Peak & Prairie
April / May 1998
Bits and Pieces from the World of Pesticides
compiled by Angela Medberry, Chapter Toxics Chair
Birds Flying Away and the Colorado Bug Season
by Jeff Andersen
Have you ever felt like you've been punched in the stomach and yet it is not deserved? In February, home for lunch, I noticed a large misty cloud in and a flock of birds quickly flying away from my neighbor's yard. A tree serviceman was spraying every tree in the yard.
He was not wearing any breathing protection, it was hanging from his neck and covered by his spray. I wondered why every tree and shrub in the yard was sprayed in February. The yard has a good variety of healthy trees and many different types of birds.
I later learned the tree service was spraying a dormant oil used to smother insect eggs. Last summer we had a disagreement over the spraying of her large blue spruce tree, which overhangs into my yard and is about ten feet from my children's swing set.
She sprayed the spruce even though there were no visible pests. I tried to explain to her my concern about the spray drift and exposing my children to the pesticide. Unforunately I have lost with my neighbor. She continues to have her landscape sprayed.
I want a peaceful way to convince her not to spray. Does anyone have any successes that they are willing to share; if yes please write or leave a phone number with the Sierra Club office.
My last resort is to have the applicator contact me before he sprays and
ask him to protect my kids' swing equipment or register on the pesticide sensitive
registry with the Colorado Department of Agriculture at (303) 239-4140.
The Alternative - IPM
An alternative to scheduled sprayings is integrated pest management (IPM). This is a decision making process that determines if and when treatment is needed. The process seeks to break the insect life cycle. The object of IPM is to suppress pest populations until numbers are so few that damage is tolerable. An IPM program is a process which includes monitoring, determining injury level, applying strategies and tactics and finally, evaluation and reiteration of those processes until suitable results are obtained.
Monitoring - Monitoring consists of observing plants for pests. Determining injury level is critical to IPM. If only a few insects are present, it may not be necessary to do anything. But be aware in a healthy ecosystem, natural pest predators might already be on the job.
Breaking the life cycle - Applying strategies and tactics to break the life cycle may include: removing an insect's food and water sources, finding and removing eggs, cleaning the area, using a hard stream of water to remove the bugs from a plant, attracting predator birds, releasing beneficial insects or resort to a pesticide applied to the affected plant only. The type of damage, the number of insects and your tolerance will determine if any strategy is necessary. Rotating pesticides is <not> IPM. Continued monitoring ensures IPM success.
Evaluation - Evaluation is the last component. If one strategy is not effective, then try a different one or combination of several until the pest population reaches a tolerable level. And remember to be patient.
For specific information, contact your local CSU Cooperative Extension unit in county government phonebook listings. Ask for a "no chemical" approach. The Denver Botanic gardens, libraries and some local nurseries may also be able to assist in finding a "no chemical" solution. If they fail, try the Sierra Club office and we may give it a shot for you.
Organic Standards Comments
The USDA received roughly 5000 comments in the first week after they issued the proposed definitions for organic food on December 16, 1997. The deadline for comments has been extended to April 30. If you have not seen information in your local health food store and want some please contact Angela at (303) 433-2608. According to a recent survey of 1005 shoppers 42% of the shoppers look for organic claims on food labels and 35% are willing to pay higher prices for organic versions of conventionally grown food they purchase.
Pesticide Sensitive Registry
Spring is here and with it comes the annual onslaught of spray trucks into our urban communities. If you wish to be prenotified before a commercial applicator sprays, you may contact the applicator before hand and inform him of your concern or you may call the CO Dept of Agriculture at (303) 239-4140 and have your name and address placed on their Pesticide Sensitive Registry. You will need to have a doctor fill out a form they send to you. And if you have problems, complaints may be filed with the Colorado Department of Agriculture or call Angela at (303) 433-2608 for further resources to help you. Applicators spraying lawns or trees must put the yellow "Pesticides Applied" sign up before they actually spray the area according to a recent ruling from the Attorney General's office.