Sunday, April 21, 2013

'Tis the season

The approach of spring means the beginning of 'spray season' for many tree companies.  Any time we introduce a product into the environment, pesticide or fertilizer, we are altering the ecosystem.  It's important to consider some things when choosing pesticides.  How the active ingredient controls the pest and it's residual in the landscape are important concepts in an integrated pest management program.  Care should be taken to choose products that do the least amount of harm to beneficial/benign arthropods.

Pyrethrin and spinoside are two chemicals that control many of the same insect pests.  Both mimic substances found in nature.  The difference? Pyrethrin is an indiscriminate killer of most insects and arachnids, including beneficial insects like lady bugs and mantises.  Meanwhile, spinoside has a low toxicity to many beneficial insects plants rely on for protection from herbivorous pests.  Part of integrated pest management practices are preserving, or restoring, the natural balance between pest & prey in the landscape.

Lady bug feeding on a canker work.

Another thing to keep in mind; organic is not a synonym for safe!  There are Organic Materials Review Institute-approved pyrethins that will kill most all arthropods that are exposed to the product.  Meanwhile, there are completely man-made synthetic products that will effectively control the target pest, while preserving beneficial insects.  When developing a pest management strategy, it is imperative to research active ingredients, modes of action, and persistence in the environment.  Read the labels.  Ask questions of the product developers and your local extension.  Those people are great resources, and are there to help.