Integrated Pest Management

Unintended Consequences of Transporting Firewood

by Marcia Anderson

Over the past 15 years, exotic insects like the Asian longhorned beetle, emerald ash borer (EAB), and hemlock woolly adelgid have killed millions of trees in cities and forests across the United States. Once established in new areas, these pests can quickly kill trees in our favorite forests, parks, communities, and campgrounds. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that over 30 million ash trees have already been killed by the emerald ash borer in Michigan alone, with millions dead or dying in other states (see related blog).

Split firewood in a backyard Photo: ©L. Greenwood; The Nature Conservancy

Split firewood in a backyard
Photo: ©L. Greenwood; The Nature Conservancy

Firewood has been shown to be an especially troublesome means by which pests are spread. According to the USDA, the best preventative measure to protect our uninfested urban and rural forests from these pests is to limit the movement of infested materials, including firewood.

Firewood is frequently moved long distances by campers and retailers. Not surprisingly, pest infestations are showing up around campgrounds and highway rest areas. In many states, all trees used as firewood are now regulated since they have the potential to harbor invasive insects and diseases.

Firewood has historically been moved with little consideration of the pests it could be harboring. However, the issue is getting increasing attention. This year, USDA and several states put out urgent pleas to avoid transporting firewood.

Emerald ash borer and its damage to an ash tree Image: National Park Service

Emerald ash borer and its damage to an ash tree
Image: National Park Service

To protect forests and trees that are threatened by a host of invasive insects and diseases, regulation has become necessary. While regulations vary by state, they generally include restrictions on importing firewood, the movement of firewood within the state, and the transportation of firewood into state, local and federal parks.

Thirty states have imposed various levels of quarantine as a result of the emerald ash borer. In the Northeast alone, most states have restrictions on the movement of wood products. Other states, including Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and Maryland, have also imposed regulations on the movement and importation of firewood. Some regulations do not allow the transport of wood beyond a 50-mile radius of an EAB-restricted zone. A restricted zone is the quarantine of an infested area that prohibits the movement of logs and firewood outside of the zone. Check USDA’s quarantine map before you move firewood, even to another town. Because EAB does not travel far on its own, limiting human transportation of infested material will slow its spread.

Camping firewood on the move.  Photo: © L. Greenwood; The Nature Conservancy

Camping firewood on the move.
Photo: © L. Greenwood; The Nature Conservancy

It is recommended to use locally-sourced firewood, or firewood that has been confirmed as pest free. Firewood producers and dealers must provide documentation on the source of their firewood. Note that seasoned wood alone is not an adequate treatment method because some insects can survive in untreated firewood for many months. Only firewood that is heat treated, kiln-dried (160° F for at least 75 minutes), is allowed to be brought into parks with source documentation.

Be warned that RVs and other vehicles that have been parked for long periods of time can also harbor tree pests and their eggs. If not removed prior to a road trip, these vehicles can introduce pests into a previously uninfested area. So, take the time to check your vehicle, especially the wheel wells, and remove any insects you find. You can also wash down your camper between trips to help remove any hitchhiking pests.

What is at risk from transporting these pests? The trees in your backyard, along your streets, and in your neighborhood, along with the wildlife that depend on them. In addition, jobs in the timber and forestry industries and manufacturing sector (flooring, cabinets, pallets, and even baseball bats) are impacted. A direct consequence to taxpayers are the costs borne by cities and towns to remove the hazardous trees killed by these pests.

Preventing the spread of pests is one component of an Integrated Pest Management program. Doing your part will help sustain the health of our great forest resources and neighborhood trees.

 

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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A Changing Population – Turkestan Cockroach Overtakes the American Southwest… and Possibly NYC

By Marcia Anderson

New York City isn’t the only place seeing changes in its roach population. (See Immigrant Cockroach found in NYC) In southwestern U.S. cities, the Turkestan cockroach (Blatta lateralis) is thought to be displacing the common oriental cockroach (Blatta orientalis). Now that they are permanent residents of the Southwest, they can join in the rodeo fun like their cockroach cousins in the 1996 film Joe’s Apartment.

