Thursday, March 17, 2011

Pesticide Thoughts

A vital part of my organic pest control system.

I garden mostly organic. That is to say, what most old timers would call organic before the government hijacked the word. But beyond that, I have a few caveats I insist on.

The first of these is safety. I like all sorts of critters in my gardens, including the stinging ones. But if they scare my daughter or sting me I will finish off the offending nest. 

The second is using up existing stocks of fertilizer. I use chemical fertilizer sparingly in controlled doses. I figure I will do more damage over time by throwing it away.

There are other things, but that gives you the basic picture. I know that many of my readers use some or lots of chemicals. And I know others use none. My hope is to generate a constructive discussion so that we can all understand each other better.

I've come up with three scenarios. These are based on situations that happen in the real world although the specifics are not true.

Please feel free to make well thought out comments. Be ready to back up your points and accept the views of others as valid, even if you disagree.

Scenario #1
The health minister of a small, third world nation is faced with a growing death toll due to malaria. He is working with the Western democracies to educate his people on how to improve their conditions, but the reality is that it will take years. It doesn't help that much of the nation is on low lying land and has natural pools of standing water.

Most of the government is corrupt, but due to international pressure they have provided a small amount of money to combat the problem. As the minister looks at his resources he realizes that he has just enough money for a mosquito elimination program using DDT. The money is not sufficient for anything else, not even one of the newer pesticides. If he uses the DDT, new cases of malaria will drop to almost nothing.

Scenario #2
Six months ago you picked up some bed bugs at a hotel while you were visiting family on the East coast, and they have infested your home. You've done your research, but the only things you can find that are not chemical based involve putting a quarantine on your house and possessions for at least a year or use a plant derived 'repellant'.

You opted to use the repellant, and it works fine on you, but the kids are suffering worse that ever. They're always covered with bites and the new mattresses you bought are already covered with bed bug feces.

Your in-laws are reluctantly willing to take you in, but they think you are being silly and should just spray. In fact, they just had their house sprayed as a precaution.

Scenario #3
A farmer in 1950s Idaho has the opportunity to spray nicotine insecticides on his wheat and potatoes. Other farmers in the area use 
it already and are impressed with the results. One of his friends doesn't trust chemicals, but since the cigarettes they both smoke have nicotine in them, the farmer thinks his friend is just being a little crazy. 

The farmer is old enough to remember the Great Depression and is willing to do just about anything to make his farm work so his family doesn't have to see that kind of poverty again.

Now, the question to all of you is what would you do under these conditions? Remember to be courteous, back up your position in a well thought out manner, and respect other points of view especially if they are radically different from your own.

Please be brutally honest with yourselves, though. Don't cheat yourself out of paying the price on any of your choices.


  1. Well, in reply to the bedbugs, I experienced them and used chemicals to eliminate them. I didn't even look into natural products because I just wanted them gone and fast. Luckily they were in a travel trailer and I was able to stay out of it for several months after I let the bug bomb off.

    For the mosquitoes, I'd probably use the DDT, not having any other resources or education. This is where outreach comes in. The Philippine government is currently using and pushing the use of composting worms for garbage disposal and in agriculture because they see the benefit.

    For the nicotine, I'd probably use it because I'm that kind of person. It wouldn't sound crazy to me.

  2. No DDT! too many long term consequences. Put the money into groundwork and education.
    Bedbugs: get after it with the pesticides, ditch the possessions and spray the bare bones of the home.
    Fifties Farmer: At that point in time the old farmers I know would have all thought about it especially if it was the hot topic at the coffee shop. However the final decision would be based on necessity because I would have lived through the depression.

  3. no DDT!!! having been in the tropics various times, mosquitos are there and your not going to get rid of them but there are plenty of critters who feed on them and they are an integral part of the eco system..
    as for the bedbugs.. a thorough turfing and cleaning and a one time shot of pesticide followed by copious amounts of diotomatious earth sprinkled in and around all mattresses and carpets...
    the nicotine spray is a very old method of pest control and i would most likely use it but a word of warning.. if you intend on planting tomatoes or peppers in the offending areas don't use it!!!

  4. I couldn't use DDT under the first scenario. It wouldn't really eradicate mosquitoes anyway. It would only breed mosquitoes resistant to DDT, and it would do it very quickly. You'd see a year or so of reduced mosquito population, and then it would come roaring back. Not worth the health risks to people and the damage to the environment.

    For bedbugs, I would earnestly try anything and everything to avoid a chemical bomb in my house, including throwing out the mattresses, but then ours are all old anyway.