Greening the Apple

Welcome to the Weekend!

Looking for more ways to appreciate the summer around NYC? Our ‘Welcome to the Weekend’ summer series brings you a variety of green, fun, and free/affordable activities to do this weekend. We hope you will join some of them, and that you’ll let us know about other events not on our list. As you embark on your adventures, tweet us (@EPAregion2) with our ‘Welcome to the Weekend’ hashtag #WTWEPA!

Friday – July 29, 2016

Street Fair
Manhattan
10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
Free fun for the whole family, including arts, crafts, antiques, plants, entertainment, games and more.

Nature Sanctuary
Manhattan
2:00 PM
During these limited hours, visitors can explore the normally closed sanctuary at their own pace along the rustic trail. See how the conservancy has restored this native woodland garden for birds and other wildlife. The wood-chipped trail is uneven; please wear appropriate shoes.

This ecosystem is a protected area and home to many flora and fauna. No groups, dogs, bikes, or strollers. Free and self-guided. Space is limited.

Summer Garden
Manhattan
7/24 – 7/31/16
Summer Sunday evenings are always a little bit lovelier when MoMA’s free summer garden concert series rolls around. Each year, the museum hosts live jazz and classical music performances for those lucky enough to score a free seat. And you can’t find a better environment than MoMA’s serene Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden. The month’s shows include performers from the Juilliard School and Jazz at Lincoln Center. Seating opens at 7pm; concerts start at 8pm. For more details, visit moma.org.

Saturday – July 30, 2016

Hester Street Fair
Manhattan
11:00AM – 6:00PM
This fair will feature a diverse roster of 60 curated vendors and curiously creative entrepreneurs delivering design, art, fashion and food. The fair will also host a series of hands-on workshops, collaborative activities and special events.

Sunday – July 31, 2016

Hudson River Nature Walk
Manhattan
9:00AM
Learn about the park’s wildlife by joining experienced naturalists on guided nature walks along the more park’s esplanade. Enjoy a meandering waterfront walk while viewing and learning about the park’s flora and fauna, including some of the 85 different species of birds identified within Park boundaries. Peek into some of our many gardens to discover butterflies, dragonflies and other interesting insects. Get to know the native plants that thrive in unexpected places in and around the river’s edge. Each nature walk is unique and offers a one-of-a-kind treasure hunt-like experience. Please wear comfortable shoes and dress appropriately for the weather. Loud noises and barking tend to startle wildlife and reduce viewing opportunities – please be considerate and leave your dog at home.

Harlem Week
Manhattan
Starts 7/31/16
What began in 1974 as a one-day tribute to Harlem has evolved over four decades into a month long celebration of the community’s rich economic, political and cultural history. Things kick off on July 31 with “A Great Day In Harlem” and reach a fever pitch during the bursting-at-the-seams weekend of events held under the banner of “Summer in the City” (August 20) and “Harlem Day” (August 21), including an auto show, children’s festival, small-business expo, fashion show, educational fair, outdoor film screening, a dancing in the street party and the inaugural Harlem/Havana Music & Cultural Festival.

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.

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Weekend Activities- July 22nd 2016- July 24th 2016

Friday- July 22nd, 2016

Hike and Draw
Bronx
6:30 PM- 7:30 PM
Relax and de-stress on four summer evenings with our new program partner The Art Students League. Focusing in on nature and transferring it to paper can be a calming and meditative process. Bring a bottle of water and a light-weight portable chair to the nature center. From there we will venture out with artists Pedro Ramirez and Amy Digi to beautiful sights worth feasting your eyes on. This event repeats every week on Friday between 7/22/16 and 8/12/16.

Saturday- July 23rd, 2016

Living With White-Tailed Deer
Staten Island
11:00 AM-12:30 PM
Come learn about the local white-tailed deer with the Urban Park Rangers!

Fishing and Crabbing
Brooklyn
12:00 PM- 2:00 PM
Catch-and-release fishing is a great way to get outdoors and discover nature just a few blocks from home. Our experienced Rangers teach the ethics of fishing and the ecology of our waterways on every fishing program.

Summer on the Hudson: Summer Gaze
Manhattan
2:00 PM- 4:00 PM
Summer on the Hudson welcomes all to join the Amateur Astronomers Association to gaze at the sun through a safe scope and see the central star of our solar system.

