Welcome to our Blog!!

Posted on December 16th, 2009 by Sharon Gripp in Announcements

Sitting: Chris, Julie, Kerry, and Garo. Standing: Nick, Mike, Kelly, Bill, Kathy, and Sharon. (Taken 12/2010)

Welcome to the Penn State Pesticide Education Program blog. This is our first attempt at something like this so bear with us. We hope to have a new blog post at least once a week with topics such as: upcoming meetings/events, category specific topics, core topics, highlight someone we work with, promote a great resource, and maybe even have a few guest bloggers.

Time to Check Your Poly Storage Tanks

Posted on April 8th, 2015 by Dwane Miller in Applicators

Dwane Miller, a Penn State Extension Educator, wrote this blog, which was originally posted in Field Crop News. The article was based on a Purdue Pesticide Programs publication by Fred Whitford.

Now that Old Man Winter has lost his firm grip on much of our area, one of the activities that will happen rather quickly this spring is the transfer and application of liquid fertilizer on the farm.  Many farms take advantage of using polyethylene (poly) tanks for transportation, storage, and application of fertilizers and chemicals. Poly tanks are chosen for many reasons including:  availability, cost effectiveness, ease of handling, corrosion resistance, and visibility of liquid in the tank. However, there are some concerns when using poly tanks, and now is a great time to evaluate your tanks before they are filled with liquids this spring.

Choose the Correct Tank

One of the biggest causes of failures to poly tanks is their degradation due to the exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light. When exposed to sunlight, UV radiation changes the material from tough and resilient to a hard, brittle material. This process will make the tanks more prone to leakage and rupturing. Some agricultural producers that I have talked to relate tank color to strength. Color really has a very small difference in reducing UV degradation; however, some manufacturers will use colors to separate their product lines (different specific gravities of tanks). One of the first considerations you must make when purchasing a poly tank should be the specific gravity (density) of the tank. Take note to the specific gravities and their ratings:

  • 1.0 specific gravity should be used for water only (8.3 lbs./gal)
  • 1.5 specific gravity should be used for liquids weighing no more than 12.5 lbs./gal
  • 1.9 specific gravity should be used for liquids weighing no more than 15.8 lbs./gal

In general, the weight of liquid fertilizers ranges from 10-12 lbs./gal, so a minimum tank density of 1.5 should be used.

Check Your Tank for Wear

Once you have figured out your tank density, you should be checking your poly tanks for signs of wear. Here are some tips for checking the condition of your tanks:

  • If you are transporting material, first insure that you are using a tank that is designed for transportation instead of storage.
  • Make sure that the base underneath your tank remains solid. Insure that the tank is sitting on a level surface.
  • Inspect your threaded poly fittings for cracks and leaks.
  • When looking at the tank itself, be on the lookout for crazing and cracking.

Crazing is the appearance of very fine cracks (spider-webbing) within the tank wall. These cracks usually cannot be felt with a fingernail. In this case, the tank will still hold liquids, but its structural integrity is reduced. This is a sign of serious deterioration, which can lead to cracks and failures.

Crazing looks like very fine cracks (spider-webbing) within the tank wall.

Crazing looks like very fine cracks (spider-webbing) within the tank wall.

Cracking reveals very abrupt lines that may run parallel or cross at right angles. It has a dry rot or alligator skin appearance. Your fingernail may catch if you run your fingers across cracking.

Cracking looks like very abrupt lines that may run parallel or cross at right angles.

Cracking looks like very abrupt lines that may run parallel or cross at right angles.

Inspect for Crazing and Cracking

You can inspect you tanks for crazing or cracking in several different ways:

  • Mark your tank with a water soluble marker. Color several 6X6” sections on the sides of the tank that are exposed to the sun, on its top, and around fittings.  Then, quickly rub off the ink with a dry cloth or paper towel.  Looking at the results can reveal some things not seen by the naked eye.  If your tank reveals crazing, consider using it for water only.  If you see cracking, consider replacing the tank.
  • Candle the tank with a bright, cool light. Placing a light inside the poly tank, while conducting an inspection from the outside, can reveal defects and cracks. You can also shine the light from the outside and have someone look through the fill neck.  Never enter the tank!
  • Hit your empty tank with a baseball bat.  If your tank is sound, it will have the ability to flex as it is filled and emptied. It is impossible to crack a good tank using this method because of the strength of the polymer. Hit the tank on the top and the sides (where it receives the most sunlight). If you can crack a tank using this method, it should have been placed out of service anyway. Sounds kind of crazy, but having a tank break from a swing of the bat is much better than losing 2,000 gallons of fertilizer or pesticide from a failure. Little League season is just around the corner; get your kids some early practice swinging the bat!

