Wild creatures are inadvertently harmed when humans apply poison baits, pesticides and insecticides or discard trash inadequately. Yet, there are safe alternatives.
For example, poisoned baits intended for rodents also entice non-targeted animals, such as bobcats, coyotes and hawks. Preferable approaches are removing bird seed, food waste, junk piles, pet food and other rodent attractants.
Also troublesome are pesticides. They protect crops but devastate birds. Ingested granules impair birds’ singing abilities -- vital for attracting mates. Additionally, chick hatching and survival may be jeopardized.
Another hazard is a contaminated food web: Tainted locusts are eaten by a frog, which is eaten by a snake, which is eaten by
Surely, there are harmless pesticide substitutes. In biocontrol, the natural enemies of pests are introduced to crops. Beneficial parasitic wasps that control aphids can be attracted by growing herbs and flowers that supply nectar and pollen, such as dill and Queen Anne’s lace. In ancient China, ants controlled insects on citrus fruit.
Natural barriers, another form of biocontrol, may involve beetle banks (berms) to eliminate pests. When bunch grasses or perennials like sunflowers are planted on barriers in the middle of crop fields, they create havens for beetles and other beneficial creatures that consume pests.
Likewise advantageous is companion planting (polyculture). For instance, tomatoes repel diamond-backed moth larvae that destroy cabbage; therefore, plant tomatoes adjacent to cabbage. Moreover, basil protects tomatoes against tomato hornworms that defoliate the tomato plant and eat the fruit.
As well, flowers deter pests. Chrysanthemums, which contain pyrethrum (common in insect repellent), deter Japanese beetles and more. Marigolds deter aphids and rabbits. Nasturtiums are desirable garden border plants since pests such as cabbage moths are attracted to their leaves, and not to crops. Petunias capture pests including asparagus beetles in their sticky stamens.
There are accomplished pest controllers. Birds feed on caterpillars, moths or snails. Bats also feed on moths. Bird feeders and bat boxes attract these invaluable creatures. In addition, water accessibility in gardens draws hungry amphibians.
Among other concerns are insecticides. They eliminate insects, especially bees, our essential pollinators. Bees survive on nectar and pollen from flowers, but systemic or contact insecticides contaminate flowers.
Individual gardeners can help: Invite bees to nontoxic plants cultivated in your backyard or on a city rooftop.
Exceedingly harmful to wildlife is trash, notably plastics. One dead sperm whale’s stomach was found to contain 100 plastic cups, 25 plastic bags, four plastic bottles, and two flip-flops. A pelican died after ingesting 17 plastic bags. Starving polar bears swallow plastics. Ingested plastics restrict digestion and leak toxins. Furthermore, kite strings and fishing lines and nets entangle birds and other animals, causing starvation.
Though it might seem inconvenient, wildlife can be protected while practicing natural pest control. Position vegetative buffers, filter strips or straw wattles to curb toxic agricultural run-off. Substitute plastic items with eco-friendly products. Dispose of trash judiciously.