Things you can do to help birds right now: Nix the pesticides
You’ve taken down your feeder, but you still want to help birds, and you want them around your yard.
Here’s something you can do now that’s good for birds and for the insects they eat.
August 4, 2021 — Pesticides are poison, plain and simple. If you apply pesticides to your property to kill insects, you’re killing the food that Connecticut’s birds rely on.
And while you might think you’re targeting mosquitoes or ticks, you’re also killing butterflies and bees of all sorts – Connecticut has over 300 species of native bees!
Everyone laments that summer nights are now largely devoid of lightning bugs. Pesticides are among the reasons there are so few.
As we’ve mentioned before, Connecticut’s native plants are home to many kinds of insects.
Native plants host native insects that are in turn food for birds and other wildlife. Native trees in New England — oaks, cherries, willows, maples, birches — support more than 2,000 species of caterpillar, as Dr. Desiree Narango pointed in her April 2021 presentation during the Young, Gifted, and Wild About Birds series.
If you spray your yard, there’s a good chance you will kill those caterpillars. Which is catastrophic for birds.
Ninety six percent of all birds rear their young on insects, and it takes a lot: 4,000 to 9,000 caterpillars, for example, to raise just one nest of baby chickadees!
So if you must use pesticides, use them carefully and in a limited area.
For ticks, the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station says, “Only small amounts of [tick pesticides] applied at the right time of year are necessary. Chemical intervention should focus on early control of nymphal [black-legged/deer] ticks, the stage most likely to transmit Lyme disease, by spraying once in May or early June. … A single application of most ornamental-turf insecticides will provide 85-90% or better control with some residual activity so multiple applications are rarely necessary.”
Or else just cut out the pesticides and rely on your local opossum. Research at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, in Millbrook, N.Y., indicates that opossums eat a lot of ticks — 5,000 per year per possum.
With birds suffering from other problems, cutting out or drastically reducing the use of pesticides is a really simple and effective action to take.