Sunday- July 24th, 2016

Northern Manhattan Parks Hike
Manhattan
11:00 AM- 12:30 PM
Meander through parks in northern Manhattan on this one-way hike from Morningside Park to Jackie Robinson Park.

It’s My Park at McCarren Park
Brooklyn
9:00 AM- 12:00 PM
This It’s My Park season, volunteer with Good.Clean.Fun. to help care for McCarren Park. When you go exercise in the park, borrow a pair of reusable work gloves from Good.Clean.Fun to pick up some of the trash you may encounter along the way.

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.

Welcome to the Weekend!

Looking for more ways to appreciate the summer around NYC? Our ‘Welcome to the Weekend’ summer series brings you a variety of green, fun, and free/affordable activities to do this weekend. We hope you will join some of them, and that you’ll let us know about other events not on our list. As you embark on your adventures, tweet us (@EPAregion2) with our ‘Welcome to the Weekend’ hashtag #WTWEPA!

Friday- July 15th, 2016

Dewitt Clinton Community Workday
Bronx
10:00 AM – 2:00 PM
The weather is heating up and gardeners are beginning to reap the summer bounty. Learn about how to maintain your garden through the summer months by joining Bronx Green-Up at one of our upcoming Community Workdays.

Arts, Culture & Fun- Make Your Mark! Wildlife of New York Art Workshop
Bronx
6:30 PM – 8:30 PM
Join NYC Parks Arts, Culture & Fun and Abbeville Press Publishers for a FREE art workshop! Illustrator Giada Crispiels will be presenting a unique coloring project celebrating her new book, Wildlife of New York, which captures the diverse beauty of the city’s treasured neighborhoods and landmarks, alongside the animals that call this city home.

Saturday- July 16th, 2016

City of Water Day
Manhattan, Hoboken (NJ)
10:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Get out on our waterfront—and on the water—on July 16! The Waterfront Alliance’s City of Water Day is a free, family-oriented celebration of the world-class potential of the New York and New Jersey waterfront. Now in its ninth year, this event has grown into the region’s biggest harbor festival. Held on Governors Island, New York; Maxwell Place Park, Hoboken, New Jersey; and dozens of In Your Neighborhood locations around New York Harbor, the event draws thousands of people to the water for a day of fun. Highlights of the day include free boat tours on all kinds of vessels, from tall ships to tugboats; free rowing, kayaking, paddle-boarding, and the highly anticipated Con Edison Cardboard Kayak Race; and the Waterfront Activity Fair and Disney Children Activities offer something for the whole family.

Workshops at the Battery: Cooking without Electricity
Manhattan
10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Use bike blenders, hand choppers, and good old elbow grease to make delicious snacks without using electricity or a flame. Show off your cooking skills, or learn some new ones! All materials and ingredients will be provided, please make staff aware of any dietary restrictions or allergies before the workshop begins.

GreenThumb Workshop: Build a Birdhouse
Brooklyn
11:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Interested in building a birdhouse? Come and learn how to build a birdhouse to invite our feathery friends to the garden.

Family Performance Festival: Earth Capades
Manhattan
12:00 PM – 1:30 PM
“Saving the planet can be fun!” Enjoy juggling, music, magic, and storytelling while learning about serious environmental problems along with practical and achievable solutions. Interact with the circus performance and laugh along with your family. Be inspired to help preserve, protect, and respect the natural resources of planet Earth, including Central Park!

Sunday- July 17th, 2016

Birding: Ridgewood Reservoir
Brooklyn
10:00 AM – 11:30 Am
Explore the Ridgewood Reservoir for interesting bird species with the Urban Park Rangers.

Cooking Demo: Edible Flowers
Bronx
1:00 PM – 2:00 PM
A surprising number of beautiful flowers are edible, adding color and zing to salads and subtle floral aromas to desserts. Sample some delicious, flowery recipes with Chef Stephen Rosenberg of Great Performances, then take a stroll with a Wave Hill Horticultural Interpreter to view gourmet blossoms in the garden.
This event is free with admission to the grounds.