The most unusual thing about this immigrant to the southwestern US is that they are being spread via the Internet. The Turkestan cockroach is popular as live food among reptile breeders and can be easily bought and sold online. As a matter of fact, “this may be the first time that an invasive urban pest species is widely distributed via the Internet through the sale of live insects,” according to University of California-Riverside scientists Tina Kim & Michael Rust in their 2013 Journal of Economic Entomology article. So beware New Yorkers, they can easily be sent to a location near you.

Good to the last bite. Turkestan cockroaches clean up dinner dishes. (Photo: Angela Simental, nmsu.edu)

Good to the last bite. Turkestan cockroaches clean up dinner dishes.
(Photo: Angela Simental, nmsu.edu)

The Turkestan cockroach is also known as the rusty red cockroach or the red runner cockroach. It is a close cousin of the Oriental cockroach. It is primarily an outdoor insect, not known as an aggressive indoor pest, unlike some cockroach species such as the German and American cockroaches. “They typically inhabit in-ground containers such as water meter, irrigation, and electrical boxes, raises of concrete, cracks and crevices, and hollow block walls,” remark Kim and Rust.

This new cockroach is primarily an outdoor-dwelling native to an area from northern Africa to Central Asia. The species is distributed through the Caucasus Mountains, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, northeastern Africa; Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Libya.

The Turkestan cockroach first appeared in the U.S. in 1978 near a California military base.  This was followed by other discoveries near bases in Texas and other locations.  By 2001, they had spread to Los Angeles and, in 2005, infestations were noticed in Georgia. Researchers Kim and Rust believe the species may have arrived in the U.S. on military equipment returning from Asia or Afghanistan.

We may be looking at a demographic shift in the U.S. roach population. Turkestan cockroaches have been rapidly replacing the common Oriental cockroach in urban areas of the southwestern US. The Turkestan cockroach nymphs have a shorter developmental period, and the adult female produce considerably more eggs than do Oriental cockroaches. With a faster life cycle and larger broods, the Turkestan cockroach is outlaying and displacing its Oriental cockroach cousins in many locations.

No need to feel sorry for the Oriental cockroach. Remember that the U.S. is a country of immigrants. The American cockroach is believed to have entered the U.S. from Africa with the slave trade and the Oriental cockroach was believed to have come from the Middle East.

Let’s put this whole cockroach immigration into perspective. There are roughly 4,500 cockroach species worldwide, and only about 70 in the U.S. Correction – make that about 71!  Of all of these cockroaches, only about two percent are pests. For all their creepiness, the majority of cockroaches do little actual harm. They can even be considered beneficial outdoors. They are scavengers that recycle dead animals and vegetable material, and aerate the soil.  Thus, they provide an important ecological cleansing and fertilization service.

Roaches are really smart. Perhaps that’s why they are constantly trying to get into schools, homes, and other places.  How else do you think that they were able to survive for 300 million years, outliving the dinosaurs and surviving multiple mass extinction events?

They are highly adaptable to hot and cold. Plus, they have a special tolerance for many toxic chemicals. They survive some chemical and pesticide exposures and live to tell the tale. For instance, they can detect the application of a pesticide, decide they don’t like it, and make a decision to avoid it in the future. They can do that because they are equipped with fat bodies – pockets of enzymes. (That’s the white gooey stuff that gets on your shoes when you step on one.) These enzymes can detoxify some pesticides, so the roaches can go on living. They can also pass on their tolerance to their offspring. Thus, they can easily build up a resistance through only a few generations making some pesticides ineffective after a relatively short time. This resistance certainly keeps the pesticide industry busy developing new controls for cockroaches, and building better roach traps. See why roaches are so hard to eliminate. 

2.Male (a) and female (b) Turkestan cockroaches. (Photo: R. McLeod, tamu.edu)

Male (a) and female (b) Turkestan cockroaches. (Photo: R. McLeod, tamu.edu)

Still concerned about a roach invasion into your neighborhood? Until recently, efforts to suppress cockroach populations in the urban environment have relied almost exclusively on repeated applications of pesticides. This approach has become increasingly less popular, primarily due to the development of multi-chemical resistance among cockroach populations and increased public concern about pesticide exposure in their living environments. These two issues have greatly emphasized the need for a more holistic and prevention-based approach to cockroach management.

