Spring is here and the birds are a singing. The return of life after a long winter’s hush is something to celebrate. One can see this shift in our backyards and on the faces of people. We are out of hibernation friends!
This morning as I listened to birds tweet, chirp and chaw my thought returned to a recent documentary screening I attended at a local community college. The Messenger, directed by Su Rynard was visually stunning and filled with science gadgets and people with cool jobs. Yep, a five star flick!
In this film the birds are messengers of our possible future. The songbird populations around the world are in decline. At the environmental education center where I teach one of our focuses is on the food web. If any part of the web is interrupted the effects ripple throughout the web, everything is connected. In this movie the plight of the songbirds can be directly connected to the hand of mankind.
As humans strive to improve their lives nature is often not taken into consideration until we see red flags –and the flags are flying folks. Scientists are finding a common issue in birds, they are underweight. Insect populations are on decline due to overuse of pesticides. Not only are pesticides killing land insects but those same chemicals are also killing insects and small amphibians in our waterways. Taking insects out of the food web means starving the birds. I personally would rather promote insect control methods using birds than become further dependent on chemicals. Seems like a no brainer to me. Yet we slowly poison ourselves and the environment every day. How smart are we?
The weather is warming up so how do you combat the insect invasion advancing toward your garden and flowerbeds without chemicals?
One way is to find out what birds in your area eat the insects you wish to control. What type of habitat do they need? Habitat is made up of food and water, shelter and space. If you can meet their needs they may come. Okay, relying on birds to help you save your plants is not a perfect plan. Lucky for us there are other natural strategies that work. Using a combination of methods can reduce the negative impact insects on crops.
A good strategy is to invite insect connoisseurs into yard. Toads, bats, chickens and ducks devourer creepy crawlies plus leave fertilizers behind.
Certain plants repel bug. Tomato hornworms don’t like basil so plant it next to tomatoes. Nematodes, carrot flies and rust fly do not like onions by planting onions and carrots next to each other makes for healthy carrot crops. Unfortunately I don’t believe rabbits, moles or groundhogs mind onions next to the carrots.
Marigold flowers are great sacrifice plants in the garden. Slugs love marigolds; they will happily munch on the leaves and pass by other plants. Placing bowls of beer (slug swimming pools) in the garden leads to slugs happily “drownding” their sorrows in the beer. At my house I had two problems with this method. One, my dogs drank the beer and two; my husband didn’t care to share his beer.
I’m not fond of snakes because they always seem to surprise me when we meet. Snakes are great predators to have a around. They love the warmth of compost piles and eat slugs. My compost pile and garden are breeding areas for slugs…and snakes. Yikes! I feel ALIVE when I’m screaming and running away from a snake. Got to love those snakes…
Sometimes you have to buy or make a concoction to win the war on bugs. Please read labels and find the least toxic method possible because it’s your environment too. You are part of the food web so reduce toxic chemicals whenever possible. It’s a good plan for the whole planet!
By Jill Eudaly
Photo by Jill Eudaly