The Harmful Effects of Pest Poisons on the Environment and Better Alternatives

The survival of life on Earth depends on the intricate interaction of countless organisms. As humans, several of these interactions are beneficial to us. However, some are at our disadvantage. For instance, rats, mice, and other nuisance wildlife put you at risk of countless diseases – not to mention the damage they may cause to your house.

Even small insects like mites, moths, beetles, and aphids can wreak innumerable damages to the crops in your garden. Some tiny insects like mosquitoes spread harmful diseases.

With all this in mind, getting rid of these nuisance pests is the only way to ensure the safety of humans, pets, and even crops. Little wonder many people turn to the use of poisons to kill these nuisance pests. However, using pest poisons come with many unintended consequences. In this post, we examine some of their harmful effects, as well as better alternatives to try out.

Negative Impact of Pest Poisons on the Environment

Surface water contamination

Pesticides used in gardens or farmlands wash off into water bodies at an alarming rate. According to a series of studies conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in the mid-90s, about 90% of water and fish samples collected from main river basins contained at least one chemical found in pesticides.

From the fish in the stream to the lions in the jungle to even us as humans, we need water for survival. By polluting our water supply, we hurt organisms that depend on water to thrive.

Related: Marine Pollution or Ocean Pollution

Soil contamination

Did you know that some chemical substances found in pesticides and poison can affect soil quality? These poisons dissolve in water and soak beneath the soil surface causing several negative impacts.

For instance, these poisons kill off beneficial microorganisms, as well as earthworms. Earthworms in the soil lead to better drainage, increased nutrient availability, and a more stable soil structure.

Pesticide Spraying Farming

Pesticides also eliminate beneficial bacteria and fungi. Soil bacteria, for instance, helps to transform ammonia to nitrite, which provides nitrogen for plants to make their amino acids for protein synthesis. Mycorrhizal fungi, on the other hand, grow with the root of plants to aid with nutrient uptake. Their elimination results in soil degradation.

Related: How to prevent and reduce soil pollution?

Harm to unintended wildlife

This is perhaps one of the main problems with pest poisons. It’s almost impossible to ensure that the poison affects only the target organism(s). For instance, let’s imagine you have a rat infestation problem in your home or garden. You decide to use rat poisons in hopes of killing the rats. However, all you can do is place the poison.

What happens if your pet consumes it? Or a small child eats it? Or any other wildlife like a raccoon eats it? At the end of the day, you worsen the situation. Not only is your infestation problem not solved, but you’ve also harmed other innocent organisms as a side effect, thereby preventing them from fulfilling the important ecological role they play.

Using similar reasoning, when pesticides on farmlands or gardens run off into water bodies, they harm aquatic life. Several studies have shown how contaminated water bodies kill aquatic organisms, from shrimps to mussels.

Secondary poisoning

Secondary poisoning occurs when an organism comes in contact with or ingests another organism that has been poisoned. Let’s use the rat infestation again to illustrate this point.

Let’s say the use of poison was successful. The rat eats the poison and is now dead. What do you think happens when a predator or scavenger eats this poisoned rat? It will be affected.

To give a concrete example, a snake will not eat rat poison, but it could eat a poisoned rat. Hence, the poison will get into the snake’s digestive tract, which could kill it. That’s why the use of natural repellents is vital. To learn more about natural repellents.

Pesticides can sometimes directly hit non-target vegetation or even contaminate the air. This primarily occurs when drift occurs during pesticide application. According to the USGS (mentioned earlier), pesticides have been found in air and rain samples collected across the United States.

Better Alternatives

If pest poisons are this bad, then what alternatives are there? Here are some natural means to control insects and nuisance wildlife:

  • Growing plant repellents: Certain plants are known to deter nuisance insects. These plants can be cultivated to repel insects. Examples include marigolds, which produces a strong scent insects dislike. Chives can also be used to deter aphids.
  • Natural insect repellents: Several natural insect control solutions can be used to control the insect population. For instance, spraying a peppermint oil solution can be used to repel spiders. Oil and garlic solution is effective for bug prevention. Repellents need to be frequently reapplied because they wear off easily.
  • Wildlife repellents: Certain recipes are also known to deter nuisance wildlife. For instance, peppermint oil, cayenne pepper, pepper, and cloves are natural rat repellents. Applying these recipes to your home can help reduce their population. Using the urine of predators like foxes and coyotes can deter nuisance wildlife like raccoons and opossums.
  • Trapping: The use of traps is the most effective way to handle a rat infestation problem. Snap or electric traps are preferred because they kill the rats promptly, thereby making them humane compared to other types of rat traps like glue traps. Live traps can also be used to capture larger nuisance wildlife like raccoons, opossums, and skunks – after which they can either be euthanized or relocated.
  • Exclusion: The best way to avoid a pest problem is to prevent it when possible. Keeping a clean environment will make your yard less attractive to wildlife. Also, ensuring you seal all entry holes to your house – and possibly erecting a fence – will reduce the likelihood of a wildlife infestation.

Wrap Up

Pest poisons are a horrible way to handle infestation problems because of the unintended consequences they have. Environmentally-friendly tactics like the use of natural rat repellents for rat prevention or live trapping are preferable.