For More Information

Poly Tanks for Farms and Businesses: Preventing Catastrophic Failures is an 82-page publication from Purdue University, which contains great information and color photos.

Poly Tanks for Farms – Tank Inspection is a fact sheet with much of the same information from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

Until next time,
Be Safe!

2015 Poison Prevention Week

Posted on March 16th, 2015 by Kelly Lowery in Announcements

It’s March, which means National Poison Prevention Week! Typically, the third week in March is designated as Poison Prevention Week, which is March 15-21, 2015. At this time of year, families are encouraged to evaluate practices in their home, ensuring that anything potentially poisonous is appropriately stored in a locked cabinet and out of reach of children. Products should also be left in their original containers. Mr. Yuk can be used to alert children that something is poisonous and should not be touched or consumed.


National Poison Prevention Week provides the opportunity to discuss how poisonings can be prevented in your home! Image provided by American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC).

Poison Help

Poisons are substances and materials that harm individuals when incorrectly used or consumed. Poisonings often occur unintentionally, such as if someone mistakes a liquid for something drinkable or as a child accidentally thinks a substance is something that can be eaten. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), approximately 50 percent of calls received at poison centers involve children under the age of five, and more than 90 percent of calls are exposures that happen in the home. The Poison Center can be called for poisonings due to medicines, cosmetics, personal care products, cleaning products, pesticides, bites, and much more. Fifty-five poisons centers are located across the United States. The National Poison Center phone number (1-800-222-1222) can be called 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Every 10 seconds, a poison exposure case is handled by a poison center somewhere in the United States.

See poison prevention tips from the AAPCC for adults, babysitters, health care providers, and more. Information about preventing poisonings can also be seen in some of our previous blogs:  2014 Poison Prevention, Dishwasher and Detergent Pods: Continuing Concerns About Accidental Poisonings, and Mr. Yuk Needs Your Help.

Poison Prevention Programs Being Conducted Across PA

Our Poison Prevention Program educates first grade students about how to prevent accidental poisonings in the home and what to do if a poisoning occurs. Students learn about the definition of a pest and the components of integrated pest management. Educators discuss signal words that can be seen on chemicals, how a Mr. Yuk sticker can alert families to a potentially poisonous product, and how Mr. Yuk displays the phone number for the National Poison Center.

Poison Prevention Program to be heard by 14,000 students!

First graders learn about signal words and Mr. Yuk. In 2015, over 14,000 first graders will be hearing the poison prevention message!

The Pesticide Education Program has once again partnered with the Penn State Master Gardener Program and agricultural science groups to deliver the statewide program. In 2015, the program will reach more than 14,000 first grade students, with nearly 500 presentations being delivered in 29 counties. Since 2010, nearly 50,000 first graders have participated in the Poison Prevention Program in Pennsylvania!

A huge THANK YOU to all educators who have or will be presenting Poison Prevention Programs! Several of you have already shared photos and news articles about your programs. Keep those coming! Watch our Facebook and Twitter for those postings. We also have a press release available for anyone who is facilitating a program.

Poison Prevention Program in Luzerne County

Master Gardeners deliver the Poison Prevention Program to local schools! Thanks to Luzerne County for sharing your photo.

What Can You Do?

During National Poison Prevention Week, take time to ensure that any poisons are properly stored. Get Mr. Yuk stickers and put them on poisonous products. Teach your family about how anything with Mr. Yuk on it means potentially poisonous and where to find the Poison Control Center on Mr. Yuk. Poison centers also encourage putting 1-800-222-1222 into your cell phone so you have it in case of an emergency.

Poison Help QR Code

The American Association of Poison Control Centers has provided this QR Code. Just scan to quickly add poison help to your cell phone!

