Promote Pollinators! Minimize Mosquitoes!
As the temperature stretches into the negatives and the commute from inside my house to my car becomes a chilly affair, I’ve recently been reminiscing on the comfortable warmth of early summer. Still, there are two major aspects of winter I’m currently appreciative of; ski season and not having to worry about mosquitoes. That being said, with spraying season right around the corner it’s important for everyone to consider a few things before turning to pesticides. While mosquito and tick control companies may seem convenient for vanquishing annoying pests, unfortunately, the chemicals utilized often also have negative impacts on native pollinators such as bees and butterflies.
Mosquito control insecticides are highly toxic to pollinator populations. Even when used as directed and registered with the Environmental Protection Agency, pesticides are poisons and still have unintended consequences. With insect populations already plummeting at a concerning rate of 45% over the past 40 years, due to factors such as habitat loss and the use of pesticides, it’s important for all of us to be especially conscious of the disastrous impacts that losing pollinators has on the environment. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, three-fourths of the world’s flowering plants and 35% percent of the world’s food crops depend on insect pollinators. In a Washington Post article, Douglas Tallamy outlines how if insects vanished, “so would nearly all flowering plants and the food webs they support. This loss, in turn, would cause the extinction of reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals: in effect, nearly all terrestrial animal life” (Welcome bugs into your yard. You might just save the world). Losing pollinators poses a substantial threat to food production and biodiversity, which is why focusing on preserving pollinator diversity is so vital.
On the bright side, there are many ways to help our beloved pollinators. In my Environmental Sustainability Internship course at AHS, interns Isabelle Galgano and Grace Jungmann have been working with Andover Pollinator Pathways under the mentorship of Mindy Chave in order to create a new native habitat garden for pollinators at Andover High School. While speaking with Isabelle, she shared with me that the general Pollinator Pathways mission centers around helping the amazing pollinator species that keep our world moving, and that at the Pollinator Pathway Garden at AHS Isabelle and Grace have been working to create gardens of native plants that attract pollinators in areas usually barren of life. As a community, by staying informed of the unintentional detrimental effects of pesticides and making efforts to support pollinator populations, we can help to give pollinators a fighting chance.
⬢ Andover Pollinator Pathways encourages everyone in town to support pollinators on their properties by:
⬡ Planting native plants, including trees, shrubs, grasses, and flowers.
⬡ Reducing the use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides in favor of safer alternatives.
⬡ Controlling invasive plants
⬡ Reducing lawn size in favor of native plantings
⬡ Leaving leaves in the landscape in the fall
Environmentally Friendly Pesticide Alternatives:
⬡ Discourage environments in which mosquitoes thrive:
Change water in bird baths frequently
Get rid of unnecessary standing water
⬡ Encourage bats:
Bats eat thousands of mosquitos
⬡ Mosquito dunks
⬡ Mosquito repellent candles
⬡ Keep lawn area where kids are playing mowed short
⬡ Tick tubes
⬢ For both–
⬡ Repellent and permethrin-treated clothing
For more resources on effective ecologically sound mosquito management:
Effective Mosquito Management | Xerces Society
Andover Pollinator Pathways website links to an incredible range of resources: