Pennsylvania IPM Report, 2023

Pennsylvania Integrated Pest Management (PAIPM) Program Report to NEERA 2023

John Tooker, IPM Coordinator, Professor of Entomology

PAIPM is a diverse program that spans agricultural and urban systems. For the past few decades, Ed Rajotte has directed the PAIPM program, but Ed will be retiring at the end of April 2023. Starting in fall of 2022, John Tooker, Professor of Entomology at Penn State, transitioned to become the State IPM Coordinator and Director of the PA IPM program.

Listed below are some activities of the programs supported by EIPM in Pennsylvania with project leaders listed. These activities are not inclusive but provide some of the key activities pursued in the last year and some of their outcomes. All programs also leverage other outside funding from federal, state, and non-governmental organization sources. In addition, to these programs, there are IPM programs in most Pennsylvania agricultural commodities including horticultural crops, animal production and the green industry. I hope to report on activities in some of these other commodities as I get a better understanding of all the activities underway.

Community IPM in Philadelphia

Dion Lerman – PA IPM Staff

Urban IPM Technician Training, with ECA

Working with ECA, a local NGO providing building trades training, the PA IPM Program received a US EPA Environmental Justice grant for an innovative program to train residents on North Philadelphia, one of the city’s poorest areas (with 100% of homes pest-infested, according to a Department of Health survey), and primarily Black and Latinx populations, as Urban IPM Technicians. This unique program responds to persistent pest and pesticide-use problems in the community, and the city at large, which is also experiencing a severe labor shortage in the pest control industry, and with growing and long-term needs. Pests are nuisances but more importantly, are health threats, particularly mice and cockroaches which are the most important triggers of asthma in urban areas; 25% of Philadelphia children have asthma—over twice the state and national averages. The program is built around the Entomological Society of America’s new Certified IPM Technician standard, and the Pennsylvania Licensed Pesticide Applicator training and certification. It includes hands-on treatment of homes in the community and provides program graduates and opportunity to intern with local pest management professionals. The intent is to make the training an ongoing part of Philly Works, the city’s job development system, and create a pipeline of trained technicians. The final curriculum will be published, allowing it to be replicated elsewhere.

In fall 2022, the first cohort of six student finished five weeks of training and graduated from the program. All of the graduates qualified for their credentials, passed their state exams, and within a month of the end of training secured employment or applied to open their own business. This program is providing sustainable careers for neighborhood residents (with some of the highest unemployment rates in the city), and direct service to residents whose homes will treated as part of the training, and a pipeline of trained technicians for the growing non-profit home renovation programs in Philadelphia, which plan to renovate over 10,000 low-income homes over the next 10 years.

As second cohort of around 16 students is currently (March 2023) taking the training, which will culminate with a job fair that will be attended by local pest control companies who will have a chance to get to know the new graduates. We are seeking additional funding to ensure the training can continue in coming years.

Medicare Reimbursement for Pest Control for Disabled Adults: Partnership with Liberty Resources

PA IPM facilitated implementation of new Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement for pest control in homes of disabled adults in Philadelphia (approximately 45,000 in the metro area). The Program initiated conversation with the managed care organizations (MCO’s), who administer the benefit, and disabled advocates that led to a partner agency, Liberty Resources, to act as broker for local pest management providers to provide the service. PA IPM serves as Technical Director, providing training, technical assistance, and quality assurance. Service began just before the COVID-19 shutdown, which delayed full implementation. In 2022, the program returned to speed and as of 12/30/2022, the program has treated 173 homes, with 80% reporting successful elimination of the pest in a single visit, and complete customer satisfaction.

Bed bugs were the most common pest treated, accounting for over 43% (n=75) of treatments; only about 11 (15%) homes required retreatments. Cockroaches (n=67, or 39%) were the next most common pest treated, with mice (n=66; 33%) rounding out the top complaints. Mice actually required more re-treats (17%) than bed bugs. Only 23% (n=40) of treatments involved more than one pest; cockroaches and mice were the most common combination (n=18; 10% of treatments), followed by bed bugs and cockroaches (10; 6%). “Other” pests, squirrels, fleas, and raccoons, required treatment in one or two cases each. Rats were rare: only 7% of treatments, but they did co-occur with cockroaches (n=3) and with cockroaches and mice (n=2) “Triple threat” infestations were rare: only four were treated.

This program has been very successful, with the MCO’s gradually increasing referrals and participation. The other regions of the state would like to emulate it, but the shortage of IPM practitioners has forced the use of conventional pest controls, with less satisfactory results, although there has yet been no formal comparison.

Agricultural IPM

IPM for Spotted Lanternfly

Dr. Julie Urban, Associate Research Professor

Dr. Urban’s research group completed their third year of spotted lanternfly trapping study to test the efficacy of circle traps placed on several different tree species. Results will be combined with those from collaborators’ sites in Virginia and New Jersey to improve monitoring of SLF across its life cycle. Urban’s group also performed experiments to determine cold tolerance of first instar nymphs of spotted lanternfly. Results from this work will inform potential distribution of SLF to other areas beyond currently infested regions and will inform best management practices to limit SLF survival when inadvertently transported in shipping of various goods. Lastly, Urban’s group also performed the third year of host plant suitability testing of various specialty crops to identify those upon which SLF can successfully feed and survive and may be at risk for damage. Results indicated that crops that are suitable hosts for adult SLF and for which we documented some evidence of feeding damage include: hops, peach, raspberry, cultivated Vinus vinifera (Chardonnay and Riesling varieties), V. labrusca (Concord grapes), and kiwi fruit (potential damage from sooty mold, not feeding). Feeding by adult SLF causes more damage compared to other life stages. Nymphs have a broad host range with good survival (but low damage) on: peach, avocado, kiwi fruit, fig, hops, raspberry, cucumber, pumpkin, and watermelon.