Never hesitate to call Poison Control if anyone in your home has been accidentally poisoned or even if you just have questions. When you call poison centers, the calls are answered by trained physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other professionals. In 2013, poison centers received over 3 million calls!

We have a homework sheet available that can help you with locating products and storage around the home. A Mr. Yuk coloring sheet and Signal Word coloring sheet could be used to teach kids about poison safety. Participating in the National Poison Prevention Week Poster Contest could also be an opportunity to review poison safety with your family.

Until next time,
Be Safe!

Pesticide Applicator Short Course in Mill Hall and Dallas, PA

Posted on March 4th, 2015 by Sharon Gripp in Announcements, Applicators

Once again, the Pesticide Applicator Short Course will be offered in Mill Hall and Dallas. This course prepares professionals to take the certified pesticide applicator exams in Core and Categories 06 (Ornamental and Shade Trees), 07 (Lawn and Turf), and 23 (Park and School Pest Control). The Dallas location will also have training for Category 10: Right-of-Way and Weeds.

Pesticides are often a necessary tool to control pests on lawns and landscapes. In some instances, a homeowner may feel comfortable dealing with the pest situation on their own. Often times, a problem presents itself in the landscape in which a professional is needed to correct the pest problem. On those occasions, the professional may apply a pesticide.

Pennsylvania’s Pesticide Control Act of 1973 requires any individual who applies a pesticide application to a property not owned or rented by the applicator or their employer to have a commercial or public pesticide applicator certification. Not only should landscapers be licensed but also other professionals who apply pesticides in the landscape. Other professionals include state park employees and grounds supervisors of schools, athletic fields, and golf courses.

Material Needed and Covered in the Short Course

Core and Category study packets are not included in the course fee. All students are responsible for bringing core and category certification examination study packets to class. Be sure to order study packets in advance if you do not already have them and bring with you as they will be used in class! Find how to order study material information here.

Many topics will be covered over a four-day period including general pesticide issues such as pesticide laws and recordkeeping, pesticide formulations and labels, spray equipment, and calibration of that equipment. In addition, the major pests of the landscape industry (insects, weeds and diseases) will be discussed.

Optional Exam Date

All certification exam dates and locations can be found on the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s PaPlants website. However, an optional exam date has been planned for the short course participants but more details about the exam will be provided at the course. The CORE exam is $50, and each category exam is $10; these fees are NOT not included in the course fee. More information about taking the exams will be further explained in class.

Course Details

Clinton County Luzerne County
Date March 9, 10, and 11, 2015 March 18, 19, 20, and 25, 2015
Time 9:00 am – 3:00 pm 8:30 am – 3:00 pm
Location Penn State Extension Clinton County
47 Cooperation Lane
Mill Hall, PA 17751
Irem Clubhouse
64 Ridgway Drive
Dallas, PA 18612
Cost of Course $100 $125
Optional Exam Date March 17, 2015 @ 9:00 am Will Be Announced
Contact Person Tom Butzler
Bill Riden
Register and
More Information
Clinton County Registration Luzerne County Registration

Until next time,
Be Safe!

Pests and Poison Safety at the Whitaker Center

Posted on March 2nd, 2015 by Kelly Lowery in Announcements, Consumers, Places/Events

The Penn State Pesticide Education Program is very excited to participate in an outreach program at the Whitaker Center on Saturday, March 7, 2015, from 11 AM – 3 PM.

Whitaker Center Poster

Whitaker Center Poster

The Whitaker Center, located in Harrisburg, PA, attracts individuals of all ages with a Science Center, digital cinema, and performances. Check out parking instructions, guest services, and more on their website. As National Poison Prevention Week is in March, we are eager to share this important message with families about being safe with poisonous products in the home and how Mr. Yuk alerts us of potential dangers.

“Pests and Poison Safety” is the title of our one day outreach program. Upon entering the Science Center, visitors will be given a card that displays our four stations, which are Pests, Integrated Pest Management (IPM), Signal Words, and Mr. Yuk. At each station, participants will complete an activity and will have their card marked. Completed cards can be returned at the entrance to receive a prize! All visitors that day will receive Mr. Yuk stickers to encourage safe chemical practices.

