Greening the Apple

Weeds for Lunch: Helping the Environment Bite by Bite

By: Marcia Anderson

Imagine my surprise when I sat down to a nice lunch salad in a trendy restaurant and found garden weeds on my plate! This, I thought, was an interesting opportunity to take a bite out of the non-native species that negatively impact biodiversity.

There is an innovative movement for eating invasive species taking place. They are showing up more and more on restaurant menus. Many non-native species can be really good eating if they can be harvested and prepared properly. In New York City, New Haven, San Diego and Houston, dozens of chefs are putting invasive species on their menus.

There is growing evidence that systematic removal of invasive species can be effective in allowing native species to recover. It is not a quick fix or a silver bullet, but consumption, along with other integrated pest management strategies, could help. And it is surely a way to get people engaged in the problem that is homogenizing the world’s ecosystems. Here are some ways you can lend your palette to the cause of consuming invasive species.

Young sow thistle (Sonchus oleraceus) leaves are wonderful in salads, adding substance, and a slightly bitter taste when mixed with other greens. The older leaves can also be added to soups and stews. Sow thistle leaves are said to be a good source of vitamins A and C, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, calcium, phosphorus and iron. It is edible from the top of its bright flowers to the bottom of its taproot. The ancient Greeks and Romans used it as an herb in cooking and it was a popular food for their livestock. Sow thistle is found throughout North America.

Bonnie Million, National Park Service, bugwood.org

Lambsquarters (Photo: Bonnie Million, National Park Service, bugwood.org)

Lambsquarters (Chenopodium album) is one of the most widely distributed plants in the world, tolerant of poor soils, high altitudes, and minimal rainfall and available even in urban areas. It is a versatile weed, with dozens of related and useful species that offer incredible amounts of nourishment to those who harvest it. Lambsquarters are part of the goosefoot family that also includes spinach, red beets, sugar beets and Swiss chard. Follow a New York City recipe story.

Fresh, young dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) greens are a tasty addition to your salad when topped with your favorite dressing. Harvest the greens before the plant flowers, or the leaves will be bitter. Try sautéing dandelions with olive oil, lemon and garlic for a spinach-like vegetable. Herbalists have treated many ailments with the dandelion for centuries.  According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, dandelions are thought to have many nutritional and health benefits.

Dandelions are also commonly used to make wine. In the Middle Ages, my ancestors made dandelions a key part of their morning ritual, in the same way that most Americans start their day with a strong cup of coffee. Dandelion tea is often used as a coffee substitute, made from the root of the dandelion plant.

Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, bugwood.org

Autumn olive (Photo: Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, bugwood.org)

Did you know that in NYC autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) are abundant and the fruits are exquisite to eat? It is one of the best wild fruits to be found in northern cities, but is also one of the least known. Since 1830, autumn olive have been widely planted on strip mines and highway medians to contain erosion. They are a favorite food for many birds.  But birds, stuffed full of berries, have dropped their seeds as they fly, planting parks and gardens with countless autumn olive shrubs.

For two or three months a year across New York, autumn olives are heavy with scarlet fruit that taste something like a cross between a currant and a pie cherry. Under the silver-green canopy of the leaves, the red autumn olives are clearly identified by their silver-stippled skins. The cool fall air will ripen any bitter tasting fruit. They are delicious eaten out of hand, on salads, or gathered to be simmered into jams or jellies. They can also be dried, like currants or raisins. The juice can also be cooked down and spooned onto seared pork chops. Look for them near the Hudson, in Central Park, on the shores of Jamaica Bay, and on Floyd Bennett Field. Do not confuse autumn olives with Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia), whose fruit is a mealy green-yellow drupe and is mealy tasting, at best.

Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is found in the moist shaded soil of forests, flood plains, roadsides, edges of woods and forest openings throughout most of North America. Garlic mustard pesto is awesome! Look for recipes in Kalamazoo Nature Center’s cookbook, From Pest to Pesto.

