills, and the amount of cleaning occurring throughout the school. On the School IPM Best Practices website, you can find information and resources on breakfast in the classroom.

Ventilation

To increase ventilation, windows and doors are being encouraged to be left open. Open doors leave opportunities for rodents and flying insects to enter buildings. Windows should have screens in place to exclude pests, but have screens been checked for holes or bent frames? Bobby Corrigan discussed rodent exclusion in his presentation, Identifying and Understanding the Rodent Vulnerable Areas (RVAs) of Schools: Essential for Sustainable IPM.

Sanitation

With IPM, we usually discuss cleaning more than sanitation, but Covid-19 has created a shift. (Note: this is unfortunate as this particular virus succumbs to soap and water.) We are not the experts on this issue, but have included a couple of blog posts to help provide some guidance:

The most important outcome of the conference is the message that school building matters and, indeed, as Dr. Maxwell concludes, “When it comes to student learning and achievement, the physical environment is a full partner.” And we all have a part to play.

Be sure to visit our School IPM 2020: Where We’ve Been and What’s Next webpage for information on our speakers and links to the recordings of all the presentations.

For more information on school IPM, visit our Schools and Daycare Centers webpage.

Back to School – Keeping the Rodents Outside

We should have little trouble with vermin if builders would hear and understand the ‘language’ of vermin and do a better job in eliminating their entrances and hiding place.” – Hugo Hartnak, 1939

photo of Bobby Corrigan wearing a hard hat, holding a clipboard in one hand and a flashlight in the other pointing out a rusted wall grid plate with a hole large enough for a rat to fit through.

For Bobby Corrigan, pest management is a passion. Called upon for his expertise across the country, we are honored to include him in our conference.

Pests enter school buildings in one of two ways: they are transported in by students, staff, or delivery truck or they make their way in from the outside. The School IPM 2020: Where We’ve Been and What’s Next virtual conference will focus on the first mode, but we will also include information on the second with tips, and a tool, to help with exclusion – or keeping pests out of buildings. Dr. Bobby Corrigan, co-founder of the first Scientific Coalition on Pest Exclusion, will join us to discuss rodent vulnerable areas.

All conference participants that complete the pre- and post-tests and evaluation will be mailed a Frye Inspection Tool (FIT tool). This simple probe can be used to demonstrate if a rodent can squeeze under a gap or through a round opening. By design, if the probe ‘FITs,’ so too can the specified rodent. This tool can be used to educate decision makers about rodent entry points and help justify pest exclusion.

picture of a F.I.T. tool, a probe with two different sized ends and demarcations to measure gnaw mark and dropping size.

A F.I.T. tool allows you to assess potential rodent entryways and identify whether gnaw marks and droppings were caused by rats or mice.

The measurement specs for the FIT are based on the size of adult rodent skulls. If a rodent can fit its head under a gap or through an opening, they are able to wiggle their body through (watch video Mouse Entry Points to see a mouse in action). The FIT can also be used to help differentiate rodent evidence (both gnaw marks and droppings) between rats and mice.

Signing up as a school district? We will mail enough FIT tools to cover all the participants from your district, so be sure to provide information for them all.A picture of a school with a banner that says "School is Open Humans Only" with a bedbug, cockroach, tick looking at the sign. The tick is holding a mouse pull toy and the cockroach is holding a coronavirus shaped balloon.

For the full agenda, registration, and pesticide recertification credit information, please visit https://nysipm.cornell.edu/resources/nys-ipm-conferences/school-ipm-2020-where-weve-been-and-whats-next/.

 

Back to School – Humans Only!

A picture of a school with a banner that says "School is Open Humans Only" with a bedbug, cockroach, tick looking at the sign. The tick is holding a mouse pull toy and the cockroach is holding a coronavirus shaped balloon.Schools across the world are having conversations about safely sending teachers, students, and the rest of the school staff back for face-to-face education during a global pandemic. These are vitally important discussions and plans need to adapt to new information. And this focus on school health and safety also provides an ideal, if unanticipated, backdrop for our rescheduled annual conference – School IPM 2020: Where We’ve Been and What’s Next.

Covid-19 is an excellent example of a community issue that cannot be handled by school personnel alone. We have all been called to support the health of the community through social distancing, wearing masks, and handwashing. Our conference will focus on community-wide pest issues such as German cockroaches and bedbugs. There is simply no way for schools to prevent these insects from being reintroduced by students, school staff, and delivery trucks. How then, as a community, can we address these issues before they breach the school walls? And avoid the subsequent calls by some to close the building for pesticide applications?

photo of flat, wide, reddish bug on a finger tip

The penultimate hitchhiker, bed bugs need to be dealt with at a community level.

Please join us on the mornings of August 11 and 18 as we hear from community and agency leaders – and you! – about efforts to provide healthy learning and work environments. We welcome your experiences and ideas as we use this momentum to address school pest issues now and into the future.

For the full agenda, registration, and pesticide recertification credit information, please visit https://nysipm.cornell.edu/resources/nys-ipm-conferences/school-ipm-2020-where-weve-been-and-whats-next/.