Are you interested in keeping your yard pesticide-free?
Let me start by saying, me too! Removing pesticides is one of the best ways to attract more birds and wildlife to your yard. It will also help keep them (and you) safe from deadly poisons!
It’s important to know what we mean when discussing pesticides. The root word “–cide” means death, destruction, and extermination. So, when we combine that with a word, we can be sure that the product is designed to kill whatever comes before “-cide.”
Typically, residential pesticides are broken down into three categories:
A. Insecticides kill insects, spiders, and other “bugs” found in homes and yards.
B. Herbicides kill weeds and plants that people consider undesirable.
C. Rodenticides target mammals like voles, moles, mice, rats, and other “pest” animals.
In this article, you’ll quickly learn that although pesticides are marketed as one of these, they often kill whatever they touch indiscriminately. Because of this, we’re going to talk about the consequences of all pesticides.
Here are 13 reasons to keep your yard free of pesticides!
#1. Pesticides are dangerous to birds.
When you attract birds to your yard with birdseed, that’s not the only thing they eat! Most backyard bird species eat a combination of seeds, insects, and berries or plants. In addition, birds of prey like owls, hawks, and eagles eat rodents, birds, and other small animals.
If you use pesticides, any of these food sources can become contaminated with the poisons used in the products. So, for example, if a chickadee eats an insect exposed to an insecticide, now the chickadee is also contaminated. And when a hawk eats a mouse contaminated with a rodenticide, the hawk typically becomes sick or even dies.
In addition, pesticides wash off plants into water sources, contaminating the drinking water for birds and other wildlife. And all birds drink water, whether it’s from a birdbath, puddles, or lakes and rivers.
The bottom line is that no matter where you spray a pesticide, it has the potential to be dangerous to backyard birds. So the safest option is to keep your yard pesticide-free!
#2. You’ll be protecting kids, pets, and yourself.
As I walk around my neighborhood, I see plenty of little yellow signs like the one above. And they’re there for a good reason: most pesticides are dangerous to humans and pets until a good rainfall.
Unfortunately, kids and pets rarely pay attention to yard signs. Personally, I’ve seen my dog get an upset stomach after accidentally playing in grass that’s been treated with a pesticide. And kids love to play, dig, and roll around in the yard!
Keeping kids and pets off treated lawns is difficult, especially in the summer when they’re constantly playing outside. Keeping your yard pesticide-free can remove this worry and hassle!
#3. Less wildlife will visit a yard with pesticides.
As I mentioned earlier, you probably attract birds with a bird feeder and seeds or fruit. But most birds also eat plenty of insects. In fact, insects and other invertebrates make up many bird’s diets!
If you’re using insecticides to kill unwanted bugs, you’re going to kill the primary food source for a lot of your backyard visitors. And pesticides don’t discriminate. Butterflies, ladybugs, and lots of other beneficial insects will be killed in the carnage.
In addition, if animals or plants are contaminated with pesticides, the chemicals become part of the food chain. For example, if a mouse eats a rodenticide and an owl eats that mouse, the pesticides are passed on to the owl. Then, if a larger animal like a turkey vulture finds and eats the dead owl, it also becomes contaminated. In this way, pesticides can be exponentially deadly.
Your backyard wildlife loves bugs, so go pesticide-free to feed and protect them!
#4. The risk of contamination is high.
Even if you aren’t concerned about wildlife, pesticide contamination can be a huge problem for gardens and fruit trees.
I know many people get their houses sprayed by companies to help kill insects around their homes. But let me ask you a question:
Do you have a garden or grow any other food around your home?
If so, are you OK with the possibility of ingesting pesticides?
My guess is that this thought completely disgusts you. Seriously, if you grow and eat food anywhere near your house, then I strongly recommend that you don’t use ANY pesticides in your yard, especially on a mass scale.
I know that I don’t trust there person that is spraying pesticides on houses to be careful enough to avoid my vegetable garden and fruit trees. And even if they try to avoid the area, they can’t control the wind!
Most gardeners I know would say it’s not worth the risk to use pesticides at all.
#5. Pesticides aren’t even 100% effective.
Unfortunately, some insects and weeds will survive even if you use pesticides exactly as directed. And this causes a few additional problems:
A. Pesticide resistance
Over time, organisms adapt to pesticides, so they become less effective. Each time you use a pesticide and insects, weeds, or fungus survive, the species will come back stronger than before. Then you need to use pesticides more often and in greater quantities, creating a cycle that’s hard to break.
B. Waste of time and money
Pesticides are expensive to buy and time-consuming to apply. Then, when they don’t work well or stop working, the time and money you’ve spent trying to get rid of the weeds or bugs are wasted. This can be a frustrating and costly lesson to learn!
Maintaining a pesticide-free yard will save you the hassle and expense of regular treatments and can potentially save countless species of wildlife.
#6. THIS important insect is vulnerable to pesticides.
One of the most compelling reasons to go pesticide-free is the damage it causes to bee populations.
In North America, bees pollinate 1/3 of all food produced. And they work just as hard in your garden, pollinating flowers, fruit trees, and vegetable patches.
Bees are susceptible to insecticides just like any other bug, which means if you spray an insecticide to kill ants or caterpillars, you’re putting the bees in jeopardy.
In addition, many native plants that bees use for food are considered “weeds.“ So when you spray them with weed killer, you’re eliminating an important food source for pollinators!
#7. Most pesticides aren’t specific enough.
Unfortunately, pesticides are designed to kill large families of animals or plants, and it’s difficult to control contamination.