Damage from invasive species extends beyond the environment. A Cornell University study estimates that invasive species cause more than $120 billion in economic harm annually in the U.S. alone. No matter where you are located, there are plenty of non-native, invasive species wreaking havoc in local ecosystems. To help bring attention to the problem of invasive species, the University of Vermont’s Gund Institute published Eat the Invaders in 2012 and host a related Facebook forum. So, check out these new menu items and help the environment at the same time.

About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Prevent Yellow Jackets before They Cause Problems at Your School

Yellow jacket season is upon us.

Yellow jacket season is upon us.

By Marcia Anderson

Along with the azaleas, dogwoods and spring bulbs, yellow jackets have also awakened – just in time for playground and BBQ season. Yellow jackets, wasps and hornets are beneficial insects, but they can be a health hazard due to the reactions that some people have to their painful stings.

Early Action Prevents Later Trouble: You can often avoid severe yellow jacket problems by eliminating workers and nests in late spring and early summer when yellow jacket workers are few and their nests are still small.

If there is a chronic problem with yellow jackets around your school or community playgrounds, picnic areas or fields, inspect the area to locate the nests. Nests can be found in the ground, under eaves and in wall voids of buildings. Ground nests are frequently located under shrubs, logs, rock piles and other protected sites. Entrance holes sometimes have bare earth around them. Nest openings in the ground or in buildings can be recognized by observing the insects entering and leaving. Yellow jacket nests can also be found in fence posts, play equipment and picnic table supports with unsealed openings.

The environmentally preferable way to reduce stinging insects is to use Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques. IPM is an effective, environmentally sensitive and sustainable approach to managing pests by combining biological, cultural, physical and chemical tools in a way that minimizes economic, health and environmental risks. Yellow jacket and other stinging insect presence can be significantly reduced when IPM procedures are implemented.

Fence post with hole

Fence posts and hollow rails surrounding playgrounds are common places for yellow jacket nests.

Prevention and Habitat Modification: Given the potential seriousness of stings, the objective of yellow jacket management is to reduce encounters by eliminating their prime foraging habitats through good sanitation practices and awareness. The most effective ways to manage yellow jackets are to reduce their access to food in the vicinity of human activities, and to use physical controls such as nest removal and trapping.

Reduce access to food: Later in the season, yellow jackets are attracted to protein foods. Any food left outdoors, open garbage containers or uncovered compost piles should be removed or covered. Wasps imprint food sources, and will continue to search an area for some time after the food has been removed. All refuse containers should periodically be cleaned of food wastes and should be emptied frequently to prevent the contents from impeding the closure of the lid. Garbage cans should have lids and dumpsters should have vertical spring-loaded swinging doors.

Trapping: Trapping will not eliminate yellow jackets, but can help to reduce their numbers. Various types of traps are baited with liquid or dry attractants and will allow insects to enter, but not escape. Place the traps around the perimeter of the area you want to protect so that you draw the yellow jackets away from the people. Aggressive trapping will significantly reduce the number of fall-foraging yellow jackets and the risk of stings. Do not skimp on the number of traps, as you may need lots of traps to get effective population reduction. Place traps according to the manufacturer’s directions. Empty the traps and change baits frequently to keep the traps effective. Traps should always be placed out of reach of children.

Following these steps in the spring should lead to fewer incidents with yellow jackets and other stinging insects in the late summer and autumn. See Virginia Tech’s website for more information on IPM for yellow jackets and wasps. Also, check out EPA’s website for information on smart, sensible and sustainable pest management in schools.

About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Puerto Rico Water Quality Monitoring Day

Volunteers collect macroinvertebrates from streams in Puerto Rico.

Volunteers collect macroinvertebrates from streams in Puerto Rico.

By Rachael Graham

On April 9, 2016 more than 1,200 volunteers participated in Puerto Rico Water Quality Monitoring Day to measure…..you got it – water quality!

Over 150 sites throughout the island were sampled by volunteers from 30 municipalities as part of a worldwide effort to gather data using citizen science efforts. The data they collect will be uploaded and become part of a global data set for the World Water Monitoring Challenge.

