Category Archives: Sports Field Management

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.

Managing 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.” – Paul Hetzler

picture of yellow umbrella-like flower on a large green stalk

The bright yellow flowers of wild parsnip can be noticeable from a distance. The sap in this widely spreading invasive plant can cause severe burns.

There is no lack of invasive species in New York – but some do raise more of a concern than others. One such is the wild parsnip. Commonly spotted along roadsides with its bright yellow flowers, it can cause a problem on low maintenance areas on school grounds.

According to the New York Invasive Species Information Clearinghouse, wild parsnip produces furanocoumarin, “a compound in its leaves, stems, flowers, and fruits, that causes intense, localized burning, rash, severe blistering, and discoloration on contact with the skin on sunny days”. Avoid the sap and avoid the chemical burns.

In order to avoid those burns, the NYS DEC recommends:

  • Do not touch any parts of the plant with bare skin.
  • Wear gloves, long-sleeved shirts, pants, boots and eye protection if working near wild parsnip to prevent skin contact with the sap. Synthetic, water-resistant materials are recommended.
  • If contact with sap occurs, wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water, and keep it covered for at least 48 hours to prevent a reaction.
  • If a reaction occurs, keep the affected area out of sunlight to prevent further burning or discoloration, and see a physician.
yellow flowers with some seed formation

Wild parsnip going to seed. The seeds become browner as they get ready to drop.

Digging out the root, cutting the root an inch or two below the soil, mowing, and herbicides can all be effective in managing wild parsnip. It is unlikely, however, that an emergency exemption for herbicide use would be approved before seed drop. Mechanical methods will have more long-term benefits.

And wild parsnip is going to seed, so make sure you don’t ensure a new crop next year by spreading seeds around! Before conducting any management, carefully cut the seed heads off with clippers and put them in a plastic bag. The bag can then be left in the sun to rot the seeds before disposal. And don’t forget to wear protective clothing to prevent any sap from reaching exposed skin or eyes.

If you want to learn more about wild parsnip and its management, our favorite guest blogger Paul Hetzler covered it well and humorously in his blog, Vengeful Veggies.

For more pictures of wild parsnip, visit the Turfgrass and Landscape Weed ID website. For information on other  invasive species, visit the New York State IPM Program’s Invasive Species page.

And, just in case we didn’t quite get the message across – wear protective clothing and eye wear to prevent sap from causing severe burns.

Announcing Updates to the Northeastern IPM School Best Management Practices Website

northeastipm.org/schools//

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

Our New Look!

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.

northeastipm.org/schools//

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

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

northeastipm.org/schools//

What we’re pondering

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

We at the New York State IPM Program work to ensure we are up on the latest information that is important to help you protect students and staff from pests. Here are some resources that have recently crossed our desk.

Educating Staff

IPM in any setting is not an one-person job. In schools, without help from staff and students, IPM is nearly impossible. P also stands for people! Janet Hurley Extension Program Specialist III – School IPM from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service discusses The Importance of Educating Staff about Your IPM Program.

Stop School Pests has changed its name to the Pest Defense for Healthy Schools to emphasize its dedication to creating healthy, safe spaces for students and school staff by preventing pest problems such as mice, cockroaches, bed bugs, ants, and lice. The online professional training is targeted for specific school audiences including custodial staff, school nurses, grounds managers, school administrators, maintenance professionals, teachers, food services professionals, and pest management professionals.

 

School Safety

Cornell University turf specialist Frank Rossi talks about how to manage athletic fields to reduce injuries.

This isn’t new, but it’s a must see for all school administrators, athletic, and grounds department staff. Safe sports field management will help to reduce the risk of injuries.

Frank Rossi, Cornell Turfgrass Extension Specialist, describes basic level of care of athletic fields in the video, Duty of Care.

Ticks

With the funding of the Don’t Get Ticked New York campaign, we have been pretty dedicated to (read: obsessed with) keeping up-to date on tick information. Here is some of the latest news.

The Public Tick IPM Working Group has created a document, Tick Management Options, showing some of the most effective control strategies. A number of these options would require an emergency exemption and application by a certified pesticide applicator.

Researchers at the University of Cincinnati looked into the behavior of hungry ticks. The metabolism of ticks that had not fed for more than 36 weeks increased by as much as 100% and remained high for weeks. This has implications for adult ticks that failed to find a host in the fall. They can not only be active when the temperatures are above freezing, but will be more active in searching for a new host during the winter when the public is least likely to be thinking of tick protection. Hungry ticks are also more likely to venture into less desirable habitat – like your athletic fields. Hungry ticks work harder to find you

An Asian longhorned tick showed up in a sample of lone star ticks collected in Rockland County. The one with the short, stubby mouthparts is the longhorned tick.

Asian longhorned ticks are a troublesome new addition to an already difficult issue. First discovered on a farm in New Jersey in August 2017, we now know that they have been in the United States since at least 2010 and has been identified in nine states, including New York. So far they don’t find humans to be a particularly attractive host and tested ticks have had any disease pathogens. Which is great news. But, there is a lot we still don’t know about this tick. A recent webinar Discussions on the Invasive Longhorned Tick, Haemaphysalis longicornis organized by the Northeast Regional Center for Excellence in Vector-Borne Diseases provides a lot of information

 

Need more information on school and childcare IPM? Visit our Schools and Daycare Centers page.

An Update on School IPM

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