FrogWatch USA: Training
Staten Island
2:00 PM – 3:00 PM
Discover how you can help frogs & toads on Staten Island by identifying and monitoring their unique vocal calls. FrogWatch USA is a nationwide program that monitors and tracks amphibian populations by collecting data with help from volunteers like you!
Suitable for ages 8 and older. Registration required.

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.

Welcome to the Weekend!

Looking for more ways to appreciate the summer around NYC? Our ‘Welcome to the Weekend’ summer series brings you a variety of green, fun, and free/affordable activities to do this weekend. We hope you will join some of them, and that you’ll let us know about other events not on our list. As you embark on your adventures, tweet us (@EPAregion2) with our ‘Welcome to the Weekend’ hashtag #WTWEPA!

Friday – July 8th, 2016

Birdwatching and Canoeing on the Creek
Brooklyn
4:00 PM – 7:00 PM
The North Brooklyn Boat Club is hosting a birdwatching event on Newtown Creek. All levels of canoers are welcome. Keep your eyes peeled for black-crowned night heron, blue heron, cormorants and swans. Binoculars will be provided. Space is limited, but this is a weekly event that takes place every Friday.

Queens Botanical Garden Farmers Market
Queens
8:30 AM – 4:00 PM
Join us every Friday from June 17-November 18 for fresh produce.

Family Camping
Staten Island
7:00 PM7:00 AM
The Urban Park Rangers celebrate the tradition of camping and we look forward to welcoming your family to Willowbrook Park. Registration opens from June 22 to June 29. This event is free.

Saturday – July 9th, 2016

Electronics Recycling Collection
Queens
10:00AM – 4:00 PM
Responsibly recycle unwanted or broken electronics (no appliances such as microwaves or refrigerators) with the Lower East Side Ecology Center.

Beautify Red Hook Parks
Brooklyn
10:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Help maintain parks and other community green spaces in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Tasks vary depending on the season, but may include weeding, mulching, planting, raking, garbage pickup, painting, and other tasks as needed. Exact locations are walkable from Red Hook Recreation Center.

Bird Walks
Bronx
8:00 AM – 9:30 AM
Bird Walks focus on wildlife happenings in the park and are led by NYC Audubon experts.

Compost Workday
Manhattan
1:00 PM – 3:30 PM
Location:
Get an inside look at NYRP’s compost operations at Sherman Creek. Be prepared to get dirty! Take home a small bag of compost, on us.

Sunday – July 10th, 2016

Bike New York: Learn to Ride-Adults
Queens
11:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Learn to Ride—Adults is a free class for adults and mature teens who are ready to ride. Doesn’t matter if you’re 18 or 80, we’ll get you rolling in no time. With our safe, easy, effective method, Learn to Ride students learn how to balance, pedal, start, stop, and steer a bike, as well as adjust a helmet for proper fit. Most people learn to ride in one session, but even if they don’t, they’ll leave equipped with an easy, low-stress way to teach themselves—or, they can join us for another free class! Learn to Ride—Adults is a required class in our Earn A Bike program.

Arm of the Sea Presents: Hook, Line, And Sinker
Brooklyn
11:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Fishing the Hudson River harnesses the power of mask and puppet theater to peer beneath the surface and explore the Hudson’s dual identity as prolific natural ecosystem, and PCB-contaminated Superfund site. The visually-charged show features live music and a bevy of low-tech special effects that reveal the river’s complex inner life. Pitched to oldsters and youngsters alike, HOOK, LINE & SINKER celebrates the timeless art of fishing while offering the low-down on eating fish from the Hudson.

Garden – Volunteer Day
Manhattan
10:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Whether you have a green thumb or just a curiosity for what makes the garden grow, all are welcome to volunteer in Roger Morris Park, the grounds of the Morris-Jumel Mansion, once monthly under the supervision of Gardener Karen and the NYC Parks Department. All tools and instructions are provided, just bring a willingness to get a little dirty as we beautify our special garden. Close-toed shoes are required, and RSVP is appreciated to mailto:jardinera.karen@gmail.co%20m.

Family Performance Festival: Insect Comedy
Manhattan
12:00 PM -1:30 PM
See the world of bugs in a whole new way with Diane’s fun-filled stories. Learn the importance of soil creatures in the life cycle of plants while laughing along to a Japanese folktale. Finding a six-legged critter while playing in the Park will never be the same again. This family-friendly program is FREE. All ages welcome.

