(Editor's Note: "Looking at the Mirror" is a monthly column produced by the Mirror Lake Watershed Association. The Lake Placid News is proud to run it as part of our ongoing coverage on the environment.)
This summer, while battling with destructive beetles, slugs and other garden pests, choose your pest-control method with our environment in mind.
Pesticides can be harmful to our beautiful Mirror Lake, as well as to our children and pets. They can dissolve in rainwater and get flushed into the lake via runoff from the surrounding watershed area. The chemicals can even make it into the groundwater and ultimately our drinking water. There are several alternative solutions that work just as well and are better for our environment.
Pesticides do help control a variety of pest-like insects, weeds, bacteria, algae and mollusks, but they can harm aquatic life that may not necessarily be the targeted nuisance species. In high concentrations, they also make humans and pets sick through consumption or by mere contact. To avoid harming our environment, and in an effort to protect Mirror Lake and the life it sustains, our best option is to use organic and natural means of pest control.
Some alternatives to chemically based pesticides include using diatomaceous earth, baits containing new reduced-risk chemicals with ultra-low toxicity, and traps that use no chemicals at all! Natural pesticides are made from materials that occur in nature and are unchanged for our use. Often times these pesticides are made from plants and/or use minerals in the form of dust.
If you are looking for some nontoxic options, try glue board traps, snap traps and even fly swatters. Some plants also ward away specific insects and rodents. Plants like basil, chamomile, chrysanthemums, dill, garlic, peppermint, tomatoes and many more are great companion plants used to ward off insects like aphids, asparagus beetles, ants, flies and even mosquitos!
Diatomaceous earth is one of the best natural options. It contains the fossilized remains of diatoms in powder form. This powder is highly abrasive to insects and mollusks, causing them to die within days or even hours. Because the powder only harms insects, it is safe to use. The only downside is, it is not as effective once wet, so you want to make sure the area in which you are using it is dry. A similar substance, boric acid, acts as a desiccant, destroying the exoskeleton of insects, drying them out and causing death. Eggshells crushed around your tender plants will prevent slugs from getting to them as well.
You can also use traps for most pests. From rodents to insects, traps are very effective. Some of these traps use glue and other use natural and/or organic baits. One method my mom uses to catch slugs and earwigs is to bury a tuna can at soil level and put a bit of beer in the bottom. They are attracted to the beer and cannot get out once they crawl in.
If you are using a pesticide, follow the guidelines on the label. Coverage exceeding the guidelines is superfluous and may be dangerous. The proper application of pesticides can do a lot to reduce the amount of chemicals that may end up in our drinking water and lake.
Many people think that the soil acts as a natural filter, preventing pesticides from penetrating through to the groundwater. While true for many organic materials, pesticides still percolate through the soil, reaching our groundwater and wells a few decades later.
Take care this summer to use pesticides with caution and look for a nontoxic solution first. We can keep our lake and drinking water in good condition for the future. While swimming in Mirror Lake this summer, you can smile, knowing you did your part to keep it healthy.
For more information about the Mirror Lake Watershed Association, please join us at our meetings on the second Monday of each month. The meetings start at 5 p.m. in the village Beach House. You can also find us on the Web at www.mirrorlake.net.