PESTS: IN THE EARTH, WATER, AND AIR

There are a variety of pests, large and small, that can wreak havoc with our lake and our properties. The general ecological system of the Lake and its environment shifts from year to year. The pests of one year may be non-existent or be well-controlled another year.

Lake Sagamore has not been affected by the more invasive species that affect bodies of fresh water such as Zebra mussels, water chestnuts, water hyacinths, and kudzu. Although Zebra mussels are in the Hudson valley, they are not in the New York City reservoir system (which includes Lake Sagamore) as yet. The larvae and seeds of these invasive species can be carried on boats that are brought to the Lake from elsewhere. An undrained bilge or even a soggy rope on a boat from an infested lake can threaten the Lake. It is critical that no boats from other lakes be used at Lake Sagamore. To find more about any of these invasive species, you may look in the online encyclopedia, known as Wikipedia, at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page.

Canada Geese

Canada geese are a protected species, yet without their natural predators to control the geese population they can become a pest. Their droppings may foul lawns and contribute unnecessary nutrients to the Lake. The Association annually receives a Federal EPA permit to have geese eggs addled, which has enabled control of their proliferation. Geese prefer open areas like lawns and beaches. They avoid crossing thick and thorny barriers. An 18- to 24-inch fence of chicken wire, plastic, or nylon can be an effective barrier to geese, but only while the goslings are young. Please do not feed the geese.

Tent Caterpillars

Erroneously considered to be larvae of gypsy moths, tent caterpillars emerge every several years in vast numbers and can severely defoliate trees. While healthy trees rarely die as a result of caterpillar action, the infestation is unsightly and damaging. Egg masses of tent caterpillars are easily seen in fall and winter, as black “bracelets” clasped around the outer twigs of trees; these should be broken off and crushed underfoot. The eastern tent caterpillars, which feed on dogwood, fruit trees and willows, spin tents where they congregate, and are easily killed by penetrating the tents with forceful jets of a solution containing Bacillus thuringensis or a commercial insecticide. Forest tent caterpillars, which do not actually make tents, are equally damaging to maple, ash, birch, tupelo and poplar; they have the habit of climbing up to feed and then dropping via threads back to the ground, and can be controlled very effectively by wrapping tree trunks in sticky “bug belts” that halt their progress.

Deer

Deer, usually an icon of nature’s pastoral beauty, can also be a pest when their population is in an expansion cycle. Residents are encouraged to landscape with plants that are generally unattractive to deer, such as mountain laurel, ferns, daffodils, and evergreens (but not arborvitae). Despite lists (such as this) of vegetation deer may spurn, keep in mind that hungry deer will lower their standards and eat almost anything—including rhododendron and dogwood. Plants fresh from the nursery, or well fertilized, are more attractive because of the high nitrogen content. Commercial products have proven helpful. (Also see handbook Part IV, Section E.)

Deer Ticks

Deer ticks are the vector for Lyme Disease (as well as 15 other diseases, including erlichosis, babesiosis, and spotted fever) because ticks feed repeatedly during their life cycle and carry infection from one animal to another. No bigger than a poppy seed in their nymph stage, and the size of a pin head as adults, they attach to passing animals and birds by poising on tips of dead leaves in leaf litter, or on grass stems, and will not be found on cleared ground, well-mowed lawns or gravel paths. They take several hours to attach, and will not transmit disease until a day after attachment, so a good “pit check” after strolling through brushy woods, plus washing clothes in hot water with a good spin in the dryer, will catch most of them. Permethrin sprayed on clothes (NOT skin) lasts for days and kills ticks on contact. Light-colored pants tucked into socks allows early detection as they crawl slowly upward. (see Handbook, Section II E).

In 2013 articles in the New York TImes and New Yorker discuss the seriousness of tics and the appearance of an untreatable strain of lyme disease . Links are below. 

Dangerous Ticks, Dangerous Ticks, The New York Times, August 26, 2013, By THE EDITORIAL BOARD


Woolly Adelgid

A small aphid-like insect from Japan, the woolly adelgid can kill mature hemlocks and can become a serious problem around Lake Sagamore and, more generally, in the Northeast. Make sure that you inspect your trees (those infected will have brittle, dark leaves covered with white wool on the underside). To prevent the loss of the hemlock (and the risk of infecting other trees), residents are encouraged to seek a tree professional, who will advise spraying the trees or suggest some alternative means of pest control including stem or soil injection. In addition, feeding the trees can help them survive an attack. Applications of horticultural oils or approved short-term pesticides are usually twice a year in the spring and fall. For more information, see the USDA Forest Service fact sheet at http://na.fs.fed.us/fhp/hwa/.