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.

Communities and Schools: Your Ash Trees are on the Menu

By Marcia Anderson

I was recently in a conference of Certified Tree Experts representing many northeast and north-central states to discuss the invasion and progressive devastation of our nation’s ash trees by the emerald ash borer.

Yes, we have another pest focused on annihilating our community forests. Think back. First, it was Dutch elm disease.  Later, chestnut blight, the gypsy moth, followed by the Asian longhorn beetle.  Now, the emerald ash borer (EAB) is here. While common in urban landscapes across much of the continental U.S., native ash trees (Fraxnus sp.) have little natural resistance to this most recent pest. In addition, EAB, which is native to Asia, has no natural enemies in the U.S.

EAB NYS DEC

Emerald ash borer adult.
Photo: David Cappaert. www.forestryimages.org

A major problem with an emerald ash borer infestation is that most people do not see it coming, and by the time the trees begin to show signs of decline, it is too late. The really bad news is that 95% of ash trees hit with EAB will be dead within five years.  The only way to save your favorite ash tree is to prepare and be proactive in your response.

Range. Ground zero for the EAB invasion was near Detroit, Michigan in 2002.  EAB has already swept through the Midwest and devastated almost every ash tree in its path. In Ohio, nearly all ash trees (over 20 million) suffered close to 100% mortality.  EAB is now present in 34 states and 2 Canadian provinces. In infested areas, 90-100% of ash trees will be dead within 4-5 years.

How does EAB kill trees?  EAB attacks ash trees of all sizes. EAB starts with large trees, but then goes down to smaller ones, devouring the insides of every ash tree in its path. EAB first attacks stressed trees, such as those with a portion of bark removed. The females lay 30+ eggs in the cracks of bark, beginning toward the top of the tree. The eggs hatch and the larvae bore in and feed on the phloem that conducts nutrients throughout the tree. Gradually, the infestation moves into the inner layers of the tree.  The larvae spend one or two years feeding inside the tree before emerging as adults in the spring.  If you see the adults exit holes at eye-level of a tree trunk, the infestation is heavy and has probably been there for several years. Symptoms that aid in early detection are yellowing or orange tinged leaves, loss of leaves in the canopy, sections of death in the canopy and eventually a weak, dying tree.

How does EAB spread to other areas? EAB is often found near highway rest stops. As a matter of fact, as I was driving through Pennsylvania to New Jersey in November, one landed on my car’s windshield at a rest stop. It was the first time I had seen one, and marveled at its small size and metallic green color. EAB’s are carried along railroad and other transportation thoroughfares, wherever ash trees or wood are transported. Adult EABs can hitchhike on truck beds, barges, and cars. Utility workers are often the first to find them in newly infested areas. Female beetles can disperse up to three miles from the source tree.

EAB_combo_thumb NYS DEC

Emerald ash borer adults.
Photo: www.nyis.info

EAB is coming to an ash tree near you. New Jersey, New York, and the New England states are now the latest targets of this pest.  According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, less than 5% of the state’s 900 million ash trees are currently infested. However, because black and green ash are keystone species in the regions’ wetland ecosystems, their loss could mean the loss of the entire ecosystem. In New York and New Jersey’s hardwood forests, one in every 10 trees is an ash. The entire state of New Jersey is under an EAB quarantine and under federal and state regulation to minimize the spread to non-infested areas. All ash wood must remain in municipal boundaries unless it is chipped or the bark removed.

Strategies to hamper the spread of EAB.  1) First and foremost quarantine all ash wood, including firewood.  2) Replace ash trees with a diameter of 12” or less.  If your community decides not to treat, figure that those ash trees will die, and become hazardous. Do you remove the trees now or later at a higher cost? 3) Remove infected trees – they are already hazardous. Dying trees dry out very fast and become unpredictable because they can crack and fall, even on calm, clear days. Removals should begin with the largest ones first. What to do with all of that ash wood? Chip or kiln dry the wood, which kills the bugs. Ash makes good pellets for wood burning stoves and can also be used in industry, furniture, and baseball bats.

Management options. An Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program for trees helps to create a healthier environment by reducing both pests and unnecessary pesticide use. IPM stresses the use of monitoring, maintenance, and sanitation. The use of pesticides, when needed, is also part of the IPM toolbox. Treating proactively for EAB falls into this “when-needed” category, in lieu of removing all of your ash trees.