Prevent cockroaches from taking over your school, home or office. You can do a lot to prevent a cockroach invasion by following an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach. Cockroaches are most easily managed by means of exclusion (preventing their entry) and sanitation (eliminating their food, water and shelter). Not only will these measures prevent a future infestation, they will also help to reduce an existing cockroach problem. If the preceding measures do not solve the problem to your satisfaction, you can incorporate cockroach baits and traps. For infestations, having a pest management professional provide IPM-based advice is a wise decision and may save time and money, and prevent the unnecessary use of pesticides. More on cockroach IPM in part 2 of this series.

 

For information, see EPA’s Cockroaches & Schools webpage and the University of California’s cockroach guidelines webpage.  You can also read an earlier blog on another invasive cockroach.

 

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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Fall Can be a Batty Time for Schools

By Marcia Anderson

Just as children around the nation are back in school in the early fall, so are bats. Autumn is the time when many North American bats are beginning their trek south to overwinter in Mexico and Central America. Many schools are located along bat migration routes, so every fall, bats attempt to use them as rest stops.

Image: National Park Service

Image: National Park Service

Bats are essential to maintaining healthy ecosystems and economies. Some bats are primary pollinators of fruits and other produce. They spend their nights eating pests — mosquitoes, moths, as well as termites, ants and roaches in flight. A single Mexican freetail bat or little brown bat can eat 3,000 mosquito-sized insects per night. Their prey is easily found in open grasslands, parks, and school yards where insects are abundant. During the day, bats prefer to roost in tight crevices such as cracks in rocks, under exfoliating tree bark, and in awnings of buildings. Bats can enter buildings through openings as small as one-half inch in diameter.

One city’s high school experienced an annual bat problem. The building was over 100 years old, and every fall over 3,000 bats would spend time in the halls, classrooms, kitchen, and, primarily, the auditorium. The bats would fly in at dawn and exit at dusk at several sites scattered across the building. The custodians would go to work at 5 a.m., running nets through the school to capture the bats and release them outdoors. They would catch as many as they could before the start of the school day.

Then in 2005, the district began implementing an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program. As the program got underway, the facilities management team soon began to understand how the bats were entering the building. As with preventing other pests that enter schools, exclusion was part of the IPM process that needed to be implemented. An 80-foot lift allowed staff to get high enough to seal the openings where the bats were entering.

2.Little brown bat Image: Marvin Moriarty, US Fish and Wildlife Service

Little brown bat Image: Marvin Moriarty, US Fish and Wildlife Service

Over the next three years, there was a significant decrease in the number of bats entering the school. By 2010, only one or two bats would find their way into the building when someone on the 3rd or 4th floor would accidently leave a window open. The good news for the bats was that the district had the foresight to place bat houses on the roof of the school so the bats would have a place to rest, undisturbed, on their long journey south.

A related problem the school had to deal with was the bat guano deposited in the attic spaces above classrooms. There are health hazards associated with bat guano, such as Histoplasma capsulatum, a fungus which, if inhaled, can develop into a serious respiratory disease. Guano also needs to be removed from interior structures to avoid attracting other pests such as cockroaches and flies. A professional hazardous waste cleanup company was hired to remove the bat guano.

In another part of the country, a school had hundreds of bats spend an entire season adjacent to their gymnasium. The bats found a perfect roosting space between the gutter and the building that ran for 500 linear feet. The void was about four inches high and ¾ inches wide, in a very high location, and inaccessible to predators – a perfect spot for bats. The local health department shut down the gym. The guano that collected on the ground below the bats had to be swept up daily. Some, however, fell inside the gym wall void. The facilities staff applied an enzyme inside of the wall void to neutralize any pathogens in the guano. To solve the problem, the school removed the gutter, installed flashing, and then reinstalled the gutter. This bat incident cost the district over $250,000.

Yet another school had an overhang 30 feet off of the ground that the bats loved. To keep them from roosting, the facilities staff filled the voids, added metal panels, and sealed the seams.

Got bats in your school? Don’t panic. They’re rarely aggressive. Do warn students not to pet, catch, comfort, kick, or shoo them away, as some bats carry rabies. Teach them to stay back and notify a teacher or staff member.

