Whether it's a school or home garden, pesticides can wreak havoc on ecosystems. Contributor Kacey Mya shares the environmental impacts of pesticides and provides some alternative management strategies. 

Pesticides: Environmental Impacts and Management Strategies

When the weather warms up and you go outside, bugs are the last thing you want to deal with. They come back in a big way after winter ends, but you may not want to reach for the pesticides in your garage. They have some major environmental impacts that will clash with anyone who wants to live a sustainable lifestyle.8751abc5a884d2d99e3d17e2558cb721-huge-bu

Check out a few of the environmental impacts of pesticides and management strategies that will take care of your bug problem. You don't need to introduce chemicals into the environment to banish pests and have a great summer.

1. Chemicals Hurt Bats

Sometimes it's easier to spray pesticides over wide areas to solve pest problems quickly, like over large farm fields. Although this kind of practice isn't new, people have begun to see the effects on wildlife. 

In 2006, researchers found a cave full of bats that had died while hibernating. After looking closely for a cause of death, the team discovered that a popular agricultural production pesticide known as organochlorine had weakened the bats' immune systems and left them vulnerable to White Nose Syndrome, which ultimately killed them.

Instead of repeating this pesticide usage, large farms can read about Integrated Pest Management (IPM) principles to form plans that reduce field pests without hurting the local wildlife populations.

​​​​​​​2. Insecticides Kill Honeybees

Bees can be a nuisance in your yard, but spraying insecticides isn't the solution. These chemicals kill bees both directly and indirectly, which contributes to their population decline and puts global food security at even greater risk.

You can stop killing your local honeybee population when you avoid DIY pest control methods that do more harm than good. A professional team can find insecticides that are easier on bees and help the environment. 

​​​​​​​3. Waterways Lose Ecosystems

Most pesticides are water-soluble so they break down when you water your plants. It makes them easier for plants to absorb, but it also helps them flush into local waterways faster. After they reach groundwater, they can remain there for years and end up in your drinking water. 

One way to navigate this issue is only to spray the minimal amount of pesticides you need and avoid spraying your yard or garden before or after it rains. Drier soil will hold onto pesticides longer, giving them more time to become less potent.

​​​​​​​4. Chemicals Disrupt Mammal Hormones

The chemicals in pesticides are powerful, so studies have shown that they disrupt normal mammal hormones in animals and humans. It puts reproductive abilities at risk, so try not to use pesticides to banish creatures like rats and small animals from your property. Switch to live traps with bait so you can call animal control professionals to release them in a safer area away from where you live. 

​​​​​​​5. Humans Risk Drinking Pesticides

Secondary poisoning from water runoff drags pesticides into local water bodies, flushing them into wells and other sources of drinking water. Try not to use chemical-based pesticides before a rainstorm or watering your lawn so it stays where you spray it. You can also use organic pesticides to reduce how many chemicals you introduce into your local environmen

What to do instead 

1. Plant ‘insectary plants’ to attract ‘bouncer bugs’ to your garden

By cultivating plants that produce nectar or pollen (e.g. blackberry, honeysuckle, marigold, rosemary), you will attract bees and other ‘good bugs’ who will act as ‘bouncers’ to keep pests at bay. 

2. Make your garden a sanctuary for birds

Birds will help get rid of a range of pests, including caterpillars, snails, slugs and many more pests that may harm your plants. Attracting birds with bird feeders, bird boxes, bird baths and many trees will encourage them to frequent your garden and naturally ‘exterminate’ bugs in your garden, while promoting essential biodiversity! 

3. Mulch! 

Organic mulch is a great way to suppress weeds and repel bugs, and because it will decompose over time, it will provide important nutrients for your plants. Interestingly, black mulch has been found to attract rather than repel bugs, so pick any colour other than black. 

4. Conduct regular leaf inspections

You can nip a bug problem in the bud by catching an infestation early. Discolored and unhealthy leaves are more likely to attract pests, so remove unhealthy or diseased plants as soon as possible. 

By Kacey Mya
Posted by Kelly Harding on Jul 6, 2020 9:25 AM America/Chicago

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