If your trees are within 10-15 miles of known infestations, they are at risk. Success in treatment is ultimately determined by both the tree’s health and in initiating treatment before EAB has begun its demise. By the time people notice thinning in the canopy, EAB has already caused considerable damage to the vascular system of the tree. Even large ash trees can be protected from EAB by treating with systemic insecticides. Milwaukee saved most of its trees by treating because they decided that it was more economically beneficial than removal and replacement. Considerations in every town and situation are different.

There are three options for urban ash tree management:  Removal and replacement; treatment with insecticides until they can be removed; and treatment with insecticides for the duration of the infestation. New York State and the North Central IPM Center offer good publications that describe the insecticide options for protecting ash trees from EAB.  While some options are available to homeowners, others require professional application.

Dr. Jason Graboski of Rutgers University says that the states on the front lines, such as NJ, NY, MD and those in New England can benefit from the lessons learned by MI, OH, IN and PA. He shared with us information from the New Jersey EAB webpage that both informs residents and tracks EAB sitings across the state.  New York also has an EAB website with reference maps. In addition, there is a national Emerald Ash Borer Information Network with detailed information for the entire U.S.

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.

Non-Native, Invasive Species for Dinner? Bring Out the Melted Butter!

By Marcia Anderson

Recently, I discovered some really tasty invasive species on the dinner menu in lower Manhattan. Many non-native species can be really good eating if they can be caught and properly prepared. There is an innovative movement for eating invasive species taking place and they are showing up more and more on restaurant menus.

In 2014, 350 chefs and culinary professionals attended the 6th Annual Chefs Collaborative Summit in Boulder, Colorado. They collaborated on how to incorporate invasive species into menus, among other topics.

Consumption is not a quick fix or silver bullet for the problem of invasive species, but along with integrating other management measures, we could all be part of the solution. There is growing evidence that systematic removal of invasive species can be effective and that native species can recover if populations of invasive species are reduced. Invasive species are one of the top drivers of biodiversity loss, and there are plenty of recorded extinctions because of them.

How about Asian carp fritters as an appetizer or lionfish tacos?

Asian carp Photo: WVDNR.gov

Asian carp
Photo: WVDNR.gov

Asian carp are a delicacy in China and are threatened in the Yangtze River. Asian carp include four different species – the silver, bighead, grass, and black carp. These fish were brought to the United States primarily by catfish farmers in the 1970s to control algal blooms in aquaculture ponds. They are voracious eaters in dozens of waterways including the Mississippi River and some tributaries. Because they compete with some native fish, they are throwing off the local ecosystem balance.

Lionfish (Pterois volitans) was on the menu in a restaurant on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and found in many other US restaurants. It tastes like snapper or flounder and is light, fluffy, mild, and easy on the palette. The fact that it is not fishy keeps it on the menu. Lionfish are voracious predators of small fish and

Lionfish in the Caribbean. Photo: NOAA.gov

Lionfish in the Caribbean. Photo: NOAA.gov

crustaceans, eating multiple small fish per hour. They are decimating Caribbean island coral reefs, mangrove swamps and sea grass meadows. Their long, venomous spines are deadly to many would-be predators. Lionfish tacos are just one variation found on some Mexican restaurant menus. The conservative organization REEF produced The Lionfish Cookbook.

Years ago, I had my first taste of wild boar (Sus scrofa), or Eurasian wild pig, in New York City. The tenderloins actually tasted better than pork from farm raised pigs. In the wild, boars are ravenous and will eat almost anything, often causing massive erosion. They are dangerous to hunt or even be in close proximity to, as they will bite livestock, pets and children. Ecologically disastrous, wild boar are estimated to cost the Texas economy alone about $52 million in agricultural damage each year, according to Texas A&M University. The University of Georgia chapter of the Society of Conservation Biology regularly sponsors an annual Invasive Species Hog Roast to heighten awareness of the problem.