This was the eighth year of the program coordinated by the San Juan Bay Estuary Program (SJBEP). Prior governmental and NGO sponsors for this event included EPA Region 2 Caribbean Environmental Protection Division (CEPD), Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board (PREQB), the Jobos Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and the Puerto Rico Water and Environment Association (PRWEA). For 2016, EPA Region 2’s Division of Environmental Science & Assessment partnered with SJBEP and CEPD and sent two biologists to provide technical assistance and training on additional water quality parameters for citizen science.

For the Water Monitoring Challenge, group leaders were trained to use a standardized water quality kit to measure dissolved oxygen, pH, temperature and turbidity in weeks prior to the event and then pass this training on to their individual team participants. In 2016, EPA added two other important water quality parameters as a pilot – E.coli and benthic macroinvertebrates.

Approximately 20 volunteers collected samples from 21 locations throughout the San Juan Bay Estuary watershed for analysis for Escherichia coli (E. coli), a common fecal bacteria found in sewage and animal waste. Each participant set up a test to measure E.coli that does not require any equipment and can be incubated at room temperature, called a Compartment Bag Test (CBT), which has everything required to measure E.coli in one small kit. EPA and SJBEP personnel took split samples of the volunteer samples and measured a more rigorous test for E. coli to compare results. The objective was to test the CBT method to see if it can differentiate between low, moderate and high levels of E.coli. Since rapid tests, like the CBT, are simple to conduct and require no laboratory equipment, they allow citizen scientists to screen their drinking water and ambient water for relative levels of fecal bacteria more readily. If successful, the CBT may be turned into a kit and provided on a wider scale for next year’s monitoring event.

Macroinvertebrates are indicators of water quality.

Macroinvertebrates are indicators of water quality.

Approximately 90 citizen scientists collected macroinvertebrates from streams in three different areas of the island – Rio Piedras, Rio Mameyes, and a tributary of the Rio Grande de Arecibo. Aquatic macroinvertebrates are creatures that lack a vertebrate, an internal skeleton like mammals. Macroinvertebrates in streams and rivers include insects (caddisflies, beetles, dragonflies), crustaceans (shrimp, crayfish, crabs), mollusks (snails, mussels, clams), and worms. Volunteers were trained on invertebrate ecology, general habitat and water quality requirements, taxa identification, and use of macroinvertebrates as indicators of healthy and poor water quality. The volunteers used the SJBEP field protocol to collect macroinvertebrates and make a determination of the water quality at the stream site. Additional samples were collected with kick nets to compile a taxa list of macroinvertebrates observed. PREQB was present for the demonstrations and would like to incorporate benthic macroinvertebrate data as a way to determine stream health.

To learn more about citizen science projects in EPA Region 2, visit: https://www3.epa.gov/region02/citizenscience/.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

It’s Air Quality Awareness Week. How Can You Be Aware of Your Air Quality?

Rooftop air monitor

Rooftop air monitor (photo: NYSDEC)

By Bob Kelly

There are at least three levels of air quality data you can use in everyday life: neighborhood data, sidewalk data and right-where-you-are data. (Data from satellites are interesting, but not used so much on a day-to-day, hour-to-hour, personal level.)

‘Neighborhood’ data are from the air monitors run by the state air pollution agencies. You can get these data in within an hour or so of sampling from AirNOW.gov. Based on these data and weather conditions, state agencies forecast air quality alerts, when needed. Be alerted by signing up for email notifications from your state or via your state’s EnviroFlash.info page. Neighborhood data are often from rooftop locations since we need information on air pollution over large areas using the fewest monitors possible to efficiently spend taxpayer dollars. Neighborhood sites are often selected because they have air pollution concentrations similar to air pollution in other areas not monitored. This way, you get good quality data which gives an overview of air pollution across the city.

