Loaded “Guns” in Your Childish Hands

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Homeowners throughout the United States are wanting the grounds surrounding their homes to be aesthetically pleasing. So they invest in bushes, trees, flowering plants, hardscape, and maybe even a vegetable garden. Then, to keep them looking nice, they water, fertilize, prune, trim, and whatever else they can to maintain the beauty of their territory.

And then one day, while strolling through their grounds, they spy a six-legged something on a bush, tree, or tomato plants, and they immediately fall to pieces like a Jenga game with the wrong piece pulled out. “What is that thing,” they cry in horror. “It’s eating my bushes on which I spent so much money!” Or maybe they spy some weeds that had the audacity to spring up in their otherwise pristine lawn. “This must not stand,” they exclaim to themselves. “I will not tolerate anything marring the perfectly coifed beauty of my yard! I must go to my local big box store and purchase something to spray on the offending intruder that will punish it with death for its brazen invasion of my property!”

May I inject a little sanity into this situation? First of all, calm down. It’s probably safe to say that you’re not dealing with a locust swarm that threatens to devastate all your food crops and cause you to starve over the winter. Second, before you start indiscriminately spraying chemicals all over your yard, I suggest that you first take the time to identify exactly what it is that is setting on your landscape or growing in your lawn. Take a picture or capture it live, look it up on the Internet, or bring it in to your local Cooperative Extension office and ask someone there to identify it for you. You may discover that the creature is harmless or maybe even beneficial. Or even if it is a pest that could potentially defoliate bush, tree, flower, or vegetable, there are more than likely many environmentally friendly ways of dealing with it.

“Don’t talk to me about that ‘preserve the environment’ crap,” you might be saying. I want a beautiful lawn, trees, and bushes, and I’ve got to do whatever it takes to make that happen! Besides, if my yard isn’t perfectly pristine, what will the neighbors think!?”

I have no idea what your neighbors will or won’t think. But I do know that if you start randomly spraying chemicals on the first insect or weed you see, then you are like a child with a loaded gun. And just as a child firing that loaded gun has no concept of the carnage and damage he could cause, he who indiscriminately sprays chemicals has no idea of the environmental harm he could cause. Used improperly, these chemicals can kill bees and other beneficial insects, leach into our groundwater and poison fish and other marine life, and potentially promote cancer or other life-threatening diseases in your pets, your children, and you. Using environmentally friendly means of pest and weed control is more than just nice words. It can ensure that the flora and fauna on this planet (including you and your loved ones) can continue to survive and thrive and that you can leave a world for your children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren that’s better than when you entered it. And that’s far more important than what a random collection of neighbors might think — that is, if they actually think of you at all in the first place.

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