Northern Snakehead. Photo: Maryland.gov

Northern Snakehead. Photo: Maryland.gov

The Northern snakehead (Channa argus) is considered a delicacy in Chinese and Thai cultures and they really taste like chicken. A native of Asia, the snakehead is scaly, sharp-toothed, and gill fish that has the head of a snake and the body of a fish, which will eat virtually anything in its path, even taking a

bite out of unsuspecting bathers. More people across the US have decided to bite them before they bite us. The northern snakehead is known to the residents of Maryland as a potential ecological threat. Local fish markets sell whole, frozen snakeheads to restaurants and the public. There has been interest expressed in adding the snakehead to the U.S. list of injurious wildlife.

The invasive giant tiger prawn (Penaeus monodon) is a delicious crustacean that can grow to be a foot or more long. Just think shrimp on steroids! Their pleasantly sweet taste is why mariculture farmers brought the prawns to the northern Gulf of Mexico from the coasts of Australia and southeast Asia. It is highly likely that the prawns may have started their Gulf invasion after escaping from an aquaculture operation or after hurricanes Katrina or Rita in 2005. Tiger prawn are voracious predators, have become a threat to local crab, shrimp and oyster markets and potentially could spread shellfish diseases to native species. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has advised fisherman that, when caught, these prawns should not be thrown back into any open waters. Either sell them, as they can fetch a higher price than many other shrimp, or throw them in a pot of boiling water for dinner.

American lakes, rivers and offshore waters are filling with destructive fish and crustaceans from other parts of the world that are wreaking havoc on fragile ecosystems. The good news is that many of them are potentially good food sources. Successful and sustained removal will require creative strategies that mobilize a range of stakeholders from consumers to industry.

For more on eating invasive species, go to the University of Vermont Gund Institute’s Eat the Invaders Facebook forum. Read more on what you can do to help manage invasive species from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

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.

It’s Time for Ticks, Again

Tick Map

Tick distribution in northeastern United States. Image: Used with permission from identify.us.com.

By Marcia Anderson

A lovely spring walk in the park with my dog allows me to enjoy trees and shrubs as they awake from their winter naps. Suddenly, I spot a tick climbing up my pant leg and am reminded that it is the time that ticks and other insect pests also emerge. It doesn’t matter if you live in the city, country or suburbs, ticks can easily end up in your neighborhood, transported on small mammals, hungry to feast on you and your dog.

Tick-borne diseases are on the rise in the U.S. According to the Center for Disease Control, Lyme disease is found in 46 states and Rocky Mountain spotted fever has been reported in 40 states. The northeastern states, from Maine through Maryland, have the greatest concentration of ticks in the nation, from mid-May through the fall. This makes tick management an important consideration for schools, parks and neighborhoods.

Young ticks attach to field mice, rabbits, birds and squirrels. As they mature, older nymphs and adults climb onto tall grasses, shrubs and herbaceous plants, in a quest to grab onto larger hosts like deer, dogs and people as they pass by.

The brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus), once inside your home, can live and breed in cracks and crevices. The American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis), on the other hand, can be found indoors after being carried in by a host, such as a dog. As a dog lies on the floor, a tick can easily drop off and crawl into the tiny space moldings provide next to the wall. Undisturbed, ticks will stay on a dog or human for several days, giving it plenty of time to transmit disease.

Female American dog tick. Photo: Susan Ellis, USDA APHIS, Bugwood.org

Female American dog tick.
Photo: Susan Ellis, USDA APHIS, Bugwood.org

Immature ticks are very tiny and, like older ticks, often go unnoticed until they become engorged with blood. After feeding, the female will drop from its host, hide and lay up to 3,000 eggs. Our golden retriever, Mozart, frequently lay in his favorite spots during his golden years. Late one fall, we noticed hundreds of tiny ticks crawling around one of those favorite spots. It took weeks for us to vacuum up all of those ticks.

There are 12 species of tick that are of major health concern throughout the U.S. In the Northeast, the main culprits are the American dog tick and deer tick. The American dog tick is much larger than the deer tick and the female has a whitish shield on her back, and carries diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever and encephalitis. The black-legged tick, commonly known as the deer tick, is about the size of a poppy seed, and without markings. It carries the organism that causes Lyme disease.

