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.

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.

April 18:

Garden and Landscape Symposium of Western Pennsylvania (Shady Side Academy, 423 Fox Chapel Road, Pittsburgh, PA, 15238)

This is the 20th anniversary of the  premiere horticultural event featuring experts from all over the country who will give in-depth presentations on their field of expertise.

April (Exact date not set yet):

Earth Day along the Susquehanna River (Nesbitt Park, Kingston, PA)

This is an event where school classrooms come and learn about water quality, wildlife, recycling,  take a nature walk, and much more at Nesbitt and Kirby park in Wilkes-Barre. Fun fact: For as many years as we have been participating in this event, last year was the first year we actually found it on our first try!

July 4:

Central PA 4th Fest (127 Bryce Jordan Center, University Park, PA 16802)

We give out Mr. Yuk stickers after visitors “putt” through our mini-golf holes.

August 3-6:

Pesticide Applicator Certification and Training Workshop (Philadelphia, PA)

Our office is helping to host this national workshop that brings together state pesticide regulators, pesticide safety educators, federal regulators, private enterprises, and other interested parties.

August 18-20:

Ag Progress Days (2710 W. Pine Grove Rd, Pennsylvania Furnace, PA 16865)

Come find us in the Family Room. We will be working on a new theme to showcase at this event! There is something for everyone at this huge outside agricultural event.

Find Out What is Going on in Your County:

Penn State Extension Event Calendars

Click on the above link to find your county. Then click on the EVENTS tab on the left hand side to see events that are in your county and surrounding counties. This is a great way to find what all Penn State Extension has to offer!

Follow Us on Social Media!

We have an active Facebook and Twitter account that you can also follow to find out what we are doing and get some bits of information about pesticide safety! Check them out to see what we did at Farm Show earlier in the month!

Until next time,
Be Safe!

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.

Sort and “Bee” Pollinator Thankful

For the most part, pollinators are needed in order for pollination to occur, but there are times where nature is responsible for pollination. The wind and gravity are the cause of pollination for many plants. In this game participants will sort food into two baskets, one basket that needs a pollinator in order to be produced and another basket that does not require the help of a pollinator.

Sort Game

Sort the foods into two baskets: one that requires pollinators and one that does not require pollinators to produce the food.

Stop, Drop, and Protect

In this game we show that everyone has an important role to play in protecting pollinators, and how we can protect pollinators. Some of the things we can follow to protect pollinators include:

  1. If a pesticide is needed, chose the least toxic one to bees or other pollinators first.
  2. Avoid applying pesticides during flowering periods (apply before or after blooms are on the plant).
  3. Apply pesticides in the evening when pollinators are not active.
Plinko Game

In this game, you drop the chip and learn about a way that you can protect pollinators!

We hope that you will join us in celebrating Farm Show by visiting our exhibit and trying out our new “games” and learning about pollinators. Our exhibit will also feature real pollinator friendly plants for you to get ideas on how to create a pollinator friendly habitat. We are excited to help you get started with creating a pollinator friendly environment!

Mr. Yuk_Logo

This is the Mr. Yuk logo which contains the national Poison Center phone number.

We have awesome giveaways for everyone who goes through our exhibit. We have bookmarks that have a paper butterfly made of seeds. When the butterfly is planted, it will grow flowers that will attract pollinators! As always, we will have plenty of Mr. Yuk stickers on hand in case you too need to restock your supply!

Until next time,
Be safe!

Dishwasher and Detergent Pods: Continuing Concerns About Accidental Poisonings

Posted on December 8th, 2014 by Kelly Over 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.

Pediatrics Journal Article Focuses on Pod Exposure

Candy Bowl with Pods

How easy is it for kids to mistake the pods for candy?

Published in November 2014, a Pediatrics article focused on pod exposure in children under six years of age, using data from the National Poison Data System (NPDS) which is managed by the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC). The NPDS includes the data from phone calls made to the over fifty Poison Control Centers nationwide.

The study found that 17,230 children were exposed to pods in 2012-2013. These figures only include the calls made to Poison Control Centers; other exposures could have been reported to directly health care providers/physicians or were not reported at all.

Children who were one and two years of age accounted for the highest exposure rates, representing 65 percent of the calls. Ingestion was the most common route of exposure, accounting for nearly 80 percent of the exposures. Ocular (eye) and dermal (skin) exposures were also reported. “Among exposed children, 4.4% were hospitalized and 7.5% experienced a moderate or major medical outcome.” (1) There has been one confirmed death and 102 children who required tracheal intubation as the result of ingestion and ocular exposure.

