|Spring and these considerations are coming soon.|
I owe my dislike of insecticides and chemicals to my father. I was scarcely two when he discussed the dangers to a growing neurological system and the neurotoxins in bug spray. I know this, because he continued all of my life, and it was a bit of a joke in our family. Apparently, as I recall from the lengthier lecture I received from him when I was four, that almost no pesticide which has lethal effects to insects has absolutely no effects to human beings, especially those who are continuing to grow.
By the time I grew up and had children, I not only shunned bug spray, but I made my own furniture polish, cleaners etc. My daughter won her elementary school science fair with a demonstration of all household cleaners which could effectively and safely be made at home. She set up a variety of demonstration centers and she already knew what we used at home.
By the time we moved to a farm, I thought I might have to rethink my no pesticide angle. Termites were a terrible problem in heavily wooded Virginia. Ticks were abundant and carried disease. Wasps set up rather impressive nests within a weekend inside barns in just a weekend. Our builder did use a chemical to sterilize the area around our house several months before we eventually moved in, especially after his non salt treated "built by" sign was handily eaten by termites within a couple of weeks. European hornets also had to be dealt with by a licensed exterminator.
However, the biggest challenge to us were the ticks. Ticks carry a bevy of really serious diseases, and we wanted to find a non-chemical way of managing them here. We tried the Integrated Pest Management method or IPM.
By strictest of definitions, IPM or Integrated Pest Management uses a variety of reasoned techniques in order to keep undesirable pest populations down. The goals of IPM are to minimize risks to human beings, control pests in an economic fashion, and to use the interventions which are best for the environment. This might sound as if these are opposing goals, but many times, they are possible. IPM can be applied to both undesirable insects or to undesirable plants as well. Since so many products are shipped all over the world, undesirable or "thug" plants or insects often enter an environment in which they should not exist. (Remember kudzu in the US, and Gypsy moths, for example. Both of them existed in other environments in balance, but were disastrous when they came to certain regions of the US.) IPM is about facilitating natural balance whenever possible.
With this in mind, what works as Integrated Pest Management in Florida won't work here. What works in New Jersey won't work here, and what works here for certain pests or issues won't work in Alaska. Different states and different regions of states have their own ecosystems. In fact, my farm may be a different ecosystem than my friend Jan's farm which is in the same zip code.
Since coming to this farm I can think of at least two ways in which we have used IPM techniques. When we built our first farm we had a terrible problem with ticks. To help abate this problem we applied the IPM technique of using ladybugs. The local guidelines were to use one package of 10,000 ladybugs purchased from a local vendor for each acre for which you wished to diminish ticks. We decided to decrease the tick problem on the three acres which we used most often and so we purchased three packages of ten thousand each. We liberated these as per the directions, from their gauze bags, one evening, by hosing down the gauze bag with water. The lady bugs flew away. The intent is that the ladybugs will eat the tick eggs and dramatically decrease their population. The following year, we were amazed that our dogs, and all of us, didn't have ticks at all. This was invaluable in a place where Lyme Disease is a very big problem, and where one of my dogs was treated for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever one year. This does increase the population of ladybugs in your house in Fall. If you wish to relocate them, put a raisin on a plate and when they collect there, relocate the plate.
Another technique is using an organism which is relatively harmless to us, but rids us of a serious pest. In the last few years we have had an increasing problem with Gypsy Moth caterpillars in our trees in Spring. These can be a serious problem. Again, as per the directions of our local extension agent, we bought
something called bacillus thurigiensis. This bacillus is an organism which is employed as an insecticide. Bt was discovered in 1911, but not available for us as an insecticide until the 1950s. There are a number of varieties of Bt. The one we use can be placed on leaves, and then when Gypsy Moth caterpillars eat the leaves. It reacts with their intestinal systems killing them by starvation. It is not a nerve poison and so it is not a hazard to other animals, or to human beings.
If you wish to see if IPM methods could be helpful in your yard, or farm, contact your local extension agent. They are very willing to show people who will listen, how they can avoid the use of pesticides which wind up in our own water.
|Look at the lovely Wisteria hanging on this building.|
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