You (probably) Don’t Need an Exterminator

Monarch Butterfly_DBG-CO_LAH_9197The neighborhood where I live seems to be a magnet for door-to-door salespeople selling services. One company in particular has been particularly persistent in their marketing attempts—an exterminator.

The first time they rang the doorbell, I politely but firmly told the guy I did not want my yard sprayed. I consider a diverse arthropod population to be a sign of a healthy landscape. I particularly want insects around to feed the birds I feed. Moreover, I had just planted a pollinator garden, designed to attract bees, butterflies, moths, and other fascinating creatures;. The last thing I wanted was to kill my invited guests.

Milkweed Bug_LastChance-CO_LAH_1965-001I guess I got my message across. He looked eager to move on.

The second time the same guy rang the doorbell, I went over the same spiel, only a bit more… emphatically.

The third time, he took one look at me, apologized, and ran. Point made.

I shudder every time I see an exterminator truck doing “preventative” maintenance. For what? What insect pest have they targeted? Or do they just assume all bugs are bad guys? Actually, only around 5% of insects are considered problematic. Another 5% or so are “beneficial” (think lacewings and parasitic wasps). The rest are just going about their business, not bothering anyone.

Long-horned Beetle on Rosa woodsii_Emerald Valley-EPC-CO_LAH_3168Not only that, but insects are food for a lot of other animals, from birds to bears. If these animals aren’t insectivores, there’s a good chance their prey eats insects. There is now growing concern that, due to indiscriminate “pest” control, we’re making a major dent in the world’s insect population. There’s even a bumblebee on the endangered species list.

2015-09-08 13.18.09For quite a while, I’ve been meaning to write a post about all this; I was just waiting for a chance to do more research so I could make sure my facts were correct. Then my friend Eric comes along and does a far better job.

kaufman guideEric Eaton (aka “Bug Eric”) is an author of the Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America. It’s by far my favorite book for identifying insects and other garden arthropods. Using it, even a non-entomologist like me can figure out what I’m looking at. Eric has also written numerous other articles that appear in various magazines from time to time, plus there’s his blog at

So please bop on over to Bug Eric and read “No Exterminator Necessary.” Then you, too, can send the salespeople packing.

I’m sure you recognized the Mallard as last week’s quiz bird.

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