IPM in Agronomic Crops

John Tooker, Professor of Entomology

We continued our efforts to promote IPM in field crop production. Over the past year, we leveraged results of our field research to emphasize the combination of cover crops and IPM for improving natural-enemy driven control of corn, soybeans, and small grains. We often also connect this message to “soil health,” which resonates with farmers who are interested in actively improving their soil quality to capitalize on the principle that healthy soils will produce healthy plants. In addition to this extension messaging on IPM, we also made two significant efforts to track pest populations with the expectation that information on local pest populations can encourage folks to adopt IPM and deploy pest management tactics or not based on actual, rather than perceived, risk. First, we used pheromone traps to detect migrating populations of black cutworm, which is a significant pest of corn. We detected “significant flights” of black cutworm moths at five locations in Pennsylvania. We shared details of our captures and information on when to scout via Penn State’s online newsletter, which is distributed to over 11,000 recipients every week during the growing season. Second, we focused on soybean production, where we have a 11-yr project to scout sentinel soybean fields and report the pests that are active and how severe the pest population is. This project is funded in part by the Pennsylvania Soybean Board and is a collaboration with county-based extension educators and local farmers. The main goal of the project was to encourage growers to adopt Integrated Pest Management by providing growers with local assessment of insects and diseases active in soybean fields across the state. This effort benefits farmers by exposing them weekly to realistic, unbiased assessments of populations of insects and diseases in soybean fields. Educators scout “typical” soybean fields that are grown without insecticides and fungicides and make weekly reports that are compiled and shared online. Over 11 years of the project, only three fields out of about 210 field years (1.4%) have needed insecticides and no fields have needed fungicides. By exposing farmers with first-hand reports of pest populations in their field, we expect farmers to see the value of IPM for limiting unnecessary inputs.

IPM in Grape Production

Flor Acevedo, Assistant Professor of Entomology

Acevedo’s research group conducted research in northwest Pennsylvania on the following topics:

  1. Larval parasitoids of caterpillars of grape berry moth. They collected three different parasitoid species: Glypta mutica & Enytus obliteratus (Hymenoptera: Ichneumonidae), and Bracon scrutalor (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) that can potentially be used for controlling grape berry moth.
  2. Gut-associated microorganisms in grape berry moth caterpillars that were feeding on immature and mature grapes. They found a larger abundance of fungi in the guts of larvae fed on mature grapes, identification of these organisms suggests the possibility of grape berry moth spreading fungal diseases in grape clusters late in the season.
  3. Effects of different grape cultivars alone and in combination with the tree of heaven on spotted lanternfly survival. They found that Vitis rotundifolia (muscadine grapes) were a less suitable host for spotted lanternflies than Vitis labrusca (Concord), and Vitis vinifera (Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay). This is important for insect management and indicates that Vitis vinifera growers need to be more alert to spotted lanternfly infestations.
  4. Estimated economic thresholds for the management of spotted lanternfly in Vitis vinifera. This is a multiyear study currently in progress, 2022 was the first season. Preliminarily, spotted lanternfly infestations did not affect yield during the first year of infestation, but there seem to be effects on wine quality.

Acevedo’s group delivered nine extension talks to grape growers (n=396), extension educators (n=423), and the general public (n=135) about spotted lanternfly research, identification and basic biology, and management in grape. These presentations enhanced knowledge of ~ 954 people on spotted lanternfly identification, basic biology, and management in grape.

Beekeeping and Pollinator Protection

Margarita Lopez-Uribe, Assistant Professor of Entomology

Dr. Lopez-Uribe’s group conducted research to:

  1. Optimize protocols and recommendations for organic beekeeping management practices based on IPM approaches and the application of organically approved chemicals to control pests in colonies. This work demonstrated that organic beekeeping management systems support healthy and productive honey bee colonies.
  2. Empirically demonstrated the role of brood breaks as a possible cultural strategy to control varroa mites in honey bee colonies.

Livestock and Wildlife-Related IPM

Erika Machtinger, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Entomology

Dr. Machtinger’s group conducted research to:

  1. (with Thermacell, Inc.) Improve the effectiveness of tick tubes as a host-targeted method of tick control by investigating the small mammal use of tubes by density and season. Findings were used to develop better deployment instructions for homeowners to reduce the risk of tick bites.
  2. Examine biting flies on integrated animal facilities such as swine and cattle to gain a better understanding of animal-associated flies and their distribution, which informed improved management practices.
  3. Evaluate use of permethrin on horses to determine its effectiveness as a tick repellent and its potential for causing equine dermal reactions. This work led to improved recommendations for horse owners on how to protect their animals from tick bites.
  4. Investigate impacts of repellent-treated hunting gear on deer behavior to determine whether deer could perceive odors. This research informed improved tick bite prevention messaging for hunters.
  5. Understand effects of prescribed burning on tick infestations on small mammal hosts and questing ticks. Although results are still being analyzed, it appears that burning did not have a significant effect on tick populations, and pathogen presence may have actually increased, suggesting that prescribed burns may not have long-term effects on tick populations.