Bringing an end to pesticide use

Asked June 17, 2019, 11:22 AM EDT

With increasing reports of the collapse of insect life across our planet, and the collapse of the food chain as a result, what efforts are being looked at to completely end the use of pesticides? Some of the estimates that I have read suggest that if we (as a global species) fail to make serious and immediate changes in the way we grow food and treat the world, there will be no appreciable insect life left within 30 years. MOST all of this is driven by pesticide use.

What is being done to stop the widespread use of pesticides?

For review:
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2019/02/why-insect-populations-are-plummeting-and-why-it-matters/

Michigan natural resources environment emerging environmental issues pesticides

1 Response

Hello. Thank you four using eXtension for your environmental concern question about declining populations of insects, and thank you for sharing the very well written National Geographic article. I enjoyed reading it.

I want to start off by pointing out that the short answer you seek is in the article.

“Why the decline?

There are a number of reasons why these animals are in trouble, and there’s no single smoking gun, Wagner says. “I’m afraid the answer is that it’s death by a thousand cuts.”

Factors behind the decline include, perhaps foremost among them, habitat changes wrought by humans, such as deforestation, and conversion of natural habitats for agriculture. In Europe and North America, the decline of small family farms, known for open pastures, hedgerows, and other areas where “weedy” plants like wildflowers can grow—areas that are perfect for insects—has certainly played a part, Wagner adds, as has the draining of wetlands and swamps.”

Giant environmental issues like this are hard to have a single good answer to resolve.. or what some of us refer to as the "silver bullet" response. This issue is global and needs everyone to participate in is solution. Balancing the needs of humans with the needs of the other earthlings we share this planet with is an ongoing struggle.

The article zeroed in on agriculture use of pesticides but failed to mention general consumer uses and its own number one reason, habitat loss. Yes, agriculture uses many pesticides but, in their defence, farmers and commercial applicators are regulated. They must be trained, pass a state exam, and carry a license to do so. Homeowners do not. Unregulated use of pesticides by homeowners is huge. Add to that the unrestricted human development of land, destruction of wild lands and the diversion of farm lands for housing and commercial purposes keeps compounding the issue.

Toward helping to resolve pesticide overuse issues, many farmers have adopted conservation practices that encourage native plant bufferstrips near fields to encourage natural predation on insect pests, conserve acres of land in an natural state and closely monitors their crops for specific pests and only treats when necessary. More and more farms are adopting organic growing practices as well. Unlike years ago, when spraying occured on a strict estimated pest emergent schedule. I'd say that conservation progress is being made. The problem is that it is hard put to stay up with exponential population growth.Keep in mind that retraining an entire population takes time.

In the meantime imagine this scenario. My sister sees a spider in the corner. She reaches for her can of bug killer spray everytime she sees a spider and sprays it two or three times. Mostly because she does not realize that it takes up to 30 minutes for an insecticide to kill a bug. Then resorts to her shoe because the bug spray is not fast enough. Overuse? She also hates ants, and has her house treated all around the foundation annually. Killing non-target insects. Overkill? Now, multiply this action by every home in every suburb in the world. We must indeed rethink what conservation means. Perhaps by not building more subdivisions in the first place? Where will we put our own growing populations?

Yes, this is a huge global issue. One of many. All we can do is our own part and encourage our family and friends to do theirs. I bought my sister a fancy flyswatter and showed her how a pine oil based soap can kill small ants too. One at a time.

Thanks for reading my overlong answer. Yes, things are being done, but it is not always evident. Maybe National Geographic will make a documentary about that?

some resources:
http://npic.orst.edu/reg/regfed.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pesticide_regulation_in_the_United_States
https://www.epa.gov/safepestcontrol/tips-reducing-pesticide-impacts-wildlife

Warm regards,