The Good News is that out of about 900,000 insect species currently living on our planet, only 1% to 3% are pests. We do not need systemic neonicotinoids (neonics) or any toxic pesticides to grow plants well. The solution is to employ human attention, biodiversity, nutrient-dense soils, application of nontoxic management, and tolerance.
The Bad News is that most people and most nurseries don’t know the good news. They believe the chemical companies when they tell us that we need to fear and attack insects and fungi as enemies.
There’s More Good News: Concerned citizens have been contacting growers and nurseries and asking them whether they are using systemic neonic poisons in their plants and soils, and this is having a powerful effect. These companies now know that we care, and we will not buy plants grown with neonics. This is leading to some positive changes in the industry.
The Particulars of Non-toxic Pest Management:
- Pest Control is not a realistic goal. Nature is powerful and inventive, and she abhors a vacuum. Whatever new poison we make, insects and pathogens will adapt, leading to the creation of super weeds and super bugs, or creating an opening for new pest species to move in.
- We can accomplish Pest Management and balance. How? Always leave 10-20% of the pests to attract and feed beneficial insects. Use non-toxic management products, cultural practices, and mechanical solutions (see below).
- Think like Mother Nature: Expect predation and, if possible, grow more than you need.
- Evaluate pest damage 3 days in a row. Is the damage minor or serious? If it’s minor, let nature’s predators keep the balance. If the damage is major, try non-toxic solutions that do not kill or weaken beneficial insects, bees, and humans. Learn to recognize the beneficial insects at work.
- There are many earth-friendly pest management approaches:
- Cultural: Examples are – growing the right plants in the right place and planting at the right time.
- Nutritional: Healthy soil grows healthy plants that attract fewer pests.
- Environmental: Growing diverse plants that support beneficial insects, critters and birds that help control pests by predation.
- Mechanical: Barriers like row cover fabric, mesh, or screen; copper strips or wool mulch to deter slugs, etc.
- Repellants & Anti-feedants: neem, garlic, cayenne, cinnamon, etc.
- Lethal but Non-Poisonous Products: horticultural oils that kill insects by suffocation; Soap solutions that kill insects by desiccation; strong herbs like thyme, rosemary, garlic sprayed directly on pests leave no residual.
- Occasionally our solutions don’t work: A plague of locusts or some newly introduced bug like Emerald Ash Borer may descend on our locale, but it’s not the end of the world. Accepting our losses and choosing different plants are far better than poisoning the planet for our children, killing bees, beneficial insects, and birds, and weakening our own health.
- Neighborhood education: learning what works from each other.
Nature is a system that supports Life. If we want to align ourselves with the Power of Nature and if we want to be on the long-term winning side, then we support life, too. The age of warring against Life is over. The Old Paradigm is Kill the Enemies, The 21st Century Paradigm is:
Support Life, Learn from Life, Partner with Nature and each other
We can do this! Harlequin’s Gardens has been poison-free for 30 years. Here are links to some more detailed articles on this subject, also written by Mikl Brawner.
And from the National Pesticide Information Center, Beneficial Insects