Leeches

These are a group of predatory worms (annelids, related to earthworms), one type of which attacks mammals. They lie on shallow, mucky (not sandy) bottoms in quiet water and react to moving shadows by swimming towards the shadow-casting object. Their bite is totally painless and non-toxic because the saliva includes anesthetics, anticoagulants, and powerful antibiotics, all of considerable interest to science. They feed for 20 to 40 minutes before dropping off, but may be removed by a steady pull at any time. The wound will continue to bleed and needs a band-aid. Their abundance varies greatly from year to year, with most years at Lake Sagamore being leech-free. Leeches are actively hunted by fish, turtles, and diving birds. There is no effective repellant, but swimmers (unlike waders) are seldom attacked.

Mosquitoes

Aside from the irritation caused by mosquito bites, we need to be concerned about the role mosquitoes play in transmitting West Nile virus (which has now spread throughout the USA) and several forms of encephalitis. There are 62 mosquito species in the state: some feed during the day and others at night; some breed in swamps and others in tire tracks; some are attracted by estrogen, or sweat, or carbon dioxide, and others are not. The day-feeders prefer deep shade, so keeping in the open is effective. The best prevention is clothing (NOT skin) sprayed with permethrin, which kills mosquitoes (and ticks) on contact and lasts 3 or 4 days. DEET is a good, but is only a temporary repellant on exposed skin; it should not be applied to covered skin. Lake Sagamore is relatively mosquito-free and no case of West Nile has been reported, but birds (particularly crows and songbirds) are the primary reservoir and any dead bird should be bagged and sent to local health authorities for testing.

Deerflies

Deerflies are not a major problem at Lake Sagamore. Like mosquitoes, only the female of the species feeds on blood. Deerflies are aggressive hunters that look like a large, yellow-eyed houseflies with striped wings. They are active only on windless days during a 4- to 6-week period in early to mid-summer. They are attracted to dark clothing and motion, and commonly “buzz” the victim several times at startlingly close range before landing. Their bite is sudden and extremely painful. Deerflies are potential vectors for numerous diseases including anthrax, tularemia, hog cholera and Lyme disease, but local deerfly populations appear not to be infected. Some people have a shock reaction to the fly saliva. Their tolerance may decrease with repeated bites. There is no effective repellant to Deerflies.

Raccoons

Raccoons are like a cross between a coyote and a chimpanzee in their capacity to break into almost anything that interests them, bagged garbage in particular. They will tip over garbage bins set outside, demolish composters, rip through screen windows, and pry open unlocked doors. Residents who use the local garbage pickup are strongly advised to buy or build a stout, solid enclosure at least 3 feet tall with a hinged top, to hold bags of refuse. (Also, see Section IV, Part E.)

Bats

When dusk has fallen over the lake, the playful arching and skimming of swallows yield to the angled darts of bats. Almost invisible against the descending night, bats appear. True miracles of flight, bats are astounding—enhanced by legend and bad PR. We easily forget how much they help keep our mosquito population down.
Bats in the house are another story. They can be true pests and difficult to eradicate. Although only one in two hundred bats are estimated to carry rabies, that is reason enough to contact a professional exterminator if you believe bats have taken up residence. If there is exposure to the bite of a bat, as with the bite of any wild animal, it should be sequestered and an animal control officer contacted immediately (see below).

Woodpeckers

The rat-a-tat-tat of several species of woodpeckers that inhabit our area is a pleasure – except when the pecking is at our house. The problem is not the woodpecker, but the wood-boring grubs and insects, usually carpenter ants, that are attractive to woodpeckers. The answer to the problem is to contact an exterminator.

A Note about Rabies. . .

Any forest animal found out in the open, moving slowly and erratically and making little or no effort to escape, should be considered to be in the last stages of rabies. This applies in particular to bats, and to carnivores such as foxes, raccoons, coyotes, skunks, weasels, and also groundhogs. Deer and birds are not susceptible, and rabies is unlikely to affect squirrels, mice, shrews, possums, or rabbits. Cats and dogs can contract rabies from contact with a dying or dead victim; the first definitive signs are slow eye reflexes, extreme irritability, restlessness, and a change in voice; the animals will die in 5 to 7 days after symptoms appear. Since the saliva is already infective before the conspicuous behavior appears, it is best to review any possible contact (i.e., pet licking a wound on your finger) over the previous four or five days. Rabies is 100 per cent fatal if not treated during its week to month-long incubation period. Never take a chance. In particular, impress upon children NEVER to poke at, or try to pet, a wild animal that doesn’t run away! NOTE: healthy female raccoons are sometimes out during the day in spring, looking for food, but they will scurry quickly off when approached.

  1. Leaves and Cuttings: Rake your leaves and keep them from blowing into the Lake. Dispose of them far from the waters edge. Similarly, any branches or other organic matter should be disposed far from the water.

  2. Each winter, when the boards of the dam are removed, the lake level drops. This is an ideal time to rake and remove weeds, leaves, branches, muck and debris exposed at the shoreline. To dispose of this material, take it as far from the waters edge as possible. This usually means transporting it in a wheel barrow and dumping it where the nutrients cannot run back into the Lake. If you have a compost pile, add this material to it.