Pesticides include insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, or anything used to terminate or control what humans consider “pests”. Monarch butterflies, their caterpillars, bees and other wildlife are killed or harmed directly or indirectly when we use pesticides, especially insecticides, in our landscapes. Even though we may have an intended target, pesticides, especially when incorrectly applied, harm many other wildlife which are ever-present, are carried to other locations by drift or leached into our soils and waterways, and pesticide residue can remain active for days, even weeks. Wildlife are also harmed when they eat other wildlife poisoned by pesticides.
Certain mosquito adulticides can harm Monarchs and their caterpillars during application, and the residue on plants and soil from mosquito barriers can harm Monarchs for weeks after an application. Neonicotinoids or “neonics” for short, is a class of systemic insecticides widely used to treat seeds, nursery plants and cut flowers and are found in many garden products. Plant tissues absorb systemic insecticides and then Monarchs, bees and other insects eat the leaves, pollen, or nectar from a plant or seed treated with this insecticide. Rodenticides such as rat poison baits also poison many birds, foxes, coyotes and other animals who eat rodents exposed to by this pesticide. Herbicides broadcasted onto our landscapes such as lawns, and especially on agricultural land eliminate many plants considered weeds by humans, but beneficial to wildlife, like milkweeds and common violets.
What can we do?
Pesticides are necessary in some cases, but in a typical landscape they are often overused or used incorrectly, causing harm to wildlife, the environment, humans and pets. It is best to take alternative actions which are less harmful or more humane, tolerate some “pests” depending on the amount or type of damage, and to correctly identify which pests are actually harmful or beneficial before using any pesticides. Sometimes the risks of using a pesticide outweighs the damage caused. These steps are part of the “Integrated Pest Management (IPM)” guidelines and helpful resources given below.
Learn more about the risks of pesticides on Monarchs and other wildlife:
Follow integrated pest management (IPM), maintain your landscape organically and plant a diversity of native plants to attract beneficial insects, even near or around vegetable gardens or farms.
Know which seeds, plants and products contain Neonicotinoids and avoid these completely. Encourage landscape companies and suppliers to avoid Neonics. If suppliers don’t know if their products are treated, do not buy.
After following IPM, if you must use a pesticide, follow all directions and read the guidelines below. Proper timing is often important since some pests are more easily controlled at certain life cycles/stages, when less pesticide is needed yet is more effective. If hiring a professional, make sure they have a required pesticide license. Please note that some organic or natural pesticides are harmful to wildlife so always do your homework.
Talk to your neighbors, cities, schools about pesticides. Never be brash, and have data ready to back up your statements. Change is slow but the results are worth it. Many cities, schools, neighborhoods have already successfully made the change to reduce or eliminate pesticides.
We all share this Earth and what we do in our landscapes impacts Monarchs, bees and other wildlife both locally and globally. Using pesticides can greatly disrupt the delicate web of life and impact populations of species important to us in so many ways. Since 95 percent of our land is privately owned, we all need to be a champion for Monarchs, bees and other wildlife.
Denise Sandoval email@example.com Written for DuPage Monarch Project and The Conservation Foundation’s Conservation@Home blog.