You might spray a weed killer over a patch of good grass or a healthy plant, only to have it shrivel up. There’s nothing more frustrating than having to replace plants that have been damaged by accident!
Or, maybe you have a mouse problem, but instead of the mice eating the rat poison you put out, a neighborhood pet decides to take a bite and gets sick or even dies. This common occurrence is incredibly sad, and it can also create problems with neighbors.
Going pesticide-free and using alternative methods to control bugs and weeds will give you peace of mind that you’re preventing these accidents.
#8. Pesticides are inconvenient to use.
One of the best things about going pesticide-free in your yard is that you won’t have to do nearly as much work!
For example, most weed killers have to be used at a specific time of day and need to remain on the plants for at least 24 hours before it rains. If the herbicide is washed away too soon, it won’t hurt the weed, but it could kill the surrounding grass.
Rodenticides need to be placed in high-traffic locations and often require baits or traps that you need to set. Not to mention the cleanup – dead rodents on your property are probably worse than living ones!
Insecticides are possibly the most labor-intensive pesticide since they often need to be sprayed multiple times to be effective. Also, depending on the type of insect, you might need to spray at night or in the early morning. And finding the insects’ nest is difficult, so you’ll likely keep getting bugs.
#9. It costs a lot of money to treat your yard with pesticides.
If you’ve ever stopped at the hardware store for a can of wasp spray or a box of mouse baits, you know pesticides aren’t cheap. These products are generally made for people who are desperate to get rid of the bugs, weeds, or rodents that are bothering them. As a result, companies can charge a ton of money, and people will still buy them!
You can expect to pay even more for a lawn service to provide a pesticide application since you’re paying for the product and the labor.
You can eliminate the cost and the headache by keeping your yard pesticide-free!
#10. Pesticides can cause more bugs instead of eliminating them.
Let’s say, for instance, you have a problem with weevils (a type of beetle) eating your flowers and vegetables. Typically, a beetle-killing insecticide will work to prevent damage to your plants.
Unfortunately, along with the weevils, that insecticide will kill every type of beetle that eats it. This includes ladybugs, ground beetles, and lacewings, which are all useful in the garden.
In particular, ladybugs are voracious eaters. They keep aphid populations in check by eating constantly. So if a beetle insecticide kills your ladybugs, you’ll probably have an aphid problem!
This problem reminds me of the dilemma of many medicines. The side effects are worse than the actual problem you are trying to treat! 🙂
#11. Over time, pesticides damage soil.
You may not notice the effects right away, but soil damage is one of the most concerning problems with pesticide use.
Although many people see it as “just dirt,” your yard’s soil is a delicate ecosystem of its own. Microbes, tiny insects, and organic material mix to create a perfect environment for plants to grow. This is why native plants generally do so much better; the soil has evolved along with the plants!
But, when you introduce pesticides to the mix, the bacteria and microbes eventually disappear. As a result, the soil becomes much less hospitable to plant life, and eventually, nothing can grow.
The easiest way to prevent soil damage and keep your garden healthy is to keep your property pesticide-free! To learn more about pesticides and how they affect your soil, visit the National Pesticide Information Center.
#12. Pesticides are dangerous to people.
Although there are mixed data about the types of health effects of pesticides, there are studies that show a definite link between pesticides and diseases like cancer.
In 2019, a study conducted by the University of Washington concluded that using glyphosate (an herbicide ingredient in the popular weed killer ROUNDUP) increases the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma by 41%. Class-action lawsuits and various other legal cases have shown the link as well, and people have been awarded damages because of their health issues.
The truth is we don’t know all of the long-term side effects of these chemicals. So if we can use an alternative, that’s what I prefer!
#13. The BEST part about eliminating pesticides…
Have you ever been eating dinner when your doorbell rings? When you answer, there is a pesticide salesperson standing there ready and willing to interrupt your evening to tell you about their poisons.
I have found their favorite pitch is to start telling me about all of my neighbors that are already spraying deadly chemicals all over their house, and how I should join them!
Well, this may seem petty, but my FAVORITE part about saying NO to pesticides is the fact I can shut the door in their face and get back to my dinner and family as quickly as possible. 🙂
3 alternatives to using pesticides in your yard:
Now that we’ve discussed the reasons to avoid pesticides, you’re probably wondering how to maintain your yard without them! Although it’s important to maintain a safe environment for wildlife, it’s just as important to be able to enjoy your property.
Here are 3 ways to maintain a pesticide-free yard.
A. Attract animals that eat bugs.
Many desirable animals are natural predators of insects. For example, backyard birds, bats, toads and frogs, and even spiders can help you combat an insect problem by eating their share of bugs.
B. Embrace your weeds 🙂
It’s tricky to follow this advice, especially if you’re like my husband, who loves a perfectly manicured lawn. Unfortunately, without some type of herbicide, it’s unlikely that you’ll avoid weeds like dandelions, crabgrass, and thistle. These hardy, native plants are perfectly adapted to break through your carpet of grass!
But if you can learn to love these plants, or at least tolerate a few in your yard, weed killer won’t be necessary. Or, you can compromise like we do in my household and try the next tip.
C. Limit pesticides if you can’t eliminate them.
For 100% disclosure, I want to mention what I do at my house. I live in a suburban neighborhood with a homeowner’s association, and I want to be considerate of our neighbors as well. So we treat our front yard with a “weed and feed” type fertilizer.
In the backyard, though, I let the weeds grow wild! This option is a nice happy medium if you want to have a manicured lawn AND support wildlife.
Is your yard pesticide-free?
Tell us about it in the comments!