• Welcome to IPM for schools, homes and communities

    This website helps all of us create healthy indoor and outdoor environments in our homes, schools and communities using Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in a safe, sustainable and efficient way.

    We will be posting regularly on pests and how to control them, so come back often.

    You can contact us at ccspim@gmail.com.

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Surviving winter

We survive winter here in Colorado by living in warm houses and wearing layers and layers of polar fleece and down. How do insects survive?

stag beetle in clothesDo they wear clothes like this stag beetle?

Some insects, such as boxelder bugs and yellowjackets, spend the winter as adults in protected areas, under loose tree bark or under the shingles of your house. Insects that over-winter as adults usually enter diapause — “an inactive state of arrested development” (sounds like me yesterday, watching the snow fall). During diapause, their growth, development, and activities are suspended, with a metabolic rate that is high enough to keep them alive. Diapause is triggered when daylight starts to become shorter in the fall. Warm temperatures tend to wake up the insect from diapause. This usually takes a long period of warm temperatures; it would be a mistake to wake up too soon.

There are many strategies for surviving winter. Monarch butterflies migrate to the mountain highlands of Mexico. Dragonflies and mayflies spend the winter in ponds and overwinter as nymphs. Others overwinter as eggs (aphids), larvae (corn borers) or pupae (swallowtail butterflies). Some insects replace the water in their bodies with glycerol, which act as an “antifreeze”, so the cells in their bodies can reach temperatures below freezing without forming ice. With or without antifreeze, most insects simply cannot function at temperatures below 40 degrees F. Because they rely entirely on the world around them for the warmth they need to function, they have developed this wide range of techniques for surviving cold weather and assuring the survival of their species.

First, it was snakes on a plane. Now it’s arachnids on a plane!

Did you hear the Associated Press news story this morning? A scorpion stung a woman on the hand just before her flight from Los Angeles to Portland took off. The plane, which originated in Los Cabos, Mexico, returned to the gate and the woman was checked by medics. She refused additional medical treatment but didn’t get back on the plane. The Alaska Airlines spokesman said that it was unclear how the scorpion got on the plane.

The spread of insects, microorganisms and weed seeds by travelers is a real concern.

common striped scorpion_cranshawThe news article didn’t say what kind of scorpion was found. We already have three species of scorpions in Colorado. The northern scorpion is found along the Utah border and on the west slope. The northern desert hairy scorpion is also present on the west slope and in Dinosaur National Monument. The common striped bark scorpion (pictured above, photo by W. Cranshaw) is widespread in southeastern Colorado.

What can you do to prevent new and unwanted visitors when traveling?

  • Don’t “pack a pest” when traveling. Fruits, vegetables, plants and animals can carry pests.
  • Declare all agricultural items to customs officials when returning from international travel. Call USDA or the Colorado Department of Agriculture to find out what’s allowed.
  • Clean hiking boots, waders, boats and trailers, off-road vehicles, and other pathways of spread to stop hitchhiking invasive species.
  • Use certified “weed-free” forage, firewood, gravel, hay, mulch, and soil.
  • Don’t move firewood. Purchase your firewood locally to avoid the spread of invasive infestations such as Emerald Ash Borer.
  • Join CitiSci.org – Citizen Science – an invasive species mapping program that allows citizens, school groups, and professionals to enter invasive species observations into a global database.

Love is in the air — it’s almost Valentine’s Day

love bugsSomebody loves you – head lice! However, the feeling isn’t mutual. Here’s a Valentine’s Day card to share with your elementary school class.

Thank you for sharing your unconditional love and head lice with me!

While head lice do not carry or transmit diseases, they are contagious, annoying and hard to get rid of.

We have used various chemical treatments  and prescription shampoos over the years to kill lice. Recent studies are showing that the treatments are not only working less effectively, but they also do not kill the lice eggs. Scientists believe this is due to a genetic mutation that allows head lice to withstand exposure to the main ingredients (usually a pyrethroid) found in many non-prescription head lice drugs. According to John Clark, University of Massachusetts, “…our new work now shows that head lice are now almost 100 percent knockdown resistant”.

Lice have been around since before recorded history. Dried up lice and their nits have even been found on the hair and scalps of Egyptian mummies. Head lice will not infest your home the way fleas or bed bugs can. They can only survive for a short period without a host — at the most from 24 to 48 hours. They cannot jump (no “knees”) or fly (no wings).

One of the home remedies circulating on the internet is to cover the scalp with mayonnaise, followed by a plastic bag. THIS IS NOT RECOMMENDED. Just last week, a parent used this treatment on an 18-month-old child (as reported by ABC News). The girl was left unattended and apparently fell asleep, allowing the bag to slip down over her face, suffocating her.

One of the best sources of information is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Can you manage pests without pesticides?

colorado-logo-brand-green_Last year, Colorado rolled out a new logo and slogan – “it’s our nature”. Faculty and staff at the Colorado IPM Center, the Colorado Department of Agriculture, and Colorado Environmental Pesticide Education Program are working to help consumers and producers understand current pest management practices and their environmental impacts. A new non-profit organization, called People and Pollinators Action Network is working to make Colorado safer for human and pollinator health. Our efforts will support our beautiful state and the “nature” we all enjoy.

