Thoughts on the Environment Around Us

It is early 2019 and my native trees and bird feeder are aflutter with winter activity; including the year round cardinal couple, extended families of sparrows, house finches, mourning doves, and shy Carolina chickadees. The winter-visitor, slate-gray juncos are here now, as well as the dramatic visiting red bellied woodpecker. Red winged blackbirds who perch so lightly on marsh reeds are occasionals,often when the day-tripper robins fly over for berries from my holly trees, while their underground foods are harder to find. I have watched them delicately collect fallen berries from the soft surface of snow. My yard has always been a year round ecosystem. I have never used chemical lawn pesticides. The animals residing, or visiting, here seek food in the healthy, natural soils; and from the life-sustaining plants, seeds, and tree berries. My sons grew up appreciating, and learning from the diversity in our land’s barrier island’s ecosystems. We observed at dusk, bunches of dragonflies flitting, and darting, gobbling insects from the air. Small brown bats higher in the darkening sky, swooped for their dinners of night insects. Smithsonian Fun Facts states that dragonflies are great for mosquito control, while in their aquatic larval stage; as well as their adult stage, when they can consume up to hundreds of mosquitoes in a single day. We rarely see dragonflies here now. There are many toxic chemical lawn pesticides used in my neighborhood. The bats seem mostly gone also. In 2012 Dan Ashe, the director of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stated, “Bats provide tremendous value to the U.S. Economy as natural pest control for American farms and forests every year.” When species like bats and dragonflies are decimated, balances of ecosystems are interrupted, potentially producing spikes in prey insect populations, lacking their natural predator controls. While chemical lawn pesticides dowsing is cheap and easy, the ecological ecosystems imbalances, environmental harm, and human health costs; including lawsuits are accumulating. Our students learn about environmental care/ protection, but here they are living among chemical-pesticide lawns with nursery stock plants,imbibed with neonicotinoids, although vendors do not advertise the pervasive presence of neonicotinoids in their nursery stock plants The neonicotinoid, Imidacloprid, possessing many human and wildlife neurological warnings; including pollinator toxicity,was applied on Veteran’s Park in OC, during the week of 9 July,2018. Sonia Shah, Yale Environment 360, (2010) states, ”Applied to the soil or doused on seeds, neonicotinoid insecticides incorporate themselves into the plant’s tissues,turning the plant itself into a tiny poison factory emitting toxin from its roots,leaves,stems pollen, and nectar.” Of particular concern is the guttation fluid of plants that pollinators like insects, birds, and bats drink. Vincenzo Girolami,entomologist at the University of Padua, Italy writes,”Guttation is a natural plant phenomenon causing the excretion of xylem fluid at leaf margins [the xylem system of plants is akin to our circulatory systems]…The concentration of neonicotinoids in guttation drops can be near those of active ingredients commonly applied in field sprays for pest control, or even higher. When bees consume guttation drops, collected from plants [containing the high concentrations of neonicotinoids]…they encounter death within a few minutes.” The responsibility is on the consumer to be informed and inquisitive about all vendors’ plants. Our Earth’s pollinators are priceless participants in the continuation of plant species. Nix the toxic neonicotinoids plants and the chemical lawn pesticides this spring. If you must have herbicides; use corn gluten meal. But consider what you can plant to support an earth healthy future for your children, and children’s children. May they be able to look at us in gratitude for our investment in preserving the birds, pollinators, and the multitudes of earth’s ecosystems.

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