A second level of air quality data we can call ‘sidewalk’ data. Since pollution varies from your sidewalk compared to many other sidewalk locations, we would need hundreds of air quality sites to know what’s happening all the time. But special studies tell us what is happening at the sidewalk level. A good example of this is the New York City Community Air Survey. New York City uses special monitors for two weeks at a time, applying statistics to ‘fill in’ the areas between the neighborhood monitors. Even if you don’t live in New York City, use the information from this study to ‘fill in’ the areas between monitors in your location. Do you live near major highways, or a large boiler that combusts oil or gas (or wood)? This way, you can adapt neighborhood data to where you live, work or exercise.

A third level of air quality data is right-where-you-are data. Perhaps you have a portable air pollution sensor, as many do on their smartphones, to sample the air around you. As you learn where air pollution is highest, you can spend less time in locations with higher concentrations. You may even find cleaner places with your sensor. You can compare data from your sensor with neighborhood monitors and when air quality alerts are issued to find how widespread air pollution affects the where-you-are level. Most importantly, you can use all this information from every level with awareness of how you feel on any given day to learn what level of air quality affects your health. Is it harder to breathe on some days? Are your running times or amount of exercise you can do different as air pollution levels change?

Compare your health with air quality measurements from neighborhood monitors, information from sidewalk statistics and data from right-where-you-are to make your own decisions on where you’ll go today and what kind of exercise is best for your health today.

 

About the author: Bob is an air pollution meteorologist with the Air Programs Branch. He enjoys taking a few minutes from reviewing state air pollution cleanup plans to pass along the air quality forecasts to help keep people informed about what is happening in the air around them.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Public Service Recognition Week

PSRW_logo_600x268

By Judith Enck

This week is Public Service Recognition Week. It’s a time for us to celebrate and honor those who serve our nation in all levels of government. I want to take a moment to talk specifically about the people here in EPA’s regional office in New York – serving New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, USVI and eight tribal nations in New York. There is a common misconception that government workers are lazy bureaucrats. In my experience as Regional Administrator at the EPA, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Over the past seven years, I have had the privilege of working alongside some of the most committed individuals I have ever worked with, some of whom you have gotten to know through this blog and many of whom have dedicated their entire careers to protecting the environment and safeguarding public health. Thanks to the hard work of people here at EPA, Americans enjoy:

Cleaner cars – cleaner everything! Vehicles emit drastically less pollution than even only a decade ago. Also, trucks, buses, ships, locomotives and even construction equipment are all much cleaner today, making the air we breathe healthier.

Cleaner lakes, streams and oceans –thanks to EPA regulations restricting what can be discharged into our waters. Many of our urban rivers are badly polluted by unfettered industrial practices, but the EPA is working to clean those rivers up, including the Passaic River, Newtown Creek and the Gowanus Canal right here in the metro area.

Land being cleaned up and turned back to the community. Through a variety of programs, such as Superfund and brownfields, the EPA has worked to successfully turn areas once written off as too contaminated back into community assets.

Consumer products that are less harmful. Paints no longer contain lead and give off less fumes. Safer Choice Labels help consumers choose cleaning products with less toxic ingredients.

We all benefit from EPA’s work. People across America are living better, healthier lives because of the work we do.

This week, I hope you are able to reflect on the critical role public servants play in our daily lives. Maybe even thank a friend or family member for his or her service. The recognition is well-deserved.

About the author: Judith Enck is the Regional Administrator of EPA Region 2, which serves New York, New Jersey, Eight tribal nations, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. She is a native New Yorker who currently resides in Brooklyn.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Deterring Deer from Devouring Your Landscape

Hungry spring deer are tough to deter

Hungry spring deer are tough to deter

By Marcia Anderson

Last weekend, right after an afternoon spent toiling in my garden, a deer strolled into the yard and began munching on my freshly planted vegetable plants! The plants hadn’t even been in the ground a few minutes when she nibbled some right down to the ground and pulled others up – roots and all. Later, I found the doe and her two fawns right next to my front steps eating the impatiens and other potted annuals. So much for being able to admire the fruits of my gardening labor!

Springtime finds deer at their hungriest. Fawns are nursing and adults are anxious to gain back weight lost during the winter. An adult deer eats six to 10 pounds of greenery a day. So how can a gardener keep them from eating their entire landscape?