Exclusion is an essential step in IPM. Close all potential bat entry points using sealant, weather stripping, flashing, or heavy-duty ¼-inch hardware cloth. Identify bat entry points by inspecting along roof lines and under gutters for rub marks – stains left by the oils and dirt rubbing off the bats’ hair. Also look on the ground for guano.

Before taking action, know the bat species involved. A few bats are federally protected, so it is important to comply with the law. There may be more than one bat species sharing a roost. Identification can also help if the district is considering building alternative housing for the bats. Each bat house should be appropriate for the species, large enough to hold several hundred bats, and placed away from students. Not all commercially available bat houses are suitable for North American bats. Bat Conservation International provides information on how to build, buy, and install a bat house. There are also free plans for bat houses available online. Install new bat houses a few weeks prior to the actual bat exclusion, to allow them time to find the new shelter.

Lastly, Texas A&M University provides good information on bat control in schools.

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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New England can prepare ash trees before Emerald Ash Borer attacks

By Marcia Anderson

I was recently in a conference of certified tree experts to discuss the invasion and progressive devastation of our nation’s ash trees by a creature known as the emerald ash borer. While much of the country has already suffered the death of their ash trees, New England has time to react.

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

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

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 is approaching and has already ravaged much of the nation. While common in cities across much of the US, native ash trees (Fraxnus sp.) have little natural resistance to this pest. In addition, the Asia native has no natural enemies in the US.

A major problem with an emerald ash borer infestation is that most people do not see it is coming, and by the time the trees show signs of decline, it is too late. Some 95 percent of ash trees hit with it will be dead within five years. The only way to save your favorite ash trees is to prepare.

Ground zero for the invasion was near Detroit in 2002. The borer has already swept through the midwest and devastated almost every ash tree in its path. It is now in 34 states and 2 Canadian provinces. It has not yet reached New England.

At the conference I attended in New Jersey Dr. Jason Graboski of Rutgers University said some parts of New England that are not yet affected can benefit from the lessons learned by Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

If trees are within 20 miles of an infestation, they are at risk. That is when to take action. By the time people notice thinning in the canopy, the borer has already caused considerable damage.

There are three options for managing urban ash trees: removal and replacement; treatment with insecticides until they can be removed; and treatment with insecticides for the duration of the infestation.

An Integrated Pest Management program reduces both pests and unnecessary pesticide use. This approach stresses monitoring, maintenance, and sanitation. But pesticides, when needed, can also be used. Treating for the borer falls into this “when-needed” category, in lieu of removing all ash trees. Even large ash trees can be protected by insecticides. Milwaukee, Wisc., saved most of its trees by using pesticides

AshborermapThe emerald ash borer attacks trees of all sizes, starting with large trees, devouring the insides of every ash tree in its path. It first attacks stressed trees. The females lay 30 or more eggs in the cracks of bark, which hatch leaving larvae that bore into and feed on the phloem that conducts nutrients throughout the tree. Gradually, the infestation moves into inner layers of the tree. The larvae spend one or two years feeding inside the tree before emerging as adults in spring. Once you see exit holes at eye-level, the infestation has probably been there several years. Symptoms that aid in early detection are yellowing leaves, loss of leaves or death in the canopy, and eventually a dying tree.

The borer is often found near highway rest stops. One once landed on my windshield at a rest stop. It was the first time I had seen one, and I marveled at its size and metallic green color. They easily hitchhike on trucks and rail cars so are commonly dispersed along railroad and other transportation thoroughfares.

New Jersey, New York, and the New England states are now the latest targets of this pest.

There are a few ways to prevent the spread of the borer. 1) First and foremost quarantine all ash wood, including firewood. 2) Replace all ash trees with a diameter of 12 inches or less even if it is not infested. If your community decides not to treat with pesticides, those ash trees will die, and become hazardous. You can remove them now or later at a higher cost. 3) Infected trees should all be removed, the largest first. The wood should then be chipped or kiln dried. Ash makes good pellets for wood burning stoves and can be used in furniture and baseball bats.

The important thing is to prepare ahead, before the emerald ash borer is already doing its deeds.