What pest control options are used around your home?

What pest control options are used around your home?

All ages can participate in the station activities! At the “Pests” station, visitors can share stores about pest problems, listen to descriptive clues to identify pests, or determine when a creature is a pest, is a beneficial, or could be both. At the “IPM” station, our magnetic pyramid will allow participants to learn about IPM and categorize different pest control options as cultural, biological, mechanical, or chemical. We recently used the IPM pyramid at an event and were impressed by how many students engaged with the activity: sharing with us about how they had seen these items used for pest control in their home and reading the descriptions on the pyramid to help determine which item paired with which control.

Visitors interacting with the PIM pyramid and learning how Mr. Yuk stickers should be used on chemical products to alert of a potentially poisonous product.

Visitors interacting with the PIM pyramid and learning how Mr. Yuk stickers should be used on chemical products to alert attention to a potentially poisonous product.

The “Signal Words” and “Mr. Yuk” will be a combined station with our Look-Alike display. The display features products with the signal words: Caution, Warning, Danger, and Danger Poison. We will discuss how products with signal words need to have a Mr. Yuk sticker placed on them to indicate a potentially hazardous product. The display illustrates the similarities of both safe and unsafe products and how products should always be stored in their original container.

Our Look-Alike display is used to show the similar appearance and packaging of household products, and encourage participants to keep potentially poisonous products stored in their original containers and out of the reach of children.

Our Look-Alike display is used to show the similar appearance and packaging of household products, and encourage participants to keep potentially poisonous products stored in their original containers and out of the reach of children.

Mr. Yuk_Logo

Mr. Yuk Logo

Even if you are not able to make it to the Whitaker Center on Saturday, March 7, you can still promote poison safety in your home by ensuring that products are stored up high and out of reach of children. Teach everyone in your home about Mr. Yuk, sharing that when Mr. Yuk stickers are placed on products that have a signal word, these products can be poisonous if not used appropriately. The phone number (1-800-222-1222) displayed on the Mr. Yuk stickers is the National Poison Center, which can be called when accidental poisonings occur or even if you just have questions. Anyone can contact us to get Mr. Yuk stickers.

Come out to the Whitaker Center on Saturday, March 7, from 11 AM – 3 PM for “Pests and Poison Safety!” We hope to see you there!

Until next time,
Be Safe!

Spanish Pesticide Safety Education for Underserved Populations

Posted on February 23rd, 2015 by Hector Nunez-Contreras in General

This blog is written by Hector Nunez-Contreras who is our program’s bilingual Program Associate Educator.

The Pesticide Education Program, with support from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, has added a Spanish curriculum to our education efforts. This is an ongoing task with the objective of offering the majority of our training materials in Spanish. The opportunity arose from the dire need to educate an underserved population in urban areas as well as in agriculture.

Hector doing a presentation in Spanish.

Hector doing a presentation in Spanish.

Another Spanish presentation title slide.

Another Spanish presentation title slide.

New Staff at the Penn State Pesticide Education Program

Posted on February 9th, 2015 by Sharon Gripp in Announcements, General

We are very excited to introduce two new staff members of the Penn State Pesticide Education Program. Ed Crow started with us in August as a wage-payroll employee, and Eric Denemark just started as full-time employee 2 weeks ago.

Eric Denemark

Eric Denemark

Ed Crow

Ed Crow

Upcoming Major Events for the Penn State Pesticide Education Program

Posted on January 26th, 2015 by Sharon Gripp in Announcements, General

After a fast start to 2015–staffing our Pennsylvania Farm Show exhibit–we thought we would try to list some of the major events that our program will be participating in throughout 2015. We hope that we have a stop near you so that you can come see us and hear our pesticide safety message. You will have a lot of dates and places to choose from and we hope we saw some of you already at Farm Show!

March through November:

County Household Hazardous Waste Collections

Throughout the year, many counties offer Household Hazardous Waste Collection sites where residents of that county can take certain products to be disposed of properly. Some counties have teamed up with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s CHEMSWEEP Program to also collect pesticides. The link above lists the county events and should include more details about what you can bring. More events will be added in the coming months, so if your county isn’t on the list yet, be sure to check back.