To deter deer, be prepared to alter their environment. Preventing pest problems through foresight, is the first rule of Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which is beneficial to both human health and the environment. IPM is smart, sensible and sustainable approach to pest control that focuses on preventive steps to preclude pests instead of waiting for them to arrive, then having to eradicate them. IPM is smart because it addresses the root causes of pest problems, sensible because it provides for a healthier environment, and sustainable by providing long-term control of pests. Here are some IPM approaches you can use to deter deer from devouring your landscape.

Fencing: An effective method of deer exclusion is installing and maintaining an eight to 10-foot-high deer fence. In my community, however, zoning regulations do not permit fencing taller than six feet. Whitetail deer are quite the jumpers and can scale eight-foot fences, especially if they are really hungry.

But, deer are less likely to jump over a barrier if they cannot see the landing area. You can plant tall, deer-resistant shrubs, like boxwood, Spirea, Andromeda or Weigelia, near the fence line to obstruct their view. Check the Rutgers University deer-resistant plant list for other species and select those that are appropriate for your exposure, soil type and hardiness zone.

Double fencing, parallel fences within a few feet of each other, are also effective deer deterrents.  Having a fence with an irregular top creates an optical illusion that makes deer reluctant to jump. A seven-wire slanted fence and fence tops with exclusion wire on angled extensions will also keep deer off your property. Each deer is unique – the same thing that deters one won’t always deter another. A hungry deer is very persistent and will find a way over, under, around or through any barrier that is not tall, strong and attached to the ground.

Repellent Plants: Deer have preferences for certain plants, just as humans prefer some food over others. Every deer is looking to gorge on high-protein, moisture-rich plants. Deer rely heavily on their sense of smell for feeding, so adding patches of pungent plants can act as a natural barrier. Strongly scented herbs, including garlic, chives, mint, lavender, lemon balm, bee balm and oleander, are offensive to deer and can mask the scent of desirable plants. This strategy can help to make your yard less appetizing than that of the surrounding neighborhood.

Resistant Plants: Trade plants that deer find tasty, like tulips, for those they won’t eat, like daffodils. Other plants like lily-of-the-valley, lamb’s ears, lavender, Russian sage, Liriope, Pachysandra and myrtle have been identified as being resistant to deer browsing. They also do not like ornamental grasses, iris, fox glove or yucca. Deer are foragers so they will often taste-test, and, if really hungry, will eat most anything. The following plants are like candy to deer: Impatiens, sunflower, tulip, Hosta, shasta daisy, coneflower, Chrysanthemums and Hyacinth. The Rutgers’ deer-resistant plant list offers additional helpful information.

Chemical and Physical Repellents: Keeping deer out of yards and gardens has become a huge industry in the United States. There are hundreds of commercially available deer repellents that work – but most need to be re-applied after each rain. Repellents also need to be alternated so deer do not acclimate to them. Chemical deer repellents are regulated in some states, so they can only be applied by a licensed applicator in accordance with other restrictions. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resource’s Nuisance Wildlife Repellent Handbook provides a list of some repellents.

Another method that is distasteful to deer is to use one of the many sewage fertilizer or mulch products. However, be cautious about the heavy metal content of these products if using in a vegetable garden. In breezy locations, aluminum pie plates strung on stakes may help to deter deer. Other ways to repel deer are flashing lights at night and motion-activated lights and sprinklers. Remember, deer acclimate so rotate, rotate, rotate your repellent strategies for best results.

Hopefully, these tips will help you naturally deter deer and keep the fruits of your labor – your garden and landscape – intact!

 

About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Building Big! Building Green?

LaGuardia Airport in Queens, NY.

LaGuardia Airport in Queens, NY.

By Elias Rodriguez

Today helps determine our tomorrow. Over the next several years, visitors and residents of the Big Apple, as New York City is known, will witness a major reconstruction or reinvention of two major transportation hubs within the area. Both of these herculean public works projects will have significant impacts on New York’s quality of life, the communities surrounding them and the environment.