We have had a few warm days, in-between snowstorms. If it’s in your nature to do some spring cleaning, this might be a good time to sort through the garden shed or the shelves in the garage, where pesticides are stored. By practicing Integrated Pest Management, you can decrease the need for those products. The National Pesticide Information Center (1-800-858-7378, npic@ace.orst.edu) can answer questions on how to best dispose of pesticides.

We use pesticides to control invasive plant species that threaten native habitats, to control vector-borne diseases, and to manage pest problems on crop plants when alternative methods are ineffective. Americans apply approximately 450 million kg active ingredient of pesticides each year to control weeds, insects and other pests. However, there are risks to human and environmental health from the use of pesticides; children are especially sensitive to pesticide exposure. Of particular concern is the application of pesticides in and around homes, schools, public buildings and parks. Consider other management strategies before reaching for a pesticide.

Home application of pesticides is typically far greater per acre than agricultural use – often by a factor of 10 to 1. According to the USGS National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program, at least one pesticide was found in almost every water and fish sample collected from streams and in about 50% of all wells sampled nationwide. The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 8 conducted a survey (June to November 2010) to track pharmaceutical and personal care products, pesticides and waste indicators in Colorado watersheds. They took 138 samples from 124 different sites across 29 stream systems and 10 lakes and reservoirs. Of pesticides found, the most common analyte was the weed-killer 2,4-D, which was detected 102 times.

If “it’s our nature” to ski, hike, fish and enjoy everything that Colorado has to offer, let’s do our part to keep Colorado healthy for people, plants, pollinators and wildlife.

Pest or entertainer?

Sciurus_niger_(on_fence)I like to watch the squirrels do their acrobatics in the trees outside my window. They taunt the dog, have a distinct screech and flap their tails. While they are entertaining, tree squirrels and ground squirrels may be a health risk. They are hosts for fleas and may act as carriers for plague, which is widespread in the western United States. They can cause damage to structures and I don’t want them in my attic or garage, where they may find warm shelter, food and water.

The first step in wildlife pest management is identifying the animal. There are ten species of squirrels recorded in Rocky Mountain National Park. The tree squirrels in my yard come out several times a day and eat seeds (from the bird feeder); they also eat insects, bird eggs, flowers, and buds, and when things get bad, the bark off trees.

The best way to prevent damage from squirrels is to make your property less hospitable:
• Keep your property clean and maintained.
• Prevent wildlife pests from getting inside buildings by sealing up holes with caulking, and/or copper or stainless steel mesh screening.
• Trim trees six to eight feet away from buildings to prevent squirrels from jumping onto roofs.
• Secure garbage cans in a garage or outbuilding and keep the lids on.
• Keep pet food inside.
• Place bird feeders 15 to 30 feet from buildings. Consider using squirrel proof feeders or removing them if wildlife pests are a problem.

If squirrels become a problem, they can be trapped inside or outside of buildings by licensed wildlife pest control operators. There are no chemical controls federally registered for use on squirrels. For more information on squirrels and other wildlife pests, go to Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management.

Are you dreaming of summer?

Spreadwinged damselfly

Spreadwinged damselfly

I am dreaming of dragonflies and damselflies on a warm sunny day, as I sit next to a lake. The lake right now is frozen and there are no odonates (another names for these creatures) with bulging eyes flitting around the lake surface. It’s nice to know, however, that damselflies spend the winter either as eggs or in the larval stage in ponds.

Dragonflies are masters of flight. They can fly forwards, backwards, change direction in midair, and hover for up to a minute. In an attempt to understand the dragonfly’s ability to maneuver so easily, Cornell University entomologists studied their movement using high-speed cameras. A magnet was attached to the underside of dragonflies, allowing them to be suspended upside down from a rod. When the rod was removed, the dragonflies instinctively rolled their body to make a 180-degree turn. By studying this footage, researchers were able to determine that the flight of dragonflies is directly related to the fact that they can rotate their wings, changing the aerodynamic forces acting on each of their four wings. These findings will help to better understand evolution of insects and the wiring of their neural circuitry. (Utah Pest News, Volume IX, Winter 2015)

Is your home ready for winter?

iciclesHere are some tips from the City of Fort Collins Healthy Homes Program. Winter is definitely here!
• Have your furnace professionally serviced. If you have a fireplace, have your chimney cleaned. Make certain your dampers are functioning, easily opening and closing properly.
• Repair windows that are cracked or broken. Don’t forget to check the basement windows for cracks or leaks. Look at the caulking around the windows and install new caulking where need be before the cold weather arrives.
• Examine the weather stripping around the edges of windows and doors.
• Check to be certain all your down spouts are properly connected to the gutters and that they are set to push the moisture 5 feet from away from your home.
• Trim tree branches that are overhanging your roof line.
• Drain gas from your lawnmower and other engines that won’t be used until next spring.
• Purchase some bags of salt, ice melt or sand to be ready for those “surprise” storms.
• Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to make certain they are in good working condition with fresh batteries.
• Purchase non-perishable food items, bottled water, and have a designated area with working flashlights, candles, warm blankets and a portable radio for emergencies. Be prepared!


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