The study found 98 percent of these exposures occurred at a residence. For about one-half of the reported exposures, the situation that led to the accidental poisoning was also provided, which included:

  • Pods stored within sight of the child
  • A container temporarily left open while caregiver was distracted when using the pods
  • Pods stored an inappropriate location
  • Pods stored in low cabinets

Since April 2013, there has been a slight decline of Poison Control Center calls about pods. Increased educational awareness and packaging modifications, such as opaque wrappers and additional container latching, could be influencing the decline.

Accidental Pod Poisoning

Pod or Candy

Can you see how this could be mistaken for candy or even a squeeze toy?

A CBS News Story discussed the Pediatrics report, but also shared the unfortunate story of a mother whose young daughter had been accidentally exposed to the pods. The mother had tossed several laundry detergent pods in the diaper bag while visiting a relative to transport back to their home. The pods were mistaken for a toy and given to the baby. While the accident was quickly discovered and the baby was only exposed to the pod for a brief time, the poisoning resulted in a trip to the hospital. Thankfully, the baby was okay after receiving some hospital treatment. The story can serve as an important reminder for parents and families to be especially careful if using pods and packs, ensuring safe storage to prevent children from exposure and knowing to call Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) to get help if someone has been poisoned.

Additionally, when it comes to laundry detergent options, the Pediatrics Journal article notes that “households with children younger than 4 years should be encouraged to use traditional laundry detergent products rather than laundry detergent pods.” (1)

Mr. Yuk_Logo

Use Mr. Yuk stickers to teach kids to STAY AWAY!

Keep Safe with Pods and Packs

With detergent and dishwasher pods and packs, as well as other products around the home that could be mistaken for something edible, follow these key reminders:

  1. Store items in a locked cabinet and out of child’s reach.
  2. Keep products in their original containers and packaging.
  3. Put Mr. Yuk stickers on the bag to alert children to stay away.

Use Mr. Yuk to Reach a Poison Control Center

Not only can children be taught that Mr. Yuk means to stay away from a product, but Mr. Yuk also displays the phone number for the Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) if someone has been accidentally poisoned. The Poison Control Center is free to call, open 24 hours a day/seven days a week, and puts you in contact with doctors and nurses ready to help you with your poison emergency. Contact our office if you need Mr. Yuk stickers.

Until next time,
Be Safe!

1.  Valdez, A. L., Casavant, M. J., Spiller, H. A., Chounthirath, T., Xiang, H. , and Smith, G. A. (2014). Pediatric Exposure to Laundry Detergent Pods. Pediatrics, 134 (6). Retrieved from                 http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2014/11/05/peds.2014-0057.full.pdf

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!

Where do all these pesticides come from? Every year, many pesticide products are discontinued, phased out, or become unusable, leaving growers, commercial establishments, and applicators with potentially dangerous and toxic materials that cannot be placed in landfills. The unwanted pesticides often become a safety hazard and an environmental concern when they are stored, long-term, in garages, barns, or other areas.

As usual, licensed pesticide applicators, pesticide dealers, and commercial pesticide application businesses from the designated counties are eligible to participate by  completing the CHEMSWEEP registration/inventory form that will be direct-mailed to them. This registration period ends February 28.

An independent contractor that is hired by the state collects and packages all waste pesticides at each participating location, primarily for incineration at facilities approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The first 2,000 pounds of pesticide per participant is covered by CHEMSWEEP. Anything above that amount, participants are billed for the overage but at the Department of Agriculture’s contracted price.

This program is funded through annual registration fees paid by pesticide manufacturers and applicators.

Information taken from a Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture News Release.

Until Next Time,
Be Safe!

A New Invasive Insect: The Spotted Lanternfly

Posted on November 17th, 2014 by Ed Crow in Announcements, General

This blog article was put together by our newest part-time staff member, Ed Crow. Although Ed is officially retired from the Maryland Department of Agriculture, he still wanted to remain active helping pesticide applicators.

An adult Spotted Lanternfly

An adult Spotted Lanternfly (Photograph by Holly Raguza, PA Dept of Agriculture)

An adult Spotted Lanternfly

An adult Spotted Lanternfly (Photograph by Lawrence Barringer, PA Dept of Agriculture)

The presence of a new invasive insect to the United States, the  Spotted Lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula (WHITE)), was recently confirmed in Berks County by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) in cooperation with the Pennsylvania Game Commission in September. The Spotted Lanternfly is a planthopper that is native to China, India, Japan, Vietnam, and introduced into Korea as an invasive pest in 2006. In these countries it has attacked 25 plant species that are also found in Pennsylvania including grapes, apples, pines, and stone fruits. The Tree of Heaven also serves as a host for this pest. This insect has the potential to significantly impact these commodities along with the forestry industry. PDA Secretary Greig stated,

“Since this is new to the country we are taking every precaution possible. We need to do everything we can to stop the spread of the Spotted Lanternfly.”

