People, pests and pesticides

March 23, 2010 at midnight
Updated March 23, 2010 at 10:24 p.m.

By Laurie Garretson

As spring arrives and temperatures begin to warm, gardeners know we will soon begin to see pests in our landscapes. Keep in mind we do not need to use harmful chemicals to get rid of our bad insects. Chemical pesticides will kill the bad bugs, along with the beneficial bugs, and humans don't need exposure to any of those harmful chemicals.

I just read a report on pesticide use the other day that said, in 1995, worldwide pesticide sales reached $29 billion, and more than $10 billion was from the United States alone. Can you imagine what those totals are today, 15 years later? I wish I could say the totals declined, but I hear they are much higher.

Happily, those who prefer to use a more natural and healthier way of doing things have an alternative: integrated pest management, a system that uses three common sense solutions to control and treat all pest insects. The solutions include inspection, identification and treatment.

Identifying any problem before it becomes an infestation is easier to solve. Identifying the pest will help you to determine the best and safest treatment for you and all other creatures. The integrated pest management system, along with releasing beneficial insects in your landscape, can make a big difference in your pest control.

Many gardeners don't remember or know that using chemical pesticides on the bad insects also kills the beneficial insects. Pests become resistant to pesticides. This means the chemical companies then make more powerful pesticides, which eventually the pests, again, become resistant to.

This resistance is a natural part of the insect' evolutionary process. As the population of pest insects is killed there will be a small number of them - the hardiest - that survive.

These hardy bad boys then reproduce the next generation that inherits genes that are resistant to the particular chemical. The more often the chemical pesticides are used, the faster the process by which the pests develop a resistance speeds up. Chemical users are on a never-ending toxic, chemical spiral. Unfortunately, all living things have to pay the price of these powerful chemicals.

We must all try and build up our part of the world, instead of killing it off. Without pests, we would never have beneficial bugs. There is a system of checks and balances that natural gardeners should try to achieve.

Releasing beneficial insects in your landscape on a regular schedule can help nature stay balanced. Good insects can help to rid you of almost all the bad guys. Frequently inspect your landscape for any sign of pests. When a sign of problems appears, you can do one of two things: Use a product specific to the pest you wish to eliminate, or release a beneficial insect that has a big appetite for that specific pest. Either way you will help to keep your part of the world healthier.

Until next time, let's try to work with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.



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