Help to save the insects and the planet.
Chemical Use Guidelines
1. NEVER use roundup (Glyphosate).
It is extremely toxic to soil life. While the manufacture states that it only kills the plant this is NOT TRUE. Many scientific studies have proven that it kills everything in the soil and it stays there to ensure that nothing lives in that soil for a long time afterwards. We did a test patch on an area outside our major farm to kill of Japanese honeysuckle. One of our guys sprayed an isolated section about 8 feet x 8 feet. That was TEN YEARS ago and to this day nothing has ever grown there. We were horrified.
If you have areas that have weeds that you need to remove check our article on weed control without glyphosate.
The world health organization has now designated glyphosate as a 'possible carcinogen' so its much better to keep it out of your yard, and away from you, your family and your pets. Be safe not regretful.
2. Don't spray just because there are bugs.
Bugs are NOT bad. Just because there are bugs on a plant, or in your yard does not mean they are bad. Don't kill bugs just because you can. For the most part they will leave you alone if you leave them alone. They live in your garden and were living their long before you were so just let them be. Only deal with bugs if they are causing a specific problem which is not just because they are in your yard. They are most likely helping your yard not hindering it.
3. Stop using chemicals on your garden.
Other chemicals are not really that safe either. Just because something is for sale in a big box store does not mean its safe. Sadly most people are aware that bleach is toxic and would not allow their children to play with it but don't consider that a granular lawn chemical or a bottle of plant spray is a problem. Keep them away from yourself and your family. For the most part the garden does not need chemicals to control it. The only reason it does is because its not been grown as a proper ecosystem. If you grow a variety of different plants and a good healthy 'lawn' then you should not for the most part need them.
4. Try and dissuade your neighbours from using chemicals too.
You want to create a great habitat that is good for your garden and good for the insects and animals that want to live there, but if you neighbour is spraying their garden, especially on a windy day, then it can have disastrous results on your land too. Ask them to tell you when they are going to spray so you can be prepares, maybe even dissuade them. Make sure they don't spray if there is any wind.
We were very proud of the wonderful insect population we had built up on our farm, then a new vegetable farmer moved in across the road and he sprayed his crops one day when the wind was blowing. Of course he sprayed in later spring during a time when the bees were out foraging. Our insect population vanished! All the bumble bees were gone entirely, the honey bees vanished. The one hive of honey bees we had died in the hive overnight. We were devastated. Slowly very slowly the bee population is returning but it took us ten years to build it up and one day for this idiot to kill it all. (Fortunately his farm failed and he left, usually I am sad when farms fail but not this one).
5. If you feel you have to spray don't do so without checking your
plants first. You may have helpers you did not know were there.
An example: Commonly people will spray for aphids. This is most often not necessary especially if you have a well rounded garden. If you see a few aphids don't panic and spray. Wait. For the most part the lady bugs will turn up, they eat the aphids and lay their eggs the blue and yellow larva are voracious aphid eaters and will often clear up an aphid infestation without any intervention on your part. Sadly most people see aphids they also see ladybug larva think they are bad and kill everything. Make sure that you are not spraying too early and killing all the bugs that were eating your aphids down without your intervention. We have never sprayed for aphids. Sure we get infestations but if we leave it a week the predators move in and within 10 days they are usually all gone.
This is just one example, and it does not just apply to aphids but to any infestation. For the most part other insects will come along and eat them up. Lacewings are also a great predator so if you see an infestation check to see if the predators have moved in. If they have then leave it a bit and see if they will do the job for you, very often you find you don't need to spray at all.
6. If you have a pest maybe you can remove it without chemicals.
Often a pest moves in and its on one stem of a plant, this is often common with blackfly. If so cut off that one stem, put it in a plastic bag seal it and throw it out. The rest of the plant is uninfected and you did not need to spray. If its on just a few leaves, then remove the leaves and remove the pest. The same thing applies to all plants, trees and shrubs. Often if an pest is spotted early it can be eliminated just by cutting off that branch or twig and removing the pest. The plant will recover better than if its has been dowsed with toxic chemicals which don't do the plant any good while they are killing the bugs. This is our main method of pest removal. Sometimes you can just pick leaves from a plant to remove pests or even pick them off if there are only a few.
