I don’t know if it’s like this in other states, but here in Florida, pest control can be SEVERE. I’m talking, putting a tent over an ENTIRE HOUSE and spraying poison all inside the house and tent. The tent stays up for a day or so, with signs warning DEADLY POISON, DO NOT ENTER. After the tent is removed, the house is allowed to air out for a day or so before humans and animals are allowed back inside.
I never saw such a thing til I moved to Florida 8 years ago. I didn’t even see this back in Texas, a state which certainly has its share of critters also. The first time I saw one of the garish green-and-yellow tents billowing in the wind, with DEADLY POISON signs all around, I was horrified. The horror never wears off no matter how many times I see this.
A close neighbor’s place was just tented for pests, mainly termites and bedbugs. It’s a rental property, occupied by four tenants plus the landlord who lives on site. Bedbugs are a hideous problem that can turn a person’s life upside-down. And termites, well, they eat wood, so we don’t really want them in our houses either. Still, the tent and “deadly poison” seems like a bad idea to me. It also seems to me that pest problems just get worse and worse the more we try to eradicate everything.
Insects — tiny creatures at the base of the food chain — are being combated with DEADLY POISON. The thing about the base of the food chain is, it’s robust. It isn’t going anywhere. Nature designed it that way. Because, think about it, if the base of the food chain goes, what happens to the rest of the food chain, right on up to us humans?
By the way, all the plant life around the perimeter of the tent, to about 3 feet out, gets killed also. Grass and flowering ground-cover before; crisp brown field of shriveled death a day after.
What did we used to do before such drastic treatments? How did we deal with termites, bedbugs, roaches? Have our present-day drastic methods cut down on the numbers of pests? Are modern-day methods a deal with the devil?
Ask the pest-control guys, they’ll tell you it’s all safe and harmless. That chemicals have gotten less dangerous over the years. At the end of the day, I have to believe my own observations.
And, one thing for sure: I have yet to see or hear of a situation where fighting nature produces a good outcome. Unless we wise up and get beyond our compulsion to eradicate, nature will bat last on this one, I have no doubt.
My dear friend Charlie B, who talks with a lot of Florida old-timers in the course of his work on golf-course irrigation systems, knows an old cracker George J who swears by this termite-control method: Set up a barrier by burying logs or planks along a perimeter line a few feet from the house, say six feet. Inspect periodically, and as the wood gets termite-riddled, replace it. My understanding of this method is that it keeps the termites away from the house, preoccupied with a wood source further out.
In her autobiographical book Cross Creek, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (author of The Yearling among other iconic fiction books) gives a rich chronicle of her life as a back-woods Florida homesteader. She mentions that once a house would reach a certain point of being overrun by roaches, rats, and other pests, the owner would abandon it, let it melt back into the land, and build a new one in a location slightly removed (a few yards away, if I remember correctly). This works well when houses are of modest size, and where building codes don’t bar people from building their own houses out of abundant, locally available materials.
My dear friend CB, who talks with a lot of Florida old-timers in the course of his work on golf-course irrigation systems, had a client who swears by this termite-control method: Set up a barrier by burying logs or planks along a perimeter line a few feet from the house, say six feet. Inspect periodically, and as the wood gets termite-riddled, replace it. My understanding of this method is that it keeps the termites away from the house, preoccupied with a wood source further out.
A tip I thought of, not just for termites but for pests in general: Make sure someone is living in your house year-round, so pests are less likely to develop and thrive unchecked. And live in a house that isn’t so large you can’t inspect it regularly and catch damage before it gets too far gone, necessitating a deadly toxic “solution.”
Perhaps one of the saddest visible casualties of the tenting incident was a bay laurel tree. Bay laurel trees in recent years have been hit by a blight that turns their leaves brown and kills them. One rarely sees a bay laurel tree at all here anymore. But somehow, in the shelter of my neighbor’s backyard, this bay laurel, after finally being hit by the blight maybe four years back, managed to recover and grow back bigger than ever.
The other day, at the instruction of the pest-control guy (who said it was necessary to make room for the tent), the apartment manager cut that tree down along with all the other vegetation. The trunk was a good 8 inches in diameter.
It gets sadder. Subsequently, the apartment manager heard from a different pest-control company that they wouldn’t have required him to trim back that tree, or most of the other vegetation. When I hear things like this, all I can do is take solace in the knowledge that plants, like other wildlife, will eventually bounce back.
But will we humans survive our own short-sightedness? That’s the real question.
• Supposedly harmless treatments can cause severe health problems, and the contractor may not issue adequate precautions to the resident: “Last winter, despite a low-level warning beacon in my gut, I hired a company to apply a chemical flea treatment in our house. … I made this decision even though I’d been a ‘ban lawn-care pesticides from our campus’ activist in college …”
• Pesticides can backfire and make infestations even worse. Read NRDC’s tips on how to control household pests without scary poisons.
• Fumigating? Four easy steps to take before you tent: “Chances are, at least one house in your ‘hood is being treated for termites right now. And despite the festive clown-and-circus themed tent, the chemicals that go into the fumigation process simply aren’t funny. …”