Integrated Pest Management

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.

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When in Bear Country, Stay Bear Aware

By Marcia Anderson

As a former Scout leader I’ve spent a lot of time in places visited by black bears. I often taught bear-safe practices. As Scouts, my daughter and sons learned about bears at an early age and continue to put into practice prevention lessons they learned.

Adult black bear Photo: Pam McIlhenny, fws.gov

Adult black bear
Photo: Pam McIlhenny, fws.gov

Today, I educate schools and communities about preventing pests through Integrated Pest Management, a sensible and sustainable approach to controlling pests. The main principle is prevention. Every pest needs food, water and a safe harbor to survive. If one of these is denied, the pest will no longer thrive and will move on. So yes, just think of bears as very big pests.

As bear populations increase and more people live and recreate in areas occupied by bears, human-bear conflicts also increase. Most of these conflicts are caused by our lack of knowledge.

Bears have made a comeback throughout New England. although Maine has the largest bear population, the American black bear, the largest predator in the Northeast, rose more dramatically in Massachusetts, where the numbers of native bears grew nine-fold since 1980s, from a few hundred to more than 4,500.

If you live in, or visit bear country here are a few things you should keep in mind.

As I said, pest management includes removing whatever attract pests – in this case, food for bears. Garbage is the biggest offender Bears can smell food from more than a mile away. They travel great distances to track down smells, crossing roads and bridges and placing themselves and people at risk.

Bears will eat just about anything they deem to be nutritious. The calories a bear can consume by picking through garbage can surpass the forage they can find in nature. Problems arise when bears have access to food sources such as garbage, barbecue grills, pet food, or bird seed. Normally, black bears are too shy to risk contact with humans, but their need to find food can overwhelm this fear.

Once a bear finds a food source, such as school dumpsters or neighborhood garbage cans, it will continue to forage until the food is removed. It may take weeks for the bear to understand the food source is no longer available. Once a bear is dependent on human food, its chances of survival are reduced.

If your school, home, or business is in an area that attracts bears, build a shed to protect your garbage cans or secure garbage in a bear-resistant containers. Tightly tie all bagged garbage and keep lids closed to reduce odors.

Teach your children to respect, not fear bears. Black bears are typically not aggressive and usually flee when confronted. Make a plan identifying safe areas, noting clear escape routes for the bear, and collecting noise-making items to scare off the bear.

After a bear visit, look around to see what might have attracted it.

BearBlog2If you live in or work in bear country, encourage surrounding neighbors and your local government, to pass ordinances to keep potential bear food sources secure. It is illegal in many states to place food or garbage out that attracts bears and causes conflicts.

Feed pets indoors or bring in dishes after feeding. Remove bird feeders from late spring through early fall and when they are up, empty them nightly. Keep outdoor grills clean and stored securely. Keep areas under fruit trees clean. Better yet, if you don’t want bears, don’t plant fruit trees! Compost also attracts bears so don’t keep compost in unsecured areas.

If you live in bear country, adopt preventative measures that will help you and the bears avoid unwanted encounters. For more visit the National Park Service bear safety webpage.

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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.

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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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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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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Prevent Yellow Jackets before They Cause Problems at Your School

Yellow jacket season is upon us.

Yellow jacket season is upon us.

By Marcia Anderson

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

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

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

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

Fence post with hole

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Deterring Deer from Devouring Your Landscape

Hungry spring deer are tough to deter

Hungry spring deer are tough to deter

By Marcia Anderson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Apple blossoms

Apple blossoms

By Marcia Anderson

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pheromone trap (Bugwood.org)

Pheromone trap (Bugwood.org)

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

By: Marcia Anderson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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