Most likely, the first mega-project will be LaGuardia airport in Queens. The decaying airport is named for our beloved Fiorello Henry La Guardia who served three terms from 1933 to 1945 as mayor. Budgeted at $3.6 billion, the long overdue overhaul of the airport is highly anticipated. Vice President Biden attending the launch for the plan. Comprising over 680 acres, the airport borders two bays: Flushing and Bowery and served 26.7 million passengers in 2013 alone. LaGuardia airport opened in 1939 and is infamous for traffic jams, and a retro-vibe that is decidedly not cool.

The second transportation hub in desperate need of an update is the bus terminal at 42 Street and Eighth Ave. and Ninth Ave., which is also owned by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. It is the largest bus terminal in the country and handles about 220,000 passenger trips on one typical work day. It is not named after anyone, which is odd for Gotham.

Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City.

Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City.

Founded in 1921, the Port Authority built and owns the two hubs, the World Trade Center site and many bridges and tunnels in the area. The Port Authority is a bi-state agency and joint venture run by the two respective states. It receives no tax revenue from either New York or New Jersey but gets its revenue from other sources such as tolls and the fees I pay for my EZ-Pass (electronic toll collection system) device. In my family’s case, the Port Authority gets about $150 to $300 a month. Correct. That’s not chump change.

Projects of this size, scale and enormous cost raise correspondingly momentous questions about their environmental impacts. Will green infrastructure be a consideration? How can we best handle air emissions from mobile sources? The region’s transportation infrastructure was already sorely tested during the extreme weather from Hurricane Sandy. What mitigation steps are available to address the impacts from floods and wet weather impacts? These are weighty questions and public input will be a key part of the design and development process. Are these project really necessary? Yes, they are desperately needed investments. How they are rebuilt will be of monumental significance to every stakeholder.

As you enjoy Earth Day and related events, take some time to think about your impact, big or small, on our planet. Oh, and have a safe trip.

About the Author: Elias serves as EPA Region 2’s bilingual public information officer. Prior to joining EPA, the proud Nuyorican worked at Time Inc. conducting research for TIME, LIFE, FORTUNE and PEOPLE magazines. He is a graduate of Hunter College, Baruch College and the Theological Institute of the Assembly of Christian Churches in NYC.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Fruit Orchard Growers Find that Disrupting Apple Pest Mating Leads to Better Fruit

Apple blossoms

Apple blossoms

By Marcia Anderson

Taking a drive in the country, I pass numerous apple orchards, the trees in full bloom, with petals falling across my windshield, like giant snowflakes when a cool spring wind blows. I am reminded of a time, a generation ago, when people were spraying pesticides by the calendar in orchards and on farms throughout the country. For instance, they would spray for a certain pest before the trees’ buds broke in the spring, then every 7–10 days thereafter. The spraying occurred whether the pests were there or not because people were not scouting their crops to assess pest levels. Growers finally realized that pests don’t carry calendars and that their emergence varies from year to year. This validated the need for pest monitoring.

Today’s growers monitor certain pests with the aid of traps designed to include a chemical to attract only one certain pest. Such traps utilize chemical lures. The lures are synthetic copies of the chemicals (pheromones) the females emit to attract the males for mating. In apple orchards, traps, such as the one pictured here, are hung in the trees. The bottom of the trap is coated with an adhesive to capture the male insects. It is very effective control tactic for San Jose scale, codling moth, and oblique banded leafroller in lieu of pesticide applications.

With regular trap monitoring, growers know exactly how many moths are out in the orchard, which is the pest pressure, which in turn, helps them to determine if and when further treatment is necessary. When a moth is caught, growers know that first generation (the overwintering generation) has flown. Then, they can calculate degree days for the first generation eggs to hatch. At that point growers make a decisions for action. Northeast apple orchard growers discuss implementing pest-specific pheromone control strategies in their second video.