An Immediate Quarantine

As a result, an immediate quarantine was issued by PDA for the Spotted Lanternfly on November 1, 2014 that initially covered the Pike and District Townships of Berks County. This has been recently expanded to include Hereford, Rockland, and Washington Townships of Berks County. The intent of the quarantine is to prevent the movement of this pest by restricting the movement of any material or object that can spread the pest. Industries and regulated articles under the quarantine that are not to be removed/moved to a new area are:

  • Any living stage of the Spotted Lanternfly, Lycorma delicatula, including egg masses, nymphs, and adults
  • Brush, debris, bark, or yard waste
  • Landscaping, remodeling or construction waste
  • Logs, stumps, or any tree parts
  • Firewood of any species
  • Grapevines for decorative purposes or as nursery stock
  • Nursery stock
  • Crated materials
  • Outdoor household articles including recreational vehicles, lawn tractors and mowers, mower decks, grills, grill and furniture covers, tarps, mobile homes, tile, stone, deck boards, mobile fire pits, any associated equipment, and trucks or vehicles not stored indoors.

Compliance Agreements are Available

Businesses and individuals in the quarantine area can enter into a compliance agreement with PDA and receive a permit to move these materials. Criminal or Civil penalties and/or fines can be imposed to businesses or individuals violating provisions of the quarantine. PDA is inspecting the quarantined and surrounding areas to assess the spread and impact of the Spotted Lanternfly. The quarantine may be expanded in the future to include additional areas as further detections are confirmed.

Spotted Lanternfly on a tree

Spotted Lanternfly on a tree (Photograph from PA Dept of Agriculture)

Description of the Spotted Lanternfly Insect and Its Eggs

The adult Spotted Lanternfly is about one inch long and black, red and white spotted. In the fall, the Tree of Heaven is the preferred host for feeding and egg laying, but any tree with smooth bark or any object with a smooth vertical surface can also be used for egg laying. Egg masses are about one inch long. Newly laid egg masses will have a grey pitch like covering over the eggs, while old egg masses appear as rows of 30 to 50 brownish seed like eggs that are in four to seven columns.

A Spotted Lanternfly Nymph

A Spotted Lanternfly Nymph (Photograph taken from Park et al. 2009)

If you see egg masses scrape them off the tree or other object, double bag them and throw them in the garbage, or place the eggs in alcohol or hand sanitizer to kill them.

Two egg masses on tree bark

Two egg masses on tree bark (Photograph by Holly Raguza, PA Dept of Agriculture)

Find more photographs here: Spotted Lanternfly: What to Look For

What To Do If You Find the Spotted Lanternfly

If you suspect that you have found the Spotted Lanternfly (adult, nymph, or egg mass), you have several options to report your findings.

  • Submit a sample to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s Entomology lab by filling out the Entomology Program Sample Submission Form and following the submission directions.
  • Take an electronic picture of the adults or egg masses and submit them to Badbug@pa.gov for verification.
  • Call the Bad Bug hotline at 1-866-253-7189 or the Invasive Species Hotline at 1-866-253-7189 with details of the siting and your contact information.
  • If you are unsure: You can contact the Penn State Extension office in Berks County (610-378-1327 or BerksExt@psu.edu). Master Gardeners are helping to pre-screen inquiries and determine whether to advise individuals to submit samples to PDA or not for positive identification.

For More Information

Penn State Extension

Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture

Until next time,
Be Safe!

Let Me Introduce Our Staff Once Again

Posted on November 3rd, 2014 by Sharon Gripp in Announcements

Well, it has been quite a while that we have updated our readers about who is on staff at the Penn State Pesticide Education Program. I also realized that we needed to update our staff photos. However, getting us all together in one place can be quite the challenge! In a future blog, we will share some of the projects that keep our office busy throughout the year. Also, we want to introduce all our part-time and intern staff, who play a big role in our program’s success. And when you see us out and about, please stop and say HELLO as we would love to hear from you!

Kerry Richards, Penn State Pesticide Education Program DirectorIn April 2011, Dr. Kerry Richards was named our director after serving as the interim director for two years. Kerry will celebrate 25 years at Penn State this year, and all of those years have been in various capacities within our program. Besides presenting during the winter meeting season circuit, Kerry has been focusing her efforts on starting a Spanish worker training program and an air blast sprayer calibration training program. In the last year, she worked to organize a team to do on-site air blast and boom sprayer calibrations at growers’ properties throughout the state. We joke with Kerry that she would have an awesome Twitter following (including her staff): Where in the state/country/world is Kerry today? Kerry loves to travel mostly to visit grandchildren in southeast PA but she also travels frequently for work, doing recert meetings, promoting our program at national conferences, and introducing pesticide safety concepts in Mexico. In her spare time, she can tell you about all her Thrift Shop and Goodwill adventures.

