Organic Pest Control I: Breaking With the Hive Mind

I guess poking sleeping bears with sharpened sticks is one of my many character flaws; but as you know by now, I’m a knotty-headed daughter born to a clan of knotty-headed gardening women who didn’t have much interest in gardening for the pleasure and romance of living in harmony with Mother Nature, yaddah yaddah.

I guess I  find that my thinking, philosophy, and opinion about organic pest control is somewhat out of step with the common wisdom held by others committed to the organic movement…<deep sigh…>

Brace yourself:  I have to  shoot from the hip about a number of things that sometimes put me at odds with other organic gardening enthusiasts.  You generally won’t catch moralizing purists (and product marketers) acknowledging the following:

  • Although most (not all) organic biocides are “safer” than their conventional gardening counterparts, they are by no means safe.  Duh, they are poisons.   If not utilized and disposed of properly, they are dangerous to human health, and to non-target species like beneficial insects, birds and fish.
  • The use of organic biocides causes pest populations to rebound – thereby requiring regular reapplication of the chemical treatment – exactly the same way that conventional pesticides do;
  • The use of organic biocides causes pest populations to become resistant – exactly the same way that conventional pesticides do;
  • In any given garden, in any given year, with any single pest problem, organic pesticides have limited and unstable degrees of efficacy.

That’s right: a sho’ nuff truth.  Sometimes, organic biocides work well.  And sometimes they don’t.  It seems to me that someone made a rude noise at the party. How can I possibly be the only person in the room willing to admit they heard it?

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7 thoughts on “Organic Pest Control I: Breaking With the Hive Mind

  1. This is so true! I just chopped a cicada in half with my Felcos and do NOT feel bad. Organic poison is just like organic nitrogen – too much is too much. I just try to cater to the good bugs so they’l eat the bad bugs and squish the ones that make me mad.

  2. Margaret Katranides says:

    You’re talking about Bt? It’s the only organic that I’ve ever used. I use Round-Up on the chopped-off stumps of invasives that are too big to uproot. And I don’t feel bad about that, either.

    • Sho'Nuff says:

      Yes, I am talking about Bt. It is an excellent organic biocide. However, when you use any biocide, it is important to remember that it causes very similar ecological reactions to those caused by conventional biocides: pests eventually become resistant to it, the target species population may rebound faster than predator species that normally control the pest, and you will likely kill other insects that were not the target (desirable butterfly larvae are the best example of Bt “collateral damage”).

      Round-Up, of course, is not organic and is very controversial these days. I will discuss in my very next post the reasons why *I* use Round-Up and *still* consider myself to be a Sho’ Nuff Organic Gardener, though I take a good bit of flack for this from the organic community when I say so.

  3. LrongLim says:

    Agree with you on this… so far, I have resisted using these things… I lose some harvests to the ‘pests’ but it is not that bad as yet…

    • Sho'Nuff says:

      How wonderful to hear from you all the way from Japan! I lived in Japan for 3.5 years and teach Japanese history at university for a living. I miss Japan and want to hear ALL about your gardening experiences there!

      Thank you for visiting my blog, it is very nice to meet you!

  4. Have switched to Duck Pest Control Program & so far not so bad. They love bugs & sometimes they even eat the stuff I want them to eat (and not my veggies!) 😉

    • Sho'Nuff says:

      I kept four backyard chickens in my yard last year and was MIGHTILY impressed by how well they controlled slugs, Japanese Beetles and all sorts of other creepy crawlies. I kept them out of my vegetable bed because chickens Eat Everything. By the end of the summer my shade perennial bed was looking a bit tattered… but every plant came back beautifully this spring.

      I have a friend who claimed her chickens cleared ticks out of her yard as well… her dog had its first tick-free, biocide free year of its life. Can you imagine?!

      I can’t recommend pest predators over biocides enough, be they wild birds, amphibians, snakes, chickens or ducks. I

      Thanks for the visit and the comment. Stop by again any time!

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