Got Nature? Blog

Posted on September 11th, 2020 in Forestry, How To, Safety, Wildlife | No Comments »

In this “A Moment in the Wild” episode, Nick Burgmeier, Purdue Extension wildlife specialist, talks about the black racer, one of three large black snakes found in Indiana, including the myth that this species chases people who encounter it.

If you have any questions regarding wildlife, trees and forest management, wood products, or other natural resource topics, feel free to contact us by using our Ask an Expert web page.

A Moment in the Wild, Playlist, Purdue Extension – Forestry and Natural Resources
Snakes of Indiana, The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center
Indiana Amphibian and Reptile ID Package (4 softcover books), The Education Store
When Juvenile Snakes Come Calling, Purdue Extension

Nick Burgmeier, Research Biologist and Wildlife Extension Specialist
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Posted on September 10th, 2020 in Alert, Forestry, Forests and Street Trees, How To, Plants, Safety | No Comments »

Purdue Landscape Report: Have you noticed large, messy webs on trees? You may have seen a colony of fall webworms. These caterpillars hatch in mid-July but tend to become more noticeable as the summer progresses. They often eat branches bare of leaves but are they a threat to tree health?

What do they look like?

Fall webworms are small, fuzzy pale-yellow caterpillars (figure 1) that build large, conspicuous white webs in trees in the late summer (figure 2). Their webs stretch over tree branches and grow over the course of the summer. When disturbed, the caterpillars will violently thrash back and forth in a bid to ward off predators.


Fig1. A colony of fall webworm caterpillars feeding on a leaf. Note that the web covers the leaves they are currently eating. Photo by Judy Gallagher.


Fig2. Trees will often have multiple fall webworm webs on them. This photo shows a typical number of webs for a large tree. Notice that the webs tend to be on the ends of branches and that the leaf damage is concentrated close to each web. Photo by Ken Gibson.

What kind of damage do they cause?
Fall webworms eat the leaves of many species of deciduous trees and bushes. This damage occurs late in the summer shortly before the trees normally drop their leaves for fall. Therefore, fall webworms very rarely do serious damage to trees. In most cases the trees will grow their leaves back the following spring. On rare occasions, a tree that is already highly stressed may be further weakened by fall webworm damage. However, most trees, even heavily infested trees, are minimally affected and show no signs of damage the following spring.

Do they need to be managed?
Fall webworm damage generally looks much worse than it is. In general, trees only need to be managed for fall webworm if the owner is concerned about aesthetics. In that case, the easiest means of management is pulling the web off the tree by hand and putting it in a bucket of soapy water or freezing it. Some people may be sensitive to the caterpillars’ hairs so gloves should be worn to prevent contact.

In cases where the webs are too high up to be reached, they can be managed through insecticides. Further instructions can be found here.

Cover image by Photo by msumuh on Flickr.

Fall Webworm Bulletin, Purdue Extension -Entomology
Which Web is Which, Purdue Landscape Report
Will My Trees Recover After Losing Their Leaves?, Purdue Landscape Report
Safe Caterpillar Control, Purdue Landscape Report
Mimosa Webworm, The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center
Sod Webworms, Turf Science at Purdue University
Bagworm caterpillars are out feeding, be ready to spray your trees, Purdue Extension – Forestry and Natural Resources

ELizabeth Barnes, Exotic Forest Pest Educator
Purdue University Department of Entomology

Posted on September 8th, 2020 in How To, Safety, Wildlife | No Comments »

raccoon close-up

May IDNR Wildlife Bulletin Newsletter: Do you know what to do if you find an injured wild animal? The first step is determining if it is actually injured. Clear signs of distress include:

  • Bleeding or clear signs of injuries such as bruises, cuts, punctures or broken bones
  • Looks thin, weak, cold or soaking wet
  • Signs of diarrhea
  • Flies, fly eggs, maggots, ticks, lice or fleas have infested the animal

If a wild animal shows any of these signs and is unable to move or run away effectively, it may be time to call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator (PDF) for help. You can find a list of wildlife rehabilitators on IDNR Orphaned & Injured Animals website.

Please note that the Indiana DNR does not provide services for injured or orphaned wildlife. We rely on licensed wildlife rehabilitators to assist with these situations.

Orphaned & Injured Animals, Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IN DNR)
Resourceful Animal Relationships, The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center
Wildlife, Playlist, Purdue Extension – Forestry and Natural Resources YouTube channel
Help Us Keep Wildlife Wild, Got Nature? Blog, Purdue Extension – Forestry and Natural Resources

Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IN DNR)

Posted on September 4th, 2020 in How To, Safety, Wildlife | No Comments »

vultureFlyerAcross the globe, most vulture species are declining dramatically. This is concerning because vultures provide valuable ecosystem service by cleaning the environment of carrion, thereby reducing disease risk for humans and livestock. In contrast to most other vulture species, populations of the American black vulture have grown and expanded into new areas during the past several decades. This has created the potential for conflict because black vultures have been documented to kill weak or newborn livestock.

The Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources’ research team seeks to better understand vulture ecology to inform conservation of other vulture species, as well as to understand how best to minimize conflict between vultures and producers by investigating what factors place some farms at greater risk.

What to do if you lose an animal:
• Take lots of pictures from every angle.
• If scavengers are around, move the carcass somewhere they cannot access.
• Call or text Marian Wahl at (317) 647-5294 as soon as you can. Marian is a graduate research assistant working with Pat Zollner, professor of wildlife science.

Thank you for your help as we gather livestock loss due to vultures in the states of Indiana and Kentucky.

To view, print and share flyer: Loss of Livestock to Vultures.

Livestock, Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center
Dr. Pat Zollner Research, Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources
Wildlife Research, Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources

Marian Wahl, Graduate Research Assistant
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

ASABEIN-PREPared: The American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) recently awarded the Purdue Rural Emergency Preparedness program (IN-PREPared) with The Blue Ribbon Award for their efforts to provide disaster and emergency resources and training to Indiana residents, especially through their specially created website.

Founded in 1907, ASABE is an educational and scientific organization dedicated to the advancement of engineering applicable to agricultural, food, and biological systems with members in more than 100 countries.

Shawn Ehlers, Assistant Clinical Professor of Agriculture and Biological Engineering and IN-PREPared Program Leader said many members of ASABE are involved with Extension outreach in their focus area.

“Part of ASABE’s Pillars of Practice involve ergonomics, safety and health, as well as education outreach and professional development,” Ehlers said.

“The Blue Ribbon Awards are the society’s way of acknowledging impactful contributions and this year, IN-PREPared was chosen to receive the honors for Extension Websites and its impact on the community,” he added.

Previous university efforts to serve Extension educators, rural communities, and first responders stemmed from three primary sources which included Purdue Agricultural Safety and Health Program (PUASHP), Purdue Extension, and the National Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) materials and training. Each entity produced and distributed valuable resources and training, but the separate efforts lacked cohesiveness.

“The IN-PREPared program and website provide a publicly accessible and unified home for appropriate resources, and also serves to enhance the visibility, awareness, and usage of programming and resources offered by state or federal government agencies and non-profit organizations dedicated to rural emergency preparedness and response through partnerships and resource sharing,” Ehlers explained.

Ehlers also said this new program, launched in August 2019, was prompted by the need to be instrumental in bringing relevant material together on emergency preparedness for their specific audience – a key he believes to the successes of the IN-PREPared program.

“The past several months have demonstrated how our society can adapt to a situation to meet the needs of communities across the state and nation, because making informed decisions is at the heart of preparing for unexpected or emerging circumstances,” he said.

IN-PREPared has categorized content to be conveniently accessed by users with topics that include weather events, disease prevention (a COVID-19 specific resource page), rural specific hazard response, and links to online trainings, and PREP-Notes which are used by Extension Educators, teachers, and volunteers to craft news releases and share information on multiple platforms.

Other cohorts in this award-winning effort include former extension educator and staff member at the Indiana State Department of Agriculture Ed Sheldon, who assisted in the overall resource development and website management. Sheldon also works with the National AgrAbility Project, the Ag Vets program, and IN-PREPared.

Bill Field, Professor of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, leader of the Purdue Ag Safety and Health Program, and Project Director for the National AgrAbility Project, and served as the co-developer and instructor of three Homeland/Agrosecurity graduate level courses at Purdue.

“Above all else, IN-PREPared is focused on collaborating with experts in our federal and state agencies, as well as universities and non-profits so we can bring collective knowledge to our rural Hoosiers so they can be “PREPared” for the unexpected—not possible without the reach of the Extension system in all 92 Indiana counties,” Ehlers emphasized.

Community Planning for Agriculture and Natural Resources: A Guide for Local Government, The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center
Trees and Storms, The Education Store
Indiana Impacts & Resources, Purdue Climate Change Research Center
Climate Change: Communication strategies to support local planning, The Education Store


Posted on August 10th, 2020 in Forestry, How To, Safety, Urban Forestry | No Comments »

Purdue Landscape Report: Homeowners can easily become injured – often fatally – while attempting to trim trees near overhead electrical wires. Though it is tempting to try to save money with this “do-it-yourself” approach, the potential for electrocution is not worth the risk. It is important to recognize when to call a professional arborist.

Terrible accidents can happen when a homeowner uses any type of cutting tools and/or ladders when attempting to trim backyard trees and shrubs. Overhead wires are often unnoticed and is touched by directly or indirectly, causing injury or death.