7. If you absolutely MUST spray check for beehives first.
You may not know it but there could be a beekeeper very close to where you live. Beekeeping is on the rise all over the country. All states ask their beekeepers to register their hives with them. This is so the state beekeeper can inspect the hives but also its there so that farmers and other people spraying can alert the beekeeper that they are going to spray and the beekeeper can pen up their bees that day so they don't get killed. So if you have to spray contact your local agricultural agency and see if there are any hives listed for your area. Then tell them what you are doing before you do it. That way they can protect their bees. Sadly not all farmers adhere to this rule if they did we would have been informed about our neighbour spraying and our bees would not have died. Don't be that person, save the bees. This of course applies only if you are spraying a significant amount of your yard, if you are just spraying one plant with a can of spray its not going to be a problem for the bees.
8. Be very sparing if you must spray.
While sometimes it is necessary to spray if you have a really bad infestations on your plants try to use as little chemical as possible. This is not a case where more is better. If you spray a lot it will be more stressful to the plant. If it sprays to the point of dripping onto the soil it can kill soil life and affect the roots of the plant. If this happens the plant will get more stressed than it already is and most likely be even more susceptible to further infestations.
9. Don't spray if there is any kind of breeze.
If you spray in a breeze or wind then the spray will drift onto other plants that you don't need to treat. It can also drift over to your neighbours yard or even onto the crops of a farmers field if they are close by. Remember that even though you have sprayed for a specific pest the chemical it will still kill a lot of other things as well. It will kill almost anything that lands on the plant you are treating and it will kill anything else wherever else that spray has travelled too. You can kill a massive number of beneficial insects in the process of killing a few bad bugs. Make sure you protect as many good ones as possible.
SPRAYING BY CONTRACT COMPANIES.
1. Don't allow any contractors to spray your yard without notifying
Today many people use landscape companies to do their yard work for them. Don't allow them to just spray your yard without telling you. In many cases spraying is not needed at all but the company may say that it is so they can spray and make more money. Unless you have an extremely good landscaper most are interested only in cutting the lawn, putting chemicals on it (because they can make a good profit) and going to the next job. So don't allow them to spray unless it is truly necessary which is not just because they say so.
2. If your landscaper must spray make sure you tell your neighbours
about it first.
Landscapers are on a schedule they are not going to care if its windy or not so your spray could end up on your neighbours child, infant, pet or whatever and they could have bad reactions to this. In extreme cases it could cause a lawsuit especially now people are becoming more aware of the dangers of some chemicals. So be cautious and let them know in advance.
3. Make sure any contractors notify that they are spraying.
If you hire a contractor, landscape company or anyone to come and spray any pesticides on your land make sure that they are going to notify any local beekeepers. This is important if you are having trees sprayed when they are flowering (which is illegal in many states now) or any other major spraying done in your yard. Remember that any spraying that is done will not just affect the insect pest that you are spraying for but ever other insect that comes into contact with that plant during and after it has been sprayed. Sadly most companies don't really care if they spray at the wrong time or kill insects. If caught they may have to pay a fine but usually its not very high and they just consider it the 'price of doing business' and ignore it. So if its really really essential that you must spray make sure you know what you are getting into.
4. Make sure that the people applying the spray have a pesticide license.
In all states individuals that spray noxious chemicals on landscapes, plants, farms etc MUST have a pesticide license. This means they must attend a certain number of courses per year to obtain credits. A certain number of credits is necessary to obtain and then keep a license. This must be done every year.
However. In many cases a few of the people in a landscape company have such licenses but they allow other employees to spray the chemicals under their license. This is Illegal since the person has not had the correct training in chemical handling. If someone is going to spray on your land makes sure you ask to see their license and ensure that the person who owns the licensee is the one who is going to spray.
This does not mean that this person is going to do a good job only that they hopefully know how to use the chemicals they are spraying.
5. Be aware that the chemicals that a professional can obtain can
be more toxic and noxious.
Once someone has the pesticide license it allows them access to more toxic chemicals than you can buy for yourself. So it means more toxic sprays in your yard to kill more insects and expose you, your family and your pets too as well as your friends and neighbours. Take this into consideration before you allow anyone to spray your yard for any reason.
My thanks to the great photographers at Pixabay for most of the images in this article.
OTHER ARTICLES ON INSECT DECLINE AND HOW TO HELP
|Janice Hazeldine PhD is the owner and head grower of Floral Encounters an organic Medicinal Herb farm that is also a designated sanctuary for pollinators.|