Marcia Anderson, who has a doctorate in environmental management, works with EPA’s headquarters on issues related to pest management in schools. She formerly worked in pesticides for EPA Region 2 and has a home in Lyman, Maine

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https://extension.unh.edu/resources/files/Resource004434_Rep6323.pdf

 

 

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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Growers manage pests to produce great apples

By Marcia Anderson

Working in the Office of Pesticide Programs, I was excited to learn of the progress New England fruit growers were making in using “integrated pest management” to reduce pests and pesticides in their orchards.Apples

As we go about picking and eating our apples, many of us are not aware how much New England apple growers must battle pest problems on a continual basis. Pests like moths, mites, and fungi see an apple orchard as a place to eat or reproduce. In general, they have found that integrated pest management – an environmentally friendly, common sense way of controlling pests that involves a variety of approaches – is the way to go. Because the ecology in every orchard is different, pest conditions and circumstances are different for every grower and thus solutions may vary.

Integrated Pest Management has become increasingly engrained in apple pest management in this area over the past 30 years. Most New England growers live right on their farms and have found the most effective way to control pests is by using scientifically-based IPM practices that help their orchards in the long-term.

Growers monitor their orchards weekly from early spring through the growing season to determine pest pressures. Growers and crop consultants become intimate with their location, learn about past disease and pest pressures and about the ecology of their orchards. And they learn something new every year.

Farmers who use integrated pest management can reduce their two highest bills: for pesticides and fertilizers and for fuel.

Maintenance and sanitation are key parts of preventing pests in apple orchards.

Apple scab damage on mature fruit.

Apple scab damage on mature fruit.

Farmers have learned it helps to keep the land and water as clean as possible. In the fall, growers clean the orchard floor, cutting suckers off tree trunks, and clearing weeds from under the trees. Fallen leaves, grass clippings, and winter prunings are mulched and returned to the soil. Leaves chopped small will decompose more quickly and neither the pests nor diseases will have anywhere to overwinter, reducing the pest populations in the orchard the next spring. The only thing removed are the apples.

Simply maintaining this level of sanitation successfully reduces the presence of apple scab, one of the most persistent pest problems in orchards. Apple scab comes from a fungal spore that overwinters on the ground. It normally requires a fungicide, or anti-fungal pesticide, to stop its development. Those spores make leathery-brown scabs that blemish the fruit and reduce its perceived quality and this its economic value.

Apple scab also damages trees by creating lesions on leaves that spread and interfere with photosynthesis. A bad scab infection can shut down a whole tree and spread quickly throughout the orchard.

Other pest prevention methods include planting pest-resistant varieties and replenishing nutrients. Apple trees need specific nutrients to produce quality fruit. When hundreds of bushels of apples per acre are removed annually, nutrients are removed from the soil. Soil should be monitored and nutrients added when necessary.

So why should we care about pest prevention and the appropriate use of pesticides on our apples? One reason is that apples are prevalent in the diets of our children. And they’re good for us! Using the scientifically-based best practices of integrated  pest management, northeastern apple growers can give us high quality apples at reasonable prices.

More information from EPA on Integrated Pest Management: https://www.epa.gov/managing-pests-schools/introduction-integrated-pest-management

You can see New England growers discuss using IPM to prevent pests in series of three videos by the New England Apple Association.

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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An Elderly Tenant’s Path to Overcoming Bed Bugs

By Marcia Anderson

Lynne Gregory of EPA Region 2 recently shared with me a compelling story about Vivian, a 70-year-old retiree whose bed bug story began on September 11, 2001.

Vivian lived in a high-rise on the southern end of Manhattan, in close proximity to the World Trade Center. Her building felt the effects of the tragedy, as did she. Vivian was forced to move out of her residence for both structural and air quality reasons and was never able to return. As a result, she has had to move multiple times, with her most recent move into an apartment infested with bed bugs.

Like most people, Vivian did not notice the bed bugs when she moved in. It was the recurring bites that tipped her off.  She captured some for identification. While searching online for bed bug information, she found the EPA bed bug website along with a list of EPA regional employees to contact, for bed bug advice. She called Lynne and has been in regular contact with her for the past six months.

A proud woman, Vivian was ashamed to discuss the bed bug matter with others, but Lynne gained her confidence and has coached Vivian on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices for bed bug control ever since. Vivian refuses to tell the landlord about the problem for fear of being blamed for bringing in the bugs. She was also ashamed of the amount of boxes and clutter in her apartment that resulted from all of her moves.

