A casual gardener, I favor pest-resistant beauties such as lavender and our native poppy. Over time, I've developed a strong antipathy toward the ubiquitous brown garden snail. Imported in the middle of last century as escargot, the snail has no natural predators in the Bay Area, and so feasts with impunity on the buds of sunflowers, leaves of mallows and the new growth of ornamental grasses.
Until just last week, I'd left my snails unpoisoned because my garden is a place where children play. I've relied instead on the thick copper tape that snails won't cross and also on hand-picking. Why introduce more poison into our environment? Why risk harm to toddlers?
But now that the neighborhood children are old enough not to eat off the ground, I've finally heeded the advice of a gardener friend. "It's OK to use Sluggo," she said. "It's iron phosphate."
Not without glee, I sprinkled the white pellets around my struggling butterfly plant that snails had been industriously demolishing.
We're all forced to choose how to manage the critters in our midst. Do you poison your ants? I have a Buddhist friend who tolerates them on her kitchen counters and tables. I use Terro.
The day after my successful snail-poisoning venture, I got the dreaded call from the school health clerk announcing that my son had head lice. He was either the 16th or 17th child in his first-grade class to be so diagnosed. After the wave of denial — Ick! No! — I began to look carefully at his little locks. I found real-live, creepy-crawly lice.
Instead of reaching for over-the-counter pesticides, I opted instead to shave the nest. The next day, my son returned to school, happily joining the ranks of the other near-bald boys in his class.
Tuesday night, while the washer and dryer were still working their way through our linens and towels, I watched California Agriculture Secretary A. G. Kawamura's presentation to the City Council on the state's plan to eradicate the light brown apple moth. Like the brown snail, the apple moth is not native, originating in Australia. Some believe the apple moth might do great harm to California crops.
Nevertheless, at least one aspect of the state's plan to fight it is ill-conceived at best. Starting in August, the state is slated to spray, up and down the coast, a synthetic moth pheromone distributed in plastic "microcapsules." The pheromone is supposed to confuse moths' mating signals so they can't breed.
I've written more about moth eradication on the Alameda Journal blog, but I am particularly rankled by Kawamura's suggestion that because we are exposed to toxins each and every day, we shouldn't worry about yet another one. My objection, of course, is that I can choose Sluggo in my own yard, choose Nix or Rid on my child's head, choose Terro to kill my ants, but I can't choose in this case — unless I pack up and leave each time the pheromone-filled microcapsules rain on Alameda.
The pheromone is a new product in a new delivery system. It's untested on a large scale and no one knows the long-term effects. As Mayor Beverly Johnson said Tuesday night: "It's really quite unbelievable."
For more on the light brown apple moth and all things Alameda, come visit the Alameda Journal blog. http:/www.ibabuzz.com/alamedajournal