Even with a degree, always more to learn!

On Friday I had the opportunity to sit in on a series of lectures put on by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Virginia Extension service at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens. The lectures were part of ongoing education to help licensed pesticide applicators maintain their certification. I don’t have my license just yet…I’m waiting for VDACS authorization to take the test but the information was valuable nevertheless. The topics included:

  • Pesticide laws and regulatory updates
  • Pesticides and storm water runoff
  • Managing and preventing the spread of boxwood blight
  • Protecting our pollinators
  • Safe and Effective pesticide applications
  • Preventing fungicide resistance

I wanted to share some of my notes from these lectures, as the information can be just as helpful and applicable to homeowners who use pesticides, not just landscapers/lawn care businesses.

Pesticide Laws and Regulatory Updates

  • Pesticide Collection Program
    • Residents and businesses bring their unwanted pesticides to a central collection site where the pesticide is properly disposed of
    • Each year, the collection sites move around the different regions of the state; this year, collection is taking place in the northwestern counties of Virginia along the Valley up towards Winchester.
  • Pesticide Container Recycling
    • Similar to the collection program, but for disposing/recycling of pesticide containers that have already been used up and the container rinsed out properly
    • List of participating localities can be found here
  • *NEW* this year: pesticide label change to include a “bee advisory”
    • Prohibits use of pesticides when pollinators are present
    • Highlights importance of avoiding pesticide drift, either by wind or runoff

Pesticides and Storm Water Runoff

  • Always follow label directions for use and storage
  • Ensure that any excess pesticide residue soaks into the soil rather than running off down paved surfaces into sewer drains, drainage ditches, etc.
  • Use the least toxic solution when possible
  • Time applications to avoid rain
  • Triple rinse containers after using up the pesticide; make use of VDACS disposal/recycling program

Protecting Our Pollinators

  • Colony Collapse Disorder comprised of multiple factors; no single cause identified
    • Varcoa mite (parasite)
    • Chemical residue/pesticides
    • Bee pathogens/disease
    • Other colony stressors
  • Can’t focus on just honeybees; plenty of native bees and other pollinators need our help as well
    • Beetles
      • Very effective pollinators thanks to their “messy” habit of collecting/carrying pollen
      • Attracted to large, white, fragrant blooms like Southern Magnolia, Gardenia, etc.
    • Native bees
      • Often do a better job of pollinating crops than the imported honeybee, upwards of $10 billion worth of crops
      • Bumble bees
        • Social, ground nesters
        • Very valuable in greenhouse/hoop house agricultural pollination
        • 45 to 60 workers can cover 5000 square feet
      • Blueberry bees
        • Very efficient pollinators
        • One female can pollinate 50,000 blooms resulting in around 6000 blueberries
        • Only active when blueberry bushes are in bloom
      • Leafcutter/Orchard mason bee
        • Used in many fruit orchards (almonds, cherries, peaches, etc.)
        • Mason bee uses mud to line nest, leafcutter cuts pieces of leaves (hence the name) to line nests
    • How to help bees
      • Follow the pesticide label! Spray in the morning or late evening when bees are least active
      • Provide a water source, and leave a clearing of dirt or mud
      • Install a “bee house” (http://www.pollenbeenest.com)

Boxwood Blight

  • Brown dots on leaves, can quickly defoliate large chunks of a plant
  • Spreads very easily via wind, going plant to plant with unsterilized shears/pruners, and even just casual contact with plants
  • Good drainage and air circulation critical to boxwood health
  • English boxwood (Buxus sempervirens ‘Suffruticosa’) most susceptible to blight
  • Asian species (Buxus microphylla and Buxus sinica var. insularis) most resistant, particularly ‘Green Beauty’ cultivar

Safe and Effective Pesticide Applications

  • Pay attention to the signal words:
    • “Caution” – lowest level of danger/toxicity
    • “Warning” – moderate level of danger/toxicity
    • “Danger”/Poison – highest level of danger/toxicity
  • PPE = Personal Protective Equipment
    • Long sleeve shirt/pants with sox
    • Chemical resistant gloves and boots/shoes
    • Coveralls/apron/respirator for pesticides with “warning” and “danger” signal words
  • Handling spills
    • The three “C”s
      • Control – shut off the source of the spill
      • Contain – prevent the spilled substance from spreading
      • Clean Up – remove the spilled substance
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