Bed bugs are small in size but still visible to the naked eye.

Bed bugs are small in size but still visible to the naked eye.

Informing the landlord is normally the first course of action when finding bed bugs, or any other pest in multifamily housing. However, elderly tenants like Vivian are often apprehensive that their landlords will become hostile toward them. They may fear eviction, fear having to throw out life-long possessions (a directive many landlords issue to tenants prior to allowing any pest treatments), and worry that they will be forced to pay to solve a problem they did not cause.

Vivian contacted the NY City Housing Department and her state senator to find out about the city’s bed bug laws and what, if any, tenant rights she had. In the end, there was nothing anyone could do to assist her.

Despite the challenges, Lynne was determined to help her. First, Vivian was told to put encasements on her mattress and box springs to keep the bed bugs off them.  Next, she was coached to reduce the clutter in her apartment – a challenging task for anyone, let alone a 70-year-old woman with no assistance.  On Lynne’s advice, Vivian put all of her clothing in tightly sealed plastic bags and heat treated items in a dryer set on high. She began laundering bed linens weekly. During the past six months, Vivian has decluttered her apartment, one box at a time. She keeps only one or two of her most precious items, and has gotten rid of the items she no longer needed.

While Vivian had read online about the use of various products, including dusts and foggers, to help combat the bed bugs. She was advised against their use by her physician because of her health issues. It is advisable to only use EPA-registered pesticides labeled to control bed bugs and to use them according to their label directions.

EPA bed bug general card draft final 5-2-12Vivian also asked if bed bugs could bite through clothing and was told that they cannot. So, she mummies herself in a sheet at night to avoid being bitten. That strategy has actually been working superbly. She no longer gets bites at night. In addition, Vivian has been using a petroleum jelly as a barrier on her bed legs to prevent the bed bugs from climbing onto her bed for a late-night blood meal.

Vivian has asked about cleaning the bed frame with mineral oil or soap. Regular cleaning will help to disturb any harboring bed bugs and will also help to dislodge their eggs. Rather than the oil or soap, it is the physical cleaning, a key step in the IPM process, that actually helps.

Despite her age, physical condition, fear of her landlord, and strong propensity for privacy, Vivian has now overcome bed bugs. One of the most difficult pests to manage under any circumstances has been brought under control by her strong will and determination, following recommended IPM practices, and heeding the coaching provided by Lynne.

For more information on bed bugs, review the resources on EPA’s bed bug information clearinghouse, including a bed bug information card and a bed bug prevention, detection and control flier. Also, check out EPA’s website for information on IPM, a smart, sensible and sustainable way to control pests at home and 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.

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Shoo Fly, Don’t Bother Me…..

By Marcia Anderson

Summer is a glorious time for an outdoor family BBQ.  Those interested in nature can watch all of the animal families busily foraging for food. Rest assured it won’t be long until you hear the familiar buzz of house flies.

Adult house fly. Image: David Cappaert

Adult house fly.
Image: David Cappaert

The good news is that house flies cannot bite, unlike mosquitoes, because their mouth is no more than a spongy pad. The bad news is that one landed right on my macaroni salad. Like most people, I shooed the fly away and went back to eating. However, I pushed the food that the fly touched to the side of my plate and did not eat it. I also washed my hands when I went inside for there is no way to know where that fly had been, and where else it had landed.

Why am I so paranoid over a fly you ask? Because a house fly potentially carries twice as many pathogens as a cockroach, and they transmit infectious bacteria at levels high enough to be a significant public health risk. As a matter of fact, many common infectious diseases, ranging from food poisoning to respiratory infections, are transmitted by house flies. Some of the most common diseases spread by the house fly are typhoid fever, tuberculosis, dysentery, food poisoning, and diphtheria, all of which can be serious if not treated promptly.

The University of Florida recently found even more pathogens transmitted by house flies. The bodies of healthy people can usually isolate and fight off numerous pathogens before they become a problem. However, these same pathogens are a serious health risk to many people with developing or compromised immune systems, including infants, young children, senior citizens and those recuperating from illness. For me, ingesting a potentially harmful pathogen is just not worth the risk.

