Less work for you often means more for somebody else. If you like that idea, then just allow what comes naturally. Encourage the Beneficials! This may be the most logical way yet of practicing IPM* (Integrated Pest Management).
Here it is in a nutshell:
Rather than simply killing all of what you may see as pests in your environment, what we refer to as "See & Spray," consider letting them go to work for you. By-passing the obvious strengths in nature that occur without any interference from us (because people often see themselves as the master of their own universe, right?), you may just end up making your job even harder in the long run by going ballistic. Why not work with Mother Nature? See what she has to offer you first. When using IPM you'll look at the environmental factors that affect a given pest and its ability to thrive, in essence working to eradicate the unwanted ones by letting their natural enemies have them for lunch. Looks to be a win-win situation. Perhaps you recall how Blog #1 began.. IF ants are around, they are already working for you...
Basically you find and implement the tools (the know how so to speak) to do what it takes to create the conditions that are unfavorable to these unwanted pests. Meanwhile, you encourage those willing to do the work for you. Rest assured--due to signals other insects or vegetation emit on their own, incidentally ones we cannot see or smell, (by way of pheromones) those with a vested interest (the beneficials) will show up if their particular service is needed.
Here is a cool story you may enjoy. I once lived in a community that insisted their white pine trees needed to be sprayed (with a very bad actor, no less namely Lindane) because of an infestation of pine beetles. Nothing could have been further from the truth. After much discussion and yours truly not wanting to resort to being ill for them just wanting to spray like always, I then consulted an IPM specialist and an Arborist. It is a good thing I was so stubborn, because having waited taught me it's often best to go with your gut instinct, and here is why: We learned that these trees were at the end of their life cycle, albeit early (about 12 years). These trees were selected by the community builder for being really fast growing and very cheap to plant, but not ideal for the location they were placed in. This poor planning in an effort to save money in the beginning obviously backfired when the trees could have remained healthy at a much higher elevation for 3-4 times as long. It is referred to as White Pine Decline. Now they were faced with a dilemma to not only paying to have the trees removed, but also the added cost of replacing them far ahead of their time. The normal signals (pheromones) the trees put out as they passed the time of survival merely told the beetles (the beneficials) that it was time for them to benefit from the decay the tree was entering into. In a way, the beetles put the trees that are dying out of their misery. Natures Way of telling them something's wrong. Nothing could have saved these trees, so the chemical intervention would have been a waste of money, create an unnecessary chemical exposure and risk, plus contaminate the environment, not to mention prolong the agony of the trees themselves. I find that rather sad. Hence, in this case the "See & Spray" concept would have been a knee jerk response, and one many would regret.
(Note: What follows is meant to be an introduction only, not a comprehensive listing).
So, let's meet some of the BENEFICIALS!
Bats: (take on a number of foes, even the dreaded mosquito)
Build your own bat house:
In case you did not know this, bats sometimes carry rabies, but so do squirrels. Possum and other neighborhood dwellers do as well, like foxes so please do not automatically freak out about bats. We keep bat houses and we don't have any negative issues with them around. Others we know do too without adverse incidents. Technically an exposure risk from Hanta virus (or Leptospirosis) is likely more a risk to you and yours from squirrels and burrowers (like moles, voles and gophers) than your risk of contracting rabies from bats. We will go into more detail on this in a different Blog. For now, try not to worry so much. That you make yourself aware of such things puts you well ahead of the game already.
Birds: (eats bugs and larvae, disperses seeds and often considered the natural cleaning crew)
Build your own birdhouses and feeders:
Carabids: aka Ground beetles (natural enemy of slugs and snails, among others)
Green Lacewing: (considered the best generalist)
Ladybugs: (got aphids? Here is the most widely recognized and utilized garden beneficial)
Nematodes: (secret underground pest control)
Parasitic & Hunter Wasps: (the specialists- over 100 varieties)
Praying Mantis: (Jack-of-all trades: eats bugs, frogs & even rodents/ they come in all sizes)
Snakes (ranked #1 to keep rodents from running amuck)
Spiders: (not insects but arachnids are hunters or weavers)
And, there are different sorts of beneficials to consider and encourage..not just the carnivores!
Bumble, honey & Mason bees: (the dependable pollinators)
Earthworms: (the natural composters)
So now that the introductions have been made and you have the basics, let's end with just a couple ECO-Friendly World suggestions to keep the good guys around to work for you!
First, just do not use chemical pesticides (herbicides or insecticides). There are viable alternatives if you really must take that drastic step. The usual suspects are long lasting in the environment, often quite toxic and will surely kill the GOOD GUYS that otherwise prey on those you don't want around. It will also contaminate soil and edible plants. You may further deprive birds and other welcomed wildlife of a safe food source. It contributes to drift and run-off. It may accidentally poison a beloved pet or young child. We have discussed in two previous Blog entries the potential harm to health, which bears repeating now. We need balance in all aspects of our ecosystem. Finally, use mulch to discourage weed growth and to conserve water.
Further, grow as many organic native plants that you can in your environment, those which the GOOD GUYS favor since your desire is to encourage them. Variety is the spice of life afterall. Like: clover, comfrey, marigolds, parsley, sage, sunflowers and rosemary to name a few. When you grow plants native to your area, there is less chance for pest invasion, and less resources needed to grow them in their natural state. This could in turn make less demands on economic resources too with an increased chance for longevity. Create optimal conditions to promote a healthy habitat and varied beneficial populations. Your workers will thrive, so the demands on you will lessen. Perhaps you may have more time to just enjoy what you have, as you maintain your property with added efficiency. It also will just be a healthier place for children and pets, and where family and friends can thrive and prosper. Your home is your haven, a respite. Care for it and its inhabitants well.
Thank you for visiting us and learning more about ways to manage everyday problems we all encounter. Start relying less upon a reactionary approach to problems that arise such as pests, and incorporating IPM principles from our ECO-Friendly World Blog. We do not necessarily endorse the links we selected. We consider them to be a starting point only. Many options are readily available to our readers. Feel free to pick and choose to your own liking. The public library would be a good reference as well. Just try and open yourself up to the possibilities.
We also thank you for learning more about IMHA through Angel Mica and Mirra's advocacy work. The disease we hope to eradicate has taken way too many, including one of our very own. It desperately needs dollars for research to prevent and cure. Anyone who shares their life with companion animals knows the ultimate joy they bring and how much they enrich our lives. We truly believe that the choices we make each day can contribute positively to our own good health, or negatively as the case may be, but the good ones help preserve the environment we enjoy and share today and on behalf of future generations. PAWlease join us in this commitment to live in peace and harmony with all living creatures.
Thank you for your interest in our work and for your support.
Pictured in our own yard is our Belgian Groenendael (GROW-nun-doll) dog Mirra as a pup discovering one of the good guys, a common garter snake. Thankfully no one was harmed in the making of that video. The snake was just as curious as Mirra was and neither were a threat to the other. Each went their own happy way after this face-to-face meeting.
M, M & Angel M