March 7:

Whitaker Center (222 Market Street, Harrisburg, PA 17101)

Our program will have several pesticide safety areas located throughout the center to highlight some important pesticide safety messages for the entire family.

March 15-21:

Poison Prevention Week (classrooms all throughout Pennsylvania)

Our program works cooperatively with the Master Gardener Program to provide a pesticide safety educational message to participating 1st grade classrooms across the state. This year, the message will be taken to 29 counties in 147 schools (495 classrooms) reaching almost 14,000 children. Our program provides each child with take home materials including a letter to their parents/guardians explaining the message they heard at school, some fun activities, and Mr. Yuk stickers.  Essentially, this program not only reaches the students but also adults at home, further increasing our reach with important pesticide safety messages.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year…

Posted on December 22nd, 2014 by Nick Richards in Announcements, Places/Events

It’s December, so the best holiday is right around the corner! Oh, you know the one, The Pennsylvania Farm Show is happening January 10th through January 17th, 2015! For the 99th time, this eight-day long festival will draw thousands of visitors to interact with the agricultural industry. Admission is absolutely FREE; however, you will need to pay to park. View the complete Farm show schedule, map, and details for more information.

In order to celebrate this wonderful event, the Penn State Pesticide Education Program will once again be partnering with Master Gardener volunteers to reach the thousands of children and parents that enjoy The Pennsylvania Farm Show every year. Our exhibit this year will highlight pollinators, their importance, and how we can protect them. Children (and we know some adults) will play interactive games in order to learn about pollinators.

Be a Pollinator Protector…

Toss Me Your Birds & Bees

In this game, we learn that a pollinator is any insect, animal, or bird that carries pollen from one flower to another. This helps the pollination process, which allows flowers and other plants to grow, in turn creating food for us to consume. This game is similar to the corn hole games that are popular at football tailgates.

Aim, Fire, Pollinate!

Pollination is the transfer of pollen from one flower to the stigma of another flower of the same type (daisy to daisy for example). Pollinators collect the pollen grains on their body and transfer those grains by landing on the flower. This process helps with fertilization and reproduction. Pollination occurs in the stigma (the center) of the flower; if the pollinator does not come in contact with the stigma then pollination does not occur. In this game participants will toss the pollen (a shuttlecock with Velcro) onto a flower to achieve pollination.

Flower Game

In this game, you aim, then toss the shuttlecock into the center of the flower to pollinate it.

Dishwasher and Detergent Pods: Continuing Concerns About Accidental Poisonings

Posted on December 8th, 2014 by Kelly Lowery in Announcements

Kelly Over, our Education Program Assistant, wrote this blog.

Pod Example

Here is an example of dish detergent pods.

Dishwasher and detergent pods are a conveniently packaged option that can result in less waste and greater product efficiency than its traditional counterparts. While the pods, or also referred to as packs, might provide a solution for homeowners, parents and family members should be conscious of the potential accidental poisoning, especially as the pods and packs contain a highly concentrated amount of product.

In our previous Be Safe with Dishwasher and Detergent Pods blog, we discussed the similar appearance of pods and packs with candy, as well as tips for how to keep your family safe. A recent research report and news stories have brought detergent and dishwasher pod and packs back to attention.

CHEMSWEEP in 18 Counties This Year!

Posted on November 24th, 2014 by Sharon Gripp in Announcements, Applicators

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is again offering the CHEMSWEEP Program to those agricultural businesses and pesticide applicators in the selected 18 counties. The program is available in different counties each year and the 2015 counties include: Bucks, Crawford, Dauphin, Erie, Fayette, Greene, Huntingdon, Juniata, Lycoming, Mercer, Mifflin, Montgomery, Perry, Philadelphia, Susquehanna, Tioga, Wayne, and Westmoreland.



Agriculture Secretary George Greig said,

“Pesticides can be a problem when they outlive their usefulness, sitting in barns and sheds and becoming hazardous to the environment and to your safety. Thanks to CHEMSWEEP, it’s easier for our agriculture industry to safeguard our environment and properly dispose of pesticides.”

Since CHEMSWEEP was established in 1993, nearly 2.3 million pounds of unwanted or unusable pesticides have been properly destroyed through the program. What a great program for the environment!