Using the PaPlants Recertification Course Locator

Posted on October 6th, 2014 by Sharon Gripp in Applicators

That time of year is almost here: winter recertification meeting season! December through March is when the majority of face-to-face recertification credit meetings are held throughout the state. The most comprehensive place to find recertification meetings is the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s (PDA) PaPlants website, where all approved recertification meetings are organized. Go to https://www.paplants.state.pa.us (do not forget the “s” in https), highlight “Pesticide Programs” on the left hand side, and then click on “Recertification Course Locator” to search for meetings. Meetings are being added now, so start looking to find the ones that work for your schedule.

Once there, you have several “Meeting Type” options:

  • Onsite: These are your typical face-to-face meetings or sessions offered at conferences.
  • Online: These are courses are taken over the Internet on your computer at your convenience. If you do not have a strong Internet connection, some of these listings are for a CD or DVD that will be mailed to you, and you can play that on your computer. These courses usually charge a small nominal fee—usually between $10 and $50.
  • Correspondence: These are more detailed courses and although you can earn up to 10 category credits, they will take quite a bit longer to complete. Also, the fees for these courses may be well over $100.
  • Webinar: These sessions are a cross between the onsite and online courses. You access the webinar on your computer but they are scheduled for a set date and time. Since the sessions are live, you have an opportunity to interact with the speaker. The fees for these courses are usually nominal.

EPA Recognizes National Farm Safety and Health Week

Posted on September 29th, 2014 by Sharon Gripp in Announcements

National Farm Safety and Health Week was September 21-27. EPA promoted the importance of a safer and healthier agricultural work environment. The 2014 theme was “Safety Counts: Protecting What Matters.” This emphasizes EPA’s efforts to support the health and safety of farmworker communities. The “EPA Recognizes National Farm Safety and Health Week: Supports Safer and Healthier Agricultural Environment” news story highlighted the following items.

Changes to EPA’s Pivotal Farmworker Protection Effort: The Agricultural Worker Protection Standard

In February 2014 EPA announced their proposed significant changes to improve the protection of our nation’s 2 million farmworkers and their families from  pesticide exposure. The changes represent over a decade of extensive stakeholder input, and while the revisions protect workers, they also support agricultural productivity and preserve the traditions of family farms. Read more at EPA’s Proposed Agricultural Worker Protection Standard: EPA Needs Your Input webpage.

Recognition and Management of Pesticide Poisonings cover

Recognition and Management of Pesticide Poisonings cover

Release of the 6th Edition of Recognition and Management of Pesticide Poisonings at No Cost

Through a cooperative agreement with EPA, the Medical University of South Carolina and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture updated this resource, which provides medical clinicians with emergency and primary care information for treating patients with suspected pesticide-related illnesses. Access chapters in the 6th edition publication.

September Means Back To School: Educator Resources and The Great Insect Fair

Posted on September 8th, 2014 by Sharon Gripp in Announcements

This blog is written by Kelly Lowery, our education program associate.

September typically means back to school for many students. Last year, our Back to School blog focused on safety around the home with a busier fall schedule. This year, we want to focus a Back to School blog for educators as we share some of our new Pest Management and Pesticide Safety resources. We encourage you to view these resources can be downloaded and used


This summer, we facilitated several comprehensive programs for students in which we:

  • Introduced the definition and examples of pests,
  • Explained the steps of integrated pest management, and
  • Taught the importance of poison safety.

When instructing on the definition and examples of pests, we developed posters for Insect Mouthpieces, Insect Diagram, and Insect Metamorphosis. You can receive a high quality PDF file via email of any of these posters by filling out our Poster Request Form on our website.

The Insect Mouthpieces’ poster shows the chewing, piercing, siphoning, and sponging mouthpieces, which can help students understand that different pests can cause different damage and that different mouthpieces merit different control measures.

Our insect mouthparts poster.

Our insect mouthparts poster.

Protect Yourself from West Nile Virus

Posted on August 18th, 2014 by Sharon Gripp in Applicators, Consumers

2014 Statistics to Date

It’s that time of year again when we start hearing about positive test results for West Nile virus. In Pennsylvania, the West Nile Virus Control Program is the agency that tracts this information. The first mosquito sample that tested positive for West Nile virus (WNV) was reported on May 16 in Dauphin County. Now, over 500 mosquito samples have tested positive for WNV in 34 counties. In July, the first bird tested positive for WNV and in total, six birds in four counties have had positive detections. Finally, Pennsylvania has had 2 West Nile virus detections in humans in Philadelphia and Dauphin counties.

Counties with positive WNV detections as of August 17, 2014.