Examples include:

  • A homeowner climbed a ladder to trim a tree branch that was dropping leaves into his above ground swimming pool and causing a nuisance. A branch came in contact with the power line, shocking the man with a jolt of electricity and sending him into cardiac arrest. He fell 20 feet to the ground but was revived by medics at the scene.
  • MATTHEWS, N.C. — A man trimming trees in a neighborhood was shocked Wednesday morning after a limb fell on power lines, authorities said. Nearby resident Margie Owens knows the man and said he does odd jobs around the neighborhood. According to officials, after the limb fell from pruning, the tree continued to be energized by the power line, leaving the man stuck.
  • A Charlotte County man was electrocuted trimming trees in a backyard. The victim was part of a landscaping crew and came in direct contact with a utility line.

Preventable Accidents
Tree limbs can conduct electricity. When trees grow near overhead wires, they can contact the wires and become energized. Trees and wires are dangerous, full of electrical power that can injure or kill humans. How do we know which lines are energized?  WE DON’T! Assume all are carrying dangerous electrical current and should be avoided when working around them.

A common house switch carries 120 volts, but the electric flow is usually limited to 10, 15 or 20 amps. A common “house drop” (service wire) contains 240 volts and up to 20 amps or more. Given the right set of circumstances, even the shock a person gets from a common light switch can kill, but at the same time, it is easier to break electrical contact while standing inside a house. If a person is climbing a ladder or is in the tree, it may be more difficult to break contact with the energized wire. This means that the service line over a typical yard could easily kill a person.


Utility service providers can help select a tree which is compatible with nearby lines and reduce the need for excessive pruning to maintain safety and reliability


These powerlines could be “energizing” the tree creating a potential shock hazard for anyone touching the tree. Notice the burning on the new growth.


Trees growing into utility lines should be pruned by a qualified arborist.


Here are a few tips to avoid trees in wires:

  • Look for power lines before pruning trees and large shrubs. If lines are anywhere near the tree within 10 ft. don’t attempt any tree work. Tree care professionals have the training and equipment needed to perform these tasks safely.
  • Never climb a tree in order to prune it. Even if the wires aren’t currently touching the tree, remember that the tree’s branches will shift once you begin climbing or removing limbs.
  • Don’t move ladders or long-handled pruning tools around the yard without first looking up. Always read and heed ladder-use safety labels.

Find a professional
Be sure to always hire an insured, tree care professional, preferably and ISA Certified Arborist with the experience, expertise, and equipment to safely take down or prune trees in wires. Require proof of liability insurance to protect yourself as well.

Another easy way to find a tree care service provider in your area is to use the “Locate Your Local Tree Care Industry Association Member Companies” program.For more information refer to the publication Trees and Utilities at the Purdue Education Store.

Find a certified arborist in your area by going to

Tree Pruning for the Landscape, Video, Purdue Extension – Forestry and Natural Resources Youtube channel
Tree Pruning Essentials, Video & Publication
Tree Appraisal and the Value of Trees, The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center
Tree Pruning: What Do Trees Think?, The Education Store
Mechanical Damage to Trees: Mowing and Maintenance Equipment, The Education Store
Tree Installation Process and Practices, The Education Store

Lindsey Purcell, Urban Forestry Specialist
Purdue University, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Purdue Extension forester Lenny Farlee tells you where to find and how to identify a species that clings to many of our trees, poison ivy. Protect yourself from the itch by recognizing this species before it is a problem.

If you have any questions regarding trees, forests, wildlife, wood products or other natural resource topics, feel free to contact us by using our Ask an Expert web page.

Poison Ivy, Purdue Landscape Report
Poison Ivy, Purdue Extension
Poison Ivy, The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center
Investing in Indiana Woodlands, The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center
Tree Appraisal and the Value of Trees, The Education Store
Forest Improvement Handbook, The Education Store
ID That Tree, Playlist, Purdue Extension – Forestry and Natural Resources Youtube Channel
A Woodland Management Moment, Playlist, Purdue Extension – Forestry and Natural Resources Youtube Channel

Lenny Farlee, Sustaining Hardwood Extension Specialist
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

FNR-604 coverBest Practices Guide for Charter Fishing and COVID-19 provides best practices for charter operators, captains, crew and customers to minimize the risk of COVID-19 for charter fishing in southern Lake Michigan. The guide covers measures that operators and customers can take before, during, and after a fishing trip, including social distancing, cleaning and personal protective equipment.