Since they do not bite, exactly how do house flies transmit diseases? House flies pick up pathogens from a wide range of feeding places such as organic matter, feces, fruits, vegetables, meat, and open wounds, just to name a few. At first, the fly regurgitates saliva and digestive juices onto their food then sponges up the solution. Their saliva actually liquefies their food. This way of feeding allows flies to contaminate large amounts of food.

Head of an adult house fly. Image: Pest and Disease Library; Bugwood.org

Head of an adult house fly.
Image: Pest and Disease Library; Bugwood.org

A house fly needs only a few seconds to contact a pathogen source in order to transport it elsewhere.  Sometimes, only a few microbes attached to the flies’ body, legs, or mouthparts can cause a serious disease. For all of these reasons, fly control needs to be taken seriously. You do not need a lot of flies to contaminate food sources, hence the need to heed health department requirements in school kitchens and restaurants. Limiting fly contact with food, utensils, food preparation areas, and people is an important part of hygiene.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is the smart, sensible approach to controlling flies and other pests.  IPM is not a single pest control method but rather involves multiple control tactics based on the biology of the pest and site information. Consequently, every IPM program is customized to the pest prevention goals of the situation. Successful IPM programs use a tiered tactics that include: proper pest identification and monitoring; pest prevention through cultural controls such as sanitation; maintenance that eliminates entry points and food/water sources; pest control devices; and pesticides, as needed.

First, focus on pest prevention through exclusion. If flies cannot get into an eating area, they will not be a problem. Providing barriers, such as screens on doors and windows, nets, self-closing doors, and sealing cracks that provide entry points create a good first line of defense. Even air curtains (fans blowing air down over a doorway) will keep them out.

Next take up sanitation. Garbage should be placed in plastic bags and held in containers with tight-fitting lids. It should not be allowed to accumulate. Reducing the sources that attract flies, such as pet excrement, soiled baby or adult diapers that have not been discarded properly is key to IPM and fly prevention. Open piles of compost, animal manure, garbage, lawn clippings, decaying vegetables, fruits, and dead animals are also breeding sites and pathogen sources for flies.

For flies, the larval stage is the easiest to control. If breeding sites can be eliminated, the lifecycle of the fly can be broken, thus preventing more adult flies.

After sanitation and maintenance, there are devices that can assist in fly control. They include ultraviolet light, air curtains on doors, inverted cone traps that contain attractants, and the old fashioned fly swatter.

Penn State University offers an informative fact sheet on house fly control to help you get started. Once you’ve taken on the fly management challenge, you can enjoy your next meal without the buzz of these troublesome pests.

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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Keep Pests Out When Serving Breakfast in the Classroom

By Marcia Anderson

Breakfast in the Classroom is a popular meal program in schools nationwide, and is widely adopted in many NYC and surrounding schools. Once in the classroom, however, food becomes a source for potential pest problems. Even if students assist in cleaning up after eating their meal, wipe their desks, recycle waste appropriately, and put the trash in garbage bags, crumbs and spills may go unnoticed.

American cockroach Photo: Clemson University - USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series, Bugwood.org

American cockroach
Photo: Clemson University – USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series, Bugwood.org

Pests are not picky. Ants, flies, cockroaches, and mice are drawn to the long-forgotten crumbs in the corner and juice residue left on desks by sticky fingers. It takes very little food for pests to thrive in the hidden spaces of a classroom. Pests are attracted to any place that offers food, water, and shelter – this can include classrooms, cabinets, desks, lockers, and cubbies. Remember that managing pests is important because some can carry diseases, spread food-borne illnesses, and triggers asthma attacks and allergic reactions.

Clean up after meals. Remember that food, even if left in the classroom trash can, becomes an open invitation to any cockroach or rodent in the area.  Cleaning up regularly removes the necessities that pests need to survive. Keep paper towels or moist cleansing wipes in each classroom so students and teachers can clean desks after breakfast. Classrooms serving meals may also need more frequent vacuuming or mopping.

Disposing of trash promptly, within about two hours of the meal, and proper recycling keeps classrooms clean and pest-free. Recycling and waste management programs may need to be altered to accommodate disposal of breakfast packaging.

This NYC school serves breakfast in the classroom, but also pays particular attention to recycling and Integrated Pest Management in the classroom.

