In the 21st century numerous man-made dangers stalk our lives. These range from automobile accidents to agricultural pesticides.
We have developed safety laws, vaccines and medicines to give us a chance to survive. We have enacted policies to protect life forms necessary to our survival, as well. In the circle of life, we are all interconnected.
The decline in pollinators and other beneficial insects is increasing. For example, a scientific study from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation points a finger at neonicotinoids — also called neonics — a group of insecticides chemically like nicotine.
Just like the negative impact of nicotine on human health, neonicotinoids are bad for insects. The European Union banned their outdoor use in 2013.
The development and production of pesticides is a multi-billion-dollar industry. Its main players are powerful and influential.
Fertilizers and pesticides have enabled farmers to keep almost 8 billion people fed every day. The benefits are huge. However, that achievement is not without cost.
Unfortunately, this damage is being done to a key component of our web of life itself — bees, butterflies, other pollinating insects and birds. If we eliminate these pollinators, our whole food system will collapse.
Win-win-win for homeowners, businesses and local government: 1) You’ll help preserve your already-threatened food supply. 2) You’ll save money. 3) You’ll help ensure a livable future for today’s children.
Those of us who have gardens and lawns have the power to make a small “push back” in favor of the bees and butterflies.
Rather than purchase a manufactured herbicide to keep weeds in check on patios or along the sidewalk, mix up a natural weapon, one that contains vinegar.
Spray it on in the morning, weeds are dying by evening. For common diseases of plants as well as certain insect pests, use Neem oil.
Every small step makes a difference. Start with helping the pollinators, expand your efforts to Recycle-Reduce-Reuse, and advocate for renewable energy. Each action strengthens your muscles and builds a better neighborhood for us all.
What you can do now:
Make my recipe for weed killer: 1 gallon vinegar, 2 cups Epson salt, and ¼ cup Dawn dishwashing liquid. Limit its use, especially when including salt.
When no rain is forecast for a day or more, pour a little or squirt on weeds between pavement, along the edge of patios and lawns. Spray it on in the morning, weeds are dying by evening. Warning: Don’t let it run into the soil or plants you want to keep.
For diseases such as fungus and for harmful, non-native insects, buy Neem oil concentrate, which is approved for organic gardens. Mix, use, and store only according to the directions.
Avoid spraying flowers — just the leaves. Warnings: Do wear a mask and do wear gloves and long sleeves. Inhaled Neem oil coats the lungs. Neem works on dozens of plants but harms others; read the list on the bottle.
More information: “How to Use Neem Oil to Prevent Garden Pests” – Mother Earth News — https://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/pest-control/how-to-use-neem-oil-zw0z1304zkin
“Ten Things You Always Wanted to Know about Neonics” – Natural Resources Defense Council — https://www.nrdc.org/experts/daniel-raichel/ten-things-you-always-wanted-know-about-neonics
“Country-specific effects of neonicotinoid pesticides on honey bees and wild bees” –A research report in Science — https://science.sciencemag.org/content/356/6345/1393
Mary Thomas is a volunteer with the First United Methodist Church and the FUMC Caring for Creation Alliance of North Carolina. She lives in Waynesville.