Pond and Wildlife Management, Website
Pond Management: Managing Fish Populations, The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center
Fishing 1: Take the Bait, The Education Store
Fishing 2: Reel in the Fun, The Education Store
Fishing 3: Cast into the Future, The Education Store
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant

Mitch Zischke, Clinical Assistant Professor
Purdue University, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Posted on July 24th, 2020 in Alert, Forestry, Gardening, Plants, Safety | No Comments »

Purdue Landscape Report: Now that we’ve reach midsummer, many people tending to small plants and bushes may notice small odd round grey objects attached to their plants that are made by potter wasps. Do you need to do anything about them? Do these nests help or harm your plants? And are they dangerous to people?

What do they look like?
You are more likely to notice the nests of potter wasps than the adults. Potter wasp nests often look, like the name suggests, like a small grey pot (figure 1). They are rounded with a small opening that looks like the neck of a vase and are about the size of a cherry tomato. These wasps will attach their nests to many different surfaces but tend to prefer plant and bush stems. Potter wasp nests are often found hidden behind foliage in bushes.

Potter wasp adults come in a variety of colors but all of them look like small hornets. The most common species found in Indiana are mostly black with pale yellow bands around their abdomen (figure 2).


Figure 2. An adult potter wasp resting. This is just one of many different species of potter wasps. Photo by Fyn Kynd on flickr

figure 1

Figure 1. Close up of a potter wasp nest attached to the stem of a house plant. Photo by Elizabeth Barnes, Department of Entomology, Purdue University.

How do they help plants?
Each “pot” that the wasps build is a tiny nursery for a single wasp. Adult potter wasps lay a single egg in each “pot” and then fill it with paralyzed caterpillars and small beetle larvae. When the wasp egg hatches it has all the food it needs to develop into an adult contained in the pot. Each wasp does a small part to keep down the number of caterpillars in the landscape which can reduce the amount of leaf damage on nearby plants.

Will they hurt me?
Probably not! Potter wasps don’t defend their nests and are generally not aggressive. Unless you actively try to bother them they will probably not bother you. If you need to remove one of their nests, you can simply pull it off the plant or object that it’s attached to. However, since they help with pest control, you may want to either leave the nest be or relocate it to a different section of the landscape.

Does anything else look like the “pots”?
Although the “pots” have a very distinct shape there are a few other things that could be confused with them at first glance. Mantis egg masses (ootheca) and some types of galls are both about the same size as potter wasp nests and also often grey. However, they both lack the vase neck-like opening that potter wasp nests have.

What should I do if I see one?
Let it be! Since these wasps rarely sting and help keep caterpillar populations down leave them alone so that they can continue to act as biocontrol agents. If you think you’ve seen a potter wasp or one of their nests and would like help identifying it, take a picture and either upload it to a community science project like iNaturalist or send a picture to the author of this article.

Social Bees and Wasps, The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center
Parasitic Wasps, The Education Store
Mud Daubers, The Education Store
Cicada Killers, The Education Store
Industrial, Institutional, Structural and Health-Related Pest Management, The Education Store

Elizabeth E Barnes, Exotic Forest Pest Educator
Purdue University Department of Entomology

Posted on July 3rd, 2020 in How To, Safety, Urban Forestry, Wildlife | No Comments »

Across the entire United States, and into Canada and Mexico, coyotes can be found just about everywhere. But what would you do if you encountered a coyote while out all alone? Would you feel comfortable knowing how to act? How about how to keep your children or pets safe in such an encounter? 

In our June 11th Ask the Experts series, “Coexisting with Coyotes,” Purdue researchers Brian MacGowan and Bee Overbey talked about these topics and more. As a keystone species in their ecosystem, coyotes play an extremely important role in maintaining population levels of other animals, such as deer, rabbits, raccoons, and voles. By keeping these populations in check, plants and trees are better able to grow, and this creates greater biodiversity and healthier habitat. And coyotes are not going anywhere! This resilient, intelligent species has learned to adapt around humans and every change that we bring.

Check out the video below to learn more about coyotes, how important they are to the lands where they are found, and tips on how to coyote-proof your property and keep yourself and your loved ones safe in coyote encounters. By working together, we can easily and safely coexist with this vital native species.

Ask an Expert, Playlist, Purdue Extension – Forestry and Natural Resources Youtube Channel
Coyotes are on the Move, Got Nature? Blog, Purdue FNR Extension
Urban Coyotes – Should You Be Concerned?, Got Nature? Blog
Coyotes (PDF), Wildlife Conflicts, Department of Entomology, Purdue University
Urban Coyote Research Center, Urban Coyote Ecology & Managenet, Cook County, Illinois
Coyotes, Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)-Fish and Wildlife
Coyotes a Constant Problem in Indy Suburbs, IndyStar

Brian MacGowan, Wildlife Extension Specialist
Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources

Brande (Bee) Overbey, Graduate Research Assistant
Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources

Got Nature?