This NYC school serves breakfast in the classroom, but also pays particular attention to recycling and Integrated Pest Management in the classroom.

Implement a comprehensive pest management program. EPA recommends that schools adopt Integrated Pest Management (IPM), a smart, sensible and sustainable approach to managing pests.  IPM emphasizes preventative strategies such as sanitation, maintenance, and exclusion.  In an IPM approach, school buildings and grounds are inspected to see where pests are finding food, water, and shelter. Steps are then taken to keep pests out and to make conditions unfavorable to pests by keeping everything clean, dry, and tightly sealed. Using IPM practices to manage pests is cost effective, and reduces exposure to pests and pesticides. The goal of a school IPM program is to provide a safe and healthy learning environment for students and staff.

Following these practical steps will help keep pests out of your school when serving Breakfast in the Classroom.

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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If You Like Apple Pie… Save The Bees!

By Sion Lee

I love honey. I put it on my pancakes, waffles, oatmeal, yogurt, salad dressings and marinades. Honey is nature’s sweet liquid gold. As a guilty lover of sweet, processed foods, I am routinely amazed at how delicious and natural honey is. All bees scare me, but I sincerely respect the honeybee for producing such delicious bee vomit. (Surprise! Honey is, in a sense, bee vomit.)

Interestingly enough, honey bees are not just for honey. In fact, the most important role of the honeybee is its role as a pollinator. Animals or insects that transfer pollen from plant to plant are pollinators. Some plants are self-pollinating, which means they can fertilize themselves. Others, however, are cross-pollinating plants, which need a pollinator (or the wind) to transfer the pollen to another flower in order to fertilize. Once a plant is fertilized, it can grow seeds or fruit. This is how many of the world’s crops are grown. Almonds, apples, cherries, citrus, avocados, broccoli and pumpkins are common examples of foods that need pollinators.

Source: Whole Foods Market

Source: Whole Foods Market

Without honeybees, one third of the world’s food supply would disappear. In 2013, Whole Foods released a hypothetical before-and-after picture of a world with and without bees. As stated on their site, their produce team “pulled from shelves 237 of 453 products- 52 percent of the normal product mix in the department.” It’s really a disheartening thought. My favorite substance in the world, guacamole, would not exist. Apple pies wouldn’t be an apple pie. Almond butter would be unheard of. There would be nothing good left in the world.

Unfortunately, the population count of honeybees is rapidly declining. One problem that has been drastically influencing the decline of honeybees is Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Colony Collapse Disorder is the phenomenon that occurs when the majority of worker bees in a colony disappear and leave behind a queen, plenty of food and a few nurse bees to care for the remaining immature bees and the queen. In 2006, beekeepers began to report unusually high losses of 30-90 percent of their hives. While the cause of CCD has not yet been determined, many experts are pointing their fingers to habitat loss, pesticide use, and invasive species that are pests for honeybees. Of course, CCD is not the only reason why the honeybee population is dwindling; habitat loss and pesticide use are both very straightforward and valid reasons as to why these pollinators are perishing.

So how can we save the honeybees? First, learn. You can find more information about protecting pollinators here. Second, support your local beekeeper. Not all heroes wear capes- instead, some wear netted veil hats and thick rubber gloves. Your local beekeeper is nurturing and protecting these precious pollinators that are so vital to agriculture. Many local beekeepers will probably be selling bee products- honey, royal jelly, propolis, beeswax, and/or beauty products made from these components. (Personally, my local beekeeper does it all. She sells honey, honey sticks, lotions, lip balms, shampoos, soaps, and beauty creams.) Support your local beekeeper by supporting their business or support them just by lending them a hand. Beekeeping is hard work and is a job that gets nowhere near the amount of recognition it deserves.

You can also take small, individual actions to make a difference.  Bee careful with where and when you are applying pesticides (that is if pesticides are needed). Do not apply pesticides where bees are likely to be flying and try to apply them during the early evening when the bees are inactive so the pesticides can dry overnight. In addition, you can plant flowers that are pollinator-friendly. Milkweed, geraniums, lilies, roses, sunflowers and violets are all beautiful flowers that attract pollinators. If you do not have a large space in your home, even just having a potted pollinator-friendly plant outside can make a difference.

Now, let’s save the bees!

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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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.