2.Apple maggot damage to an apple (Photo: E.H. Glass, New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, Bugwood.org)

Apple maggot damage to an apple
(Photo: E.H. Glass, New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, Bugwood.org)

An effective use of pheromones is in conjunction with a small dose of pesticides. This is an extremely effective and low cost cultural control to disrupt insect mating of apple maggots. The apple maggot is a small fly that lays its eggs in a fruit. The maggots hatch and eat the fruit. Sometimes you do not see them until you bite into the fruit finding half a worm. UGH. Pheromone traps can trap apple maggot flies. A red plastic ball with an apple odor in the center resembles an apple hung on a tree and will visually and chemically attract the apple maggot fly. Orchard growers also use an organic insecticide on top of the fake apple. When an apple maggot lands on it, it licks the insecticide, which will cause the females to cease laying eggs and they will eventually die. In this way, the rate of insecticide needed is drastically reduced. A grower’s last resort is the application of chemicals.

Pheromone trap (Bugwood.org)

Pheromone trap (Bugwood.org)

Apple growers have now found the most effective way to control their pests is by using scientifically-based practices like Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, that have positive long-term effects on their orchard. IPM is an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of common sense practices. IPM programs in apple orchards use current comprehensive information on the life cycles of pests and their interaction with the environment. This information, in combination with available pest control methods is used to manage pest damage by the most economical means, and with the least possible hazard to people, property and the environment. IPM takes advantage of all pest management options including inspection and monitoring for apple pests, the sanitation and maintenance of the orchard and trees, cultural practices like traps, and the judicious use of less risky pesticides, such as pheromone traps, first. IPM dictates that sprays are used only when needed for effective and long term control.

With IPM, you have to get to a certain pest population level, or threshold, before treatment is recommended. So, determining how to deal with pests based on thresholds is a primary step. How many of a certain kind of pest do you have? The threshold depends on the specific insect, weed, or disease.

There are a few challenges to IPM, not only in apple orchards, but with regard to controlling any pests. It is very important to rotate the modes of action of the chemicals that are used. Because with any pest population, if you use the same mode of action repeatedly, there are always a few pests that survive, creating future generations of pests who have developed pesticide resistance. The end result of resistance is that the overused pesticides lose their efficacy for pest control.

For more on apple IPM read: Apples for the Big Apple…Managing Pests to Produce Quality Apples. So the next time you eat an apple, think about your local apple growers and how they are using IPM to provide you with quality produce at reasonable prices.

 

 

About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Sowing Seeds in Winter

Margaret Gregor, EPA On-Scene Coordinator, speaks to reporters in upstate NY.

Margaret Gregor, EPA On-Scene Coordinator, speaks to reporters in upstate NY.

By David Kluesner

My family lives in Missouri. Three sisters, a mom and dad, and seven nieces and nephews. All in the Heartland. Several times a year I fly to St Louis, rent a car and drive the two hours south to my birthplace, Cape Girardeau. Same home that I was raised in. Rural and comforting.

The youngest of my nieces and nephews is Lauren. She’s a sophomore at Southeast Missouri State University. Still contemplating her professional career. A bright, talented young lady, with a great heart and a strong moral compass. One of the most pleasant persons I’ve ever been around. OK, I am a bit biased. But it’s true.

The Friday after President’s Day I stopped by my sister’s place in Sainte Genevieve on the way to Cape Girardeau. My niece happened to be at her mom’s place, doing homework on her laptop. Lauren asked me about my job. How work was going. Rather than give her a huge word salad to try to digest I asked her if she wanted to see one of my colleagues in action, working on an emergency response sampling project in upstate New York. I showed her photos and a video clip of Margaret Gregor, EPA On-Scene Coordinator, being interviewed earlier in the week by a local news crew. In MINUS FOUR DEGREE WEATHER! I was with Margaret, on President’s Day, assisting her with outreach to the press and local community members to inform them of our efforts to address groundwater and drinking water contamination in their community.

My niece lit up with interest and enthusiasm. Maybe it was the fact that my niece and Margaret kind of look like they could be sisters? Or that the interview showed her someone very dedicated and professional in the line of service to community, or both?  My niece was all smiles, asking lots of questions. Intrigued perhaps by a career in environmental protection or government?  As I drove off to Cape Girardeau and thought back, I wondered if I had sowed seeds of interest in the environmental field.  Did a video and some photos show great government service in action a thousand times better than anything I could possibly say?