Ticks are of particular concern on many school properties with large open playing fields surrounded by either woods or open areas with tall grass or brush. Ticks are also found on cross-country trails, paths and play yards located near wooded areas. One Massachusetts study determined that children, ages 5 to 9, have the highest incidence of reported Lyme disease of all age groups. This emphasizes the need for tick education for all school-aged children.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a smart, sensible and sustainable approach to managing pests of all types, including ticks. IPM for ticks relies on planning, prevention, monitoring and landscape maintenance/modification to reduce tick-favorable habitats. It also includes the judicious use of pesticides. Here are some tick IPM suggestions you can implement around your home and school.

First, educate all children and parents about personal protection from ticks in regions where ticks are common. Children should be instructed not to go into areas where ticks are known to be prevalent, such as meadows and other areas with tall grasses unless proper precautions are followed. These precautions include keeping to the center of trails, avoiding contact with shrubs and tall grasses and using personal protection.

Personal protection includes wearing light colored clothing, tucking pants legs into socks, and wearing closed-toe shoes. After a long day enjoying nature in the outdoors, place clothing directly into the washer and especially the dryer. Washing clothes may not kill all hiding ticks, but they will succumb to the heat of the drier.

Education also includes lessons on how to recognize ticks and conduct body checks for ticks. On humans, ticks migrate up toward the hairline. It takes about five hours for a tick to become firmly implanted and a few days for it to become fully engorged with blood. If you find a tick, carefully remove it with tweezers, keep it in a container or zip-top bag for later identification. You may want to seek medical attention following a tick bite, especially if you are in an area where tick-borne diseases are prevalent.

Parents should read and follow the label of any tick repellent they choose. Note that some repellents are not recommended for use on the skin of young children. EPA has an online tool to help you choose the right repellent. Permethrin-treated clothing that repels and kills ticks is another option.

Protect your pets by talk to your veterinarian about the various products available to repel and kill ticks.

Landscape modifications to reduce tick habitats include keeping grass mowed, creating a three-foot wide area between woods and playing fields, raking leaf litter, eliminating brush-covered habitats, and excluding hosts, like deer by installing exclusion fences. Mulch or wood chips under play equipment and gravel or mulch as edging along woodlands make unfavorable tick habitat.

For more information, review EPA’s Tick Safety in Schools publication, the University of Maine’s tick fact sheet, and view EPA’s School IPM webinar on ticks. You can also visit the University of Rhode Island’s Tick Encounter Resource Center and become a tick spotter. The information you submit can improve tick awareness through tools like Tick Encounter’s Current Tick Activity tracker.

 

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.

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Urban Green

Even the smallest of balconies can host a few plants and add some much needed greenery to the urban jungle.

Even the smallest of balconies can host a few plants and add some much needed greenery to the urban jungle.

By Sion Lee

I have always had an affinity for all things green. I love the feeling of cool grass beneath my bare feet, the smell of the bouquet of roses sitting on my kitchen table, the gracefulness of a weeping willow… I am easily enamored by plants and trees. The New York Botanical Garden is my favorite place to be – ever. It is not a surprising confession then, when I say that one of my goals in life is to have a huge garden where I can plant my own collection of greens.

It’s slightly difficult, however, to maintain such a garden in New York City. While it is true that certain boroughs have more space than others (basically all boroughs except Manhattan), space is limited and expensive. As a resident of Queens, New York City, I am fortunate enough to live in a building that has a balcony. The balcony is made of concrete, but it has enough space to place potted plants and small trees. My family grows green peppers and ruby red cherry tomatoes each year. Yes, they’re delicious – but they are not enough to quench my need for seed.

This is where community gardens come into play. A community garden is self-explanatory: it is a garden for the people, created by the people. It is not uncommon for vacant lots to turn into community gardens. It is place where the people living in the community can come together to grow fresh produce. A community garden has many environmental and health benefits. For one, more plants would mean more oxygen restored into the air. This would reduce air pollution, which is especially crucial in highly polluted urban areas. Participating in a community garden would also increase environmental awareness.

Locally grown fruits and vegetables are often said to taste better and to be better for the environment. While there have not been any comprehensive studies to support these claims, I believe that just reaping what you have sowed is a truly more rewarding experience than buying produce from chain grocery stores. Furthermore, while buying locally might be more expensive than regular produce, growing your own food is the cheapest option of all. This has a great health implication for people of lower socioeconomic standing; community gardens make healthier foods more accessible to those who usually cannot afford it.

