Monday, June 11, 2012

Business Advice that's Bad for the Birds

Washington Post business article is off base.
In yesterday's Washington Post business section, "Value Added: Mosquito-control business scratches this entrepreneur’s itch" describes a $300,000 business which is a franchise of the mosquito squad and the owner is a full time firefighter. (Update: the article appears not be be available any more.)

This article is wrong on several points in my opinion, but the one concerning green gardening is that the business is one that damages the environment.

General pesticides kill both the good and bad the bugs, which creates an imbalance in the ecosystem--the predators are left without any prey and so they either move away or don't survive. As the bugs recover, Mother Nature's natural predators including birds, bats, and predatory insects such as ladybugs and praying mantids are gone, so the homeowner poisons again and again. Each time the bad bugs come back in greater numbers and some even build up immunity to that poison. It's called the poison cycle.

The author of this article states at the beginning that he is jealous of this parttime businessman, but at the end of the article he hints at the problems he's caused.
The “product” — the franchisees refrain from using the term “pesticide” — paralyzes and kills the insects.
Usually when I get up in the morning, the birds are all over my front and back lawns, feeding on bugs and the millions of other things living in my neighborhood.
But on Friday, the day after Mosquito Squad sprayed, there wasn’t a bug in sight.

For more details on this vicious poison cycle read: "Just say NO to poisons" or "A poison is a poison is a poison." Plus, in "Sustainable Gardening for Florida," I spend a whole chapter on integrated pest management with details on how to manage pest bugs without poisons.

The Audubon Society estimates that some of our songbird populations have shrunk by 80% since the 1960s. That's a lot of birds and there are additional potential reasons for their demise in addition to residential poison applications: loss of habitat and roaming cats.

Green gardeners can help the birds by:

- not using general pesticides on their properties.
- creating habitat on their properties and in their neighborhoods.
- keeping cats inside and reducing feral cat populations.
- spreading the word.

For more information, see the Resources page.

Green gardening matters,Ginny


  1. I have discovered so many more birds and less pesky insects...of course my neighbors spray all over and mow I have heard one more may use one of those chemical lawn services....very bad..

  2. Ginny, I was working last week in a lushly full pollinator garden where the "keeper" was explaining to visitors that in the gardens's first year, aphids and other bugs had eaten a lot of the new plants, but they refused to use poisons. By the second year, predator bugs had the bad bugs under control, and now in the third year, the garden is home to many butterflies, bees and other pollinators, in addition to tons of birds.

  3. Yes, I cringe when the poison trucks rumble down our street. You'd think that in tough times that people would stop paying for these "services."

    Breaking the poison cycle does take time. What I'm trying to accomplish by highlighting articles like this, is to spread the word. Maybe a few people will stop and then maybe a few more. Some people may stop when they start growing some edibles in their yards. Little by little...