Did my grandmother know how much she changed me as a child when she held my hand and walked me through forests in Cape Girardeau and taught me about flowers, owls and trees.  Did she know that she was sowing seeds of desire in me to one day help clean up rivers and protect the environment?

One never knows when that seed will sprout into something profound. Sometimes showing the work of people like Margaret Gregor doing her job is more powerful than any word salad. Let’s see what happens with Lauren!

 

About the author: David Kluesner heads up the Community Affairs program for EPA Region 2. David has previously served as a Community Involvement Coordinator on the Hudson River and Passaic River cleanups, and as a Superfund Remedial Project Manager out of EPA’s Atlanta office.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Moisture in Matt’s Apartment: Plumbing Problems Lead to Pests

Cracks behind bathroom fixtures and missing caulk can create open passageways for pests into your home.

Cracks behind bathroom fixtures and missing caulk can create open passageways for pests into your home.

By: Marcia Anderson

When I went to use the bathroom in my son’s city university apartment, I was greeted by more than I bargained for. I flicked on the light switch and black creatures moved from the sink and bath tub into cracks behind the fixtures. After a bit of sleuthing I discovered caulk missing from around the bathtub and sink – perfect places for both moisture and pests, such as cockroaches, to accumulate. It was not as bad as Joe’s Apartment ‘(1996, MTV Films) but I was just as creeped out.

Most people are unaware of the association between plumbing problems and pests, but the fact is that the two are intertwined. Bugs and rodents are attracted to water. If you have a leak or a place where moisture is allowed to accumulate in your apartment, house or school, it will attract pests. To get rid of pests and keep them from coming back, you have to deprive them of everything they need to survive: food, water, shelter, and ways to get around.

If you have a leaky faucet or other water source along with a tiny hole in your wall, pests will make themselves at home, in your home. Pests, such as cockroaches, may also move between neighboring apartments along plumbing and electrical ducts. Seal around these entry points to keep them out.

Once inside, cockroaches like to hide in cracks and crevices where it’s dark and warm and there’s food and water nearby. The single most important factor in determining cockroach survival is the availability of water. Moisture makes your bathroom and kitchen ideal places for finding whatever’s bugging you. Water left in the sink after washing dishes or in the bathtub after a shower provides moisture for cockroaches. These sources are eliminated by drying out sinks and bathtubs after use. You can help eliminate pests by getting rid of other sources of moisture, like piles of damp towels or laundry that attract silverfish. Use your bathroom window or fan to vent shower steam to prevent mildew and mold.  Report or fix vents that aren’t drawing air out. 

Another favorite place for cockroaches to hide is in your bottom kitchen cabinets. They are a potential pest nirvana with trash, moisture, clutter and dark hiding places. Another common source of moisture in the kitchen is condensation under the refrigerator. Place a pan under the appliance to collect water and empty it frequently.

Pet water dishes and aquariums are also sources of moisture. Empty water dishes at night when cockroaches are foraging but your pet is asleep. Aquariums should have tight fitting lids or screens to prevent cockroach entry. And be careful not to over-water indoor plants because the excess water is available to cockroaches.

In storage areas keep cardboard boxes and even plastic bins off the floor and on a wire rack or shelf. Be especially rigorous on concrete floors as moisture forms between the floor surface and the box bottom attracting silverfish and cockroaches. They will start by eating the box bottom, and quickly make their way into the inside of your boxes, destroying priceless photographs, documents and clothing. Another reason to use storage racks is for easier pest inspections. With boxes off the floor, you can quickly spot mouse droppings and evidence of other unwanted critters.

Be Pest Wise! Regular maintenance such as fixing leaks, sealing holes and cracks, and sanitation are key components of a smart, sensible and sustainable pest management program. Recognizing the value of pest prevention is an important first step. See EPA’s webpage on controlling pests in your home, school, or business for more information.

 

About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.