Besides, community gardens are fun. They allow you to interact with people from your community who share the same green interests as you do. Having a strong sense of community can create an opportunity for neighborhood crime rates to decrease. Go with your child, best friend, partner- or just go alone. No matter what, you are guaranteed to have a wonderful time.

About the Author: Sion (pronounced see-on) is an undergraduate student at the University of Michigan. She is an intern in the EPA Region 2 Public Affairs Division. She is a native of Queens. Sion’s favorite hobbies include eating, listening to Stevie Wonder, and breaking stereotypes.

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.

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April Showers Bring May Flowers and Mosquitoes

Northern Culex mosquito laying eggs on water’s surface. Image: Susan Ellis, Bugwood.org

Northern Culex mosquito laying eggs on water’s surface. Image: Susan Ellis, Bugwood.org

By Marcia Anderson

There is nothing as pleasant as a warm spring day. Flowers are beginning to bloom, tree buds are swelling, and the air is sweet with the smell of spring. Then, you hear the buzz, feel a slight prick, and the spell is gone. Yes, April showers really do bring May flowers followed by mosquitoes.

Is there anything that you can do to reduce mosquitoes and the threat of mosquito-borne diseases this year? Actually there is.

Most people do not realize all of the areas around their own homes where mosquitoes can find stagnant water for laying their eggs. Mosquitoes that live in close association with humans typically breed in containers that are holding water. Amazingly, many mosquitoes can breed in something as little as a bottle cap.

This article is designed to help you identify water sources around your home and neighborhood that could provide breeding grounds for mosquitoes. By eliminating these areas through an approach called Integrated Pest Management (IPM), you can reduce the number of mosquitoes in your neighborhood. Here are some suggestions for identifying and eliminating these problematic water sources.

water in child toy

Water collected in a child’s toy left outside can support mosquito larvae.

Surveillance: Identify the locations and sizes of all stagnant water sources, including bird baths, pet water and food bowls, trays beneath potted plants, outdoor containers, kiddy pools, outdoor toys, open water barrels, tarps, blocked catchment basins, clogged storm drains, obstructed roof gutters, garbage cans and dumpsters without lids or drains, discarded appliances, and car parts, especially tires.

Sanitation: An essential component of mosquito management is the elimination of breeding sites. All mosquitoes need water on which to lay their eggs. Removing the stagnant water sources identified in the surveillance of your property will diminish the mosquitoes.

Plastics deserve a special focus because they are not only a huge waste problem, but also key breeding grounds for mosquitoes and other disease carrying pests. Improperly discarded plastic bags and food/drink containers can become pest breeding sites. Remember to empty the rainwater from children’s toys that have been left outdoors.

Maintenance: If you live in an area with irrigation diversions, swales, open stormwater culverts, or trenches, you should maintain them to prevent obstruction of the water flow by sediment or plant debris. Clogged gutters and flat roof tops with poor drainage are also commonly overlooked mosquito breeding sites that require regular maintenance.

Report standing water – in New York City call 311; in other communities, call your local health department. If your property has large areas of standing water that do not readily drain, discuss options with your municipal engineer or local agricultural extension service office.

Creative Solutions:  For a small to moderate ornamental pond, consider biological solutions such as mosquito-eating fish, tadpoles, flatworms or copepods.  (See how New Jersey used copepods to reduce mosquito larvae). Bodies of water with fish or other mosquito-eating wildlife are not prone to mosquito problems. To illustrate, every spring I add feeder goldfish to my bird bath. The tiny fish devour any mosquito larvae that appear, and the neighborhood children love to watch the fish. As a result of this and our efforts to remove or regularly empty water-collecting containers, our yard is free of mosquitoes.

Simple Steps You Can Take:

  • Unblock drains and gutters to maintain water flow.
  • Drill a few small drainage holes in pots, plastic toys, and garbage cans.
  • Empty saucers, tarps, and children’s toys of water within a few days after a rain.
  • Properly dispose of unwanted tires.

The EPA recommends that you use IPM to control all of your pests, even mosquitoes. IPM creates a safer and healthier environment by managing pests proactively and at their source. For mosquitoes, this means focusing on eliminating the places they can breed around your home and in your neighborhood. For more information, visit EPA’s mosquito control website.

 

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.

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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.