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August 27, 2014

On pesticide

by blakehiltunen

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One of the most challenging aspects of advocating for pollinating insects is trying to defend wasps, hornets and yellow jackets. These insects are a crucial component of our environment, however, their aggressive temperament and willingness to sting make them appear a nuisance. Companies such as Orkin, Modern Pest Services, and Bayer, have capitalized on public fear of insects by offering a cheap solution; eradication.

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Two big problems exist with this philosophy. The first is that insects are a necessary part of the ecosystems that exist in lawns and gardens. Not only do they pollinate flowers creating fruits, vegetables, and healthy, diverse vegetation, they also serve as food for other animals.  To cut out a colony of 20,000 or more will certainly impact a garden’s habitat. The second problem is the method used to implement mass eradication. Typically, an extremely strong pesticide is sprayed killing the entire colony. These chemicals are not only toxic to the targeted insects they are also toxic to almost every other living organism. Some of these pesticides are already in the plant, systemically grown from the seed which is a problem to be addressed later this week.

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Pesticides have certainly helped increase crop yield allowing humans to produce surplus food, however, a change of attitude is needed when deciding how to manage pests on a household level. Simply put, there is no safe pesticide. There will always be collateral damage around the area treated. Therefore, it is in one’s interest to use a more environmentally friendly application; one that is less harmful both to the person applying and the insects surrounding the treatment area. Often times, these solutions are simpler and less expensive than calling the Orkin man.

  1. Decide if killing the insects is completely necessary. Research what the insect is and if it is providing a service to your lawn or garden. For instance, wasps are beneficial in that they prey mostly on other insects and avoid human activity. The wasp is a nuisance only when it’s nest is in a home or near a high traffic area such as a porch or lawn.
  2. Look into natural solutions to dealing with the pests. Is there someone less frightened that might be able to help? Is there a way to remove them without killing them? This site has some great suggestions for lots of insects: http://eartheasy.com/live_natpest_control.htm
  3. Often times a local beekeeper will have good insight into dealing with pests. Give one a call. Check your state beekeeping association’s website for suggestions and information on local beekeepers. Beekeepers generally appreciate old time wisdom and are usually excited to talk to someone interested in alternative ways to solve modern pest problems. Some are also licensed applicators and will do the same job as an Orkin man safer and for less money.
  4. Know if you have any allergies to the insects and if so, ask someone else for help.
  5. If you have the courage to deal with the insects on your own, know what you’re up against. Wear protective equipment and use safe, environmentally friendly, non-toxic methods first. Keep in mind many insects return to the nest at night. This is usually the best time to deal with them.
  6. Think ahead through problems that could arise and try to anticipate them.
  7. Most importantly, BE SAFE.   Make sure no children are around and have a back up plan should the unexpected arise.
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